Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 4 November 1888

Date: November 4, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07262

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.

Notes for this letter were derived from The Letters of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, ed. Artem Lozynsky (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1977), and supplemented, updated, or created by Whitman Archive staff as appropriate.

Editorial note: The annotation, "See notes Nov. 6, 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Stefan Schöberlein, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock

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Superintendent's Office.
London, Ont.,1
4 Nov 1888

I have your letter of 31st and card of 1st gave the first lecture of the course yesterday morning—a demonstration of the brain—cerebral stabis—the next will deal with cerebral dynamics (what grand names we give to our various ignorances!).2 Ed. Wilkins3 is to leave London 11.30 this a.m. ought to reach you tomorrow forenoon—let me know if he has got to Camden and how you like the looks of him? Not a word yet from Wm Gurd4—it is too bad—I do not know what to expect, may get a letter tomorrow wanting me to go East at once or may not be wanted for weeks yet—only thing is to exercise what philosophy one has—and wait. No doubt he is more or less in the dark himself. I wish you would find out the name of that Paris review5 which had a paper on L. of G. if I had name and date or even name could soon get it.

Weather here very pleasant now though still showery—We are all well.

Your big book6 seems to rather drag. No doubt it will be ready by the time I get East and you must give me a copy then.

I shall write again in a day or two & hope I shall be able to be more definite in the re Eastern trip for I must hear from Wm Gurd soon surely

Always affectionately yours
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 | NO 5 | 88 | Canada; [illegible] | Nov | 6 | [illegible] | Rec'd. [back]

2. For Whitman's commentary on Bucke's letter, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, November 6, 1888[back]

3. Edward "Ned" Wilkins (1865–1936) was one of Whitman's nurses during his Camden years; he was sent to Camden from London, Ontario, by Dr. Richard M. Bucke, and he began caring for Whitman on November 5, 1888. He stayed for a year before returning to Canada to attend the Ontario Veterinary School. Wilkins graduated on March 24, 1893, and then he returned to the United States to commence his practice in Alexandria, Indiana. For more information, see Bert A. Thompson, "Edward Wilkins: Male Nurse to Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Review 15 (September 1969), 194–195. [back]

4. 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]

5. Gabriel Sarrazin's "PoŠtes modernes de l'Am‚rique, Walt Whitman" appeared in La Nouvelle Revue on May 1, 1888. [back]

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


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