Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 2 February 1891

Date: February 2, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08111

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: Cristin Noonan, Zainab Saleh, Stephanie Blalock, and Breanna Himschoot

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Medical Superintendent's
2 Feb 1891

Your good long letter of 30 & 312 came to hand this morning. Also Springfield Republican piece3 enclosed—but what year is it do you know—?—it is 13 Nov. but no year given. I finished 3 days and nights in bed yesterday morning—bad cold and facial neuralgia—not sick—and now am at my office as lively as ever—I am one of the tough old sort—seems so and hope will turn out so. Glad to have your report: "if any thing easier" trust you will stick at that for a time. All well with meter4—the first day, will be done tomorrow or next day—then for some business! When shall we see the "annex"?5 Some time in March? I hope so. So Ernest Rhys6 is married?7 I wish him luck! It is however a dubious step!

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: CAMDEN, N.J. | FEB | 4 | 4PM | 1891 | [illegible], LONDON | PM | FE 2 | 91 | CANADA; PHILADELPHIA | FEB | 4 | 230PM | 1681 | TRANSIT; RECIEVED | FEB | 4 | 1 PM | PHILA. There is one additional postmark on the front of the envelope, but only part of the word "RECEIVED" is legible. [back]

2. See Whitman's letter of January 30-31, 1891[back]

3. Whitman may be referrring to the notice that appeared on November 10, 1881. See Whitman's letter to the Editor of The Springfield Republican of November 13, 1881[back]

4. Bucke and his brother-in-law William John Gurd were designing a gas and fluid meter to be patented in Canada and sold in England. [back]

5. Whitman's book Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) was his last miscellany, and it included both poetry and short prose works commenting on poetry, aging, and death, among other topics. Thirty-one poems from the book were later printed as "Good-Bye my Fancy" in Leaves of Grass (1891–1892), the last edition of Leaves of Grass published before Whitman's death in March 1892. For more information see, Donald Barlow Stauffer, "'Good-Bye my Fancy' (Second Annex) (1891)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. Ernest Rhys (1859–1946) married Grace Little (1865–1929) in 1891. Grace was born and grew up in Ireland. As an adult, she moved to London, where she met Rhys at a garden party hosted by the Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865–1939). Grace went on to work with Rhys at the British Museum and to publish several books, including the novel Mary Dominic (1898) and books of poetry for children. [back]


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