Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 10 December 1888

Date: December 10, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07279

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, Breanna Himschoot, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock



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Asylum for the Insane,
London,
10 Dec.1888.

Dear Walt

I have been through "Specimen Days and Collect"1 pretty thoroughly, it is well printed and I find remarkably few corrections of any kind required2—I enclose a list of what I have found.

This makes about six times that I have read "Democratic Vistas"3 it is a wonderful piece of writing, as fine in some respects as any thing in L. of G. but of course has not the life, fire, inspiration (or whatever you may call it) of such poems as "Song of Myself" "A Song of the Open Road" and a good many others, however I now take back entirely what I once said to you about "Democratic Vistas" to the effect that some other man might have written it. At the present moment I do not believe any other man who ever lived might or could have written it any more than any other man could have written "Calamus"—I go to Toronto tomorrow on some government business, shall be gone a few days, I want to hear from you, how you keep, when you are coming here &c &c.

I am with much love
Affectionately yours
R M Bucke


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. The first issue of Whitman's Specimen Days and Collect was published by the Philadelphia firm of Rees Welsh and Company in 1882. The second issue was published by David McKay. Many of the autobiographical notes, sketches, and essays that focus on the poet's life during and beyond the Civil War had been previously published in periodicals or in Memoranda During the War (1875–1876). For more information on Specimen Days, see George Hutchinson and David Drews "Specimen Days [1882]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. Bucke was helping Whitman read proofs for his new one-volume Complete Poems & Prose, which would appear later in December; the book contained Specimen Days and Collect[back]

3. Whitman's Democratic Vistas was first published in 1871 in New York by J.S. Redfield. The volume was an eighty-four-page pamphlet that consisted of three essays titled "Democracy," "Personalism," and "Orbic Literature," all of which Whitman intended to publish in the Galaxy magazine. Only "Democracy" and "Personalism" appeared in the magazine. For more information on Democratic Vistas, see Arthur Wrobel, "Democratic Vistas [1871]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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