Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 3 January 1891

Date: January 3, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07976

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 The Letters of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, ed. Artem Lozynsky (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Editorial note: The annotation, "see notes Jan 16 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Andrew David King, Zainab Saleh, Cristin Noonan, and Stephanie Blalock

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Medical Superintendent's
3 Jan

Yours of 31 Dec.2 just to hand. Do not worry about me,3 dear Walt, I am all right, am over at office every day now and have pretty good nights—of course I had a little pain and a few restless nights but nothing worth talking about and now even these are over— but I thank you and all the good friends down east there for your kind sympathy. Our sleighing is gone again but the wheeling is good and the weather clear and charming I am going out for a drive in an hour my boy Maurice will take me—Am reading Dumas' Marie Antoinette Romances4—am in 7th vol. of the set & have 6 more to read—it is a picture (good one) of the French Revolution

R M Bucke

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: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey U.S.A. It is postmarked: LONDO [illegible] | PM | JA 3 | 91 | Canada; CAMDEN, N.J. | JAN | 5 | 1 PM | 1891 | REC'D. [back]

2. This letter may not survive. [back]

3. Bucke described this accident in a December 25, 1890, letter to Whitman's disciple and biographer Horace Traubel: "I had a fall last evening and dislocated my left shoulder (it was the right arm last time, three months ago)." This letter is held in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. It is reprinted in Traubel's With Walt Whitman in Camden, Saturday, December 27, 1890[back]

4. There are five titles in Alexandre Dumas's (1802–1870) Memoires d'un medecin, a series concerned with the beginnings of the French Revolution down to the death of Marie Antoinette: Joseph Balsamo (1846–48), Le Collier de la reine (1849–50), Ange Pitou (1852), La Comtesse de Charmy (1853–55), and Le Chevalier de Maison-Rouge (1846). Bucke was reading these romances in an edition published by Little, Brown & Company of Boston, according to Bucke's letter to Traubel of February 1891 (Charles E. Feinberg Collection). [back]


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