Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 23 March 1880

Date: March 23, 1880

Whitman Archive ID: man.00006

Source: Charles Sixsmith Collection at the John Rylands Library, University of Manchester. 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.

Notes for this letter were created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from The Letters of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, ed. Artem Lozynsky (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Contributors to digital file: Alicia Bones, Grace Thomas, Eder Jaramillo, Nicole Gray, and Stefan Schöberlein

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Asylum for the Insane,
March 23d 1880

My dear Walt

The two copies of "Leaves of Grass" came safely to hand:1 I have given them to Anderson (as in letter of 18th inst.) and he will begin advertizing "Leaves of Grass" and also "Two Rivulets" tomorrow morning. I want you now to send me two copies of "Two Rivulets" at once so that he will have both vols2 —Do not mail the books to Anderson as I told you on 18th3 but mail them to me—Please answer my letter of 18th as soon as you can make it convenient to do so.

Of course the Canadian purchaser ought to pay the duty but I am afraid it would never do to make the cost of the book more than $5.00—this price itself is enough to keep 9 out of every 10 who would like to have the book from buying it—I wish you could see your way to get the book into the hands of a good publisher and sell it at a moderate rate. I hope yet before I die to see the whole book published at about $1. and in the hands of the [illegible] every where.

Your friend
R M Bucke


1. 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). [back]

2. Concerning the shipment of books to Bucke in March 1880, Whitman made the following entries in his Commonplace Book: 17 March 1880: "sent Dr Bucke Two copies of L of G. on sale," and 26 March 1880: "sent Dr Bucke three Vols: two TR and one of L of G. 5 Vols in all to be acc't for $3.50 each" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]

3. See the letter from Bucke to Whitman of March 18, 1880[back]


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