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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 5 October 1889


Sunny & coolish & fine—have a good oak fire—I think the press work of Horace's2 dinner book3 must have been done yesterday or day before, & the binding will follow soon & you shall have it.

There is quite a (I suppose they claim first class) pretensive magazine "The New England Monthly"4 out in Boston & Horace has been formally invited to write them a ten page article ab't me, (life, works, L of G. &c I suppose of course) wh' he is going to do—$25 pay—nothing new or special with me, condition &c—the old dulness & heaviness—head, (catarrhal?) & bladder—have laid in a cord of good hard dry oak, all sawed—eat pretty heartily—nights so-so—havn't been out for a fortnight—Are you interested in this All-Americas' Delegates' visit here & Convention at Washington?5—their trip R R, 50 of them, between five & six thousand miles in U S without change of car interests me much—it is the biggest best thing yet in recorded history—(the modern is something after all)— They say this racket is in the interest of protection—but I sh'd like to know how it can be prevented f'm helping free trade & national brotherhood—you fellows are not in this swim I believe—but you tell the Canadians we U S are "yours faithfully" certain, & dont they forget it—

Walt Whitman

here enclosed is an old letter of Kennedy6–may interest you–may not.7


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).


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Dr Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, [illegible] | Oct 5 | 8 PM | 89. [back]
  • 2. 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 late 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]
  • 3. The notes and addresses that were delivered at Whitman's seventieth birthday celebration in Camden, on May 31, 1889, were collected and edited by Horace Traubel. The volume was titled Camden's Compliment to Walt Whitman, and it included a photo of Sidney Morse's 1887 clay bust of Whitman as the frontispiece. The book was published in 1889 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. [back]
  • 4. The New England Magazine was launched in September and included Sylvester Baxter's article on Bellamy's Looking Backward. [back]
  • 5. The International Congress of American States opened in Washington on October 2; the delegates began a grand tour of the United States two days later. [back]
  • 6. William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and the Boston Transcript; he also published biographies of Longfellow, Holmes, and Whittier (Dictionary of American Biography [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933], 336–337). Apparently Kennedy called on the poet for the first time on November 21, 1880 (William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman [London: Alexander Gardener, 1896], 1). Though Kennedy was to become a fierce defender of Whitman, in his first published article he admitted reservations about the "coarse indecencies of language" and protested that Whitman's ideal of democracy was "too coarse and crude"; see The Californian, 3 (February 1881), 149–158. For more about Kennedy, see Katherine Reagan, "Kennedy, William Sloane (1850–1929)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 7. This postscript is written at the top of the page. [back]
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