Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

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

Date: June 14, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08152

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.

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

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Zainab Saleh, Stephanie Blalock, and Brandon James O'Neil



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

I have your letter of 11th (it came yesterday afternoon).2 Anne3 and Horace4 left at noon.5 I feel quite lost without them. I enjoyed their visit here greatly. By this time H. has show you the M.S. of the "Round Table" piece6 which seems to me as characteristic & valuable as anything we have had. Horace will also by this have submitted to you our plan for the book.7 (I hope you will allow the two early pieces by yourself—there would be no sense in disallowing them as they will certainly be republished as yours anyhow).8 It is a perfect day here—bright, warm—the trees now fullleaved and perfect—they stand on the lawns sleeping—not a breath of air to move their branches. The deep blue sky bends over them in benediction like the concave palm of God.

Best love to you always and always
R M 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 | New Jersey | U.S.A. It is postmarked: LONDON | AM | JU 15 | [illegible] | [CANADA]; CAMDEN, N.J. | JUN | 16 | 12PM | 1891 | REC'D. [back]

2. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of June 11, 1891[back]

3. Anne Montgomerie (1864–1954) married Horace Traubel in Whitman's Mickle Street house in Camden, New Jersey, in 1891. They had one daughter, Gertrude (1892–1983), and one son, Wallace (1893–1898). Anne was unimpressed with Whitman's work when she first read it, but later became enraptured by what she called its "pulsating, illumined life," and she joined Horace as associate editor of his Whitman-inspired periodical The Conservator. Anne edited a small collection of Whitman's writings, A Little Book of Nature Thoughts (Portland, Maine: Thomas B. Mosher, 1896). After Horace's death, both Anne and Gertrude edited his manuscripts of his conversations with Whitman during the final four years of the poet's life, which eventually became the nine-volume With Walt Whitman in Camden[back]

4. 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]

5. After Horace and Anne married on May 28, 1891, the couple then traveled to London, Ontario, Canada with Bucke (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). They returned to Camden on June 14. [back]

6. Horace Traubel's "Walt Whitman's Birthday, May 31, 1891," an account of Whitman's 72nd (and last) birthday, was published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in August 1891. The account was later published as "Round Table with Walt Whitman" in Traubel, Richard Maurice Bucke, and Thomas B. Harned, ed., In Re Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1893), 297–328. [back]

7. 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]

8. Bucke is referring to the three unsigned reviews of the first edition of Leaves of Grass that were written by Whitman himself. "Walt Whitman and His Poems" was published in The United States Review in September 1855, "An English and American Poet" was published in the American Phrenological Journal in October 1855, and "Walt Whitman, a Brooklyn Boy," was published in The Brooklyn Daily Times on September 29, 1855. [back]


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