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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 23 December 1890


Your good long letter of the 18th 19th and 20th2 is just to hand and I am on the whole well enough satisfied that your health is as well as you report it. I hope that between Horace3 and yourself something will be done in the matter of having a catheter used morning and evening there is little doubt that that is the main thing required just now for your comfort.

I am glad to hear of the proposed "Whitman" no. of Lippencott4 in March5—hope they will carry out the scheme. I wish you would carry out my scheme (thought of no doubt a hundred times by youself) to write a series of reminiscences—memoranda—autobiographical jottings—little personal items. I guess any of the journals would be glad to have such M.S. and there is nothing your friends would enjoy so much or that would be so valuable to posterity—perhaps you are at it?

Your affectionate friend R M Bucke

A good6 xmas and do. New Year to you—I have a feeling now that you will see quite a few more of them with us yet—and I hope have some first–rate good times with us yet

R M B  loc_sd.00126.jpg  loc_sd.00123.jpg  loc_sd.00124.jpg see notes Jan 20 1891

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: CAMDEN, N.J. | DEC | 24 | 6PM | 1890 | Rec'd; GTWESTNRWYSTATN | PM | DE23 | 90 | LONDON, CAN. [back]
  • 2. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of December 18–20, 1890. [back]
  • 3. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the late 1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. Lippincott's Monthly Magazine was a literary magazine published in Philadelphia from 1868 to 1915. Joseph Marshall Stoddart was the editor of the magazine from 1886 to 1894, and he frequently published material by and about Whitman. For more information on Whitman's numerous publications here, see Susan Belasco, "Lippincott's Magazine." [back]
  • 5. Joseph Marshall Stoddart, editor of Lippincott's, wrote to Whitman regarding plans to feature a Whitman page in the magazine on October 10, 1890. The March issue of Lippincott's in 1891 (Volume 47, pages 376–389) contained Whitman's portrait as a frontispiece, "Old Age Echoes" (including "Sounds of Winter," "The Unexpress'd," "Sail Out for Good, Eidólon Yacht!" and "After the Argument"), Whitman's "Some Personal and Old-Age Memoranda," Horace Traubel's "Walt Whitman: The Poet and Philosopher of Man," and "The Old Man Himself. A Postscript." [back]
  • 6. Bucke has written this postscript sideways in red ink in the top margin of the letter over the printed letterhead. [back]
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