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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 30 March [188]9

Yours of 27th to hand this morning by mornings mail.2 So it took from 8 P.M. 27th to 10 A.M. 30th (2 days & 14 hours) to travel from Phila to the asylum, much to long—the postal service is not at all what it should be on this continent—not half what it is in England [/] (I do not know how it is on the Continent of Europe). [—] Yours of 283 also to hand by this afternoon mail (it seems to have done better, I judge it made the trip in just about two days—letters never come in less time than that—they ought to come in a little over a day. I have seen nothing about Tennyson's4 illness, too bad such men must grow old and die—he is a grad fellow, ought to be immortal (will be, I hope). I get the O'C. cards and glad to get them. O'C.5 seems rallying finely again and if the fits would only keep off he might have a long pretty good spell—but I fear much they will not keep off for long—seems as if they had come to stay. Am greatly pleased to see that you are going in strong on the massage. [/] I hope for the best results from it. I send you my list of misprints—guess you have them all already—have found no new ones lately—not looking for any—no time. The "Saturday" came from O'C. yesterday, read it and was much amused.6 These polished [mutilation] litterateurs are as blind (half of them) as if they had been born without eyes. Then when others see something they cry out "nonsense, you only think you see something [/] it is all a delusion there is nothing at all there to see!" I have written to McK.7 as follows: "Please let Mr W. have any copies he wants of my W. W.8 in sheet or otherwise free of copy right"

Au revoir and 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 | April 6 | 1889," appears in the upper left-hand corner of the recto. The reference is to Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Saturday, April 6, 1889. [back]
  • 2. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of March 27, 1889. [back]
  • 3. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of March 28, 1889. [back]
  • 4. Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892) succeeded William Wordsworth as poet laureate of Great Britain in 1850. The intense male friendship described in In Memoriam, which Tennyson wrote after the death of his friend Arthur Henry Hallam, possibly influenced Whitman's poetry. Whitman wrote to Tennyson in 1871 or late 1870, probably shortly after the visit of Cyril Flower in December, 1870, but the letter is not extant (see Thomas Donaldson, Walt Whitman the Man [New York: F. P. Harper, 1896], 223). Tennyson's first letter to Whitman is dated July 12, 1871. Although Tennyson extended an invitation for Whitman to visit England, Whitman never acted on the offer. [back]
  • 5. 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). [back]
  • 6. A review of November Boughs appeared in the Saturday Review on March 2, 1889. [back]
  • 7. David McKay (1860–1918) took over Philadelphia-based publisher Rees Welsh's bookselling and publishing businesses in 1881–82. McKay and Rees Welsh published the 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass after opposition from the Boston District Attorney prompted James R. Osgood & Company of Boston, the original publisher, to withdraw. McKay also went on to publish Specimen Days & Collect, November Boughs, Gems from Walt Whitman, Complete Prose Works, and the final Leaves of Grass, the so-called deathbed edition. For more information about McKay, see Joel Myerson, "McKay, David (1860–1918)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 8. Bucke is referring to his book Walt Whitman, published by McKay in 1883. [back]
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