Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 25 November 1888

Date: November 25, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07272

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 30, 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
25 Nov 1888

Your post card of 22d reached me yesterday afternoon. There is nothing new as to my plans since I wrote you last some two or three days ago, have not heard from Wm Gurd2 since. I expect he will be here before the week is out. That he will soon after he gets here, proceed to Ottawa to attend to the Canadian and European patents—I do not know how long this will take but I hope he will be through there by Xmas time and that quite early in the year he & I will go East to "float" the meter in the States. It is a weary, almost an endless, business but there is nothing for it but to keep pegging away. The weather here has made a decided turn for the better within the last week, today is clear, bright, cool and very bracing and delightfull. We are all well and all goes quietly and pleasantly with us. I am not too well pleased at this postponement of my trip East as I am anxious to see you and was counting on it in the immediate future but I hope I shall not fail to get East early in January (at latest) and that you will then be as well or better than now.— Did your little piece come out in the "Critic" yesterday?3 if so I hope you will send me a copy

Always 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 | Nov [illegible] | 88 | Canada; Camden N.J. | Nov | 2 [illegible] | 4 PM | 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 Whitman's response to the form letter sent to him by The Critic, posing the question: "Has America Produced a Poet?" [back]


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