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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 10 August 1888


Your card of 8th to hand this morning. Dr. Harkness2 came yesterday afternoon, he will make a short visit, 5 or 6 days, with me—he is well. The weather continues pleasant here not at all unpleasantly hot. There is nothing special stirring. I should like to hear that you are gaining strength—I do not hear that—how is it? Nothing back from Willy Gurd3—I still hope I may see you sometime next month but nothing certain about it

Your friend RM Bucke  loc_es.00289.jpg  loc_es.00286.jpg R.M. Bucke See notes Aug 12, '88  loc_es.00287.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 | PM | AU 10 | 88 | CANADA. There is a Camden postmark, but it is entirely illegible. [back]
  • 2. John "Jack" Harkness (1841–1916), Dr. Bucke's friend and colleague, attended McGill University's Medical School with Bucke, graduating 1862. [back]
  • 3. 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]
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