Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 16 June 1891

Date: June 16, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08153

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 June 18 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
16 June 1891

I have yours of 13th & 14th this a.m.2 Well pleased to hear that Anne3 & H.4 are back safe and well5—I like them both well and hope to see them often as long as we are all above ground. I suppose the M.S. is in Stoddart's6 hands by this7—it will make a lovely piece—one of the very best—no word from England8 yet about going over there on meter9 business—may hear any day now—may sail next week or any time between that and 1 aug. or not at all—all depends on what word comes from England. I hope the hot weather (it must come soon now) will not be too hard on you, dear Walt; I wish you were out of that sweltering Camden and where you could have better air and more of it


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] | [illegible] | JU 16 | 91 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | JUN | 18 | 6AM | 1891 | REC'D. [back]

2. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of June 13–14, 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. Horace Traubel married Anne Montgomerie on May 28, 1891 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). After Whitman's birthday celebration on May 31, 1891, Horace Traubel and his wife Anne Montgomerie Traubel traveled with Bucke back to London, Ontario, where they stayed until returning to Camden, New Jersey, on June 14. [back]

6. Joseph Marshall Stoddart (1845–1921) published Stoddart's Encyclopaedia America, established Stoddart's Review in 1880, which was merged with The American in 1882, and became the editor of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in 1886. On January 11, 1882, Whitman received an invitation from Stoddart through J. E. Wainer, one of his associates, to dine with Oscar Wilde on January 14 (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1931], 235n). [back]

7. "Walt Whitman's Last," an "explanation" of his book Good-Bye My Fancy (1891), was published in the August 1891 issue of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. Horace Traubel's article "Walt Whitman's Birthday, May 31, 1891"—a detailed account of the poet's seventy-second (and last) birthday—was also published in this issue. [back]

8. As Bucke's letters in May and June 1891 both to Whitman and Horace Traubel make clear, he was going abroad to establish a foreign market for his gas and fluid meter, a subject to which he referred constantly in his communications but which the poet studiously ignored. [back]

9. 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]


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