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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 4 June 1891


I ought to have written before, but there has been & is nothing particular—Both y'r letters have duly come f'm Niagara2—am pulling al'g so-so, stomachic and bladder bother & fearful lassitude—Warry3 went out to Harleigh4 yesterday—the date is chipp'd off (W says an improvement)—the ponderous door is not yet hung, baffles even the machinists & stone-cutters—when done &c: will probably be the rudest most undress'd structure (with an idea)—since Egypt, perhaps the cave dwellers—am sitting here in the big chair—my supper has appear'd & is waiting before me—Seems to me at any rate a suspicion of easier & let up as I conclude. How delightful the country you are in & must have pass'd thro' surely looks—

God bless you, & love to all— Walt Whitman  loc_jm.00182.jpg  loc_jm.00183.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. | Jun 5 | 6 AM | 91; Philadelphia, PA | JUN | 5 |1030AM | 1891 | TRANSIT; NY | 6-6-91 | [illegible]; London | PM | JU 6 | 91 | Canada. Whitman wrote this letter on stationery printed with the following notice from the Boston Evening Transcript: "From the Boston Eve'g Transcript, May 7, '91.—The Epictetus saying, as given by Walt Whitman in his own quite utterly dilapidated physical case is, a 'little spark of soul dragging a great lummux of corpse-body clumsily to and fro around.'" [back]
  • 2. It is uncertain which of Bucke's letters Whitman is referring to here. [back]
  • 3. Frank Warren Fritzinger (1867–1899), known as "Warry," took Edward Wilkins's place as Whitman's nurse, beginning in October 1889. Fritzinger and his brother Harry were the sons of Henry Whireman Fritzinger (about 1828–1881), a former sea captain who went blind, and Almira E. Fritzinger. Following Henry Sr.'s death, Warren and his brother—having lost both parents—became wards of Mary O. Davis, Whitman's housekeeper, who had also taken care of the sea captain and who inherited part of his estate. A picture of Warry is displayed in the May 1891 New England Magazine (278). See Joann P. Krieg, "Fritzinger, Frederick Warren (1866–1899)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), 240. [back]
  • 4. Whitman was buried in Harleigh Cemetery in Camden, New Jersey, on March 30, 1892, in an elaborate granite tomb that he designed. Reinhalter and Company of Philadelphia built the tomb, at a cost of $4,000. Whitman covered a portion of these costs with money that his Boston friends had raised so that the poet could purchase a summer cottage; the remaining balance was paid by Whitman's literary executor, Thomas Harned. For more information on the cemetery and Whitman's tomb, see See Geoffrey M. Still, "Harleigh Cemetery," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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