Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 7 April 1890

Tho't I w'd send a line as you prob. want to know—I think I shall pull through, but it is really the toughest whack of all coming on the rest, & the condition I am & have been in—one of the best points is a good bowel discharge an hour ago, the first of a week—fortunately too the weather is favorable again—sweat freely—eat little or nothing—drink milk punch—have g't thirst—phlegm accumulations in throat & chest pretty bad still but not as bad (half strangling me at night) as they were—I am at this moment sitting here in big chair, some headache &c but more comfortable than might be expected—

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: Philadelphia, Pa. | Apr 7 | 8 PM | 90. [back]
Back to top