Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 11 February 1891

Date: February 11, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07998

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. . Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Notes for this letter were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented, updated, or created by Whitman Archive staff as appropriate.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Zainab Saleh, Stephanie Blalock, and Andrew David King



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Camden1
pm Feb: 11 '91

Y'rs rec'd last evn'g2—fine sunny day—am sitting here as usual—have been preparing a list of addresses for the Lip: people to send March No.3 to—am feeling fairly—head congestion—enc: the Dutch piece4—you can have some H T's5 paper cont'g it—(will be out in four or five days)—as many of it, or Lip: as you want—poor Jas Redpath6 is just dead in N Y—I knew him well—The papers here are talking largely of the Canadian situation7


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 | Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: LONDON | PM | FE 13 | 91 | CANADA; PHILADELPHIA, P.A. | [illegible] | 930 PM | 1891 | TRANSIT; CAMDEN, N.J. | FEB 11 | 8 PM | 91.  [back]

2. Whitman is likely referring to Bucke's letter of February 9, 1891. [back]

3. In March 1891, Lippincott's Magazine published "Old Age Echoes," a cycle of four poems including "Sounds of the Winter," "The Unexpress'd," "Sail Out for Good, Eidólon Yacht," and "After the Argument," accompanied by an extensive autobiographical note called "Some Personal and Old-Age Memoranda." Also appearing in that issue was a piece on Whitman by Horace Traubel. [back]

4. William Sloane Kennedy's "Walt Whitman's Dutch Traits" appeared in The Conservator in February, 1891. See Whitman's letter to William Sloane Kennedy of January 20–21, 1891. [back]

5. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the mid-1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. James Redpath (1833–1891), an antislavery activist, journalist, and longtime friend of Whitman, was the author of The Public Life of Capt. John Brown (Boston: Thayer and Eldridge, 1860), a correspondent for the New York Tribune during the war, and the originator of the "Lyceum" lectures. He met Whitman in Boston in 1860 and remained an enthusiastic admirer; see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, January 4, 1889 He concluded his first letter to Whitman on June 25, 1860: "I love you, Walt! A conquering Brigade will ere long march to the music of your barbaric jawp." Redpath became editor of The North American Review in November 1886. See also Charles F. Horner, The Life of James Redpath and the Development of the Modern Lyceum (New York: Barse & Hopkins, 1926); John R. McKivigan, Forgotten Firebrand: James Redpath and the Making of Nineteenth-Century America (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008); and J.R. LeMaster, "Redpath, James [1833–1891]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. On February 8, 1891, Bucke wrote: "The Canadian House of Commons is dissolved—General election 5th next month—whole country in tremendous excitement." [back]


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