Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 28 November 1890

Date: November 28, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08242

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: Heather Cooper, Brandon James O'Neil, Amanda J. Axley, and Stephanie Blalock

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noon Nov: 28 '90

Gloomy & depressed enough these two or three days—My brother Jeff2 died Tuesday last at St Louis—typhoid pneumonia—was in his 58th year—was very much with me in his childhood & as big boy greatly attached to each other till he got married—(I was in 16th year when he was born)—Sunny out to day—cold, little or no appetite—bad belly ache continued—(I suspect it is catarrh of bowels) sitting here in big chair as usual alone Ed Stafford3 here last evn'g to see me—all well or getting along there—yr's recd last evn'g4 thanks

God bless you all
Walt Whitman

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: Dr Bucke Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: Camden | Nov [29?] | 8AM | 90; N.Y. | 11–29–90 | 1030AM | 90; London | AM | DE 1 | 90 | Canada.  [back]

2. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was Walt Whitman's favorite brother. As a civil engineer, Jeff eventually became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and a nationally recognized figure. For more on Jeff, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Edwin Stafford (1856–1906) was the brother of Harry Stafford, a close acquaintance of Whitman. [back]

4. It is uncertain which letter Whitman is referring to here. [back]


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