Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 1 April [188]9

Date: April 1, [188]9

Whitman Archive ID: syr.00048

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), 118. 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, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

[London, Ont.,]1
1 April [188]9

Your card of 29th ult. just to hand.2 You will have lots of reading now with your 7 vols. of Stedman's3 "Am. Lit." I wish you a good appetite for it! No doubt however it will be well worth looking through. Want much to see what he says of you in it.4

We have had a big fall of snow here (best part of a foot) snowed more than 24 hours, got through last night, now sun out again and snow going off rapidly.

Nothing new with us, Inspector to be here this week. I enclose a list of a few misprints in "Backward Glance" which I found as I went over the piece again last evening

Love to you
R M Bucke

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. Horace Traubel's note, "see | notes | April 3 | 1889," appears in the upper left-hand corner of the recto. The reference is to Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, April 3, 1889[back]

2. On March 29, 1889, Whitman wrote Bucke: "A long & good letter f'm Stedman & a present of the big vols: (all yet printed, 7) of his 'American Literature' in wh' I appear (with good wood-engraving portrait)" (see also Whitman's letter to Edmund Clarence Stedman of March 31, 1889). Whitman receives more space (and a full-page portrait) in Vol. VII of Stedman's A Library of American Literature: From the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time (1889), co-edited with Ellen Mackay Hutchinson, than any other poet. [back]

3. Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833–1908) was a man of diverse talents. He edited for a year the Mountain County Herald at Winsted, Connecticut, wrote "Honest Abe of the West," presumably Lincoln's first campaign song, and served as correspondent of the New York World from 1860 to 1862. In 1862 and 1863 he was a private secretary in the Attorney General's office until he entered the firm of Samuel Hallett and Company in September, 1863. The next year he opened his own brokerage office. He published many volumes of poems and was an indefatigable compiler of anthologies, among which were Poets of America, 2 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1885) and A Library of American Literature from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, 11 vols. (New York: C. L. Webster, 1889–90). For more, see Donald Yannella, "Stedman, Edmund Clarence (1833–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. See Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, April 3, 1889[back]


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