Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Horace L. Traubel to Walt Whitman, 10 June 1891

Date: June 10, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08148

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.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Zainab Saleh, Amanda J. Axley , Marie Ernster, and Stephanie Blalock



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INSANE ASYLUM
LONDON ONTARIO1
London2
Wednesday
June 10 '91

Dear Walt—

I have received papers from you straight along this week, and several came this morn for Anne,3 for which she is grateful.

I did not received my reporter's notes till this morn: They are quite well, & afford me ample basis on which to build my account. I hope to have the article ready for you to see Sunday.4 The delay in getting it to me has been grievious—but there's nothing to be said now to save the accident.5

All proceeds favorably with us here. Not a rainy day since our arrival. The days cool, in fact, till yesterday. At last a swing about into fire & heat! To-day a big cricket–match on the grounds fronted by the north building. I am about to go in town with Doctor to dine with his Brother Percy.6 The Thomas orchestra7 & Campanini8 appear in London tonight. I want to go. Pardee9 is away, at Toronto—and Morris10 has just been summoned north on a geological excursion (60$ a month & found).—Morris is sweet, sane, quiet—one of the best fellows so far swept into my arcana. Doctor looks to him & to Pardee to keep up the standard of the stock.

Ina11 is a beauty: I delight to look at her—to hear her talk.

The Prince of Wales business12 has been stirring things here. Doctor13 thinks it bodes a fall of the stock of aristocracy—the throne.

The Gurd Meter Co.14 looks more like business than it did in the fall.

I have wandered a good deal with the Doctor among his patients this time, & have picked up a vast lot of odds & ends of alienist information which I missed in my short trip in the fall.15—A letter from Bush16 this morning.—

Last night Doctor & I spent at the office studying up a scheme for our Whitman book.17 I will tell you about this on my return. Longaker18 writes Doctor a letter—very favorable. So the wine does you good?—

I got a short note fm George Wm Curtis19 just before I left Camden—too late to show you. I want to use a sentence out of each letter, at the least I expect to take the noon train at London Saturday. This will get me in Phila at 7 Sunday morn.

Good bye! Doctor's carriage is at the door.

Eternal the vigil of love!
Horace


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey | U.S.A. It is postmarked: LONDON | PM | JU10 | 91 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | JUN | 12 | 1PM | 1891 | REC'D. [back]

2. At the time of this letter, Horace Traubel and his wife Anne Mongomerie, were visiting the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke at Bucke's home in London, Ontario, Canada. The couple returned to Camden, New Jersey, on June 14. [back]

3. Augusta Anna Traubel Harned (1856–1914) was Horace Traubel's sister. She married Thomas Biggs Harned, a lawyer in Philadelphia and, later, one of Whitman's literary executors. [back]

4. Traubel is referring to his article "Walt Whitman's Birthday, May 31, 1891," which offered a detailed account of Whitman's seventy-second (and last) birthday celebration at the poet's home on Mickle Street. Traubel's article was published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in August 1891. [back]

5. Traubel notes in his Lippincott's article that his account of Whitman's final birthday dinner "is made up from the direct work and a stenographer and liberal notes kept by the writer." The identity of the stenographer that Traubel hired is unknown, as is the reason for the stenographer's delay in getting his work to Traubel. [back]

6. P. E. (Percy) Bucke was one of Richard Maurice Bucke's brothers. P. E. Bucke had married Sarah Sidney Rothwell Bucke in January 1857. [back]

7. Traubel may be referring to the violinist and conductor, Theodore Thomas (1835–1905). Thomas founded the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1891; he also served as its first music director. [back]

8. Traubel is likely referring to Italo Campanini (1845–1896), an operatic tenor, who was popular in Europe and in New York City. Italo was the brother of the orchestra conductor Cleofonte Campanini (1860–1919). [back]

9. Traubel is referring to Bucke's son, Edward Pardee Bucke (1875–1913), apparently named after Dr. Bucke's friend Timothy Blair Pardee. [back]

10. Maurice Andrews Bucke (1868–1899) was the oldest son of Richard Maurice Bucke and his wife Jessie Gurd Bucke. Maurice, named after his father, died in Montana in a carriage accident when he was thirty-one years old. [back]

11. Traubel is referring to Bucke's daughter, Ina Matilda (1877–1968). [back]

12. "The Prince of Whales business" is a reference to an 1890s British gambling scandal. In 1890, Sir William Gordon-Cumming, a lieutenant colonel in the Scots Guard was accused of cheating at the card game baccarat. With the knowledge and agreement of then Prince of Wales and later King Edward VII, Gordon-Cumming was confronted and pressured to sign a document that he would not play the game again in exchange for the silence of those in attendance at the home of the ship owner Arthur Wilson. When the news was revealed anyway, Gordon-Cumming claimed he had been the victim of slander. The case was heard in court in June 1891, and the Prince of Wales was compelled to appear as a witness. Gordon-Cumming eventually lost the court case, and he was dismissed from the British Army, although public opinion, at the time, was on his side. Traubel is almost certainly referring to the court proceedings that took place the same month as this letter was written. [back]

13. 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). [back]

14. Bucke and his brother-in-law William John Gurd were designing a gas and fluid meter to be patented in Canada and sold in England. [back]

15. Following a lecture event in honor of Whitman at Philadelphia's Horticultural Hall on October 21, 1890, Horace Traubel had traveled to Canada with Bucke. [back]

16. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

17. Horace Traubel and Bucke were beginning to make plans for a collected volume of writings by and about Whitman. Bucke, Traubel, and Thomas Harned—Whitman's three literary executors—edited In Re Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1893), which included the three unsigned reviews of the first edition of Leaves of Grass that were written by Whitman himself, William Sloane Kennedy's article, "Dutch Traits of Walt Whitman," and Robert Ingersoll's lecture Liberty in Literature (delivered in honor of Whitman at Philadelphia's Horticultural Hall on October 21, 1890), as well as writings by the naturalist John Burroughs and by James W. Wallace, a co-founder of the Bolton Whitman Fellowship in Bolton, England. [back]

18. 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. For more information, see Carol J. Singley, "Longaker, Dr. Daniel [1858–1949]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R.LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

19. George William Curtis (1824–1892), author and editor of Harper's Magazine, was a New England writer and orator who had been a neighbor of Ralph Waldo Emerson for some time in the 1840s. In his Lippincott's article on Whitman's final birthday dinner, Traubel does include a short quotation from Curtis's letter about Whitman. [back]


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