Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 25 October 1890

Date: October 25, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07850

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

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ian Faith, Zainab Saleh, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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early PM Oct: 25 '90

Fine & sunny to-day rather cool—have signed & sent the contract with Rheinhalter Bros: 18 Broad st: Phila: architects &c: for my burial house in Harleigh Cemetery2—Ralph Moore3 to have control & charge under my name & be my representative4—no mail today—dull & heavy, the grip on me—ate a fair breakfast—fair night Tom Harned5 made a warm big political speech last night, good (independent—mugwump6)

Hope you are having good times
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 Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | OCT 25 | 430 PM | 90; London | AM | OC 27 | 9O | Canada. [back]

2. Whitman was buried in Harleigh Cemetery in Camden, New Jersey, on March 30, 1892, in an elaborate granite tomb that he designed. Reinhalter and Company of Philadelphia built the tomb, at a cost of $4,000. Whitman covered a portion of these costs with money that his Boston friends had raised so that the poet could purchase a summer cottage; the remaining balance was paid by Whitman's literary executor, Thomas Harned. For more information on the cemetery and Whitman's tomb, see See Geoffrey M. Still, "Harleigh Cemetery," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Ralph Moore was the superintendent of Harleigh Cemetery, where Whitman had had his marble tomb built. [back]

4. J. E. Reinhalter, of P. Reinhalter & Company, on October 11 urged Whitman to "be kind enough and look over the paper wich I left with you [&] see if all correct, as we are govern[ing] ourselfs according." He also said that his "brother has gone to the Quarry in Massachusetts and will stay there untill all the stones connected with your work are split out." See also Whitman's November 12–14, 1891 letter to Bucke. [back]

5. Thomas Biggs Harned (1851–1921) was one of Whitman's literary executors. Harned was a lawyer in Philadelphia and, having married Augusta Anna Traubel (1856–1914), was Horace Traubel's brother-in-law. For more on him, see Dena Mattausch, "Harned, Thomas Biggs (1851–1921)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). For more on his relationship with Whitman, see Thomas Biggs Harned, Memoirs of Thomas B. Harned, Walt Whitman's Friend and Literary Executor, ed. Peter Van Egmond (Hartford: Transcendental Books, 1972). [back]

6. A Mugwump was a political activist who shifted from the Republican party to the Democratic party in the 1880s; for the rest of the century it was a common term for anyone who left one political party for another. [back]


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