Life & Letters


About this Item

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

Date: November 3, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08181

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, Stephanie Blalock, and Breanna Himschoot

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Medical Superintendent's
3 Nov 1891

Your letter of 31st Oct.1 just to hand and was glad to get it as also the long piece re Schliemann2 which I shall read as soon as I find a few minutes. Ross3 & Barber4 still both off duty, no one in their place and so I am pretty well tied up. I do not understand this last newspaper racket about your health. As far as I know (and I think I know as much as any one) you are abt. as you have been for the last three years (not getting any younger, but otherwise unchanged), the paralysis either not extending at all or so slowly that it's increase is imperceptible—as to the paralysis "going to the heart" that is all rubbish—paralysis cannot go to the heart. If you live untill the paralysis attacks the heart and so kills you you will live to be a thousand years old which is a fate I would not wish my best friend or worst enemy

I send you my love always
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. See Whitman's letter of October 31, 1891. [back]

2. Heinrich Schliemann (1822–1890) was a German businessman and multimillionaire who helped established the field of archaeology as we know it today. He is credited with the discovery of the site of ancient Troy, near Hisarlik hill in present-day Turkey. [back]

3. Bucke may be referring to Margaret Alexandria Ross, an employee of the Asylum. [back]

4. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]


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