Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 18 October 1889

Date: October 18, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07319

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 Oct. 21, '89," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ashlyn Stewart, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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Superintendent's Office.
for the Insane
London, Ont.,
18 Oct 1889

I wrote a note this morning and this evening have received yours of 16th1 enclosing Fanny M. Grunde's2 quite affecting little letter and Mrs Spaulding's3 card. You ask me whether there is any thing I desire Ed.4 to bring me from Camden. I do not know that there is except the pictures wh I mentioned in mine of this morning. I mean the little collection of Photo's and engravings which you are about issuing. I suppose you do not want to send me that 1872 L. of G. ? And I do not want you to send it untill you are quite ready—but do not let somebody else carry it off! I suppose you never found that copy of Harrington?5 I have never been able to get a copy and it seems as if I never should get one. Yes, I think we may flatter ourselves that L. of G. has got a locus Standi at last.6 No one now (unless inspired by ignorance as well as stupidity) can hoot at the book as the uncu'guid7 thought well to do awhile ago. L. of G. has come to stay and must be seriously considered by all serious men henceforth whether they like it or whether they don't—what the outcome of the consideration will be (on the whole) I for one have no fear. I asked you this morning whether you had a man engaged in Ed's place8—I hope you will tell me this as I am anxious about it

Love to you
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. Locus standi is a legal term, meaning, loosely, the right to be heard. See Whitman's October 16, 1889, letter to Bucke. [back]

2. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

3. Ada H. Pearsons Spaulding (b. 1841) was a socialite and active member of various reform movements. She wrote a number of letters to Whitman in his final years. [back]

4. Edward "Ned" Wilkins (1865–1936) was one of Whitman's nurses during his Camden years; he was sent to Camden from London, Ontario, by Dr. Richard M. Bucke, and he began caring for Whitman on November 5, 1888. He stayed for a year before returning to Canada to attend the Ontario Veterinary School. Wilkins graduated on March 24, 1893, and then he returned to the United States to commence his practice in Alexandria, Indiana. For more information, see Bert A. Thompson, "Edward Wilkins: Male Nurse to Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Review 15 (September 1969), 194–195. [back]

5. William D. O'Connor's abolitionist novel Harrington: A Story of True Love (Thayer & Eldridge, 1860) was his only novel. Thayer & Eldridge published the novel the same year that they published Whitman's 1860, third edition of Leaves of Grass[back]

6. Locus standi is a legal term, meaning, loosely, the right to be heard. See Whitman's October 16, 1889, letter to Bucke. [back]

7. "Uncu'guid" is a Scotch expression meaning "very good or strictly moral people." [back]

8. Frank Warren Fritzinger (1867–1899), known as "Warry," took Edward Wilkins's place as Whitman's nurse, beginning in October 1889. Fritzinger and his brother Harry were the sons of Henry Whireman Fritzinger (about 1828–1881), a former sea captain who went blind, and Almira E. Fritzinger. Following Henry Sr.'s death, Warren and his brother—having lost both parents—became wards of Mary O. Davis, Whitman's housekeeper, who had also taken care of the sea captain and who inherited part of his estate. A picture of Warry is displayed in the May 1891 New England Magazine (278). See Joann P. Krieg, "Fritzinger, Frederick Warren (1866–1899)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), 240. [back]


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