Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 26 March [188]9

Date: March 26, [188]9

Whitman Archive ID: syr.00045

Source: Walt Whitman Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library, Syracuse, N.Y. The transcription presented here is derived from Richard Maurice Bucke, The Letters of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, ed. Artem Lozynsky (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1977), 115. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Caterina Bernardini, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock




[London, Ont.,]1
26 March [188]9

The two post cards (re Mrs Costelloe2 and O'C.3) are this moment to hand. We absolutely must not look for any but the worst kind of news from poor O'C. the only consolation in the case is that /he/ does not suffer, at least not much. Some day (quite likely soon) he will have a series of fits that will end his life. It is bad, infernally bad, but we must stand it.4 [—] I am not well pleased that Mrs. C.has another girl,5 I hoped she would have a boy this time. Mrs & Mr Smith6 will be disappointed. C. himself7 is I suppose too busy to think much about these little matters. Nothing new here, weather colder but still bright and pleasant. I am still hard at it trying to get things straightened out

Affectionately Yours
R M Bucke


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. Horace Traubel's note, "see | notes | March 28 | 1889," appears in the upper left-hand corner of the recto. The reference is to Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, March 28, 1889[back]

2. Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe (1864–1945) was a political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend." For more information about Costelloe, see Christina Davey, "Costelloe, Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, March 28, 1889[back]

5. Rachel Pearsall Conn Costelloe (1887–1940), known as Ray Strachey, was the first daughter of Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe. She would later become a feminist writer and politician. [back]

6. Bucke is referring to Hannah and Robert Pearsall Smith, the parents of Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe. Smith, his wife Hannah, and their children were all friends and supporters of Whitman. For more about Smith and his family, see Christina Davey, "Smith, Robert Pearsall (1827–1898)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. Benjamin Francis Conn ("Frank") Costelloe (1854–1899), Mary Costelloe's first husband, was an English barrister and Liberal Party politician. [back]


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.