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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 16 April 1891


Y'rs of 14 rec'd2—always welc'd & this specially interesting—Spell of warm weather here—Medically ought to feel easy as things go on that way fairly, but I am prostrated with a weak & gone-in condition to day worse than ever, hardly strength to hold my head up. Pulse faint & low3—Do you follow President Harrison's4 trip south5 &c?—it is quite curious—he is going 10,000 miles all in our own settled demesne

Walt Whitman  loc_jm.00253.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. | Apr 16 | 6 PM | 91; London | AM | Ap 18 | 91 | Canada. [back]
  • 2. Whitman is referring to Bucke's letter of April 14, 1891. [back]
  • 3. Whitman's entry in his Commonplace Book on this date read: "weak as death—strange, depress'd day" (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
  • 4. Benjamin Harrison (1833–1901) was the twenty-third U.S. president and grandson of the ninth president, William Henry Harrison. Harrison was the Republican nominee who defeated Democratic incumbent Grover Cleveland in 1888. [back]
  • 5. President Harrison visited twenty-one states in the southern and western United States during a month-long train journey in the spring of 1891. [back]
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