Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 15 August 1888

Date: August 15, 1888

Editorial notes: The annotations, "see notes Aug 16 1888," and "See notes Aug 16, 1888," are in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07223

Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Ian Faith, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock



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Superintendent's Office.1
ASYLUM FOR THE INSANE
LONDON.
ONTARIO
London, Ont.,
15 Aug 1888

I received last evening the last pages of the book.2 I admire the Elias Hicks3 greatly and think I understand the drift of it. Do not think you have ever written any better prose. It is altogether an admirable & most valuable piece—I shall write more at length another day, am rather crowded this morning I think I shall remodel my piece (that I sent Walsh4 of Lippencott) and make it into a review of the new vol. perhaps in that shape I shall get some "able Editor" to print it—I have seen your little piece on Sheridan5 (one of them). You must be coming round finely to be able to write so vigorously. All well here. A little warmer today.


RM Bucke


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey | U.S.A. It is postmarked: LONDON | PM | AU 15 | 88 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | AUG | [illegible] | 8AM | 1888 | REC'D. [back]

2. Whitman was preparing November Boughs for publication and had friends reading proofs for the book. The final pages of the proofs contained Whitman's essay about Elias Hicks. For more on the publication and reception and reception of the book, see November Boughs [1888][back]

3. Elias Hicks (1748–1830) was a Quaker from Long Island whose controversial teachings led to a split in the Religious Society of Friends in 1827, a division that was not resolved until 1955. Hicks had been a friend of Whitman's father and grandfather, and Whitman himself was a supporter and proponent of Hicks's teachings, writing about him in Specimen Days (see "Reminiscence of Elias Hicks") and November Boughs (see "Elias Hicks, Notes (such as they are)"). For more on Hicks and his influence on Whitman, see David S. Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America (New York: Knopf, 1995), 37–39. [back]

4. William S. Walsh (1854–1919) was an American author and editor of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine.  [back]

5. Philip Henry Sheridan (1831–1888) was a United States Army officer and general during the Civil War. Whitman published a poem in the New York Herald on August 12, 1888 about Sheridan's burial entitled "Over and Through the Burial Chant" (renamed "Interpolation Sounds" when incorporated into Leaves of Grass). See footnote 2595 in Walt Whitman: Daybooks and Notebooks Vol. 2, 1881–1891, ed. William White (New York: New York University Press, 1978). [back]


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