Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 28 June [misdated July] 1891

Date: [June] 28, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08157

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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "see notes July 2 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Zainab Saleh, Stephanie Blalock, and Brandon James O'Neil

page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3

Medical Superintendent's
28 July [June]2 1891

Just as I sent off my last note came yours of 24th and last evening yours of 25th3 Yes, I sail, if all continue well, on the Brittannic at 7 a.m. 8th July and I suppose I shall reach L'pool about 15th or 16th at latest.4 I will certainly use the note to Tennyson5 for I want much to see him and to be able to tell you about him on my return. The "Birthday" piece is to be in August "Lip."6 it could not possibly have gone in July—I do not think it will be crowded out—guess they know it is a good thing. Yes, Wallace7 sent me a fac-simile of your 1st June letter8 and wonderfully well it is done. I shall certianly see the Bolton fellows9 and will read your message to them without fail. You must do your best, dear Walt, to cheer up and keep up until I come back with all the English news and greetings for you. I guess I shall be back before the end of Aug. I shall be anxious to see you again

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: LONDON | AM | JU 29 | 91 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | JUN | 30 | 12PM | 1891 | REC'D. [back]

2. Bucke incorrectly dated this letter "28 July 1891." The correct date is "28 June 1891," as Bucke notes that he leaves soon for England—on July 8, 1891—in his letter. [back]

3. See Whitman's letters to Bucke of June 24, 1891 and June 25, 1891. [back]

4. As Bucke's letters in May and June 1891 both to Whitman and Horace Traubel make clear, he was going abroad to establish a foreign market for his gas and fluid meter, a subject to which he referred constantly in his communications but which the poet studiously ignored. [back]

5. Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) succeeded William Wordsworth as poet laureate of Great Britain in 1850. The intense male friendship described in In Memoriam, which Tennyson wrote after the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, possibly influenced Whitman's poetry. Whitman wrote to Tennyson in 1871 or late 1870, probably shortly after the visit of Cyril Flower in December, 1870, but the letter is not extant (see Thomas Donaldson, Walt Whitman the Man [New York: F. P. Harper, 1896], 223). Tennyson's first letter to Whitman is dated July 12, 1871. Although Tennyson extended an invitation for Whitman to visit England, Whitman never acted on the offer. [back]

6. Horace Traubel's article "Walt Whitman's Birthday, May 31, 1891," was published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in August 1891. It was a detailed account of Whitman's seventy-second (and last) birthday, which was celebrated with friends at the poet's home on Mickle Street. [back]

7. James William Wallace (1853–1926), of Bolton, England, was an architect and great admirer of Whitman. Wallace, along with Dr. John Johnston (1852–1927), a physician in Bolton, founded the "Bolton College" of English admirers of the poet. Johnston and Wallace corresponded with Whitman and with Horace Traubel and other members of the Whitman circle in the United States, and they separately visited the poet and published memoirs of their trips in John Johnston and James William Wallace, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends (London: Allen and Unwin, 1917). For more information on Wallace, see Larry D. Griffin, "Wallace, James William (1853–1926)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

8. Bucke is referring to Whitman's June 1, 1891, letter to Dr. John Johnston of Bolton, England, a co-founder of the Bolton College of Whitman admirers. The letter included Whitman's description of his birthday dinner. [back]

9. The "Bolton College" was a group of Whitman admirers located in Bolton, England. Founded by Dr. John Johnston (1852–1927) and James William Wallace (1853–1926), the group corresponded with Whitman and Horace Traubel throughout the final years of the poet's life. For more information on Johnston, see Larry D. Griffin, "Johnston, Dr. John (1852–1927)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). For more information on Wallace, see Larry D. Griffin, "Wallace, James William (1853–1926)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.