Dinner with Walt

all things Walt Whitman

Dinner with Walt - all things Walt Whitman

Looking for Whitman, Bucke & Traubel in Ontario

Next up for Dinner with Walt – another Whitman literary vacation! I’m heading up into Ontario in a few weeks to retrace some of Whitman’s travels. (See Walt Whitman’s Diary in Canada).

First stop will be in Sarina, Ontario. On June 18, 1880, Whitman wrote of Sarina in his diary:

Next stops will be London and Hamilton, Ontario to visit what’s left of two former insane asylums where Dr. Maurice Bucke worked. I have not yet written much about him, but Dr. Bucke was a very important and colorful character in Whitman’s life. Dr. Bucke was the longest serving Superintendent of the London Insane Asylum (1877-1902). Dr. Bucke’s work in the psychiatric field is renowned and was revolutionary for this period of time in the area of mental health services. Prior to Bucke, many of the practices in the asylums were quite horrific, involving restraints (various shackles and wooden cages where people were confined in order to control and attempt to calm them. Funny, but I can’t imagine being hunched down on all fours and locked in a wooden crate to have much of a calming effect). But Dr. Bucke’s progressive philosophies and practices did away with the mechanical restraints.  He believed that the insane would fare much better to be in the open air, to play organized sports and to work with their hands in flower and vegetable gardens.

Someday in future posts, I’ll share more on Dr. Bucke, he was a very interesting man with many interesting stories of his own! No wonder he was a close personal friend to Whitman. After Whitman’s death, Bucke was one of the three literary executor’s to Whitman’s estate.

As I mentioned, there are remaining remnants of Dr. Bucke’s asylum in both London and Hamilton Ontario (now abandoned and rumored haunted). Follow the link below for an interesting read on the history and current conservation plans of the London asylum:

London Psychiatric Hospital, History & Conservation Plans

 

This might be a good place to share my copy of Dr. Bucke’s 1901 master work, Cosmic Consciousness. The books is a first edition, signed by Dr. Bucke. Included with the book is an original handwritten letter by Dr. Bucke to a Mr. Thomas Lacey, Esq. Notice Dr. Bucke’s return address label is the London Asylum.

 

Assuming I’m able to leave the asylums (my partner threatens to leave me at one of the asylums and sometimes even I agree that might be an appropriate place for me!).  But the next stop will be Bon Echo Provincial Park where Horace Traubel spent his last days alive.

You may recall my mention of Bon Echo from a previous post about Horace Traubel, but here’s the interesting part below:

“Traubel attended one last centenary event—the August dedication of a huge granite cliff at the Bon Echo estate in Canada, to be named “Old Walt” and inscribed with Whitman’s words in giant letters. On 28 August Traubel, while sitting in a tower room where he could look out on Old Walt, shouted that Whitman had just appeared above the granite cliff “in a golden glory.” “He reassured me, beckoned to me, and spoke to me. I heard his voice but did not understand all he said, only ‘Come on'” (qtd. in Denison 196). Traubel died at Bon Echo on 3 September and was buried in Harleigh Cemetery in Camden, close to Whitman’s tomb.

Thanks to Wikipedia, here’s a photo from the dedication at Bon Echo. Horace Traubel is not in the photo, presumably due to his ill health. But what is most remarkable is that Traubel lived to see this event, as he had wished, but sadly his life ended shortly after this dedication. Here’s the photo taken at the August 1919 dedication:

Check back soon, I’m certain I’ll have interesting stories and at least one big surprise to share after this trip!

 

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A December 19th Birthday!

Happy 154th Birthday to Horace Traubel!!!

Earlier this year, in my birthday tribute to Whitman, I wrote,

 

“Happy [193rd] birthday to an enlightened, benevolent, inspiring, noble and wonderful old man!”

 

Here today on December 19th, I wish to express this this same sentiment to another great man, Horace Traubel.

 

With much thanks to the Indiana State University for making this available, I found quite a gem that really is a perfect and beautiful tribute to the life of Horace Traubel. This memorial is a truly transcendent document and is decorous of such an important man to the life and story of Walt Whitman. Edited in1920 by Flora McDonald, this exceptional tribute is peppered with Traubel’s own thoughts, words and poems. It details Traubel’s last days of life at the dedication of “Old Walt” in Bon Echo, Ontario; and contains images of Traubel that I have not before seen.

 

So today, with love, gratitude and remembrances to the life of Horace Traubel, I invite you to read “The Sunset of Bon Echo.”

 

Below is a poem written for Horace by his wife Anne. Unfortunately, he did not live to see this lovely poem. He died a few months prior.

 

HORACE TRAUBEL

Written for his birthday December 19th, 1919

By, [his wife] Anne Montgomerie Traubel

 

He is not something in the light –

He is the light.

Light that is life –

Life that is love.

Love that he has made as common as bread,

And touched to immortality.

 

 


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Horace L. Traubel

 

Whitman was connected with many important and influential people throughout his life, but for Whitman biographers, perhaps none other was more important than Horace Traubel.  Traubel’s name is often found in all studies of Whitman, for Traubel made it his own life work to document all he could about the “Good Gray Poet.”

 

Traubel met Whitman at the age of 15, Whitman was 54. Their friendship caused a bit of a stir because of their difference in age. However, they remained close friends and allies for the remainder of Whitman’s life. Starting in 1888 and to the end of Whitman’s life in 1892, Traubel made daily visits to Whitman’s home on 328 Minkle Street and kept meticulous notes about their conversations. Traubel documented all the conversations; everything from the interesting to the mundane. Traubel had accumulated massive amounts of his own transcribed notes of their discussions; collected letters written to and by Whitman; and stockpiled photos and documents given to him by Whitman himself. This documentation has proved invaluable to Whitman historians.

 

There’s a humorous exchange between Whitman and Traubel in volume 1 of With Walt Whitman on page 210. After reading a letter Whitman had handed him, Traubel asks:

 

“Is this letter of any use to you any more?” Whitman responds, “None whatever – is it any use to you?” Traubel “didn’t say a word.” Whitman looked at him, stated, “I see you want me to say, take it.  Well – I say it. You are the victim of a disease I should not encourage – but then we’ve agreed to work together – you’re my partner – there’s no use quarreling over trifles. Take the letter – and the devil be with you.”

 

 

Whitman knew that Traubel intended to write a biography, but what Whitman did not know is that Traubel would publish a work of Whitman as thoroughly and completely as he did. It was Traubel’s intention to publish all of his notes in a series called, With Walt Whitman in Camden. Traubel accomplished in completing the first three editions of the series before his own death in 1919. Since then, six other editions have been completed, with the final ninth edition of Traubel’s notes published as recently as 1996.

 

Traubel’s death in 1919 is interesting to note as well. From the Walt Whitman Archive:

 

“Traubel attended one last centenary event—the August dedication of a huge granite cliff at the Bon Echo estate in Canada, to be named “Old Walt” and inscribed with Whitman’s words in giant letters. On 28 August Traubel, while sitting in a tower room where he could look out on Old Walt, shouted that Whitman had just appeared above the granite cliff “in a golden glory.” “He reassured me, beckoned to me, and spoke to me. I heard his voice but did not understand all he said, only ‘Come on'” (qtd. in Denison 196). Traubel died at Bon Echo on 3 September and was buried in Harleigh Cemetery in Camden, close to Whitman’s tomb.

 

Thanks to Wikipedia, here’s a photo from the dedication at Bon Echo. Horace Traubel is not in the photo, presumably due to his ill health. But what is most remarkable is that Traubel lived to see this event, as he had wished, but sadly his life ended shortly after this dedication. Here’s the photo taken at the dedication, August 1919:

 

 

 

Credits:

 

Traubel Image: Walt Whitman Archive. http://www.whitmanarchive.org/criticism/disciples/tei/anc.00249.html

 

Traubel, Horace. (1906). With Walt Whitman in Camden (March 28 – July 14, 1888). Boston: Small, Maynard & Company. pp. 210.

 

Folsom, Ed. (1998). “Horace L. Traubel.” The Walt Whitman Archive. http://www.whitmanarchive.org/criticism/disciples/tei/anc.00249.html

 

Bon Echo image:  Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bon_Echo_-_Old_Walt.png

 

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