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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 26–27 January 1889

Thanks for the paper "A Ship over Niagara" & "Parodies."2 I recollect the story of the ship very well, it was often told and referred to when I was a little boy. Your letter of 23d and 24th3 also came this morning. I am glad the binding is settled and I think from your description it will do very well tho' nothing to become especially enthusiastic about. I shall be glad to see it. Will not the price of binding cut into the price of the book a good deal? [—] $1.24 is a big slice off $6. [—] The price of the book should have been more than $6. I would not have put it a cent below $10. if I had had my way.4 I predict that a copy of that book will be worth $50 in ten years and $100. in 25 years. But I suppose you will say "we are living in '89 not '99 or '14." [—] So Rice 5 wants you to write for his review?6 I wouldn't mind if he would print some pieces written by your friends and leave out such miserable trash as that written by Kennedy7 a few years ago—Do you recollect when Pearsall Smith8 brought it home and reads extracts from it at the teatable? The Inspector came while I was writing the above and I had to break off [.] (It is now noon, Sunday) [.] at 11.30 last night a fire broke out in the north cottage I was at work there untill 5o'c. this morning. The centre building was gutted but no life lost. The damage [mutilation] will be $4000 or $5000. [—] A lively snow storm has set in, we may have sleighing at last (the last snow storm /I/ told you about was a failure, did not amount to any thing after all /no sleighing at all this winter yet./). Every body at the asylum is hard at work making provision for accommodation of the sixty patients who occupied the north cottage. Goodly, dear Walt

Love to you 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. Horace Traubel's note, "see | notes | 1/30/89," appears in the upper right-hand corner of the first recto. The reference is to Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, January 28, 1889. The note, "To WW," is written in an unidentified hand. [back]
  • 2. Lozynsky was unable to identify these titles. The first appears to be a narrative in a newspaper, and the second may have been a parody of Whitman. [back]
  • 3. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of January 23–24, 1889. See also Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, January 14, 1889. [back]
  • 4. See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, January 30, 1889. [back]
  • 5. Charles Allen Thorndike Rice (1851–1889) was a journalist and edited and published the North American Review in New York from 1876 until his death. His Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of His Time (1888) was published by The North American Review Publishing Company. [back]
  • 6. See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, January 24, 1889. [back]
  • 7. Bucke is referring to Walker Kennedy's "Walt Whitman," North American Review, 138 (June 1884), 591–601. [back]
  • 8. Logan Pearsall Smith (1865–1946) was an essayist and literary critic. He was the son of Robert Pearsall Smith, a minister and writer who befriended Whitman, and he was the brother of Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe, one of Whitman's most avid followers. For more information on Logan, see Christina Davey, "Smith, Logan Pearsall (1865–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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