Skip to main content

Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 22 July 1888


Your welcome postcard of 19th came to hand yesterday.2 You seem to be still "among the midling​ ." I wish I could hear of you rallying a little more. The book3 (I have proofs to p. 92) seems to rather hang fire. I wish you wd​ hand over the balance of the M.S. to Traubel4 to do the best he could with it. It is not good for you to be trying at it and failing—you ought to let it go and forget it as soon as possible. In your present state you would not do any good with the Hicks5 if you did go through it. Let Traubel have it and tell him to alter nothing except where necessary to make  loc_es.00265.jpg sense and connection, and let it be printed and the book brought to an end. We are having warm rainy weather here, all crops look well. We are having a splendid year. Just now raspberries and currants are plentiful with us. We had our first new potatoes out of our garden today (Your potatoes are old before this). In a few minutes I am going out to Catholic Chapel—(we had protestant service this morning). There is nothing narrow about us here, we have all kinds of clergymen and services turn about. We are all well, I am keeping first-rate. You seem to have had a cool summer so far—I hope it may keep on so

Your friend RM Bucke  loc_es.00262.jpg W.W. gave these to me July 25 1888 & advised that I retain them  loc_es.00263.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 | JY 23 | 88 | CANADA; CAMDEN [illegible] | July | 24 | 12M | [illegible] | REC'D. [back]
  • 2. See the letter from Whitman to Bucke of July 19, 1888. [back]
  • 3. Whitman was preparing November Boughs for publication and had friends reading proofs for the book. For more on its publication and reception, see November Boughs [1888]. [back]
  • 4. 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]
  • 5. Elias Hicks (1748–1830) was a traveling Quaker preacher and anti-slavery activist from Long Island, New York. Whitman's essay on Hicks was the concluding piece in November Boughs. For more on Hicks, see Henry Watson Wilbur, The Life and Labors of Elias Hicks (Philadelphia: Friends' General Conference Advancement Committee, 1910). [back]
Back to top