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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 4 December 1890

Mainly the same—poorly. Lippincott,2 Stoddart3 & fine young lady here,4 full of courtesy &c. Cold—snow vanish'd—the poems sent to Arena rejected,5 sent back to me—have been reading Felton's Greece6 (the fight 1828 with the Turks &c)—lying down awhile on bed—no mail to day

—God bless you Walt Whitman

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. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Dec 5 | 6 AM | 90; London | PM | De 6 | 90 | Canada. [back]
  • 2. Perhaps Craige Lippincott (1846–1911), son of J. B. Lippincott, the founder of and president of J. B. Lippincott Co., a major Philadelphia publishing house. Craige became president of the company upon the elder Lippincott’s death in 1886 and ran the company until his suicide in Philadelphia in 1911. [back]
  • 3. Joseph Marshall Stoddart (1845–1921) published Stoddart's Encyclopaedia America, established Stoddart's Review in 1880, which was merged with The American in 1882, and became the editor of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in 1886. On January 11, 1882, Whitman received an invitation from Stoddart through J. E. Wainer, one of his associates, to dine with Oscar Wilde on January 14 (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1931], 235n). [back]
  • 4. Whitman recalled that Stoddart had brought a young woman visitor with him. He never identifies her by name, but he tells Horace Traubel, "I thought her very bright—full of noble sweet woman's spirit. She attracted me. I judged from the briefness of the stay that they only came to see the bear—the lion—to dare a look into his den—no more" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, December 4, 1890). [back]
  • 5. Whitman sent six poems to Isaac N. Baker, who was apparently associated with The Arena at that time: "Old Chants," "On, on the Same, Ye Jocund Twain!," "Sail Out for Good, Eidólon Yacht," "L. of G.'s Purport," "For Us Two, Reader Dear," and "My Task" (?). The cluster was rejected by Benjamin Orange Flower, the editor of the magazine, on December 2, 1890; he preferred "an essay from your pen to poems." [back]
  • 6. Whitman is referring to Cornellius Conway Felton's Greece, Ancient and Modern. Lectures Delivered Before the Lowell Institute (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867), 2 vols. Felton (1807–1862) was a regent of the Smithsonian Institution, president of Harvard University, and a professor of Greek literature. [back]
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