Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 17 September 1888

Date: September 17, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07240

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.

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

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Superintendent's Office.
London, Ont.,
17 Sept 1888

Your letter of 10th with enclosures came during my absence in Sarnia and was stupidly mislaid. I came across it by accident today. I am rejoiced to hear that the German L. of G.1 is at last seeing the light—I shall look out for an early copy of it. As soon as you know the publisher's name & city tell me then I can tell my English bookseller to look out for it for me. Am glad to hear that "N.B."2 will be "entirely untrimmed" I have sort of horror of "trimmed" books. Well enough for dictionaries, text books, &c. but literature should have uncut edges. I had a letter from Ingram3 today dated 14th he says "I was up in W.W.s room last week—I could see no change in him, he looked bright & cheerful and in good spirits" This reads mighty well and I am glad enough to get such news—nevertheless I do not doubt you often feel bad enough and I know you are very sick, worse luck. Still it is grand to see you keep up as you do—never giving up to the last—I think it is immense, something for us all to be proud of and to take to heart—and the world will take all this to heart one day—and will be the better for it. The meter4 is still creeping on—slow and sure—no hitch of any kind yet and all looking well. We have had another charming day here—perfect autumn weather. I have been all afternoon in court giving evidence in an insanity case

Always your friend
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. Grashalme, the first book-length German translation of Whitman's poetry, was published in 1889, translated by Thomas William Hazen Rolleston and Karl Knortz. [back]

2. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. William Ingram, a Quaker, kept a tea store—William Ingram and Son Tea Dealers—in Philadelphia. Of Ingram, Whitman observed to Horace Traubel: "He is a man of the Thomas Paine stripe—full of benevolent impulses, of radicalism, of the desire to alleviate the sufferings of the world—especially the sufferings of prisoners in jails, who are his protégés" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, May 20, 1888). Ingram and his wife visited the physician Richard Maurice Bucke and his family in Canada in 1890. [back]

4. 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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