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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 6 January 1891


Getting along fairly enough—two little proofs to-day sent back one to Lippincotts & one to Critic2—(so the machine is revolving) I told you H. M. & Co: Boston accept her book f'm Mrs. O'C3 to publish4—Cold & sunny to day here—I have buckwheat cakes for my breakfast & mutton & rice stew for supper. Y'rs rec'd last evn'g5

Walt Whitman  loc_zs.00477.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. | JAN 7 | 6 AM | 91; LONDON | PM | JA 8 | 91 | ONTARIO. [back]
  • 2. A corrected proof of "Old Age Echoes," which appeared in Lippincott's in March, is in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Whitman also returned the proof of "The Pallid Wreath" to The Critic. [back]
  • 3. Ellen M. "Nelly" O'Connor (1830–1913) was the wife of William D. O'Connor (1832–1889), one of Whitman's staunchest defenders. Before marrying William, Ellen Tarr was active in the antislavery and women's rights movements as a contributor to the Liberator and to a women's rights newspaper Una. Whitman dined with the O'Connors frequently during his Washington years. Though Whitman and William O'Connor would temporarily break off their friendship in late 1872 over Reconstruction policies with regard to emancipated African Americans, Ellen would remain friendly with Whitman. The correspondence between Whitman and Ellen is almost as voluminous as the poet's correspondence with William. Three years after William O'Connor's death, Ellen married the Providence businessman Albert Calder. For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors, see Dashae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas [1832–1889]" and Lott's "O'Connor (Calder), Ellen ('Nelly') M. Tarr (1830–1913)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. Ellen O'Connor hoped to publish a collection of her late husband's fiction. Three of William D. O'Connor's stories with a preface by Whitman were published in Three Tales: The Ghost, The Brazen Android, The Carpenter (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1892). Whitman's preface was also included in Good-Bye My Fancy (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1891), 51–53. [back]
  • 5. Whitman is referring to the letter he received from Bucke on January 5, 1891. [back]
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