Whitman papers purchased by C.F. Sixsmith

  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng 1170/1
  • Dates of Creation
  • Physical Description
      57 items.

Scope and Content

This subgroup consists of a collection of papers purchased by Charles F. Sixsmith at the auction house of Sotheby and Co., New Bond Street, London. The sale, held on 13 May 1935, consisted of letters, manuscripts and books by or relating to Whitman which had been the property of Dr Richard Maurice Bucke. Bucke was a physician, Superintendent of the Insane Asylum in London, Ontario, Canada, and a close friend and great admirer of the poet. He was the author of the official biography of Whitman, published in 1883 and partly written by Whitman himself. He was also one of Whitman's three literary executors.

At the sale Sixsmith purchased lot 4 (a third edition Leaves of Grass) and lot 101 - the papers listed here. This material consists of a series of letters written to Whitman while he was staying with R.M. Bucke in London, Ontario, during the summer of 1880, along with news cuttings collected by Whitman over the same period, and some miscellaneous material, much of it relating to his trip to Canada.

During this period of his life, Whitman was living with his brother George and his family in Camden, New Jersey, after losing his government clerkship through ill health in 1874. He spent much of his time, however, at a farm in Kirkwood, New Jersey, the home of his friends, the large Stafford family. Whitman took an active part in family life there, and became very close to the young Harry Stafford, who replaced Peter Doyle in his affections. The countryside around the farm also provided the inspiration for Whitman's Specimen Days (1882), part of which he composed at the nearby Timber Creek.

In 1879, Anne Gilchrist - another important figure in Whitman's life at the time - had left Philadelphia (where she had been living for three years) to return to her native England. She had fallen in love with Whitman after reading his poetry, and moved her family to America to be near him. It subsequently became clear that Whitman could never reciprocate the kind of affection she offered, although they remained friends and Whitman spent much time at her Philadelphia home.

Whitman lived a quiet life in Camden, although he did undertake several extended trips, including a journey to Colorado in 1879, and his trip to see Dr Bucke in 1880. He was enjoying increased recognition for his work at this time, as is testified by a number of letters from admirers included in this collection.

The papers here were presumably left behind in Canada when Whitman returned to Camden, and remained in the possession of Dr Bucke and his descendents.