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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 24 January 1891


Herbert Gilchrist2 comes & takes lunch with me—he goes to N Y Monday—& soon returns to his hermitage Centreport L I

—Eakins'3 portrait W W is among the great show Penn: Art Exhibition Phila4—Horace T5 goes to N Y this afternoon—returning Monday—

—Scribner's has rejected & return'd to me my offered poems6—the 1 o'clock whistle is just pealing cheerily—

—I am feeling half-and-half—had a pretty fair night—b'kfast raw oysters—have read Horace's piece in March Lip7: satisfactory, probably best he has written ab't me & I like it—(a little too markedly eulogistic may-be) he is a faithful friend—J M Stoddart8 the editor Lip: seems to be another—I enclose a warm friendly letter just rec'd f'm our Bolton friends9

Walt Whitman

Y'rs10 of 22d11 ab't the little law suit12 &c: rec'd—

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: Camd(?) | Jan 25 | 5 PM | 91. [back]
  • 2. Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist (1857–1914), son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, was an English painter and editor of Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887). For more information, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. Thomas Eakins (1844–1919) was an American painter. His relationship with Whitman was characterized by deep mutual respect, and he soon became a close friend of the poet. For more on Eakins, see Philip W. Leon, "Eakins, Thomas (1844–1916)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. Apparently Eakins' portrait was in the sixty-first exhibition of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, which was announced in the Philadelphia Press on this date. [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. See Whitman's December 24, 1890, letter to Bucke. [back]
  • 7. Horace Traubel's "Walt Whitman: Poet and Philosopher and Man" appeared in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in March 1891. [back]
  • 8. Joseph Marshall Stoddart (1845–1921) published Stoddart's Encyclopaedia America, established Stoddart's Review in 1880, which was merged with The American in 1882, and became the editor of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in 1886. On January 11, 1882, Whitman received an invitation from Stoddart through J. E. Wainer, one of his associates, to dine with Oscar Wilde on January 14 (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1931], 235n). [back]
  • 9. In a letter dated and postmarked January 24, 1891, Bucke acknowledges receiving a January 21, 1891, letter from Whitman, with which the poet enclosed a letter from Dr. John Johnston, which Artem Lozynsky dates January 17, as well as a letter to Bucke from J.W. Wallace of Bolton, which Bucke had enclosed with a previous letter to Whitman. The Bolton letter that Whitman says he has enclosed in this letter of January 24 therefore cannot be Johnston's letter of January 17. However, the only other Bolton letters extant between the 17 and 24 are a Johnston letter dated January 20–21 and a January 23 letter, neither of which could be the enclosed Whitman refers to in the letter at hand given the delays of transatlantic mail. [back]
  • 10. This postscript is written at the top of the letter, above the date. [back]
  • 11. See Bucke's January 22, 1891, letter to Whitman. [back]
  • 12. Bucke was sued for defamation of character by a former female employee of the London Asylum whom he had fired. [back]
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