Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 3 January 1889

Date: January 3, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07543

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), 4:261–262. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Caterina Bernardini, Stefan Schöberlein, and Stephanie Blalock

Jan: 3 '89

Yr's of 1st comes2—day fine—feeling fairly continued—sit here by the stove as I write—slightly sweating—send copies of the corrected letter3 by this mail—Have written (perhaps I told you) another poemet4 & send it off to-night or to morrow to the Century—(shall send you a printed copy, & of the first one also)—It is near sunset as I close & all moves fairly—

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. | Jan 3 | 8 PM | 89. [back]

2. See Bucke's letter to Whitman of January 1, 1889[back]

3. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of December 27, 1888[back]

4. Century published "Old Age's Ship & Crafty Death's" in February, 1890. Whitman was paid $12 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.). [back]


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