Life & Letters


About this Item

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

Date: April 3, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08133

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, Brandon James O'Neil, and Stephanie Blalock

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Medical Superintendent's
3 April 1891

Your good long letter of March 30 and 312 came to hand last evening and would have been answered before now (7 p.m.) but work has been more than ordinarily pressing. I am greatly pleased to hear of even the most remote "indications of better" and trust they will increase. From all I can make out Dr Longaker3 is a mighty level headed fellow and is likely to do well for you. Your package containing "Munyon"4 and "Youths Comp"5 with the little poems (one in facsimile) came today and was welcome. I have (of course) the Atlantic (take it) with O'C.'s6 "Android"7—the more I see & know of O'C. the more I regret he did not fulfill his original intention of following literature as a profession—what a proud row of books we might have had from him on our shelves today! All goes quietly and well here including the meter8

So long!
Best love
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. Whitman drew a vertical line in black ink through this letter. [back]

2. Bucke is referring to Whitman's letter dated March 30–31, 1891[back]

3. Daniel Longaker (1858–1949) was a Philadelphia physician who specialized in obstetrics. He became Whitman's doctor in early 1891 and provided treatment during the poet's final illness. For more information, see Carol J. Singley, "Longaker, Dr. Daniel [1858–1949]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R.LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Bucke is referring to Whitman's poem, "The Commonplace," which first appeared in Munyon's Magazine in March 1891. [back]

5. Bucke is referring to Whitman's poem, "Ship Ahoy!," which first appeared in the Youth's Companion on March 12, 1891. [back]

6. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication, published in 1866. For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. First written in 1862 but not published until 1891, William D. O'Connor's story "The Brazen Android" appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in two installments: Part 1, vol. 67, no. 402, April 1891, pp. 433–454; Part 2, vol. 67, no. 403, May 1891, pp. 577–599. The story also appeared in the collection Three Tales: The Ghost, The Brazen Android, The Carpenter (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1891), for which Whitman wrote the Preface (which he later included in Good-Bye My Fancy [Philadelphia: David McKay, 1891], 51–53). For more on O'Connor's story, see Brooks Landon, "Slipstream Then, Slipstream Now: The Curious Connections between William Douglas O'Connor's "The Brazen Android" and Michael Cunningham's Specimen Days," Science Fiction Studies 38.1 (March 2011), 67–91. [back]

8. 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]


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