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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 7 May 1888

Nothing special or new with me—Still stagger under the bad cold in the head, indigestion &c—was out driving yesterday afternoon—beautiful spring—enjoyed it much—rec'd a note f'm Mr Smith1 to-day that he had been ill & confined for a month, mostly a badly inflamed eye, a pretty serious case—suffering badly—but is getting over it. Mrs. S2 has sailed for England—Donnelly's book3 I see is out—a case of "great cry & little wool" I opine—

Walt Whitman

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. Robert Pearsall Smith (1827–1898) was a Quaker who became an evangelical minister associated with the "Holiness movement." He was also a writer and businessman. Whitman often stayed at his Philadelphia home, where the poet became friendly with the Smith children—Mary, Logan, and Alys. For more information about Smith, 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]
  • 2. Robert Pearsall Smith's wife was Hannah Whitall Smith (1832–1911), an influential lay speaker in the evangelical Holiness Movement, author of The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life (1875), a suffragist, and a temperance reformer. [back]
  • 3. Ignatius Loyola Donnelly (1831–1901) was a politician and writer, well known for his notions of Atlantis as an antediluvian civilization and for his belief that Shakespeare's plays had been written by Francis Bacon, an idea he argued in his book The Great Cryptogram: Francis Bacon's Cipher in Shakespeare's Plays, published in 1888. [back]
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