Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 11 March 1888

Date: March 11, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07210

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 The Letters of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, ed. Artem Lozynsky (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Ian Faith, Stefan Schöberlein, and Stephanie Blalock

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Superintendent's Office1

London, Ont.,
11 Mch 1888

I have been and am still in considerable of a flustration here—have had the Inspector, he left yesterday, have to go to Toronto this afternoon to interview the minister of Public Works about the new building to replace one burned. Shall be back here again Monday evening or Tuesday. We are all well, sleighing's done though still a great deal of ice and snow over the fields &c I enclose Lippencott's letter2—have heard nothing since about the Worthington business.3 Have done nothing more with my W.W. paper, shall rewrite it as soon as I get a little time (a mighty hard thing to find nowadays) and I think send it to Walsh4 of Lippencott. Or would it be well to keep it until Kennedy's5 book comes out (will be out very soon now I suppose?) and incorperate it in a notice of that book—?

In any case I shall get to work elaborating it as soon as I can—It has been snowing, & blowing great guns all day—there is a lull now and sun trying to come out.

Always affectionately
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 | USA. It is postmarked: [illegible]| MR 12 | 88 | CANADA; Camden N. J. | Mar | [illegible] | 10AM | [illegible] | REC'D. [back]

2. Bucke had tried to place Leaves of Grass with the publishing house Lippincott's, which rejected it on March 6th. [back]

3. For more on the Worthington matter (see the letter from Whitman to Gilder of November 26, 1880). [back]

4. William S. Walsh (1854–1919) was an American historian, poet, critic, and editor. [back]

5. William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and the Boston Transcript; he also published biographies of Longfellow, Holmes, and Whittier (Dictionary of American Biography [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933], 336–337). Apparently Kennedy called on the poet for the first time on November 21, 1880 (William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman [London: Alexander Gardener, 1896], 1). Though Kennedy was to become a fierce defender of Whitman, in his first published article he admitted reservations about the "coarse indecencies of language" and protested that Whitman's ideal of democracy was "too coarse and crude"; see The Californian, 3 (February 1881), 149–158. For more about Kennedy, see Katherine Reagan, "Kennedy, William Sloane (1850–1929)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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