Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 11 April 1888

Date: April 11, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07519

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), 4:161. 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

April 11 PM

I send you McKee's, the lawyer's, letter2—Matters much the same with me—pretty miserable probably with a bad cold the last three or four days—but beginning on the mend to day (I think)—Sent three little poems, one to Century, one to Lippincott's3 & one to Cosmopolitan four days since—the last returned—the first accepted & paid for—& no word yet of the L—the Herald pieces4 will be resumed & carried on (March has been paid for)5—the weather here dark wet & heavy—I am feeling fairly as I sit here by the window down stairs alone & finish this—

Walt Whitman

Lawyer Harned6 was over to the Cosmopolitan Club meeting Phila. Tuesday night—talked with Carnegie7

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: (?) | Apr 1(?) | 4 30 PM | 88. [back]

2. A New York lawyer, Thomas J. McKee, wrote to Whitman on April 7, 1888: "I received your letter but had been looking into the matter for some days previously, Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke and Mr. Johnston having spoken to me about your claim against Worthington. The difficulty I find is this that R. Worthington failed some time since and is now unable to do business in his own name, and the business is now run by a corporation named the Worthington Co. of which Worthington's wife or some female relative is the President. The time within which to claim a forfeiture of the plates and books (two years) has run out and we are therefore limited to our action for an injunction and damages, I am therefore quietly trying to get all the facts I can as to what the 'Worthington Co.' has been doing with reference to your book. The Company is of some responsibility and undoubtedly have possession of the plates. As soon as I have facts sufficient to base a sure claim I will get the injunction and money. See also Whitman to Richard Watson Gilder, November 26, 1880, for an account of Whitman's dealings with Worthington. [back]

3. "Old Age's Lambent Peaks" appeared in the September issue of The Century Magazine. "A Carol Closing Sixty-Nine" was returned by Lippincott's Monthly Magazine; it appeared in the New York Herald on May 21. [back]

4. In late 1887, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., editor of the New York Herald, invited Whitman to contribute a series of poems and prose pieces for the paper. From December 1887 through August 1888, 33 of Whitman's poems appeared. [back]

5. Whitman received $40 (Whitman's Commonplace Book; Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]

6. Thomas Biggs Harned (1851–1921) was one of Whitman's literary executors. Harned was a lawyer in Philadelphia and, having married Augusta Anna Traubel (1856–1914), was Horace Traubel's brother-in-law. For more on him, see Dena Mattausch, "Harned, Thomas Biggs (1851–1921)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). For more on his relationship with Whitman, see Thomas Biggs Harned, Memoirs of Thomas B. Harned, Walt Whitman's Friend and Literary Executor, ed. Peter Van Egmond (Hartford: Transcendental Books, 1972). [back]

7. Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919), the prominent industrialist and admirer of Whitman, had donated twice to the support of the aged poet. [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.