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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 6 June 1889


Y'rs comes to day2—As you ought to have rec'd the papers, & something may have happened with them, I send others with this mail— Nothing especial or new—Have the last two hours (& just sent off) been writing "Voice f'm Death," the Cambria Co: Cataclysm here, wh' they last night sent for (& off'd $25 for)—to appear I believe in N. Y. World of to-morrow3

Walt Whitman  loc_as.00261_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 Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Jun 6 | 8 PM | 89. [back]
  • 2. Whitman is likely referring to Bucke's letter of June 4, 1889; Bucke wrote in his letter of June 5, 1889 that he had received the papers from Whitman. [back]
  • 3. "A Voice from Death" was published on the first page of the New York World on June 7, 1889. Cambria County is where Johnstown, Pennsylvania is located, and where the catastrophic flood that killed over 2200 people took place on May 31, 1889. [back]
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