Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 16 October 1888

Date: October 16, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07256

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 18 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Stefan Schöberlein, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock

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Superintendent's Office1
London, Ont.,
16 Oct 1888

Your letter of 13th is just to hand.2 I have looked over "N.B."3 a good deal since I wrote you last and like the little volume better all the time. The "Backward Glance" I consider very valuable, the "Sands" still more so—I should be sorry to lose any of it. That is the main point about the "Complete Works"4 to have an authoratative text which can be relied on every time as what the Author intended to say. I finished my Annual Report Sunday and mailed it yesterday—am at work now on "Lectures on Psycology & mental diseases" for the medical students here. Wm Gurd5 left for N.Y. yesterday—if all is well I expect him to want me down in two to three weeks—so far all looks well for the meter I am only anxious about getting it patented all over i.e. in Europe as well as America. We are having such stormy weather—it was a little better this morning until the last few minutes now it has set in to blow and rain at a great rate—I am uneasy about O'Connor6 too, I fear he is quite sick, should you get word from him or of him be sure to let me know—I trust it will not be more than 2 to 3 weeks before I shall see you again.

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 | OC 16 | 88 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | OCT | 18 | 6AM | 1888 | REC'D. [back]

2. See the letter from Whitman to Bucke of October 13, 1888[back]

3. 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]

4. Bucke is referring to the book by Whitman that would be published in December 1888 with the title of Complete Poems & Prose[back]

5. 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]

6. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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