Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 7 February 1882

Date: February 7, 1882

Whitman Archive ID: upa.00200

Source: Walt Whitman Collection, 1842–1957, Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Pennsylvania. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 3:266–267. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schoeberlein, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Eder Jaramillo, and Nicole Gray

Feb. 7 '821

I have just sent the MS back by Adams express, same address as this letter.

You will be surprised, probably enraged, at the manner in which I have gone through it—

Upon first looking over it I was divided between two courses—whether to send it back without revision at all—or to go over it with decision making all the corrections & changes I felt entirely clear of. After deliberating I decided on the latter—I have acted upon it.

Without explaining each particular point of elision or addition, I will only say that I am convinced if you accept & print this copy as now arranged, you will bless your stars afterward—(printed in the old shape it would have turned out ill, and in very many things would probably have been unendorsed by you, as it certainly would by me.)

The character you give me is not a true one in the main—I am by no means that benevolent, equable, happy creature you pourtray—but let that pass—I have left it as you wrote.

You will see what I have substituted for your argument on the sexual theme. Upon looking it over (pages 166 to 168) after an interval I am satisfied with it, and am willing to let those sections of my poems stand or fall on its support.2

I am sure as I can be all of those elaborated and lengthy parts from Man's Moral Nature should be ruled out of this book & referred to their own volume, where they are magnificent, (but an intrusion and superfluity here).3 The whole MS. was far, far far too redundant—some things were often repeated three or four times—several long passages (very likely those you had set your heart on) were very much better out than in. Others would have been nuts to the caricature baboons—There were many errors or half-errors of fact.

But there is enough to make a very creditable, serviceable book—a permanent storehouse of many biographic, personal & other things, and of your glowing & penetrating criticism—

Upon the whole it will justify itself, and (as I have corrected it if you accept) will endure the test of both [readers?] & the best critics of one, ten or fifty years hence—which is the main thing.

Although the MS as it comes back may seem in a state to your eyes, I assure you that the printers could take it just as it is, (all numbered with the folios in blue pencil) and get along with ease.

Finally as all the excised pages of the MS are returned (& though it will need considerable writing &c.) it can be restored entirely to the original form, if you should decide to do so.


1. This draft letter is endorsed: "Letter sent Dr Bucke—with his return'd MS | My letter to Dr Bucke | Feb 7 '82 | returning his MS." According to Miller, only the photostat of the draft version of this letter is extant. The draft in 1917 was in the possession of the Bucke family; see Emory Holloway, Free and Lonesome Heart (New York: Vantage Press, 1960), 208–209. On February 1 Whitman was "reading Dr B's MS book (& a tough job it is)" (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]

2. See Richard Maurice Bucke, Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), 163–167. [back]

3. Bucke dedicated this book to Whitman (see the letter from Whitman to Anne Gilchrist of December 12, 1878). [back]


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