Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 11 August 1888

Date: August 11, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07222

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial note: The annotation, "See notes Aug 13, 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Ian Faith, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock

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Superintendent's Office.1
London, Ont.,
11 Aug 1888

I have your card of 9th Harkness2 has been here a couple of days we put in the time quietly and pleasantly together chatting, driving, &c &c. We have been friends now 30 years. He will stay till middle of next week. Weather keeps pleasant—we have had plenty of rain & the trees & grass are very green. Mrs Bucke3 still away and the house quiet—not to say dull. We have whist in the evening often and we all enjoy it—No news.

Love to you
RM 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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey | U.S.A. It is postmarked: London | PM | Au 11 | 88 | Canada; Camden, N.J. | Aug 13 | 12PM | 1888 | Rec'd. [back]

2. John "Jack" Harkness (1841–1916), Dr. Bucke's friend and colleague, attended McGill University's Medical School with Bucke, graduating 1862. [back]

3. Jessie Maria Gurd Bucke (1839–1926) grew up in Mooretown, Upper Canada. She was the daughter of William Gurd, an army officer from Ireland. Gurd married Richard Maurice Bucke in 1865. The couple had eight children. [back]


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