Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 13 September 1888

Date: September 13, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07663

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), 4:210. 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, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock

Thursday Evn'g
Sept: 13 '881

All continuing much the same. Perfect weather here to-day. Your letters come & help me—Still reading Froude's Carlyle,2 2d Vol. (anything but cheery).3 The printing goes on all right—a nice big basket of fruit from Mr. Ingram.4 Stedman's5 13 pages of Ex[cerpts] from me in his "American Literature" (ab't 9th Vol) have been shown me6—good—Mrs. Davis's7 2d boy Harry8 has come from California—


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. | Sep 13 | 8 PM | 88. [back]

2. Whitman is referring to James Anthony Froude's Thomas Carlyle; A History of His Life in London, 1834–1881 (1884). [back]

3. Bucke replied on September 15, 1888: "No I would not recommend Froude's Carlyle to a man who needed cheering up. I read it a few years ago and it nearly gave me an attack of melancholia. I look upon that same Carlyle as being (or having been?) one of the worst 'Cranks' that ever lived. . . . I shall like to know C. by & by to see what he is like in the next world but I never expect to care much about him!" On September 14, 1888, William Ingram wrote to Bucke that Whitman "looked bright & cheerful and in good spirits." Bucke continued in his letter of September 17, 1888: "Still it is grand to see you keep up as you do—never giving up to the last—I think it is immense, something for us all to be proud of and to take to heart—and the world will take all this to heart one day—and will be the better for it." [back]

4. William Ingram, a Quaker, kept a tea store—William Ingram and Son Tea Dealers—in Philadelphia. Of Ingram, Whitman observed to Horace Traubel: "He is a man of the Thomas Paine stripe—full of benevolent impulses, of radicalism, of the desire to alleviate the sufferings of the world—especially the sufferings of prisoners in jails, who are his protégés" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, May 20, 1888). Ingram and his wife visited the physician Richard Maurice Bucke and his family in Canada in 1890. [back]

5. Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833–1908) was a man of diverse talents. He edited for a year the Mountain County Herald at Winsted, Connecticut, wrote "Honest Abe of the West," presumably Lincoln's first campaign song, and served as correspondent of the New York World from 1860 to 1862. In 1862 and 1863 he was a private secretary in the Attorney General's office until he entered the firm of Samuel Hallett and Company in September, 1863. The next year he opened his own brokerage office. He published many volumes of poems and was an indefatigable compiler of anthologies, among which were Poets of America, 2 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1885) and A Library of American Literature from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, 11 vols. (New York: C. L. Webster, 1889–90). For more, see Donald Yannella, "Stedman, Edmund Clarence (1833–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. Stedman sent the proofs to Traubel on September 8 (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, September 11, 1888). The article appeared in volume seven of A Library of American Literature, 501–513. [back]

7. Mary Oakes Davis (1837 or 1838–1908) was Whitman's housekeeper. For more, see Carol J. Singley, "Davis, Mary Oakes (1837 or 1838–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

8. Harry Fritzinger (about 1866–?) was the brother of Warren Fritzinger, who would serve as Whitman's nurse beginning in October 1889. Harry worked as an office boy in Camden when he was fourteen. He also worked as a sailor. Later, he became a railroad conductor. Mary Davis, Whitman's housekeeper, took care of both Harry and Warren after the death of their father, the sea captain Henry W. Fritzinger. Davis had looked after Capt. Fritzinger, who went blind, before she started to perform the same housekeeping services for Whitman. Harry married Rebecca Heisler on September 15, 1890. [back]


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