Life & Letters


About this Item

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

Date: March 3, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08124

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.

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

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Medical Superintendent's
3 March 1891

I go to Sarnia2 this morning. Shall return here Thursday—have to vote up West and also here on Thursday. Shall probably not write again till Friday when the battle will be over.3 It is hot, hot, I have good hope that the country will speak out for expansion & freedom. I have not heard from you for some days I trust this does not mean that you are worse? I hope it only means that you are busy with the proofs. I am quite anxious to see the little group of poems which is to finish L. of G.4—It is grand but still sad to think that it is really done—sad or not for us it is well for the race that it will have in the future5 and for all time the finished, completed work—

Love to you dear Walt
R M Bucke

I am boiling over with suppressed excitement thank goodness only 2 more days


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 | MR 3 | 91 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | MAR | 5 [illegible] PM | 1891 | REC'D. [back]

2. Sarnia is a city in Ontario, a hundred miles west of London. [back]

3. Bucke is referring to the Canadian national election of 1891. The main issue of the election was tariffs, with the Conservative Party, led by John A. Macdonald (1815–1891), wanting protective tariffs while the Liberal Party, led by Wilfred Laurier (1841–1919), wanted free trade with the U.S. The Conservatives won the election. [back]

4. Bucke is referring to the group of thirty-one poems taken from Whitman's last miscellany Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) that were reprinted as the second annex to Leaves of Grass (1891–1892), the last edition of Leaves published in Whitman's lifetime. For more information on Good-Bye My Fancy, as a book and an annex, 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]

5. Bucke wrote the rest of this letter and the postscript at the top of the page in red ink. [back]


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