Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 22 November 1888

Date: November 22, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07548

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 The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 237. 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, Stefan Schöberlein, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock

Evn'g Nov: 22 '881

Not much difference—if anything duller & some depression to-day. Clear weather & unmistakably cold. I sit crouch'd by the fire—No word from you for three days—An Englishman, Lewis Fry,2 MP. for Bristol, call'd, bringing two fine tall daughters.3 I am just writing to Mary Costelloe.4

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. | Nov 22 | 8 PM | 88. [back]

2. Lewis Fry (1832–1921) was a British lawyer and Liberal Unionist politician who served as a Member of Parliament for Bristol for three terms between 1878 and 1900. [back]

3. With a letter of introduction dated August 31, 1888 from Edward Dowden (see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, November 12, 1888), Lewis Fry (1823–1921), a Liberal and Unionist Member of Parliament from Bristol, England, called on Whitman on November 20. Whitman was much impressed with this "good Liberal" (see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, November 20, 1888). Dowden acknowledged receipt of November Boughs (1888) on June 26, 1889[back]

4. Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe (1864–1945) was a political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend." A scholar of Italian Renaissance art and a daughter of Robert Pearsall Smith, she would in 1885 marry B. F. C. "Frank" Costelloe. She had been in contact with many of Whitman's English friends and would travel to Britain in 1885 to visit many of them, including Anne Gilchrist shortly before her death. For more, see Christina Davey, "Costelloe, Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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