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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 18 March 1883

 loc_es.00177.jpg My dear Walt

I return you today the proof in pages I have considered it all very carefully and am quite settled as to the rearrangement1 of pages, pictures &c. please leave them as I have put them—I have not made much change—the burial scenes must face different pages as they will only be known as described in "List of Illustrations" by that fact—It would not do to print on back of photo-intaglio so I have added a leaf—the photo-intaglio will face title page—the birth-house will face opening of chap I (p. 13)—the "remote" and "immediate" "ancestry" pages I have moved as you will see—Van Velsor burial hill picture will face p. 15, and W. burial hill picture p. 17—Portrait  loc_es.00178.jpg of father will face p. 26 (mention of his death)—every thing else is left as you put it. I want portrait of Mother to face mention of her death (towards end of chap I)—then the photograph or phototype of W. W. in 1880 might face the opening of chap ii (W. W. in 1880)—and fac-simile of writing should face page in that chap. where handwriting is mentioned.2 You told me McKay could get the pictures printed in Phila at $1.80 or $2 p.m.3 have a letter from McK. in which he says Sherman & Co would charge me $20. p.m. for three, however, no matter, they are ordered at De Vinnes N.Y. and will be done immediately. I like all your emendations, additions, &c so far (on the whole) very much, & can see that you are materially improving the book, for wh​ I feel very grateful—But dear Walt be very careful like a good fellow with chap iii of part ii4—whatever you dodont​ slash it up if you make material changes send me the M.S. with proofs that I may see exactly what they are and consider them—don't fail me in this—that chap is the pivot on which the Book turns

R M Bucke

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. It is impossible to determine the original location of the illustrations in Bucke's biography, since all of his recommendations were followed. The illustrations have no page number, but are referred to in the list of "illustrations" (p. 6) as facing a certain page. [back]
  • 2. "Portrait from Life of Lousia (Van Velsor) Whitman, the Poet's Mother," faces p. 46; "Portrait from Life of Walt Whitman in 1880" faces p. 48; and "W. W.'s Handwriting"—a facsimile of the holograph of "The Sobbing of the Bells"—faces p. 54. [back]
  • 3. "p.m." is an abbreviation for "proof positive." [back]
  • 4. In "In Analysis of Poems, Continued" (part 2, chapter 3), Bucke presents a religious interpretation of Leaves of Grass. Facsimiles of eleven pages of the manuscript make it clear that Whitman heavily revised this section (see Whitman's Autograph Revision of the Analysis of Leaves of Grass (For Dr. R. M. Bucke's Walt Whitman), ed. Quentin Anderson [New York: New York University Press, 1974], 101, 102, 107, 111, 113, 115, 116, 119, 121, 123, and 125). [back]
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