Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

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

Date: August 16, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08167

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 Aug 28 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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49 Comeragh Road1
West Kensington
London W.2
England
16 Aug. '91

Yesterday came to my hands your card of 2d inst.3 I have not written you as often as I should have liked. Life is at high-pressure here especially when your time is so short as mine on this visit. I have the "Post" with "Over-sea greeting"4 and also the same thing on a slip from Bolton (one of several, I infer, that Horace5 sent over to Johnston6 or Wallace7). Horace is mighty 'cute to utilize the scraps as he does—it is well, all well—can do no harm and may help. We must keep moving, cannot stand still in fact—time for that is gone. I expect to spend next Sunday with Carpenter8 in Millthorpe, then go Monday to Bolton & stay there till Wednesday morning—run to L'pool after breakfast and get aboard "Majestic" before noon. She sails abt. noon. I ought to reach N.Y. 1st or 2d & see you 2d or 3d—4th, I think, at latest. Shall be very glad to see you again. I enjoy it over here but "there is no place like home."

My visit here has been a great success—I have been well received and treated on all hands, I shall feel richer for it for the rest of my life.

Keep good heart, dear Walt, till I get back—but in any case be easy about "L. of G." and the good cause—they are [one?] all right

Your loving friend
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: WEST KENSINGTON | [illegible]; NEW YORK | AUG | 28; A | 91; PAID | C | ALL; CAMDEN, N.J. | AUG | 28 | 4PM | 1891 | REC'D. [back]

2. At this time, Bucke was traveling abroad in England in an attempt to establish a foreign market for the gas and fluid meter he was developing with his brother-in-law William Gurd. [back]

3. See Whitman's postal card to Bucke of August 2–3, 1891[back]

4. Bucke is referring to Horace Traubel's article "Over-Sea Greeting. Walt Whitman's Fame Abroad," which was published on the front page of the Camden Post on August 1, 1891. The article includes an account of Dr. John Johnston's visit to Whitman in the summer of 1890. Traubel reprints letters from Johnston and James W. Wallace—co-founders of the Bolton College of Whitman admireres—to Whitman and letters from Bucke to Whitman that describe Bucke's own time in England in July and August 1891. [back]

5. 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]

6. Dr. John Johnston (1852–1927) of Annan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, was a physician, photographer, and avid cyclist. Johnston was trained in Edinburgh and served as a hospital surgeon in West Bromwich for two years before moving to Bolton, England, in 1876. Johnston worked as a general practitioner in Bolton and as an instructor of ambulance classes for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railways. He served at Whalley Military Hospital during World War One and became Medical Superintendent of Townley's Hospital in 1917 (John Anson, "Bolton's Illustrious Doctor Johnston—a man of many talents," Bolton News [March 28, 2021]; Paul Salveson, Moorlands, Memories, and reflections: A Centenary Celebration of Allen Clarke's Moorlands and Memories [Lancashire Loominary, 2020]). Johnston, along with James W. Wallace, founded the "Bolton College" of English admirers of the poet. Johnston and Wallace corresponded with Whitman and with Horace Traubel and other members of the Whitman circle in the United States, and they separately visited the poet and published memoirs of their trips in John Johnston and James William Wallace, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends (London: Allen and Unwin, 1917). For more information on Johnston, see Larry D. Griffin, "Johnston, Dr. John (1852–1927)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. James William Wallace (1853–1926), of Bolton, England, was an architect and great admirer of Whitman. Along with John Johnston (1852–1927), a physician from Bolton, he founded the "Bolton College" of English admirers of the poet. Johnston and Wallace corresponded with Whitman and with Horace Traubel and other members of the Whitman circle in the United States, and they separately visited the poet and published memoirs of their trips in John Johnston and James William Wallace, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends (London: Allen and Unwin, 1917). For more information on Wallace, see Larry D. Griffin, "Wallace, James William (1853–1926)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

8. Edward Carpenter (1844–1929) was an English writer and Whitman disciple. Like many other young disillusioned Englishmen, he deemed Whitman a prophetic spokesman of an ideal state cemented in the bonds of brotherhood. Carpenter—a socialist philosopher who in his book Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure posited civilization as a "disease" with a lifespan of approximately one thousand years before human society cured itself—became an advocate for same-sex love and a contributing early founder of Britain's Labour Party. On July 12, 1874, he wrote for the first time to Whitman: "Because you have, as it were, given me a ground for the love of men I thank you continually in my heart. . . . For you have made men to be not ashamed of the noblest instinct of their nature." For further discussion of Carpenter, see Arnie Kantrowitz, "Carpenter, Edward [1844–1929]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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