Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 26 March 1889

Date: March 26, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07587

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), 4:311. 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, Brandon James O'Neil, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden1
March 26 '89

Fine weather continued—a little cooler. The news ab't O'C[onnor]2 in y'r letter & Dr Hood's3 strikes in & gloomily—& has depress'd me all day4

Much the same with me—feeling fairly, physically—Getting ready for L of G. ed'n to commemorate 70th year finish5—have paid the binder's (Oldach)6 for calf bind'g $65.28 & also bill for the ¾ portrait "process" 10.50—McKay7 was here yesterday—promis'd to come 28th & pay me the 1st Dec. '88 statement (wh' is not yet paid)—have also to pay other bills just come in, wh' I will now be enabled to do—


W W


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. This postal card is addressed: Dr R M Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Mar 26 | 8 PM | 89. [back]

2. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

4. Bucke wrote candidly on March 23, 1889: "We must make up our minds to his death or worse—for should he live much longer his life would necessarily become a burden to himself and others." He enclosed a letter from Dr. T. B. Hood, O'Connor's physician, written on March 19 (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, March 26, 1889). [back]

5. Whitman had a limited and autographed pocket-book edition of Leaves of Grass printed in honor of his 70th birthday, on May 31, 1889, through special arrangement with Frederick Oldach. Only 300 copies were printed, and Whitman signed the title page of each one. The volume also included the annex Sands at Seventy and his essay A Backward Glance O'er Traveled Roads. See Whitman's May 16, 1889, letter to Oldach. For more information on the book see Ed Folsom's Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary[back]

6. Frederick Oldach (1823–1907) was a German bookbinder whose Philadelphia firm bound Whitman's November Boughs (1888) and Complete Poems & Prose (1888). [back]

7. David McKay (1860–1918) took over Philadelphia-based publisher Rees Welsh's bookselling and publishing businesses in 1881–2. McKay and Rees Welsh published the 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass after opposition from the Boston District Attorney prompted James R. Osgood & Company of Boston, the publisher Whitman had originally contracted with for publication of the volume, to withdraw. McKay also went on to publish Specimen Days & Collect, November Boughs, Gems from Walt Whitman, and Complete Prose Works. For more information about McKay, see Joel Myerson, "McKay, David (1860–1918)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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