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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 11 October 1882

Dear Walt

I have this morning received from you the large copy of Specimen days,1 as also the 1882 photograph, besides two postcards both of 9th inst.

I think you know that the present of the (largesize) book will be (is) appreciated by me—I am also very much pleased to have the photo, both to tell me how you look now and for my collection. The other copy of S.D. from Rees Welsh and Co. arrived on Mondy, I have been pretty well over it but so far have noticed no typographical errors, I shall go over it more leisurely after a little & will look out then.

Rudolph Schmidt sent me a copy of his book containing his article on Walt Whitman I have put it in the hands of some Danish friends who are to translate it for me. Now my dear Walt I don't want to hurry you or worry you but now that you have L. & G. and S.D. both off your hands and all settled I hope you will soon fix definitely about your visit here that we may get the "study" in shape for publication. I have scarcely touched it for months now but I do not lose interest in it or its subject. The appearance of S.D. will make a good many minor changes necessary but as far as I see it does not make the issue of the "Study" any less desirable—I hope S.D. will sell and that Rees Welsh & Co. will feel disposed to take hold of my book.

O'Connor has never sent me that "Modern Thought" I will write him a card and stir him up.

As to S.D. it is a suitable finish up to your work, it is what we (those who know something of you) have been wanting for a long time and what the future will want still more and will prize far more even than we can prize it now—it is all on a low key (as it ought to be) no fine writing but plain prose giving the [illegible] just the insight that we wanted into your common every day life, and your ordinary every day manner of looking at things—I think you may now say that your work is done, I do not see any more for you to do at all events though perhaps you will see something, when you have had time to look about again a bit.

R M Bucke


  • 1. 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). [back]
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