Skip to main content

Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 26 October 1890


Well, dear Walt, here I am safely settled down at home again and Horace2 is here with me3—I wish he could stay for a good visit but I believe he will have to leave us in a very few days. I have been at work all this morning getting ready my first lecture on insanity for the students; which lecture I deliver tomorrow afternoon—2  loc_sd.00060.jpg to 4.—

We got home, as I guess you know, friday evening about 7 o'clock—All yesterday I was very busy looking into matters which had accumulated in my absence and today, as I have said, about my lecture. Tomorrow morning Clare4 leaves home for Chicago and the west—she will visit in Indiana and, I think, Tennesee before she returns home.

Horace & I shall expect to hear from you tomorrow—Horace, I think, is quite anxious about being away from you so long. I found Mrs Bucke5 and all the children quite well on my return and Horace will tell you all about them when he sees you. Horace is quite struck with Pardee6 (your old favorite) and thinks him a splendid boy—as indeed he is.  loc_sd.00061.jpg It is cold today and dark and windy as well; we shall soon be having snow and real wintry weather here. I have been showing Horace something of my W.W. collection and H. is to take some copies of L. of G. (old eds.) back with him to have you put your name in them.—

Goodby​ dear Walt

Love to you R M Bucke  loc_sd.00057.jpg Out | 12  loc_sd.00058.jpg

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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey U.S.A. It is postmarked: London | AM | OC 27 | 90 | Canada; Camden, N.J. | Oct | 28 | 12 M | [illegible] | Rec'd. [back]
  • 2. 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]
  • 3. After Robert Ingersoll gave a lecture in Philadelphia in honor of Whitman on October 21, 1890, Traubel returned with Bucke to London, Ontario, Canada. For Whitman's description of the Ingersoll lecture, see his October 23, 1890 letter to Bucke and Traubel. [back]
  • 4. Jessie Clare Bucke (1870–1943) was the daughter of the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke and his wife, Jessie Maria Gurd (1839–1926). [back]
  • 5. Jessie Maria Gurd Bucke (1839–1926) grew up in Mooretown, Upper Canada. She was the daughter of William Gurd, an army officer from Ireland. Gurd married Richard Maurice Bucke in 1865. The couple had eight children. [back]
  • 6. Bucke is referring to his son, Edward Pardee Bucke (1875–1913). [back]
Back to top