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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 10 July 1891


Feeling pretty easy for me, cool sunny splendid weather to-day—bowel operations the last ten days better than a long, long time—but lassitude & head ache continue—Dr L[ongaker]2 comes ab't every three days—O'D[onovan]3 the sculptor comes daily—R Moore4 and Reinhalter5 the tomb builder here to-day—I paid R. $1000 more (making 1500 altogether so far6—the bill for tomb is 4000)—I do not complain—may send you a pict there—possibly not ready tho—rec'd yours f'm Britannic7 am July 88—Ingersoll9 is off west—Horace10 is flourishing—expect to ride out with him & Annie11 to-morrow—Warry12 had a good trip to N Y—got back that evn'g to give me my massage13—every thing goes on boiling & bubbling here in U. S.—Pres't Harrison14 retreated to sea side Cape May15 for seven or eight weeks (what a wise move!) & the hot season is sliding away—specially prosperous agriculture & crop season all over U S—solid basis for all.

Best regards to the Costelloes16 & Smiths17 Walt Whitman  loc_jm.00288.jpg  loc_jm.00289.jpg

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 | care Mr Costelloe | 44 Grosvenor road | the Embankment | London | England. It is postmarked: Camden (?) | July 10 | 8 PM | 91. [back]
  • 2. Daniel Longaker (1858–1949) was a Philadelphia physician who specialized in obstetrics. He became Whitman's doctor in early 1891 and provided treatment during the poet's final illness. For more information, see Carol J. Singley, "Longaker, Dr. Daniel [1858–1949]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R.LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. William Rudolph O'Donovan (1844–1920) was an American sculptor. He was an associate of American artist Thomas Eakins and accompanied Eakins to Whitman's Camden home and fashioned a large bust of Whitman. Whitman liked O'Donovan but did not care for the bust, which he found "too hunched" and the head "too broad" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, July 15, 1891). [back]
  • 4. Ralph Moore was the superintendent of Harleigh Cemetery, where Whitman had had his marble tomb built. [back]
  • 5. P. Reinhalter & Co. of Philadelphia built Whitman's tomb—an elaborate granite tomb of the poet's design— in Harleigh Cemetery in Camden, New Jersey. The tomb cost $4,000. Whitman covered a portion of these costs with money that his Boston friends had raised so that the poet could purchase a summer cottage; the remaining balance was paid by Whitman's literary executor, Thomas Harned. For more information on the cemetery and Whitman's tomb, see See Geoffrey M. Still, "Harleigh Cemetery," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 6. The receipt from P. Reinhalter & Company read: "Received from Walt Whitman tenth of July, 1891 One thousand dollars cash, for the tomb in Harleigh Cemetery—making, including the sum of five hundred dollars (paid May 12 last) altogether to date the sum of fifteen hundred dollars which is hereby receipted"; see the Detroit Public Library's publication, An Exhibition of the Works of Walt Whitman, (Detroit: February and March 1955), 41. [back]
  • 7. At this time, the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke was traveling abroad in England in an attempt to establish a foreign market for the gas and fluid meter he was developing with his brother-in-law William Gurd. [back]
  • 8. See Bucke's letter to Whitman of July 8, 1891. [back]
  • 9. 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]
  • 10. 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]
  • 11. Anne Montgomerie (1864–1954) married Horace Traubel in Whitman's Mickle Street house in Camden, New Jersey, in 1891. They had one daughter, Gertrude (1892–1983), and one son, Wallace (1893–1898). Anne was unimpressed with Whitman's work when she first read it, but later became enraptured by what she called its "pulsating, illumined life," and she joined Horace as associate editor of his Whitman-inspired periodical The Conservator. Anne edited a small collection of Whitman's writings, A Little Book of Nature Thoughts (Portland, Maine: Thomas B. Mosher, 1896). After Horace's death, both Anne and Gertrude edited his manuscripts of his conversations with Whitman during the final four years of the poet's life, which eventually became the nine-volume With Walt Whitman in Camden. [back]
  • 12. Frank Warren Fritzinger (1867–1899), known as "Warry," took Edward Wilkins's place as Whitman's nurse, beginning in October 1889. Fritzinger and his brother Harry were the sons of Henry Whireman Fritzinger (about 1828–1881), a former sea captain who went blind, and Almira E. Fritzinger. Following Henry Sr.'s death, Warren and his brother—having lost both parents—became wards of Mary O. Davis, Whitman's housekeeper, who had also taken care of the sea captain and who inherited part of his estate. A picture of Warry is displayed in the May 1891 New England Magazine (278). See Joann P. Krieg, "Fritzinger, Frederick Warren (1866–1899)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), 240. [back]
  • 13. Whitman's nurse at the time, Warren Fritizinger, regularly gave the poet massages. [back]
  • 14. Benjamin Harrison (1833–1901) was the twenty-third U.S. president and grandson of the ninth president, William Henry Harrison. Harrison was the Republican nominee who defeated Democratic incumbent Grover Cleveland in 1888. [back]
  • 15. President Benjamin Harrison spent the summer of 1891 in a cottage at Cape May Point at the southern tip of New Jersey; the cottage was a gift to Harrison's wife Caroline from the mercantilist John Wanamaker of Philadelphia. Harrison used the Congress Hotel in Cape May—a favorite vacation spot for former U.S. presidents—as the first "summer White House," since the actual White House was undergoing renovations involving the installation of electricity. [back]
  • 16. The Costelloes were Benjamin Francis ("Frank") Conn Costelloe (1854–1899) and Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe (1864–1945). Frank was Mary's first husband, an English barrister and Liberal Party politician. Mary was a political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend." For more information about her, see Christina Davey, "Costelloe, Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 17. Whitman is referring to the family of Robert Pearsall Smith (1827–1898). Smith, an evangelical minister, and his wife Hannah Whitall Smith (1831–1911) had three children: Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe (1864–1945), Logan Pearsall Smith (1865–1946), and Alys Pearsall Smith (1867–1951). The Smith family were all friends and supporters of Whitman. For more about the Smith family, see Christina Davey, "Smith, Robert Pearsall (1827–1898)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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