Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 20 March 1883
Date: March 20, 1883
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: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: med.00705
Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Natalie O'Neal, and Nicole Gray
Asylum for the Insane,
20th March 1883
My dear Walt
I have this afternoon received, read, and remailed to you galleys 37 to 45 inclusive.1 I open and read these parcels of proof in fear and trembling (you must go as easy as you can, you are the terrible surgeon with the knife & saw and I am the patient). You left out my remarks on "Children of Adam",2 I believe they were good but I acquiesce—your additions are excellent as they have been all through. I shall not feel half comfortable untill I have had the proof of the rest of p ii and have seen how much of me will be left. Poor O'Connor3 too, he had to submit to the fatal shears4—but you are going to make a book of it (if that be possible) so go ahead if we do flinch. But still, for the Lord's sake, spare my ch iii pt ii as much as possible. I want you, please (if I am not speaking to late) to save the M.S. and send it all to me when you are done with it. I shall be glad to have plate proofs as fast as made, if I see any thing in them that needs correcting will notify you otherwise will just put them by—I suppose you do not want them returned? It is still winter here, lots of snow, good sleighing,
R M Bucke
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 of March 20, 1883 was written after the postcard of the same date. In the postcard, Bucke mentions that he has not as yet received proofs for Part II. In the letter, he discusses the deletion of his remarks on "Children of Adam." The discussion of the poems occurs in Part II. [back]
2. See Harold Jaffe, "Richard Maurice Bucke's Walt Whitman. Edited with an Introduction and Variant Readings." Dissertation, New York University (1968), 197–200. [back]
3. 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]
4. Whitman altered O'Connor's paragraphing (see the letters from Whitman to William D. O'Connor of March 16, 1883 and March 31, 1883, as well as Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 9 vols., Tuesday, September 4, 1888 and Friday, March 15, 1889). [back]