Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 6 December 1888

Date: December 6, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07277

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 Dec. 9, 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. 1
London, Ont.,
6 Dec 1888

Your postcard of 4 this moment to hand. I shall be very anxious untill I hear further from you as to the result of the consultation. I understand of course about the enlargement of the prostate, that is a troublesome complaint but not a fatal matter, as for the "diabetes" I do not understand that—think that must be a mistake, I know there is some kidney trouble—some albuminuria—&c. however no doubt I shall soon be informed as to the whole matter and I trust you will write me yourself—I hope however that when I come East next month I shall find you something better than at present and that we shall be able to talk it all over. I am greatly pleased that you had a better night and trust that is the beginning of some better times for you.

I hear nothing from Wm Gurd2—they seem slow about the patents but I have no doubt we shall come out right side up eventually.

We are all well here

I send you my love
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 | DE 6 | [illegible]8 | C [illegible]; Camden N.J. | Dec | 8 | 6 AM | 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]


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