Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 22 January [188]9

Date: January 22, [188]9

Whitman Archive ID: syr.00036

Source: Walt Whitman Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library, Syracuse, N.Y. The transcription presented here is derived from Richard Maurice Bucke, The Letters of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, ed. Artem Lozynsky (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1977), 104–105. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock




[London, Ont.,]
22 Jan [188]91

Well that wonderfull snowstorn did not amount to much after all, made very indifferent sleighing and today the sun is out bright and warm and the snow is going again as fast as it can. [—] Your good, heartily welcomed letter of 19th & 20th2 came to hand this forenoon, by the same mail came also your bundle of "Critic" and "Press"3 also a bundle from Horace;4 San Francisco "Bulletin"5 & "Poet Lore [.]"6 Many thanks to you and him for all.7 Also just arrived from Brentano Bros "The Century Guild Hobby Horse" with a lovely little 2 page piece on "November Boughs" by Selwyn Image.8 So you see 'tout va bien" with my collection which bids fair to be one day the envy of millionaires. The "Springfield Rep.," I should say, came in Horaces bundle9 and I like Sanborns10 criticism11 well—better than the critic piece which (to me) has a smack of unrealness, want of sincerity (but perhaps I do the writer injustice).12 [—] Yes, dear Walt, you must be tired, horribly tired, of that room of yours—I really think that when the warm spring days come you must move downstairs and by means of some contrivance get into a suitable carriage and have a look again at the grass and trees—if you are not worse than at present if can be done and ought to be done, and if any thing will revive you that will.—Yes I shall be right glad to see the big book13 in its permanent cover and shall depend on you for as early a copy as possible. Nothing more definite about trip East, still hope to get off 4 Feb


Love to you R M Bucke

P.S.14 Thanks also for Ed. Carpenter's15 letter I was real glad to see it16

R M B.


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. The note "Ref to an entry | of Jan—24 | 1889 | G[ertrude] T[raubel]," appears in the upper right-hand corner of the first recto. The reference is to Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, January 24, 1889. Also on the first recto, written in an unidentified hand in the center of the top margin, is "To WW." [back]

2. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of January 19–20, 1889. See also Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, January 18, 1889, and Monday, February 18, 1889[back]

3. Bart Bonsall described his visit of January 7 or 8, 1889, to Whitman in a paragraph in the Philadelphia Press (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, January 10, 1889). [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. The San Francisco Chronicle [January 13, 1887], not the Bulletin contained a brief notice of November Boughs. Whitman commented: "—a notice hardly of moment . . ." (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, January 18, 1889). For more information on November Boughs, see James E. Barcus, Jr. November Boughs," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. A review of November Boughs appeared in Poet-Lore, 1 (March 1889), 145–47. [back]

7. This letter provides a good illustration of Whitman's and Traubel's tenacity and thoroughness in sending Bucke relevant material from periodicals. Eventually, Bucke had "over two thousand newspaper cuttings, [and] nearly four hundred magazine articles" in his Whitman collection (Letter from Richard Maurice Bucke to Charles N. Elliot of June 10, 1897: Charles E. Feinberg Collection in the Library of Congress). [back]

8. Selwyn Image's review of November Boughs appeared in The Century Guild Hobby Horse, 13 (January 1889), 37–39. [back]

9. A brief but favorable review of November Boughs appeared in the Springfield Daily Republican on December 25, 1888. Traubel sent Bucke a copy on January 7, 1889 (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, January 7, 1889). [back]

10. Franklin B. Sanborn (1831–1917) was an abolitionist and a friend of John Brown. In 1860, when he was tried in Boston because of his refusal to testify before a committee of the U.S. Senate, Whitman was in the courtroom (Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer [New York: Macmillan, 1955], 242). He reviewed Drum-Taps in the Boston Commonwealth on February 24, 1866. He was editor of the Springfield Republican from 1868 to 1872, and was the author of books dealing with his friends Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott. "A Visit to the Good Gray Poet" appeared without Sanborn's name in the Springfield Republican on April 19, 1876. For more on Sanborn, see Linda K. Walker, "Sanborn, Franklin Benjamin (Frank) (1831–1917)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

11. Bucke is referring to Sanborn's [untitled] piece on Emerson and Whitman in the Springfield Daily Republican on January 1889 (See Henry S. Saunders, comp., "Complete Index to the Conservator: Published by Horace Traubel from March 1890 to June 1919," Manuscript held in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection in the Library of Congress). [back]

12. See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, January 24, 1889[back]

13. Whitman often referred to Complete Poems & Prose (1888) as his "big book." With the help of Horace Traubel, Whitman made the presswork and binding decisions, and Frederick Oldach bound the volume, which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. Philadelphia publisher David McKay published the book in December 1888. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom's Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary. [back]

14. The postscript is written in the top left-hand corner of the left recto. [back]

15. 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]

16. In his letter of January 19–20, 1889, Whitman sent Bucke Carpenter's letter of January 13, 1889[back]


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