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Harry Buxton Forman to Walt Whitman, 4 June 1890

 loc.02099.001_large.jpg My dear Walt Whitman,

I have received from you lately "The Conservator" with Bucke's2 little article,3 a newspaper with a review of my Keats,4 your letter of 22 May,5 and the parcel by express—for all of which I thank you heartily. Your letter came on Monday the 2nd; & curiously I was going that evening to hear a paper about you read by a lady6 to some thirty or forty people, mostly ladies. After the paper, which was very sympathetic & intelligently done, I read the people your letter and the poem you enclosed. The poem was greatly liked; and the message to "British friends" fitted several. I have sent that to the Athenaeum, so that all may know how you are going on. The contents of the parcel are delightful and will be always prized by me—I mean the photographs and the books in which you have written. It seems to me you have sent me, duplicates  loc.02099.002_large.jpg and all, a great deal for the money. I will let you know the cost of expressage, because I presume you wish to keep a check on the agents—it was 7s/6d (not very dear, I think)—but this is of course my affair; for I make the parcel out to come to a good bit over £5..7..6 even in money; and there is much that money will not pay for.

Quite by chance I have just taken up at a stall the last part of a serial issue of a book called "Celebrities of the Century."7 The book was issued complete a year or two ago. I contributed the notice of you & several others on the distinct understanding that I should say what I pleased. Now they have made this reissue without my knowledge, & the conclusion of the article on you has been chopped off. I send you the thing as it is now, because it may amuse you to know what an eminently respectable firm will publish about you in the year 1890. They would not have cut off the end, I fancy, except to make room for something else; for they published  loc.02099.004_large.jpg it all8 right in the book, which did not contain the notice on the next page, of Sir J. Whitworth.9

Since receiving your parcel I have heard of something else that I want. It is described as "The Family Edition" of Specimen Days and Collect,10—a few copies said to have been extra-illustrated & extended in some way. If you had one left I would think it a great favor to be allowed to buy it. You might put my name in it & just send a line on a postcard to let me know the cost. Some of those photographs you have sent me are really splendid—what a fortunate atmosphere! English photographs don't have half the sharpness & detail.

Always yours with affectionate respect H. Buxton Forman  loc.02099.003_zs.jpg  loc.02099.005_large.jpg See Notes June 16 1890  loc.02099.006_large.jpg

Henry "Harry" Buxton Forman (1842–1917) was a British man-of-letters, an editor of and authority on the works of Keats and Shelley, and, starting in 1887, a conspirator in literary forgeries that were exposed after his death. The correspondence at this time between Bucke and Forman makes it clear that Bucke was also building up Forman's collection of Whitman materials (D. B. Weldon Library, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario).


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey | United States of America. It is postmarked: London, N.W. | JU 2 | 90; Camden, N.J. | Jun | 16 | 6AM | 1890 | Rec'd; Paid | B | All. [back]
  • 2. 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). [back]
  • 3. Forman is most likely referring to Bucke"s "Leaves of Grass and Modern Science," The Conservator 1 (May 1890): 19. [back]
  • 4. Forman edited several volumes of work by the English romantic poet John Keats, including editions of poetry and letters by Keats. [back]
  • 5. See Whitman's May 22, 1890, letter to Forman. [back]
  • 6. Forman identifies this lady as Miss Louisa Drewry in his June 16, 1890, letter to Whitman. See also Louisa Drewry's June 20, 1890, letter to Whitman, and Whitman's response of July 1, 1890. Louisa Drewry (1834–1916) of Middlesex, England, began teaching Greek and Latin classes for women in the early 1860s. She became a founding faculty member of The Working Women's College in 1864. She continued teaching classes for women in literature, composition, and history until approximately 1910, and she had amassed a library of 2,000 books by the time of her death in 1916. She was a member of the Browning Society, a contributor to the English Woman's Journal, and is author of A Simple Method of Grammatical Analysis (London: George Bell & Sons, 1891). [back]
  • 7. Whitman acknowledges receipt of this pamphlet in his June 16, 1890, letter to Forman. [back]
  • 8. The rest of this letter, the final page, is written on the verso of the first page of the letter. [back]
  • 9. Sir Joseph Whitworth (1803–1887) was an English engineer and inventor who created the Whitworth rifle and the British Standard Whitworth system, resulting in an accepted standard for screw threads. [back]
  • 10. In his June 16, 1890, letter to Forman, Whitman writes: "There is no other ed'n of Specimen Days (that I know) but the one I believe you have." [back]
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