Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 5 December 1887
Date: December 5, 1887
Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:135. 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.07359
Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Stefan Schöberlein, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock
Evn'g Dec 5 '87
A pleasant day here to-day has been, after a cold spell—Ab't as usual with me—No sight of Rhys2 yet—the artist Eakin of Phila:3 comes off & on painting my portrait—it is going to be realistic & severe I think (ab't likeness, excellence &c. we will see)—Did I tell you I rec'd a letter from O'C[onnor]4 ten days ago, rather cheery?
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 R M Bucke | Asylum | London Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Dec 5 | 8 PM | 87. [back]
2. Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
3. Thomas Eakins (1844–1919) was an American painter. His relationship with Whitman was characterized by deep mutual respect, and he soon became a close friend of the poet. [back]
4. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, O'Connor, William Douglas [1832–1889]. [back]