Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 18 March 1880
Date: March 18, 1880
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.
Notes for this letter were derived from The Letters of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, ed. Artem Lozynsky (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1977).
Location: Charles Sixsmith Collection at the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester
Whitman Archive ID: man.00005
Contributors to digital file: Alicia Bones, Grace Thomas, Eder Jaramillo, Nicole Gray, and Stefan Schöberlein
Asylum for the Insane,1
March 18 1880
My dear Walt
I send you today a London paper with a sample of the controversy that has been going on here for some time about "Leaves of Grass,"2 I think it is quite likely that a few copies could now be sold in this neighbourhood. I have seen [a?] bookseller about it and I am going to propose a plan to you. It is this: I.I. Anderson & Co. [will?] keep "Leaves of Grass" and advertise it with their ordinary book-list and they will have 10 p.c. i.e. 50¢ a vol. for selling it—I will hand over to them the vols. that are on the way now and they will get others from you as they need them—You will always notify me when you send them books & the number of vols. sent—I will be responsible to you for the books sent them and will collect the money derived from sales from them from time to time and remit it to you.
There is another matter: the tariff on books has lately been altered it is now 15 p.c. this would be 75¢ a vol. on your books—in making out your invoices your proper plan is to put the books in at $5.00 per vol. and allow 40 p.c. discount off—this is about the usual discount to the trade—this will make the duty 45 cents a vol. So that I should be able to send you $4.05 for each vol. sold.—Please let me know at once if this plan meets your approval
Many of my friends have an extraordinary curiosity to see you and I hope that you will gratify it by paying us your promised visit this summer—Mrs Bucke and the children are almost as anxious as I am that you should come—
R M Bucke
1. 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). [back]
2. Bucke's lecture on Whitman was delivered in London on February 27, 1880, and was reported in detail in the London Advertiser on February 28, 1880. This report provoked letters of protest in both the Advertiser and the London Free Press. Bucke may have sent Whitman a copy of the March 12, 1880 Advertiser in which Bucke is charged with "dig[ging] up from the gutter a book stained with filth." (See Artem Lozynsky, "Walt Whitman in Canada," American Book Collector 23 [July–August 1973], 21-23). [back]