Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 4 April [188]9

Date: April 4, [188]9

Whitman Archive ID: syr.00051

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), 119–120. 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
4 April [188]9

Your card of 2d to hand. I am quite distressed, unhappy, about that villainous cold of yours. A real good sweat by means of an alcohol bath or otherwise, if you could manage it, would be the thing for you. Send for your Camden Dr and see if it cannot be arranged. A lovely spring day here—snow nearly all gone now. [—] Willy Gurd2 is in N.Y. at present, will go to Danbury3 about Saturday. The Inspector is to be here this evening at 8.10—every thing is lively with us—wish things were more lively with you and I am determined I will make them a little more lively for you whenever this meter business comes to a prosperous issue as I think it must before many months—I am thinking of you all the time "and don't you forget it."

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. Horace Traubel's note, "see | notes | April 6 | 1889," appears in the upper left-hand corner of the recto. The reference is to Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Saturday, April 6, 1889[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 Danbury, Connecticut. [back]


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