Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 9 September 1883

Date: September 9, 1883

Whitman Archive ID: loc.05146

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.

Notes for this letter were created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Contributors to digital file: Kirsten Clawson, Stefan Schöberlein, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Nicole Gray, and Elizabeth Lorang

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Asylum for the Insane,1
9th Sept 1883

Dear Walt

I have your card of Aug. 30. Yes, all right—I am satisfied with "Walt Whitman" except that it does not express one tenth what it ought to do justice to the subject, but I believe it is the best I can do after all and so it must go—as for the paying part of the business I am quite easy abt. that—I think it will pay in the long run and if it does not I am equally satisfied except that I would like it to have some circulation on the chance of its doing some good. Yes, I saw the Santa Fé letter too (thanks for it),2 and I also saw the N.Y. Times of Aug. 8th on it—did you see it? was it not shamefull? The man glories in his want of sympathy, and laughs consumedly that any one else should have any. I saw Tommy Nicholson3 down town yesterday and he showed me your letter to him.4 I was well pleased to see that you really have some notion of paying us another visit—I hope to see you next month and then perhaps we can arrange something—perhaps you will return with me, who knows, there may be luck in store for me yet! And you think of "breaking up where you are living"? But you must tell me all about it when I see you, please goodness that will be soon—but I cannot tell yet when I can get away East, there are many things to do first and a great deal to think of—will let you know all about it when I know myself—

Goodly dear Walt
Your friend
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 bears the address: Walt Whitman | 431 Stevens Street | Camden | New Jersey | U.S.A. It is postmarked: LONDON | AM | SP 1[?] | 83 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | SEP | 12 | AM | RECD.; NEW YORK | SEP 11 | 330 M | 83 | TRANSIT. [back]

2. On July 20, 1883, Whitman had sent the citizens of Santa Fé, New Mexico, a letter of congratulations on the "anniversary of the 333d year of the settlement of their city by the Spanish." The letter was published in the Philadelphia Press on August 5, 1883. On August 8, the New York Times quoted excerpts from the piece. [back]

3. Thomas Nicholson was one of the young men whom Whitman met at Bucke's asylum (see the letter from Whitman to Nicholson of October 14, 1880). [back]

4. See the letter from Whitman to Nicholson of September 5, 1883[back]


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