Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 9 February 1891

Date: February 9, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08115

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, Andrew David King, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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Medical Superintendent's
9 Feb 1891

Your post-card of 6th2 came to hand by this forenoon mail. I am glad that you seem no worse—would like to see you much better. Yes, please send the "Overland Monthly"3 shall be very pleased to have it. Very sulky, dark, half rainy, muggy, warmish, gloomy weather here for some days now and continues as if it had come to stay—Can hardly read in my office at 3 p.m.—so dark. Have been reading some German—Heine4—a really wonderful fellow for "cuteness" & wit.

Meter5 goes steady and slow—we must have patience—in evenings and odd moments over at home, am reading Carlyle's6 "French Revolution"7 for about the 6th or 8th time—am feeling real well.

Love to you
RM 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: LONDON | PM | FE 9 | 91 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | FEB 11 | 12M | 1891 | REC'D. [back]

2. Bucke is referring to Whitman's postal card of February 6, 1891[back]

3. In his postal card of February 6, 1891, Whitman had offered to send Bucke a copy of the Overland literary magazine containing an article that "alluded" to Whitman. In "The Colonel, at Home, in Sonoma County" (Overland, 17 [February, 1891], 200–208), Laura Lyon White has the Colonel recite to reluctant children some excerpts from "Song of Myself," until one of them cries: "Enough, enough, . . . I am now ready to acknowledge the truth of [Ralph Waldo] Emerson's assertion that 'Walt Whitman is a god with a grunt'" (202–203). On January 29 she wrote to Walt Whitman: "If there is a wounding word in the 'Overland' article . . . I trust it may be pardoned one who admiringly reads your writings, and who fancies she feels their spirit." [back]

4. Christian Johann Heinrich Heine (1797–1856) was a renowned German poet, journalist, essayist, and literary critic. He is well known for his lyric poetry, which was set to music in the form of the lieder by the composers Robert Schumann (1810–1856) and Franz Schubert (1797–1828). [back]

5. 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]

6. Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) was a Scottish essayist, historian, lecturer, and philosopher. For more on Carlyle, see John D. Rosenberg, Carlyle and the Burden of History (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1985). [back]

7. Bucke is referring to Thomas Carlyle's three-volume history of the French Revolution, covering the years from 1789 to 1795. Carlyle's work, entitled The French Revolution: A History, was first published in 1837 and was printed in a revised edition in 1857. [back]


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