Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 18 November 1890

Date: November 18, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07127

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.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

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Insane Asylum
London Ontario
18 Nov 1890

Many thanks, dear Walt, for the two bundles of papers received yesterday and to-day—the one containing "Liberty" "N.Y. World" and cuttings and the other the "Critic" of 21 Dec. 89. All welcome but especially the "World" with its curious "obituary" of Walt Whitman "the American Dante, Aeschylus or Shakespeare" printed in '711 and which I had never seen before or even heard of. It is a most valuable item for my collection and will be valued beyond most old newspapers. How is the abdominal pain? wearing away I hope? or have you seen any doctor about it?

We are all well here—beautiful weather most of the time—has been a charming day and is now a lovely moonlight night

With love
RM 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. On March 27, 1871, the New York World published a two-column obituary for Whitman. The paper had recently received a telegram indicating that a "Walter Whitman" had been killed in a railroad accident in Croton, New York. The writers of the obituary confused the victim of the railroad accident, "Walter Whitman," with Walt Whitman the poet, who, at the time the obituary was printed, was alive and well in Washington, D.C. For more on the obituary and the circumstances leading to it, see Todd Richardson, "Walt Whitman's 'Lively Corpse' in 1871: The American Press on the Rumor of Whitman's Death," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 15.1 (1997), 1–22. [back]


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