Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 15 September 1885

Date: September 15, 1885

Whitman Archive ID: loc.05934

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. The transcription presented here is derived from The Letters of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, ed. Artem Lozynsky (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1977), 27. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, and Kyle Barton

15 Sept [188]5

Dear Walt

I have your card of day before yesterday.1

O'Connor left here yesterday for Buffalo, N. Y., Philadelphia, and home—You will likely see him about 20th or a few days later.2 I expect to see you about middle of next month at which time I leave here for a good long holiday. I am pretty tired out. Mrs. B. & children are well, weather delightfull here and the place looks well

I am quite anxious to see you again and have a long chat. What about Mary Smith? is she married? Is she back in America, or is she coming back soon?3

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. Whitman's letter to Bucke of September 13, 1885, is apparently lost. [back]

2. O'Connor reached Whitman on September 24, 1885. [back]

3. Mary Whitall Smith was in England at this time (see Whitman's letters to Smith of August 8, 1885, and May 11, 1886), and she married Benjamin F. C. Costelloe in 1885. For more about Smith, 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). [back]


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