Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 21 February 1888

I am perhaps essentially the same—plus the feebleness & lameness & clouded heavy almost constant half-pain feeling of head & brain. Much milder weather here & I shall try to get out in phaeton if I can—I have rec'd the London Adv. Feb. 16—Two ladies have just called & chatted. (Mrs Talcott Williams2 one of them)—I enclose Ernest Rhys's3 letter, just rec'd4—also two letters for you—I believe they still print my little bits in the personal col. NY Herald,5 but do not see the paper—Do you see it there? I enjoy all you say of the balm & flowers of Florida—

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. This letter is addressed: Dr R M Bucke | Hotel San Marco | St Augustine | Florida. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Feb 21 | 4 30 PM | 88. [back]
  • 2. Sophia Wells Royce Williams (1850–1928) was a writer and frequent visitor (with her husband Talcott Williams) to Whitman's Camden, New Jersey, home. [back]
  • 3. Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. Whitman may be referring to the letter he received from Rhys on February 20, 1888. In the letter, Rhys discussed his lecture in Concord at the home of Dr. Edward Emerson, which had been attended by Mrs. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Ellen Emerson, and Sanborn: "There was a general agreement with my position." [back]
  • 5. 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]
Back to top