Life & Letters


About this Item

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

Date: September 11, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07237

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 Sept. 13 '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 Office1
London, Ont.,
11 Sept 1888

Your letter of 8th2 which came to hand last evening gave me great pleasure for I judged by the tone of it that you are decidedly better than you have been since that bad turn in June. If you can only hold your grip now! I am glad you have at last sold the horse & phaeton3—it is much better so. Yes, I do not know what we should all do without Horace4 he is a grand fellow and sticks to his guns like an old soldier. Nothing new here about meter5 or anything else.

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 Jeresy | U.S.A. It is postmarked: LONDON | PM | SP 11 | 88 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | SEP | 13 | [illegible] | [illegible] | REC'D. [back]

2. See the letter from Whitman to Bucke of September 8, 1888[back]

3. In September 1885, Whitman received a horse ("Nettie") and a phæton as a gift from a group of prominent friends, and he used the horse and carriage for three years. A photo is available here[back]

4. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the late 1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. 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]


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