Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 8 December 1889

Date: December 8, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07326

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.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Brandon James O'Neil, Andrew David King, and Stephanie Blalock

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Superintendent's Office.
London, Ont.,
8 Dec 1889

It is a warm, foggy, dull, stupid half rainy day. I have been out for an hour's slow drive over the dirty roads for a mouthful of fresh air, have since had a cup of tea and a piece of dry toast and am now (630 P.M.) sitting at my desk in my office at the Asylum.

I have spent part of the day looking over L. of G. and I wish I could tell you, or convey to you in the faintest way, the deep down emotions that that book exites in me. There is nothing stirs me up like it. Sometimes as I read it I feel as if my whole previous life were rolling en masse through me and as if at the same time vast vistas were opening ahead which I longed and yet half dreaded to enter. The profound religious sentiment which that book is destined to develope in the human heart when it becomes once assimilated by (incorporated into) the life of the race is, I think, simply inconceivable at present. But "The time will come though we stop here today and tonight."1

Tomorrow I give my 7th lecture to the students—one more will end the course for this year.

We are all well
I send you my best 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. Bucke is quoting from Whitman's poem "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry." [back]


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