Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 28 April 1890

Date: April 28, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07348

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, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

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Superintendent's Office
for the Insane
London, Ont.,
28 April 18901

I have your card of 25th2 Am not well pleased that you continue to feel so miserable Had hoped that the effects of La Grippe would have passed off before this

I hope that Londoners will buy the 100 copies of big book3—there is not much money in the sale but it looks well to see the "Englishers" after it4

Be sure and tell me when Lippincotts5 print the piece you sent them—or send me a copy What you say about Tennyson6 is the first I have heard of any special utterance of his in re "The Leaves"7 Is there any way of getting hold of what he and the Boston man8 said—Any thing really good and strong from Tennyson would be quite a benefit and help to us

Love always
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. There are two cancellation marks in ink across the body of the letter. [back]

2. See Whitman's April 25, 1890, postal card to Bucke. [back]

3. Whitman often referred to Complete Poems & Prose (1888) as his "big book." The volume was published by the poet himself in an arrangement with publisher David McKay, who allowed Whitman to use the plates for both Leaves of Grass and Specimen Days—in December 1888. With the help of Horace Traubel, Whitman made the presswork and binding decisions, and Frederick Oldach bound the volume, which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary (University of Iowa: Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 2005). [back]

4. In his April 25 postal card, Whitman tells Bucke that an English publisher contacted his American publisher, David McKay, for international publication rights. [back]

5. Whitman's "To the Sunset Breeze" was published in Lippincott's in December 1890; his "Old Age Echoes" was published in the magazine in March 1891. [back]

6. Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) succeeded William Wordsworth as poet laureate of Great Britain in 1850. The intense male friendship described in In Memoriam, which Tennyson wrote after the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, possibly influenced Whitman's poetry. Whitman wrote to Tennyson in 1871 or late 1870, probably shortly after the visit of Cyril Flower in December, 1870, but the letter is not extant (see Thomas Donaldson, Walt Whitman the Man [New York: F. P. Harper, 1896], 223). Tennyson's first letter to Whitman is dated July 12, 1871. Although Tennyson extended an invitation for Whitman to visit England, Whitman never acted on the offer. [back]

7. Tennyson's criticism appeared in Philadelphia's American on April 26, 1890. See Whitman's April 25 postal card to Bucke. [back]

8. The "Boston man" is unidentified; see Whitman's April 25 postal card to Bucke [back]


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