Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 16 July 1891

Date: July 16, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07991

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. . The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 5:227. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Andrew David King, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden N J—U S America1
noon July 16 '91

Cloudy to-day & some breeze, but hot wave continued—begins to tell on me—sitting at this moment in the customary place by the window middling comfortable—you must be near shore—Suppose you (by this gets to you,) have given my best affectionate regards to my friends there, the Costelloes,2 the Smiths,3 the dear Bolton folks4 & all—Tom Harned5 here last evn'g—he & folks well—God bless you—


Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Dr Bucke | care Mr Costelloe | 40 Grosvenor road | the Embankment | London England. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Jul 16 | 3 PM | 91. [back]

2. The Costelloes were Benjamin Francis ("Frank") Conn Costelloe (1854–1899) and Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe (1864–1945). Frank was Mary's first husband, an English barrister and Liberal Party politician. Mary was a political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend." For more information about her, see Christina Davey, "Costelloe, Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Whitman is referring to the family of Robert Pearsall Smith (1827–1898). Smith, an evangelical minister, and his wife Hannah Whitall Smith (1831–1911) had three children: Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe (1864–1945), Logan Pearsall Smith (1865–1946), and Alys Pearsall Smith (1867–1951). The Smith family were all friends and supporters of Whitman. For more about the Smith family, see Christina Davey, "Smith, Robert Pearsall (1827–1898)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. The "Bolton College" was a group of Whitman admirers located in Bolton, England. Founded by Dr. John Johnston (d.1918) and James William Wallace (1853–1926), the group corresponded with Whitman and Horace Traubel throughout the final years of the poet's life. Johnston and Wallace separately visited Whitman and published memoirs of their trips in John Johnston and James William Wallace, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends (London: Allen and Unwin, 1917). For more on Whitman's disciples, see Paul Salveson, "Loving Comrades: Lancashire's Links to Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, vol. 14, no. 2, 57–84. [back]

5. Thomas Biggs Harned (1851–1921) was one of Whitman's literary executors. Harned was a lawyer in Philadelphia and, having married Augusta Anna Traubel (1856–1914), was Horace Traubel's brother-in-law. For more on him, see Dena Mattausch, "Harned, Thomas Biggs (1851–1921)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). For more on his relationship with Whitman, see Thomas Biggs Harned, Memoirs of Thomas B. Harned, Walt Whitman's Friend and Literary Executor, ed. Peter Van Egmond (Hartford: Transcendental Books, 1972). [back]


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