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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 14 August 1888

Sunny & cool to-day—nothing new in my case—bowel action—my lines on Sheridan's2 burial were printed in Herald Aug: 12—(I am beginning to keep my bits & contributions, poetic spurts &c. again already—tying in a budget in stiff covers)—I enclose you page 118—having now sent, if I think right, all the proof pages of Nov: Boughs3 complete from 5 to 1404—We wish to have real good paper & press work—& Horace5 & I are for binding it very neatly in stitched linen—making if successful a handsome plain, pocketable booklet—want it to be retail 1.25 or better still $1—who or when the publishers & bro't out still undecided—not before than October anyhow—I still have the design of making a 900 page Vol. my complete works6, the paper & printing uniform & a few typos corrected—Will see how the cat jumps—I am writing sitting here up stairs yet—am comfortable—

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 | Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: Camden (?) | Aug 15 | 6 AM | (?). [back]
  • 2. Philip Henry Sheridan (1831–1888) was a United States Army officer and general during the Civil War. Whitman published a poem in the New York Herald on August 12, 1888, about Sheridan's burial entitled "Over and Through the Burial Chant" (renamed "Interpolation Sounds" when incorporated into Leaves of Grass). See footnote 2595 in Walt Whitman: Daybooks and Notebooks Vol. 2, 1881–1891, ed. William White (New York: New York University Press, 1978). [back]
  • 3. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. Whitman was at this time reading proofs for November Boughs and asking friends to read them as well. [back]
  • 5. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the late 1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 6. Whitman wanted to publish a "big book" that included all of his writings, and, with the help of Horace Traubel, Whitman made the presswork and binding decisions for the volume. Frederick Oldach bound Whitman's Complete Poems & Prose (1888), which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. The book was published in December 1888. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary (University of Iowa: Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 2005). [back]
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