Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 4 November 1891

Date: November 4, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08221

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, Brandon James O'Neil, Jason McCormick, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock

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Nov: 4 '91

Bright cool Nov: day—Stoddart2 (Lippincott's)3 & a Californian girl4 just here—a great pot of yellow chrysanthemums—& John Russell Youngs5 big "Round the World"6 by express—bad-feeling day with me—head, gastric & bladder—Wallace7 left NY.8 this mn'g—Arnold9 also f'm here10


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 postal card is addressed: Dr Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N J | Nov 4 | 8 PM | 91; London | PM | NO 6 | 91 | Canada. [back]

2. Joseph Marshall Stoddart (1845–1921) published Stoddart's Encyclopaedia America, established Stoddart's Review in 1880, which was merged with The American in 1882, and became the editor of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in 1886. On January 11, 1882, Whitman received an invitation from Stoddart through J. E. Wainer, one of his associates, to dine with Oscar Wilde on January 14 (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1931], 235n). [back]

3. Lippincott's Monthly Magazine was a literary magazine published in Philadelphia from 1868 to 1915. Joseph Marshall Stoddart was the editor of the magazine from 1886 to 1894, and he frequently published material by and about Whitman. For more information on Whitman's numerous publications here, see Susan Belasco, "Lippincott's Magazine." [back]

4. We have no information on this person, but Whitman did tell Horace Traubel about her: "I had visitors today—Stoddart, with a girl. Oh! A fine girl, a girl out of the West—from San Francisco, I think—a quick, chipper girl—a delight to me" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, November 4, 1891). [back]

5. John Russell Young (1840–1899) was a journalist, United States minister to China, and the seventh Librarian of Congress. In Men and Memories (New York, F. Tennyson Neely, 1901), a posthumous collection of Young's personal reminiscences, his editor and wife, May Dow Russell Young writes: "A deep and genuine affection existed between Walt Whitman and John Russell Young, the result of many years' acquaintance and profound admiration" (76). The collection includes Young's account of reading the first edition of Leaves of Grass and later meeting Whitman in Washington, D.C. (76–109). For more information, see John C. Broderick, "John Russell Young: The Internationalist as Librarian," Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress 33 (April 1976), 116–149. [back]

6. In 1877, Young was invited to accompany President Ulysses S. Grant on a world tour; in 1881, Young published Around the World with General Grant, a two-volume account of the tour. [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. At the time Whitman wrote this letter, Wallace was traveling back to England after his two-month journey in the U.S. and Canada, where he visited Whitman and many of Whitman’s friends, including a long stay at Richard Maurice Bucke's home in Canada. [back]

9. Sir Edwin Arnold (1832–1904) was the author of the controversial The Light of Asia . . . Being the Life and Teaching of Gautama . . . as told in verse by an Indian Buddhist (London: Truber & Co., 1879). Arnold had visited Whitman on September 13, 1889. Whitman reported the visit to Traubel: "[Arnold's] visit was only in transit—he goes back to New York at once—then across to San Francisco—then to Japan and the East Indies." Whitman found the visitor interesting but too effusive: "My main objection to him, if objection at all, would be, that he is too eulogistic—too flattering" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, September 13, 1889). [back]

10. In Men and Memories (New York: F. Tennyson Neely, 1901), John Russell Young describes arranging the meeting of Walt Whitman, celebrity manager James B. Pond, and English poet Sir Edwin Arnold at Whitman's Camden home on November 2, 1891: "Sir Edwin had a profound admiration for the poet, and was the bearer among other things of a message from [Alfred, Lord] Tennyson. . . . [Whitman] was pleased, but still and always in reserved sovereign fashion, to hear from Arnold of his growing fame in England" (see especially 90–96). Whitman related his thoughts on the visit to Traubel on Monday, November 2, 1891[back]


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