Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 13 April 1890

Date: April 13, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04984

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 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.

Related item: Whitman used the verso of this letter to draft notes for his essay "Death of Abraham Lincoln" for the Boston Evening Transcript.

Contributors to digital file: Zainab Saleh, Andrew David King, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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Superintendent's Office.
London, Ont.,1
13 April 1890

I have your cards of 8th and 9th2 Have had the inspector3 here the last two days and a lot of work and worry along with him (as usual)—this has kept me from writing—you speak of being "easier" but I feel very anxious about you and think I shall hurry up and see you soon, probably early in May. I did think of putting off my trip until the end of May but there are reasons why I had better go now—I might not be able to go at the end of May.4

The weather here has turned warm, almost summer today—sun shining, birds singing—buds bursting out. No doubt it will be cold again in a day or two, too early for real spring yet

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. Whitman has drawn two lines in black ink through this letter from Bucke. [back]

2. See the postal cards from Whitman to Bucke of April 8, 1890 and April 9, 1890[back]

3. Bucke is likely referring to the Inspector of Asylums for the Province of Ontario, Canada. [back]

4. Bucke decided to request a leave from his work at the asylum so that he could attend the poet's 71st birthday dinner on May 31, 1890, at Reisser's restaurant in Philadelphia. [back]


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