Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 27 August 1888

Date: August 27, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07226

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 29, '88," 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.
London, Ont.,
27 Aug 1888

A small party of us, Dr. Sippi (the Bursar of the asylum) Wm Gurd1 (the inventor) John Nesbit (partner with Gurd & self in the meter & motor) Fred. Kittermaster (a lawyer, nephew of Mrs Bucke's2 & good friend of mine) and one of my little boys drove yesterday to Delaware (15 ms.) had dinner and spent some hours with a Mr Gibson, stockbreeder there, and got back home at 9:45 P.M. It was a charming day—ripe grain in the fields—apples hanging thick in the orchards—clouds diving overhead—long swells of hill & valley often a prospect of several miles ahead or at one side or other of the road—a good team, free travelers—altogether a grand day—today up to my eyes in work again, but feel like it and enjoy it—next month the annual report once more (it seems one annual report fairly treads on the heels of the one in advance of it) such is life, but what matter—if time flies—(as it does) is there not plenty of it? "We have thus far exhausted trillions of winters and summers, there are trillions ahead and trillions ahead of them"3 so what matter?

Love to you always
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. William John Gurd (1845–1903) was Richard Maurice Bucke's brother-in-law, with whom he was designing a gas and fluid meter to be patented in Canada and sold in England. Bucke believed the meter would be worth "millions of dollars," while Whitman remained skeptical, sometimes to Bucke's annoyance. In a March 18, 1888, letter to William D. O'Connor, Whitman wrote, "The practical outset of the meter enterprise collapsed at the last moment for the want of capital investors." For additional information, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, March 17, 1889, Monday, March 18, 1889, Friday, March 22, 1889, and Wednesday, April 3, 1889. [back]

2. 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]

3. Bucke is quoting from section 44 of Whitman's "Song of Myself." [back]


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