Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 26 November 1891

Date: November 26, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08208

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: Zainab Saleh, Stephanie Blalock, and Breanna Himschoot

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Medical Superintendent's
26 Nov 1891

I am pleased and relieved beyond expression to hear that the "tomb"2 matter3 is really in course of settlement on a satisfactory basis—the apparent attempt to swindle if really made was one of the vilest acts I have ever heard of—so vile does it seem to me that I hesitate to believe it without the strongest evidence. I shall hope to hear some of the "ins and outs" of this matter later.—We have got through with our three days' rain and are now having charming weather—we all keep well and hearty here and in good spirits—I wish I could here better accounts from you as to your own state of health

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 | PM | NO 25 | 91 | Canada; Camden, N.J. | Nov27 | 6 PM | 91 | Rec'd. [back]

2. Whitman was making plans to be buried in Harleigh Cemetery, in Camden, New Jersey, in an elaborate granite tomb that he designed. Reinhalter and Company of Philadelphia built the tomb, at a cost of $4,000. Whitman covered a portion of these costs with money that his Boston friends had raised so that the poet could purchase a summer cottage; the remaining balance was paid by Whitman's literary executor, Thomas Harned. For more information on the cemetery and Whitman's tomb, see See Geoffrey M. Still, "Harleigh Cemetery," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. See Whitman's letters to Bucke of November 12–14, 1891 and November 22, 1891, for more on the payment arrangements for the tomb. [back]


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