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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 19 March 1891

Am getting along fairly I guess considering. Dr Longaker,2 of 652 north 8th St. Phila. has been here & we have had a good long comprehensive talk—he too thinks the use of the catheter unquestionably advisable—& I have used it for the first time—He has given a prescription for the terrible bowel obstinacy (pills) & I have just sent off to the druggist's for it—the proofs of the poetic part for Good-Bye are sent back & the plates of them (18 or 20 pages) will probably be cast to-day—(are likely cast now)—then they will set up the prose pages—y'r letter rec'd last evn'g3—I receive frequent & loyal & affectionate letters f'm the Bolton, Eng. friends—one to-day4—Horace5 is going off soon to N Y. to hear Ingersoll6 orate on Shakspere​ —will be a great treat—Harrison S Morris7 was here, telling me of Stedman's8 "Poetry" lectures at Johns Hopkins—S. spoke of me & L of G. several times & in favorable tone—there are to be more lectures.9

Tom Harned10 here last evn'g—full of business—a roast apple for my breakfast—am reading "Holland, its Places & People" trans. f'm the Italian of Amicus11—What a people they have been and are! "The pills have come" f'm the druggist's & I have just taken one (take every three hours)—Have you the Round-Table pamphlet 52 pp: Walt Whitman—Edinburgh?12 If not I can mail it to you—As I close it is ab't 3 & I am feeling in fair mood—dark & damp out, mild, looks like more strom— very uneasy ab't my sister13 at Burlington Vermont—She is sick & old & nervous & in a bad way—my niece Jessie14 (Jeff's15 daughter) at St Louis is getting along fairly—my brother Ed16 is still at the Blackwood institution (we pay $3½ a week) all satisfactory—

Love to you all & God bless you Walt Whitman

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, N.J. | Mar 19 | 8 PM | 91. [back]
  • 2. Daniel Longaker was Whitman's physician until his death. In making his quarterly payment of $9 to the fund which provided Whitman with nursing care, Richard Maurice Bucke observed to Traubel on April 1: "My idea is that the 'Fund' should pay Dr Longaker and I increase my subscription to meet this [by $5], I calculate that Dr L. should have $30.00 or $40.00 a mth. f'm now on (?)." [back]
  • 3. See Bucke's March 15, 1891, letter to Whitman. [back]
  • 4. Whitman is probably referring to James W. Wallace's letter of March 6. See Whitman's letter to Wallace of March 14, 1891, especially note 2. [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 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]
  • 6. Robert "Bob" Green Ingersoll (1833–1899) was a Civil War veteran and an orator of the post-Civil War era, known for his support of agnosticism. Ingersoll was a friend of Whitman, who considered Ingersoll the greatest orator of his time. Whitman said to Horace Traubel, "It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is Leaves of Grass. He lives, embodies, the individuality I preach. I see in Bob the noblest specimen—American-flavored—pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light" (Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, March 25, 1891). The feeling was mutual. Upon Whitman's death in 1892, Ingersoll delivered the eulogy at the poet's funeral. The eulogy was published to great acclaim and is considered a classic panegyric (see Phyllis Theroux, The Book of Eulogies [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997], 30). [back]
  • 7. Harrison Smith Morris (1856–1948) was a businessman and man of letters. Horace Traubel published Morris's translation of French critic Gabriel Sarrazin's essay "Walt Whitman" in the tribute collection In Re Walt Whitman, ed. Horace Traubel, Richard Maurice Bucke, and Thomas B. Harned [Philadelphia: McKay, 1893], 159–194. Morris also wrote a biography of the poet, Walt Whitman: A Brief Biography with Reminiscences (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1929). [back]
  • 8. Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833–1908) was a man of diverse talents. He edited for a year the Mountain County Herald at Winsted, Connecticut, wrote "Honest Abe of the West," presumably Lincoln's first campaign song, and served as correspondent of the New York World from 1860 to 1862. In 1862 and 1863 he was a private secretary in the Attorney General's office until he entered the firm of Samuel Hallett and Company in September, 1863. The next year he opened his own brokerage office. He published many volumes of poems and was an indefatigable compiler of anthologies, among which were Poets of America, 2 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1885) and A Library of American Literature from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, 11 vols. (New York: C. L. Webster, 1889–90). For more, see Donald Yannella, "Stedman, Edmund Clarence (1833–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 9. Morris's article "Mr. Stedman's Lectures on Poetry" appeared in The Conservator in April, 1892. [back]
  • 10. Thomas Biggs Harned (1851–1921) was one of Whitman's literary executors. Harned was a lawyer in Philadelphia and, having married Augusta Anna Traubel (1856–1914), was Horace Traubel's brother-in-law. For more on him, see Dena Mattausch, "Harned, Thomas Biggs (1851–1921)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). For more on his relationship with Whitman, see Thomas Biggs Harned, Memoirs of Thomas B. Harned, Walt Whitman's Friend and Literary Executor, ed. Peter Van Egmond (Hartford: Transcendental Books, 1972). [back]
  • 11. Whitman is referring to Edmondo de Amicis, Holland and Its People, translated by C. Tilton. The book was published in several editions. [back]
  • 12. Whitman is referring to John Robertson's Walt Whitman, Poet and Democrat (Round Table Series, Edinburgh, 1884). [back]
  • 13. Hannah Louisa (Whitman) Heyde (1823–1908), youngest sister of Walt Whitman, married Charles Louis Heyde (ca. 1820–1892), a Pennsylvania-born landscape painter. Charles Heyde was infamous among the Whitmans for his offensive letters and poor treatment of Hannah. Hannah and Charles Heyde lived in Burlington, Vermont. For more, see Paula K. Garrett, "Whitman (Heyde), Hannah Louisa (d. 1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 14. Jessie Louisa Whitman (1863–1957) was the second and youngest daughter of Whitman's brother Thomas Jefferson "Jeff" Whitman (1833–1890) and Jeff's wife Martha Mitchell Whitman (1836–1873). [back]
  • 15. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was Walt Whitman's favorite brother. As a civil engineer, Jeff eventually became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and a nationally recognized figure. For more on Jeff, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 16. Edward Whitman (1835–1892), called "Eddy" or "Edd," was the youngest son of Louisa Van Velsor Whitman and Walter Whitman, Sr. He required lifelong assistance for significant physical and mental disabilities, and he remained in the care of his mother until her death in 1873. During his mother's final illness, George Whitman and his wife Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman took over Eddy's care, with financial support from Walt Whitman. In 1888, Eddy was moved to an asylum at Blackwood, New Jersey. For more information on Edward, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Edward (1835–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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