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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 20 September 1888


I never saw a more pleasant fall here so far—hardly a break in our beautiful weather now for a month. Today as fine as ever. I am struggling with my report and getting on slowly—it will be much longer than usual—a lot about alcohol in it. We are all very well—Maurice and Willy2 have gone a hundred miles west with their uncle Willy Gurd3 (the meter inventor) for a few days shooting, they will all be back tomorrow evening or night, I am in hopes they will bring a lot of partridge and wild duck with them.


As to the meter we are making arrangements about getting our patents pretty much all over the world. As soon as our patenting is done we expect to astonish the water works people. I am more and more impressed with the immense value of the meter think it will (as soon as known, at least until improved upon, if that can be) stand alone as the only meter to be used—seems to me so far ahead of all others in all ways—efficiency, simplicity, above all cheapness. I have not heard from you for a week, hope you are not feeling worse? How do the books get along?4 Will they be ready by the first Oct.?

Your friend RM Bucke  loc_es.00374.jpg See notes 9/22/88  loc_es.00375.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 | SP 20 | 88 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | SEP | 22 | 6AM | 1888 | REC'D. [back]
  • 2. Maurice Andrews Bucke (1868–1899) and William Augustus Bucke (1873–1933) were the two oldest of Dr. Bucke's five sons. [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]
  • 4. Bucke has been advising Whitman about the preparation of November Boughs (1888) and Complete Poems & Prose (1888). [back]
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