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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 7 January 1890

Close to my den the last two or three days—pretty dull every thing—alone nearly all the time—very moderate temperature (but cold probably by the time you get this)—I guess matters physiological are as well with me as could be expected considering—when exhilarated with visitors or friends here I probably feel & throw out sort o' extra (wh' probably acc'ts for Horace's2 glowing picture probably having a very flimsy background or none at all)—the main things are a pretty good (born) heart & stalwart genesis—constitution—these the main factors3—Keeping hearty—Y'r letters always welcomed—

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 Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: Camden (?) | Jan 7 | 8 PM | 90. [back]
  • 2. 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]
  • 3. Bucke replied on January 10, 1890: "Yes, you are living on your ancestry at present, if that had not been A.1, W. W. would have been under the sod fifteen months ago—at least." [back]
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