Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 28 September 1888

Date: September 28, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07249

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 Oct 3, '88," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Ian Faith, Stefan Schöberlein, and Stephanie Blalock

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Superintendent's Office.1
London, Ont.,
28 Sept 1888

I have your good letter of 25 & 26 inst.2 I note all you say about my "W.W" Your wishes will be religiously respected I did think of considerable changes (for I am certain the book will sell by & by) but was never set on them and less so lately. Yes, I shall leave it stand as it is and add under a later date what else I may have to say. I am glad Dr. Osler3 has been to see you again, I do not think the pain you speak of means anything serious, though no doubt it is annoying—I hope it is gone by now. Have to go to go to the city in a few minutes shall take this in and post it some men (capitalists) coming this afternoon to see the meter4 shall tell you tomorrow whether we succeed in doing any business with them. We are moving slow just now—feeling our way—we hope to be in a positon soon to launch out

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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey | U.S.A. It is postmarked: LONDON | PM | SP 28 | 88 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | OCT | 1 | 6AM | [illegible] | REC'D. [back]

2. See the letter from Whitman to Bucke of September 25–26, 1888[back]

3. Sir William Osler (1849–1919) was a Canadian physician and one of the four founding staff members of Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he served as the first Chief of Medicine. Richard Maurice Bucke introduced Osler to Whitman in 1885 in order to care for the aging poet. Osler wrote a manuscript about his personal and professional relationship with Whitman in 1919; see Philip W. Leon, Walt Whitman and Sir William Osler: A Poet and His Physician [Toronto: ECW Press, 1995]). For more on Osler, see Philip W. Leon, "Osler, Dr. William (1849–1919)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). For more on the relationship of Osler and Whitman, see Michael Bliss, William Osler: A Life in Medicine (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999). [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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