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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 10 July 1890


Cooler & pleasant—I am well—Hartmann (the Japanee)2 was to see me. Is in N Y city, journalizing—a queerish fellow, (for all the fellows, litterateurs as well as any, the moral marrow is the spinal sine qua non—without wh' not, then not)—There is a book ab't American Poets (I don't know the name) by (Prof. I believe) Enrico Nencione,3 Florence, Italy, in wh' is a chapter devoted to L of G & me quite appreciative & favorable—must have been pub'd (say) two y'rs ago—you might have in mind, & be on the look out for—Prof. E N is (I believe) in the University at Florence.4

Nothing specially newer with me—Am getting along well enough considering—to-day (set in last evn'g) much cooler & pleasant—yesterday Wednesday was ab't the most burning day known, following three days nearly as bad, yet I was careful eating & drinking &c, & bathed freely, & have come out so far fairly—Am just preparing some good honey in the comb (of wh' I have a little supply) to send in a sick lady next door—was down to the river last evn'g to pier, Market St here, an hour as usual—Still live on blackberries & bread & honey largely—rec'd a kind note f'm Tom Donaldson5—am sitting here the same old way in my den in shirt sleeves but a merino wool undershirt on—bright sun out—

God bless you all— Walt Whitman  loc_zs.00063.jpg  loc_zs.00064.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. | Jul 10 | 430 PM | 90; London | AM | JY 13 | 90 | Canada; [illegible] | 7-10-90 | 1030PM. [back]
  • 2. Carl Sadakichi Hartmann (ca. 1867–1944) was an art historian and early critic of photography as an art form. He visited Whitman in Camden in the 1880s and published his conversations with the poet in 1895. Generally unpopular with other supporters of the poet, he was known during his years in Greenwich Village as the "King of Bohemia." For more information about Hartmann, see John F. Roche, "Hartmann, C. Sadakichi (ca. 1867–1944)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. Enrico Nencioni (1837–1896) was a poet, critic and translator from Italy. He had published a number of essays on Whitman in Fanfulla della Domenica in the late 1870s and early 1880s; his "Walt Whitman" appeared in Nuova Antologia in August 1885. See also Roger Asselineau, "Whitman in Italy," in Walt Whitman and the World, ed. Gay Wilson Allen, Ed Folsom (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1990), 268–281. [back]
  • 4. According to Gay Wilson Allen's Walt Whitman Abroad (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1955), 187, 278, Nencioni published articles on Whitman in Fanfulla della Domenica in 1879 and 1883. The Cambridge History of American Literature lists articles in 1881, 1885, and 1891. On March 7, 1891, Whitman noted in his Commonplace Book that he sent Nencioni a copy of Complete Poems & Prose as well as the portraits (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
  • 5. Thomas Donaldson (1843–1898) was a lawyer from Philadelphia and a friend of Whitman. He introduced Whitman to Bram Stoker and later accompanied Stoker when he visited the poet; he also organized a fund-raising drive to buy Whitman a horse and carriage. He authored a biography of Whitman titled Walt Whitman, the Man (1896). For more information about Donaldson, see Steven Schroeder, "Donaldson, Thomas (1843–1898)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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