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Walt Whitman to William D. O'Connor, 26 February 1889

Fine sunshiny cold day—Dr Bucke2 is here, got in to-day all right—crowded with the meter company & capital & manufactoring matter3—wants to come over to W[ashington] & see you, & probably will—but no day yet fixed—Rather miserable with me, constipation, cold in the head & now a bad spleen trouble (enlargement &c)—Have rec'd the German trans: L of G. (200 pp)4— Shall I send you one?

Walt Whitman

William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication, published in 1866. For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Wm D O'Connor | 1015 O Street N W | Washington D C. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Feb 26 | 8 PM | 89; Washington, Rec'd | Feb 27 | 7 AM | 89 | 7. [back]
  • 2. 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). [back]
  • 3. Bucke and his brother-in-law William John Gurd were designing a gas and fluid meter to be patented in Canada and sold in England. [back]
  • 4. Whitman is referring to Thomas W. H. Rolleston's selected translation, which was the first book-length translation from Whitman to be published in Germany, and which was revised by Dr. Karl Knortz and published as Grashalme: Gedichte (Zurich: Verlags-Magazin, 1889). For more on this, see Whitman and Rolleston: A Correspondence, ed. Horst Frenz (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1951), and Walter Grünzweig and Vanessa Steinroetter, "'Leaving it to you to prove and define': 'Poets to Come' and Whitman's German Translators." [back]
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