Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 24 May 1888

Date: May 24, 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), 4:171–172. 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.07517

Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Alex Ashland, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden1
May 24 '88

Your two letters rec'd—thanks—things physical somewhat less maleficent than when I last mentioned—the worst is this iron-bound indigestion—McKay2 has just been over to see me—nothing particularly new—he wants an extension of the contract five years more to publish L of G. and Spec. D.3—I told him I would think it over—is Rhys4 with you?5—the very worst spell of weather here—dull dark drizzling & raw—two days now—I have Donnelly's6 book—have been looking over it—havn't tackled the cipher—


W W


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 addresed: Dr R M Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: (?) | May 24 | 430 (?) | 88. [back]

2. David McKay (1860–1918) took over Philadelphia-based publisher Rees Welsh's bookselling and publishing businesses in 1881–2. McKay and Rees Welsh published the 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass after opposition from the Boston District Attorney prompted James R. Osgood & Company of Boston, the publisher Whitman had originally contracted with for publication of the volume, to withdraw. McKay also went on to publish Specimen Days & Collect, November Boughs, Gems from Walt Whitman, and Complete Prose Works. For more information about McKay, see Joel Myerson, "McKay, David (1860–1918)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Whitman's Commonplace Book added a few details: "He will sell me the plates of Spec: Days for $150—he gives consent to my using the plates of Spec. Days for my complete works edition—500 or 600 copies." (Whitman's Commonplace Book; Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.) [back]

4. 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]

5. When Rhys wrote to Whitman from New York on May 21, 1888, he was about to leave for Canada (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Saturday, June 9, 1888). Rhys was in Camden on May 27 (Whitman's Commonplace Book; Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.), and on May 30 he sent birthday greetings and a poem from New York (Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, July 24, 1888). He wrote again on June 7, just before he sailed to England (Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, July 24, 1888). In New York, Rhys had been hobnobbing with Stedman and Colonel Ingersoll. [back]

6. Ignatius Loyola Donnelly (1831–1901) was a politician and writer, well known for his notions of Atlantis as an antediluvian civilization and for his belief that Shakespeare's plays had been written by Francis Bacon, an idea he argued in his book The Great Cryptogram: Francis Bacon's Cipher in Shakespeare's Plays, published in 1888.  [back]


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.