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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 6 February 1891


Much relieved to know you get over so easily f'm the bad little attack—am well pleas'd that Beemer2 sh'd have one of the pictures—physically much the same with me—a Californian magazine ("Overland") in an art. in wh' I am alluded to, just rec'd3—will send it to you—dark & rainy mn'g but is clearing I think now.

Walt Whitman  loc_zs.00265.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 postal card is addressed: Dr Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: CAMDEN, N.J. | Feb 6 | 430 PM | 91; LONDON | AM | FE 9 | [illegible]1 | CANADA. [back]
  • 2. Dr. Nelson Henry (N. H.) Beemer (ca. 1854–1934) was in charge of the "Refractory Building" at Bucke's asylum and served as his first assistant physician. Whitman met Beemer during his visit there in the summer of 1880. See James H. Coyne, Richard Maurice Bucke: A Sketch (Toronto: Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, 1906), 52. [back]
  • 3. In "The Colonel, at Home, in Sonoma County," (Overland, 17 [February, 1891], 200–208), Laura Lyon White has the Colonel recite to reluctant children some excerpts from "Song of Myself," until one of them cries: "Enough, enough, . . . I am now ready to acknowledge the truth of Emerson's assertion that 'Walt Whitman is a god with a grunt'" (202–203). On January 29 she wrote to Walt Whitman: "If there is a wounding word in the 'Overland' article . . . I trust it may be pardoned one who admiringly reads your writings, and who fancies she feels their spirit" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection). [back]
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