Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 10–11 August 1888

Date: August 10–11, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07653

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), 4:198–199. 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, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

Aug. 10 '88
Friday a m1

A mark'd & good & welcome change of temperature the first thing in the morning—a merino undershirt & socks—& a coat—it is just right to-day & it helps me—now past for nine days uninterrupted hot & sweltering—frequent rains (evn'gs or nights) but not the least relief—(good they say for the corn crop)—I have been the last hour and over with the proof of "Elias Hicks," the concluding paper in the Boughs2—Shall have to wait & slowly subside into some verdict (literary & personal) for myself about it all—am not certain whether I am satisfied or no—Have just sent the Herald (at their request) a short poem for Sheridan's burial3—I expect it will be in H. 12th4

Saturday—toward noon—Aug. 11.— Delightful day—am sitting here ab't as usual—had my breakfast ab't 9—(get my dinner ab't 4 or ½ past)—nothing very notable—rec'd a letter from Mrs. Costelloe5—nothing very special—but I enclose it as you might care to hear—I also send proof pages 119 to 127—part of "Elias Hicks"6—In a few days shall send 118 & all the rest—I send my best remembrances & respects to Mr Harkness7—I believe Herbert Gilchrist8 is coming soon back to America—quiet day here—

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. | Aug 11 | 8 PM | 88. [back]

2. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. "Over and Through the Burial Chant" (later "Interpolation Sounds") appeared in the New York Herald on August 12. On August 8 the newspaper printed Whitman's prose "Tribute to Sheridan." [back]

4. This passage originally read: "H. Saturday 11th (possibly 12th)." On the following day Whitman struck out everything except "12th." [back]

5. 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]

6. Whitman was at this time reading proofs for November Boughs and asking friends to read them as well. [back]

7. On August 8 Bucke noted a visit from Dr. Jack Harkness—"(you will recollect him at Kingston and down the St Lawrence and up the Saguenay?)." [back]

8. Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist (1857–1914), son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, was an English painter and editor of Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887). For more information, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [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.