Life & Letters


About this Item

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

Date: June 25, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07931

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

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June 25 '90

Am ab't as usual—slice of bread, raspberries & cup of tea for breakfast—fierce hot temperature here to-day—rain last night—G W Curtis2 asks (I hear) in last Harpers (Easy Chair—July) "Who can tell whether W W a hundred y'rs hence will be forgotten or rated a g't poet?"3 A mighty ticklish question—

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: London | PM | Ju 27 | 9 | Canada. [back]

2. George William Curtis (1824–1892), author and editor of Harper's Magazine, was a New England writer and orator who had been a neighbor of Ralph Waldo Emerson for some time in the 1840s. [back]

3. The "Editor's Easy Chair" section in the July 1890 issue of Harper's New Monthly Magazine mentions "our good friend Walt Whitman" and poses the question Whitman mentions here (311). [back]


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