Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 20 November 1890

Date: November 20, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07857

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, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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Evn'g Nov. 20 '90

Cool2 weather—I went out at 12 in wheel chair,3 but was driven back by snow & wind squall—sun out since—the worst of belly ache over, but just a reminder sometimes—Everything as well as could be expected I guess.

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 postal card included a printed address for the intended recipient: S. P. Wharton, who lived at or had a business at 910 Clinton St. in Philadelphia. Whitman drew a line in pen through each line of Wharton's address, and wrote Bucke's address. This postal card is addressed: Dr Bucke | Asylum | London Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Nov 20 | 8 PM | 90; London | PM | No 22 | 9 | Canada. [back]

2. Whitman wrote this note to Bucke on a postal card that was used for ordering tickets to a series of lectures by John Fiske. Whitman drew lines in pen through the printed information about Fiske's lectures and wrote his message to Bucke on the card. [back]

3. Horace Traubel and Ed Wilkins, Whitman's nurse, went to Philadelphia to purchase a wheeled chair for the poet that would allow him to be "pull'd or push'd" outdoors. See Whitman's letter to William Sloane Kennedy of May 8, 1889[back]


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