Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 8 October 1889

Date: October 8, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07708

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Notes for this letter were created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Contributors to digital file: Braden Krien, Ryan Furlong, Breanna Himschoot, Ashlyn Stewart, and Stephanie Blalock

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Oct 8 '89

Y'rs of 6th rec'd2—Did you get the Harper's Weekly Sept. 28 with my little "Bravo, Paris Exposition!"3 I sent? Nothing very new—I am poorly & depress'd enough—(a very near relative has been seriously ill—last news better)4—had very good buckwheat cakes for breakfast—cold & sunny—am sitting alone here in chair as usual—


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 Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Oct 8 | 8 PM | 89. [back]

2. This letter has not been located. [back]

3. Whitman sent "Bravo, Paris Exposition!" to Harper's Weekly on September 18, 1889 (Whitman's Commonplace Book [Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.]); on the following day editor John Foord (1862–1922) accepted the poem and enclosed $10 in payment in his letter of September 19, 1889. It appeared on September 28. See also Whitman's letter to Bucke of June 8–9, 1889[back]

4. Whitman is referring to his sister Hannah Whitman Heyde (1823–1908). The entry in Whitman's Commonplace Book for this date reads: "Letter f'm C L H[eyde]. Hannah very ill jaundice—next day letter, 'much better'—sent $6" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]


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