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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 4 November 1877

My dear Walt Whitman

I send you by this mail a copy of one essay of mine which is just published2—I do not know whether it will be of any interest to you—it ought to be for it was inspired directly by yourself—it is part of a book which I have been engaged upon for about six years—the book is on "Man's Moral Nature." this book as I say was inspired by yourself about six years ago in the city of London England.

This is a payment of that truth which is said to be stranger than fiction.

I hope to publish the book in a year or at most two from this time and I intend if you do not object to dedicate it to you.3 This letter has rather a mysterious air about it especially as being written by a "materialist" to a "materialist"4 Some day if ever we meet again as I trust we shall I will explain it.

I am always Affectionately yours R M Bucke


  • 1. The letter is on printed stationery from the Asylum in Hamilton. Bucke has deleted "Hamilton" and written in "London." Bucke had moved from Hamilton to London in February 1877, but was still apparently using left-over stationery. The letter is endorsed, in Whitman's hand: Dr Bucke | Nov 4 '77. [back]
  • 2. "The Function of the Great Sympathetic Nervous System" (American Journal of Insanity, 43 (October 1877), 115–59). [back]
  • 3. Man's Moral Nature bears the following dedication: "I dedicate this book to the man who inspired it—to the man who of all men past and present that I have known has the most exalted moral nature—to WALT WHITMAN" (v). [back]
  • 4. Bucke's philosophical materialism is clearly expressed in his epigraph from Comte: "Les régions speculative et active du cerveau n'ont de communcations nerveuses qu'avec les sens et les muscles pour aperçevoir et modifier le monde exterieur" (Man's Moral Nature [New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1879], 2). Translation: "The speculative and active regions of the brain have neural communications only with the senses and the muscles to perceive and modify the external world." The application of the term to Whitman is less clear. [back]
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