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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 27–28 April 1889


Y'r good letter rec'd—ab't the Balt. Hospital idea2 it does not at present come to me any thing like decidedly—but will probably have some more definite feeling soon3—the cloudy & rainy spell continued to-day—quite a sort o' bowel movement this forenoon—(took a cal: powder last night & some bitter water this morning)—rare egg, fried, Graham b'd and coffee for breakfast—am to have three or four rare stew'd oysters for my supper ab't 5—(I eat no dinner)—all goes sort o' comfortable—gloomy & rainy enough out tho'—mild rather—

Sunday afternoon April 28

Well it just looks out like clearing & sunshine—so mote it be—Nothing very different with me—my head &c: the "cold" & stuffy (is it catarrh?) heavy, deaf, half-ache feeling—have been trying to interest myself in the Press and the Tribune today—poor work—rather dull to-day, (& indeed these days)—Yes the sun comes out stronger—promising great things for the New York show, wh' seems to be much made of all around here4—I enc: two or three cards &c: (like the dinner givers5 put on some extra dishes even if not much appetizing in them they fill up)—the new ed'n L of G. will have six little portraits in6—all goes on smoothly—am sitting here by a pretty good fire as it is coolish

—Best love to you all— Walt Whitman  loc_as.00239_large.jpg  loc_as.00240_large.jpg

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: Dr R M Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Apr 28 | 5 PM | 89; London | AM | AP 30 | 89 | Canada; [illegible]uffalo | APR | 630 PM | 1889 | Transit. [back]
  • 2. Whitman is referring to Bucke's letter of April 24, 1889. [back]
  • 3. On April 24, 1889 Bucke wrote of "the John Hopkins Hospital. Walt, if I were in your fix I would think seriously of going there for the next six months or a year . . . as a private patient. . . . I do not suppose the expence would be much more than the present subsidy but if it is we can easily get more money." See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, April 26, 1889. Bucke wrote about this matter to Traubel on the same date. [back]
  • 4. Whitman is referring to the three-day celebration of the centennial commemorating the inauguration of George Washington. [back]
  • 5. For Whitman's seventieth birthday, Horace Traubel and a large committee planned a local celebration for the poet in Morgan's Hall in Camden, New Jersey. The committee included Henry (Harry) L. Bonsall, Geoffrey Buckwalter, and Thomas B. Harned. See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, May 7, 1889. The day was celebrated with a testimonial dinner. Numerous authors and friends of the poet prepared and delivered addresses to mark the occasion. Whitman, who did not feel well at the time, arrived after the dinner to listen to the remarks. [back]
  • 6. Whitman included six photographs and engravings in the 1889 issue of Leaves of Grass. [back]
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