Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 28 December 1888

Date: December 28, 1888

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:257. 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.07470

Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Alex Ashland, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden1
PM Dec: 28 '88

Bright cold rather quiet day—I sit here the same—pretty good last night—no doctor now three or four days—a note from Mrs: Fairchild2 Boston rec'g the big book—my little poemet3 will probably be printed Jan: 5—I will send you a copy at once—have been taking some ice cream & a cup of milk for my 1½ lunch—growing colder—


Walt Whitman


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: Dr R M Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Dec 2(?) | 8 PM | 88. [back]

2. Elizabeth Fairchild was the wife of Colonel Charles Fairchild, the president of a paper company, to whom Whitman sent the Centennial Edition on March 2, 1876 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). He mailed her husband a copy of Progress in April, 1881, shortly after his visit to Boston, where he probably met the Fairchilds for the first time (Commonplace Book). [back]

3. Whitman is referring to his poem "To the Year 1889” (later titled "To the Pending Year") which appeared in The Critic on January 5, 1889 (see his letter to Bucke of December 24, 1888). He received $6 for the piece (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]


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