Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 14 November 1888

Date: November 14, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07269

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 Nov. 16 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

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

page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4

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

I have your card of 10th have been a little extra occupied, lectures &c. We are having some lovely weather here now—Indian Summer—the most delightfull season of the whole year if it was not so uncertain and evanescent.

Nothing more from Gurd2—Cannot possibly get away not before the middle or End of next week and maybe not then. I have no doubt all is right but the delay and uncertainty are unpleasant. Glad to see that the big book3 keeps sailing along—hope it will be in some kind of shape by the time I get down

I think I told you that Rolleston4 had sent me his new vol. Epictetus Have not looked into it much yet—no time—but how modern some of it is—for instance Chap. XI BK ii—that will bear studying still.5

Love to you
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 | PM | NO 14 | 88 | CANADA; CAMDEN [illegible] | NOV | 16 | 6 AM | 18 [illegible] | 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. Bucke is referring to the book by Whitman that would be published in December 1888 with the title of Complete Poems & Prose[back]

4. Thomas William Hazen Rolleston (1857–1920) was an Irish poet and journalist. After attending college in Dublin, he moved to Germany for a period of time. He wrote to Whitman frequently, beginning in 1880, and later produced with Karl Knortz the first book-length translation of Whitman's poetry into German. In 1889, the collection Grashalme: Gedichte [Leaves of Grass: Poems] was published by Verlags-Magazin in Zurich, Switzerland. See Walter Grünzweig, Constructing the German Walt Whitman (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1995). For more information on Rolleston, see Walter Grünzweig, "Rolleston, Thomas William Hazen (1857–1920)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Bucke is referring to the section on "How we should bear ourselves towards evil men" from Rolleston's Teaching of Epictetus: Being the "Encheiridion of Epictetus," with Selections from the "Dissertations" and "Fragments." Translated from the Greek, with Introduction and Notes, by T.W. Rolleston. 3d ed. rev. "The Camelot Series" (London: Walter Scott, n.d.), 78–80. "The Camelot Series" was edited by Ernest Rhys. [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.