Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

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

Date: October 14, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08264

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: Jason McCormick, Cristin Noonan, Brandon James O'Neil, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock



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Camden—Evn'g1
Oct: 14 '91

Feeling tolerable considering—Wallace2 & Andrew Rome3 come on here tomorrow—W is visiting4 & seeing & chatting & enjoying NY & Brooklyn—I have had an offer to publish all my works for Gt Britain5 (& English–reading Europe)—seems to be solid—may want Harry Forman's6 offices over there


Walt Whitman


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: Dr Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | OCT14 | 6 PM | 91, London | PM | OC 1[6?] | Can[ada]. [back]

2. 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]

3. Andrew Rome, perhaps with the assistance of his brother Tom, printed Whitman's first edition of Leaves of Grass (1855) in a small shop at the intersection of Fulton and Cranberry in Brooklyn. It was likely the first book the firm ever printed. [back]

4. Wallace traveled from Bolton, England to the United States, arriving at Philadelphia on September 8, 1891 (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, September 8, 1891). At the time of Whitman's letter, Wallace had just returned to the United States after visiting Bucke in Canada. Wallace's account of his time with Whitman was published—along with the Bolton physician John Johnston's account of his own visit with the poet in the summer of 1890—in their memoir, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends (London: Allen and Unwin, 1917). [back]

5. In a letter to Richard Maurice Bucke dated November 22, 1891, Whitman explained that "[William] Heineman, [Wolcott] Balestier, & [John] Lovell want to purchase the American copyright [to Leaves of Grass]—I do not care to sell it as at present minded." See also Harry Buxton Forman's letter to Whitman of November 8, 1891[back]

6. Henry Buxton Forman (1842–1917), also known as Harry Buxton Forman, was most notably the biographer and editor of Percy Shelley and John Keats. On February 21, 1872, Buxton sent a copy of R. H. Horne's The Great Peace-Maker; A Sub-marine Dialogue (London, 1872) to Whitman. This poetic account of the laying of the Atlantic cable has a foreword written by Forman. After his death, Forman's reputation declined primarily because, in 1934, booksellers Graham Pollard and John Carter published An Enquiry into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets, which exposed Forman as a forger of many first "private" editions of poetry. [back]


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