Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 18 October 1891

Date: October 18, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08266

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

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Sunday noon1
Oct: 18 '91

Nothing notable—headache—cloudy day not cold—buckwh't cakes & coffee f'r br'kfast—Have written to Forman2 with absolute authority to take ch'g'e of any Eng's'h barg'n for pubn'g,3 if any—am sitting here alone as usual

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 postal card is addressed: Dr Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario Canada. It is postmarked: [Phila]delphia | Oct 18 | 8 30 PM | 91; London | PM | OC 2 [illegible] | 91 | Canada. [back]

2. Henry Buxton Forman (1842–1917), also known as Harry Buxton Forman, was most notably the biographer and editor of Percy Shelley and John Keats. On February 21, 1872, Buxton sent a copy of R. H. Horne's The Great Peace-Maker; A Sub-marine Dialogue (London, 1872) to Whitman. This poetic account of the laying of the Atlantic cable has a foreword written by Forman. After his death, Forman's reputation declined primarily because, in 1934, booksellers Graham Pollard and John Carter published An Enquiry into the Nature of Certain Nineteenth Century Pamphlets, which exposed Forman as a forger of many first "private" editions of poetry. [back]

3. In a letter to Richard Maurice Bucke dated November 22, 1891, Whitman explained that "[William] Heineman, [Wolcott] Balestier, & [John] Lovell want to purchase the American copyright [to Leaves of Grass]—I do not care to sell it as at present minded." See also Harry Buxton Forman's letter to Whitman of November 8, 1891[back]


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