Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 14 February 1891

Date: February 14, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08117

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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "see notes Feb. 16 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

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



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Medical Superintendent's
Office.
INSANE ASYLUM
LONDON ONTARIO1
14 Feb 1891

I have your notes of the 10th2 and 11th3 the one came Thursday evening and the other last evening. No time at all to scribble a line yesterday—more than usually occupied now since got round again—accumulated work. I am real sorry to hear such bad accounts of your waking hours—it is a bad look out—but the fresh air in the spring may do something for you—I fancy you have been as bad at other times as you are now and partially rallied so I trust you will again. What shall you call the little book? I hope you will give up the notion of putting anything in it but your own writing—I am clear that a mixture such as you spoke of would be injudicious.4 We must have another vol. at once or very soon made up of a lot (8 or 10) of the best pieces—Sarrazin,5 Knortz,6 Rolleston,7 Traubel,8 & & & Horace and I are speculating hard at it and we must fetch it through.9 Thanks for Kennedy "Dutch" peice10—it is first class, nothing more suggestive has ever been penned on the critter. I have written Horace to see that I get a lot of "Lips"11 and I shall of course have a bundle of "Conservator's."12 Politics here are hot, hot, all hot—impossible to say at present which way the cat will jump—each side is confident—or pretends to be!—

As always—love to you
RM Bucke


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: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | N.J. | U.S.A. It is postmarked: LONDON | P [illegible] | FEB 14 | 91 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | FEB 16 | 12M | 1891 | REC'D. [back]

2. Bucke is referring to Whitman's postal card dated February 10, 1891[back]

3. Bucke is referring to Whitman's postal card dated February 11, 1891[back]

4. At this time, Whitman was planning to include an appendix to his Good-bye My Fancy that would include essays by the French poet and translator Gabriel Sarrazin, the Irish poet and journalist Thomas William Hazen Rolleston, and the orator Colonel Robert Ingersoll, but he later abandoned the appendix due to pressure from Bucke and Horace Traubel. See The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller [New York: New York UP, 1969], 5:122n24. See also the letter from Whitman to Bucke of June 11, 1891[back]

5. Gabriel Sarrazin (1853–1935) was a translator and poet from France, who commented positively not only on Whitman's work but also on Poe's. Whitman later corresponded with Sarrazin and apparently liked the critic's work on Leaves of Grass—Whitman even had Sarrazin's chapter on his book translated twice. For more on Sarrazin, see Carmine Sarracino, "Sarrazin, Gabriel (1853–1935)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. Karl Knortz (1841–1918) was born in Prussia and came to the U.S. in 1863. He was the author of many books and articles on German-American affairs and was superintendent of German instruction in Evansville, Ind., from 1892 to 1905. See The American-German Review 13 (December 1946), 27–30. His first published criticism of Whitman appeared in the New York Staats-Zeitung Sonntagsblatt on December 17, 1882, and he worked with Thomas W. H. Rolleston on the first book-length translation of Whitman's poetry, published as Grashalme in 1889. For more information about Knortz, see Walter Grünzweig, "Knortz, Karl (1841–1918)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. Thomas William Hazen Rolleston (1857–1920) was an Irish poet and journalist. After attending college in Dublin, he moved to Germany for a period of time. He wrote to Whitman frequently, beginning in 1880, and later produced with Karl Knortz the first book-length translation of Whitman's poetry into German. In 1889, the collection Grashalme: Gedichte [Leaves of Grass: Poems] was published by Verlags-Magazin in Zurich, Switzerland. See Walter Grünzweig, Constructing the German Walt Whitman (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1995). For more information on Rolleston, see Walter Grünzweig, "Rolleston, Thomas William Hazen (1857–1920)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

8. 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]

9. In 1893, Traubel, Bucke, and Thomas B. Harned (Whitman's three literary executors) co-edited In Re Walt Whitman, a collection of essays that included work by Sarrazin, Knortz, Rolleston, Traubel, and others. [back]

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

11. Lippincott's Monthly Magazine was a literary magazine published in Philadelphia from 1868 to 1915. Joseph Marshall Stoddart was the editor of the magazine from 1886 to 1894, and he frequently published material by and about Whitman. For more information on Whitman's numerous publications here, see Susan Belasco, "Lippincott's Magazine." [back]

12. Horace Traubel founded The Conservator in March 1890, and he remained its editor and publisher until his death in 1919. Traubel conceived of The Conservator as a liberal periodical influenced by Whitman's poetic and political ethos. A fair portion of its contents were devoted to Whitman appreciation and the conservation of the poet's literary and personal reputation. [back]


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