Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 6 March 1888

Date: March 6, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: uva.00518

Source: Papers of Walt Whitman (MSS 3829), Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature, Albert H. Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia. 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.

Related item: Whitman drew a line through the text of this letter and cut the letter in half. He then drafted the poem entitled "The Wallabout Martyrs" on the two resulting versos (and on the verso of the opened envelope).

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock

page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4

London, Ont.,
6 March 18881

I got home [on?] Saturday and have had a lively time since, shall be struggling under a waggonload of work for quite a while yet. I wrote to New York Herald2 (to subscribe) and told them I should take it as long as your pieces continued to appear. Have heard nothing yet from Lippencott and have done nothing further about my piece but all this will be attended to—The weather here is cold 10° this morning—sleighing good. I found them all well at home

Got your post card 3rd3 thanks.4


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 letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey | U.S.A. It is postmarked: London | AM | MR [illegible] | 88 | Canada; New York | Mar 8 | 9 30 AM | [illegible]8 | [illegible]; Camden, N.J. | Mar | [illegible] | 5 PM | [illegible] | Rec'd. Whitman cut the sides of the envelope and used the inside as a sheet of paper on which he drafted lines that would become part of his poem "The Wallabout Martyrs," the same poem that he drafted on the versos of Bucke's letter. Whitman noted that he sent the poem to the New York Herald on March 11 at the bottom of his draft. "The Wallabout Martyrs" was published in the New York Herald on March 16, 1888. [back]

2. In late 1887, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., editor of the New York Herald, invited Whitman to contribute a series of poems and prose pieces for the paper. From December 1887 through August 1888, 33 of Whitman's poems appeared. [back]

3. Bucke is referring to Whitman's postal card of March 3, 1888.[back]

4. At some point, Bucke's closing and the signature on his letter were cut away. Bucke did, however, include a postscript on the verso of his letter, which he signed with his initials. The postscript, which is struck through, can be found in the right margin of the top half of Whitman's draft of "The Wallabout Martyrs," on the verso of Bucke's letter. [back]


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

Support the Archive | About the Archive

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