Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 2–3 August 1891

Date: August 2–3 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07923

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: Ian Faith, Stephanie Blalock, and Brandon James O'Neil

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Camden N J—U S America1
Aug: 2 '91—

All goes fairly considering—good & frequent letters f'm Bolton2—I pass much of time reclining on bed, lassitude, headache (probably extreme cattarrhal seizure, chronic)—

Aug: 3—Glad to get y'rs of July 233 f'm London (& want more)—This is the 7th sent to Mr Costelloe's4 for you—all ab't same with me—I wonder if (& hope) you will see Edw'd Carpenter5 (Millthorpe n'r Chesterfield) one of my most valued Eng: friends6

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 is addressed: Dr Bucke | care Mr Costelloe | 40 Grosvenor road | the Embankment | London England. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Aug 3 | 8 PM | 91.; Ph[iladelph]ia, PA | 9PM | PD.  [back]

2. During the months of July and August 1891, Bucke traveled in England in an attempt to establish a foreign market for the gas and fluid meter he was developing with his brother-in-law William Gurd. On the trip, he spent time with Dr. John Johnston and James W. Wallace, the co-founders of the Bolton College of Whitman admirers. Bucke also visited the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. [back]

3. See Bucke's letter to Whitman of July 23, 1891. [back]

4. Benjamin Francis Conn ("Frank") Costelloe (1854–1899), Mary Costelloe's first husband, was an English barrister and Liberal Party politician. [back]

5. Edward Carpenter (1844–1929) was an English writer and Whitman disciple. Like many other young disillusioned Englishmen, he deemed Whitman a prophetic spokesman of an ideal state cemented in the bonds of brotherhood. Carpenter—a socialist philosopher who in his book Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure posited civilization as a "disease" with a lifespan of approximately one thousand years before human society cured itself—became an advocate for same-sex love and a contributing early founder of Britain's Labour Party. On July 12, 1874, he wrote for the first time to Whitman: "Because you have, as it were, given me a ground for the love of men I thank you continually in my heart. . . . For you have made men to be not ashamed of the noblest instinct of their nature." For further discussion of Carpenter, see Arnie Kantrowitz, "Carpenter, Edward [1844–1929]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. On August 16, 1891, Bucke informed Whitman that he expected to see Carpenter within a few days. Bucke took Carpenter to County Borough of Bolton (England) Public Libraries to meet the "boys"–the members of the Bolton college group of Whitman admirers–and the group's co-founders, Dr. John Johnston and James W. Wallace. See John Johnston and J. W. Wallace, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends (London: Allen and Unwin, 1918), 26. [back]


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