Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 11 May 1891

Date: May 11, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08143

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, Stephanie Blalock, and Brandon James O'Neil

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Medical Superintendent's
11 May 1891

Well, my dear Walt, I have yours of 8th inst.2 and judging by it you are not having a good time. I am worried about Dr Longaker3 being sick and so not able to look after you. It is too bad—But I hope he will soon be round again and will then be able to do something for your comfort. As for me I am all right (wish you were as well) still lame but less so than have been.4 At office and about grounds in buggy every day (grounds lovely now—leaves about ½ out—all as fresh as on the first day of creation), good appetite and sleep well. I told you last letter5 that I had N.E. maga.6

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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey | U.S.A. It is postmarked: LOND[ON] | [illegible] | MY 11 | 91 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | MAY | 12 | 4 PM | 1891 | REC'D. [back]

2. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of May 8, 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. In his April 13, 1891, letter to Whitman, Bucke writes that his foot, which had been sore for a couple of weeks, had become inflamed. He goes on to note that he was "confined" in his room while his foot was "mending." [back]

5. See Bucke's letter to Whitman of May 7, 1891[back]

6. In Bucke's May 7, 1891, letter to Whitman, Bucke mentioned having received the New England Magazine and having read Horace Traubel's article, "Walt Whitman at Date," published in the May 1891 issue of the magazine. For Traubel's article, see New England Magazine 4.3 (May 1891), 275–292. The article is also reprinted in the first appendix of the eighth volume of Traubel's With Walt Whitman in Camden[back]


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