Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 23 December 1888

Date: December 23, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07468

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:253. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Alex Ashland, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

2½ P M Dec: 23 '88

Fair day—all quiet—Dr Walsh2 call'd—I sit here in the big chair hour after hour—hardly a noise or movement appears to disturb the day—Peace be with you all too—


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: Dr R M Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario Canada. It is postmarked: Camden | (?) | 5 PM | (?); 8 | AM De | 25. [back]

2. James Francis Walsh was a young Camden physician who attended Whitman, visiting him nearly every day, during the poet's illness of 1888–89. Walsh was the brother of William S. Walsh, an American author and editor of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. Whitman had a favorable opinion of Walsh because he visited often, watched his patient carefully, but did not give medicine. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of December 18, 1888. Bucke had arranged to have Walsh accompany Dr. Osler to see Whitman, since Bucke believed it would be useful to have a younger doctor examine the poet. See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, December 5, 1888[back]


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