Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 9 July 1888

Date: July 9, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07479

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), 4:183. 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, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock

Monday P M
July 9 '88

Two letters rec'd from you to-day—(Yes I probably & have realized)2—am glad the Eng[lish] book3 & the proofs4 came safe—Am feeling rather easy—am sitting up this moment—A rainy cloudy middling warmish weather day—Tom Donaldson5 here last evn'g—

Walt Whitman

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, N.J. | Jul 9 | 8 PM | 88. [back]

2. Since there are no extant letters from Bucke between June 15 and July 9, it is not possible to explain Walt Whitman's cryptic reply to Bucke's question. [back]

3. Whitman is referring to the UK edition of Democratic Vistas, and Other Papers, which was published in London by Walter Scott in 1888. [back]

4. Whitman may be referring to the proofs of November Boughs, which was published later in 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. [back]

5. Thomas Donaldson (1843–1898) was a lawyer from Philadelphia and a friend of Whitman. He introduced Whitman to Bram Stoker and later accompanied Stoker when he visited the poet; he also organized a fund-raising drive to buy Whitman a horse and carriage. He authored a biography of Whitman titled Walt Whitman, the Man (1896). For more information about Donaldson, see Steven Schroeder, "Donaldson, Thomas (1843–1898)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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