Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 2 July 1888

Date: July 2, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.05871

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

Related item: Whitman drafted this letter to Bucke on the back of the second page of a letter he received from Robert Pearsall Smith (per Smith's daughter, Alys), and then sent the full letter from the Smiths as an enclosure to Bucke. See loc.05870.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock

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Monday afternoon 1½
July 2 '88

Thanks for your letter this morn'g—the "Sands"1 is intended (such as it is) for 20 pp. of "Annex" to follow L of G. consecutively paged—I have duplicate sets of them to be properly paged for the pp. for the "Annex"—I am probably no worse, but am to day certainly no better or strongly—the bowel movement is just right (a great favorable point daily or every other daily)—my eye sight goes badly—I enclose you Pearsall Smith's note2 wh' is favorable & you will want to know—the remains cool & pleasant to-day—My sister Lou3 is here to-day. My dinner is just here & I relish it—


Steamship Aller
June 20th. 1888.

My dear Friend —

It was with much regret that we felt compelled to leave you in your sickness last week. We hold you in affectionate remembrance as we pass over the waters to England where once we hoped to have had your company. We beg that you will send us from time to time as you feel able accounts of your health and of all that nearly concerns you concerns us also who love you.

Our passage across the whole way has been nearly as smooth as a duck pond, and my health has been very much benefitted by it.

I bear your messages of love and remembrance to your many friends in London, who without my privileges of personal fellowship with you, honour and love you. I hope that the knowledge of this may often cheer and console you in hours of pain and weariness. Alys,4 my faithful secretary, joins me in the expression of the hearty affection with which I am always

Your loving friend
R. Pearsall Smith
per Alys

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 is referring to "Sands at Seventy," a group of late poems that he had included in November Boughs (1888) and then included as an "annex" to Leaves of Grass starting with the 1889 printing of the book. [back]

2. For an additional note on this letter, see Whitman's letter to Mary Smith Costelloe of June 26, 1888[back]

3. Louisa Orr Haslam Whitman (1842–1892), called "Loo" or "Lou," married Whitman's brother George Whitman on April 14, 1871. Their son, Walter Orr Whitman, was born in 1875 but died the following year. A second son was stillborn. Whitman lived in Camden, New Jersey, with George and Louisa from 1873 until 1884, when George and Louisa moved to a farm outside of Camden and Whitman decided to stay in the city. Louisa and Whitman had a warm relationship during the poet's final decades. For more, see Karen Wolfe, "Whitman, Louisa Orr Haslam (Mrs. George) (1842–1892)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Alys Smith (1867–1951) was a daughter of Robert Pearsall Smith and the sister of Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe. She eventually married the philosopher Bertrand Russell. [back]


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