Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 21 March [188]9

Date: March 21, [188]9

Whitman Archive ID: syr.00040

Source: Walt Whitman Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library, Syracuse, N.Y. The transcription presented here is derived from Richard Maurice Bucke, The Letters of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, ed. Artem Lozynsky (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1977), 111. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Caterina Bernardini, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

[London, Ont.,]1
21 March [188]9

I was very glad to get (this morning) your card of 19th2 and to hear that you were feeling passably. I find I have "Dark Blue"3 for Nov. 7, (as well as oct—the beginning of R.N.'s4 article) but my copy has not the picture (very bad one by the way) [/] I am a little sorry therefore I did not take the Nov. n.o you offered me. The weather here is gloomy but pleasant in temperature. All is well and quiet with us. You might give the enclosed receipt to Horace5 to be handed to Harned6—so he will see we settled with the meter7 Co. I have found another misprint in L. of G. (I suppose it is a mi/s/print p. 145 harpooner is printed harpooneer.8—The new (1864) photo you gave me is greatly admired here—I look upon is as a great prize

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. Horace Traubel's note, "see | notes | March 23 | & 24 1889," appears in the upper left-hand corner of the recto. The reference is to Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Saturday, March 23–24, 1889[back]

2. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of March 19, 1889[back]

3. Bucke is referring to Roden Noel's "A Study of Walt Whitman," The Dark Blue (2 Oct.–Nov. 1871), 241–53, 336–49; reprinted in Essays on Poetry and Poets (1886), 304–41. [back]

4. Roden Noel (1834–1894) was an English poet. Noel came from an aristocratic English family, and in his youth developed socialist sympathies. He was a close friend of the poet and influential critic Robert Buchanan, and it may have been through Buchanan that Noel first encountered Leaves of Grass in 1871 (the same year that he first wrote to Whitman). In 1871, Noel published an essay entitled "A Study of Walt Whitman" in The Dark Blue (Harold Blodgett, Walt Whitman in England [Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1934], 147–149). [back]

5. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the late 1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. Thomas Biggs Harned (1851–1921) was one of Whitman's literary executors. Harned was a lawyer in Philadelphia and, having married Augusta Anna Traubel, was Horace Traubel's brother-in-law. For more on him, see Dena Mattausch, "Harned, Thomas Biggs (1851–1921)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. Bucke and his brother-in-law William John Gurd were designing a gas and fluid meter to be patented in Canada and sold in England. [back]

8. See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Saturday, March 23, 1889[back]


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