Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 8 April 1889

Shall send you Stedman's2 letter3 in a day or two—it is well worth reading—Nothing very new—As I smell the fumes of the cooking while I write, thankful that they do not seem utterly welcomeless to me as so much (books, magazines &c) do. Well, here comes my dinner—


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 postal card is addressed: Dr R M Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Apr 8 | 8 PM | 89. [back]
  • 2. 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]
  • 3. See Stedman's letter to Whitman of March 27, 1889. See also Whitman's April 8, 1889, letter to William Sloane Kennedy, William Douglas O'Connor, and Richard Maurice Bucke. Whitman sent Stedman's letter to Kennedy as an enclosure and instructions with this letter that directed Kennedy to send the letter and the enclosure to Ellen O'Connor (wife of William D. O'Connor), and then he asked the O'Connors to send the letters to Bucke. [back]
Back to top