Title: Walt Whitman to Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe, 19 June 1888
Date: June 19, 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), 4:176. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: The location of this manuscript is unknown. Miller derives his transcription from a facsimile published in Henry Bryan Binns, A Life of Walt Whitman (London, Methuen & Co., 1905), 326.
Whitman Archive ID: med.00835
Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, Stefan Schöberlein, and Stephanie Blalock
June 19 '88
I must send you a line breathing quite decidedly favorable—I am sitting up an hour or so—Pretty critical a week or so ago—but Dr Bucke1 I consider saved my life—I want to finish my little brochure "November Boughs"2—it is ab't 1/3d done—Love to you, dear friend, & to all—
Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe (1864–1945) was a political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend." A scholar of Italian Renaissance art and a daughter of Robert Pearsall Smith, she would in 1885 marry B. F. C. "Frank" Costelloe. She had been in contact with many of Whitman's English friends and would travel to Britain in 1885 to visit many of them, including Anne Gilchrist shortly before her death. For more, see Christina Davey, "Costelloe, Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).
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. The book appeared later that year, published by the Philadelphia printing house of David McKay. [back]