Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 2 July 1890

Date: July 2, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07796

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: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ian Faith, Zainab Saleh, and Stephanie Blalock

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July 2 '90

It is just after noon—raining as if it meant so all day—have had a long hot spell—am getting through it pretty well,—have lived lately on blackberries & bread—bowel action to-day—have just written a little poemet "Sail out for good for aye O mystic yacht of me"2 for outset of my intended last 12 page copyright Vol. annex concluding L of G.3 I sit here turning occasionally to the open window to see the thick falling rain—

Walt Whitman

Kennedy4 has sent H.5 a piece "W W's Quaker Traits,"6 to be printed7

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. Dr Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Jul 2 | 8 PM | 90; London | PM | Jy 4 | 9 | Canada. [back]

2. "Sail Out for Good, Eidólon Yacht!" was one of four poemets published as part of "Old-Age Echoes" in the March 1891 issue of Lippincott's magazine. The other poemets that make up "Old-Age Echoes" are "Sounds of Winter," "The Unexpress'd," and "After the Argument." [back]

3. Whitman is referring to the group of thirty-one poems taken from the book Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) that were reprinted as the second annex to Leaves of Grass (1891–1892), the last edition of Leaves published in Whitman's lifetime. For more information on Good-Bye My Fancy, as a book and an annex, see Donald Barlow Stauffer, "Good-Bye my Fancy (Second Annex) (1891)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and the Boston Transcript; he also published biographies of Longfellow, Holmes, and Whittier (Dictionary of American Biography [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933], 336–337). Apparently Kennedy called on the poet for the first time on November 21, 1880 (William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman [London: Alexander Gardener, 1896], 1). Though Kennedy was to become a fierce defender of Whitman, in his first published article he admitted reservations about the "coarse indecencies of language" and protested that Whitman's ideal of democracy was "too coarse and crude"; see The Californian, 3 (February 1881), 149–158. For more about Kennedy, see Katherine Reagan, "Kennedy, William Sloane (1850–1929)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the late 1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. "The Quaker Traits of Walt Whitman" appeared in the July 1890 issue of Horace Traubel's The Conservator; it was reprinted in In Re Walt Whitman (Philadelphia, PA: David McKay, 1893), 213–214, a volume edited by Horace Traubel, Richard Maurice Bucke, and Thomas B. Harned. It was also reprinted in William Sloane Kennedy's Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (London: Alexander Gardner, 1896), 86–87. In Fight of a Book for the World (West Yarmouth, MA: The Stonecroft Press, 1926), Kennedy confirms: "The date authenticated by W.W." (273). [back]

7. This postscript is written at the top of the postal card. [back]


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