Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 24 June 1891

Date: June 24, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08072

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), 5:217. 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




Camden1
6 P M
June 24 91

Pleasant weather—partial depression to-day—just finish'd my supper—some stew'd cherries, Graham bread, tea & very small bit of broil'd meat—rec'd y'r letter2—then you are going off on the Britannic on the 8th—no doubt you will have a good trip—("hold your horses")3—will prepare & send you forthwith the introductory note to Tennyson4 (you can use it or not as convenient)—forthcoming L[ippincott's]5 mag not out yet, but I suppose it is all right—Dr L[ongaker]6 here yesterday—he aids the coleur de rose view, (as a doctor doubtless should)—H T[raubel]7 is well—will write again Saturday, if not before.


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: Camden, N.J. | Jun 2 [illegible] | 5 PM | 91. [back]

2. Whitman is likely referring to Bucke's letter of June 21, 1891. [back]

3. As Bucke's letters in May and June both to Whitman and Horace Traubel make clear, he was going abroad to establish a foreign market for his water meter, a subject to which he referred constantly in his communications but which the poet studiously ignored. [back]

4. Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) succeeded William Wordsworth as poet laureate of Great Britain in 1850. The intense male friendship described in In Memoriam, which Tennyson wrote after the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, possibly influenced Whitman's poetry. Tennyson began a correspondence with Whitman on July 12, 1871. Although Tennyson extended an invitation for Whitman to visit England, Whitman never acted on the offer. [back]

5. 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." Also appearing in that issue was an autobiographical prose essay by Whitman ("Some Personal and Old-Age Memoranda") and another piece on Whitman by Traubel. In his January 7, 1891, letter to the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke, Whitman referred to the March issue of Lippincott's as "a Whitman number." See also Whitman's January 20–21, 1891, response to Kennedy. [back]

6. Daniel Longaker (1858–1949) was a Philadelphia physician who specialized in obstetrics. He became Whitman's doctor in early 1891 and provided treatment during the poet's final illness. Carol J. Singley reports that "Longaker enjoyed talking with Whitman about human nature and reflects that Whitman responded as well to their conversations as he did to medical remedies" ("Longaker, Dr. Daniel [1858–1949]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R.LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings [New York: Garland Publishing, 1998]). [back]

7. 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]


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