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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 25 February 1888

Nothing special with me. Rainy & dark to day—not cold. Yours rec'd with Critic letter—A letter from Mrs: Costelloe2 this mn'g—all well & busy, baby growing & well3—I am not surprised at the refusal to publish in C4—the opposition & resentment at L of G. is probably as concentrated & vital & determined in New York (my own city) as anywhere, if not more vital—& I do not count the Gilders5 as essentially on our side—they are smart & polite but worldly & conventional—as to the literary classes anyhow I will get a few exceptional dips out of them—but mainly I will have to wait for another generation—But this I have long known—

—I am sitting here all alone to-day—I do not eat dinner these short days—only breakfast & supper—my appetite fair—had some buckwheat cakes & raw oysters for my breakfast. Shall most probably not write you at F[lorida] again—

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 postal card is addressed: Dr R M Bucke | Hotel San Marco | St Augustine | Florida. It is postmarked: Camden (?) | Feb 2 (?) | 4 30 PM | 88; Saint Augustine | 2 M | Feb | 28 | 1888 | Fla. [back]
  • 2. Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe (1864–1945) was a political activist, art historian, and critic, whom Whitman once called his "staunchest living woman friend." A scholar of Italian Renaissance art and a daughter of Robert Pearsall Smith, she would in 1885 marry B. F. C. "Frank" Costelloe. She had been in contact with many of Whitman's English friends and would travel to Britain in 1885 to visit many of them, including Anne Gilchrist shortly before her death. For more, see Christina Davey, "Costelloe, Mary Whitall Smith (1864–1945)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. Rachel Pearsall Conn Costelloe (1887–1940) was Mary's first daughter. She eventually married Oliver Strachey (brother of biographer Lytton Strachey) and was a writer and women's suffrage activist who ran for a seat in the British parliament soon after women were granted the right to vote. [back]
  • 4. Apparently in a lost letter Bucke informed Whitman that he had submitted to The Critic an article entitled "One Word More on Walt Whitman." About February 20, 1888, he sent the poet a letter (dated February 16) from the editors of the magazine rejecting the piece: "We have printed a great many 'words' on Whitman, & can only print 'more' when there is some specific occasion for doing so—when he issues a new book, or does something to attract general attention to his work" (For this rejection, see Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., MSS18630, Box 4, Reel 2–3). On March 11, 1888, Bucke informed Whitman that he was revising his article and was considering either submitting it to Lippincott's Monthly Magazine or withholding it until the appearance of William Sloane Kennedy's book on Whitman, when he could include it in a notice of that work. On August 15, 1888, Bucke was still working on his article and now thought to "make it into a review of the new vol." Probably it became "An impromptu criticism" (see Whitman's letter to Bucke dated December 29, 1888.) [back]
  • 5. Jeannette Leonard Gilder (1849–1916) and her brother Joseph Benson Gilder (1858–1936) edited The Critic together from 1881 to 1906. For more information on Jeannette Gilder, see Susan L. Roberson, "Gilder, Jeannette L. (1849–1916)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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