Life & Letters


About this Item

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

Date: October 28, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07260

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. 30 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.,
28 Oct 1888

All very quiet, rainy weather still continued though varied by an occasional fine day. Nothing more from W. Gurd2 but I expect each mail to get a letter which will fix the time of my departure for the East (always supposing I get leave of absence). No word has reached from O'Connor3 since the little scrap I sent you some days since, I feel very uneasy about him and wish I could run down to Washington to see him while I am East but I fear that will be impossible, my time will be short and there will be a great deal to do. Your last letter to me was written a week ago today I hope one will cross this if so I will write again at once. In any case will write as soon as I hear from W. Gurd to tell you what the prospects are in re going East.

I have been wondering lately how it came that so much of the mythology of the old Greeks, especially the Herakleian-Zodiacal myths came from Semitic-Chaldean sources? Could the Greeks have mixed with a Semitic people while in western Asia, before the Homeric age? And was this blending of the two high races one cause (hybridization is the great secret of advance in the whole organic world) of the extraordinary elevation of the Periclean Greeks?

Your friend
R M 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 | AM | OC 29 | 88 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | OCT | 30 | 1 [illegible] PM | 1888 | REC'D. [back]

2. 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]

3. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication, published in 1866. 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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