Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 21 October 1889

Date: October 21, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07714

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, Ashlyn Stewart, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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Oct: 21 PM '891

Ed2 has left—goes in the 4.15 train—I send you by him a parcel of portraits—tell me if they reach you in good order3—Am feeling in one of my easier spells just now—the man who was to come to-day has not put in an appearance4—I am sitting here as usual—Mrs: D5 is just making up the bed—cloudy raw to-day—don't be uneasy ab't me in any respect—nature has not only endowed me with immense emotionality but immense bufferism (so to call it) or placid resignation to what happens—


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 21 | 8 PM | 89. [back]

2. Edward "Ned" Wilkins (1865–1936) was one of Whitman's nurses during his Camden years; he was sent to Camden from London, Ontario, by Dr. Richard M. Bucke, and he began caring for Whitman on November 5, 1888. He stayed for a year before returning to Canada to attend the Ontario Veterinary School. Wilkins graduated on March 24, 1893, and then he returned to the United States to commence his practice in Alexandria, Indiana. For more information, see Bert A. Thompson, "Edward Wilkins: Male Nurse to Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Review 15 (September 1969), 194–195. [back]

3. In his letter to Whitman of October 30, 1889, Bucke reported that Wilkins visited him and brought the photographs the previous evening, October 29, 1889. [back]

4. Whitman is referring to Charles Sterrit, a young man who was to visit the poet to discuss the possibility of becoming Whitman's nurse and helper after Ed Wilkins returned to Canada to pursue the study of Veterinary medicine. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of October 18–[19], 1889[back]

5. 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]


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