Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 23 November 1890

Date: November 23, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07129

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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "see notes March 9 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

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

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Insane Asylum
London Ontario
23 Nov. 18901

Your card of 20th2 came to hand yesterday afternoon—I am glad to hear good accounts of the "belly-ache" that it is passing off, may it stick to it and pass off altogether! Two days ago the "Address" promised me by Wallace3 came to hand—this morning I read it slowly and carefully, it is a wonderful revelation, which he gives there and I have been more moved by that ½ hour's reading than I have been by any thing for a long time. I want you to send me Wallace's letter back (please don't forget) and if you wd like to read the "Address" I will have a copy made of it for you. I have been reading again and again "The Sun-Set Breeze"4 and am amazed more and more at its depth and subtlety.

As always, dear Walt, with love
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 is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey U.S.A. It is postmarked: London | AM | NO [illegible] | 90 | Canada; Camden, N.J. | Nov | 2 [illegible] | [illegible]M | [illegible] | [illegible]. [back]

2. See Whitman's November 20, 1890, letter to Bucke. [back]

3. James William Wallace (1853–1926), of Bolton, England, was an architect and great admirer of Whitman. Wallace, along with Dr. John Johnston (1852–1927), a physician in Bolton, founded the "Bolton College" of English admirers of the poet. Johnston and Wallace corresponded with Whitman and with Horace Traubel and other members of the Whitman circle in the United States, and they separately visited the poet and published memoirs of their trips in John Johnston and James William Wallace, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends (London: Allen and Unwin, 1917). For more information on Wallace, see Larry D. Griffin, "Wallace, James William (1853–1926)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. The poet enclosed this poem with his letter of November 18, 1890. "To the Sun-Set Breeze" appeared in the December issue of Lippincott's Magazine[back]


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