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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 22 September 1888


All quiet and pleasant here. The weather delicious, perfect. Calm, dreamy, sunny, cool autumn days. All quiet with the meter,2 I still hope to see you toward the middle of next month, but nothing definitely fixed upon.

I am reading Carlyle3 again—Chartism—Past & Present—&c &c. Looking into French Revolution. He is a proud old fellow but not one of the immortals. There are just two great modern books Faust4 and L. of G.

RM Bucke  loc_es.00385.jpg  loc_es.00382.jpg See notes Sept. 24, 1888  loc_es.00383.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 22 | 88 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | SEP | 24 | 6AM | [illegible] | REC'D. [back]
  • 2. Bucke and his brother-in-law William John Gurd were designing a gas and fluid meter to be patented in Canada and sold in England. [back]
  • 3. Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) was a Scottish essayist, historian, lecturer, and philosopher. For more on Carlyle, see John D. Rosenberg, Carlyle and the Burden of History (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1985). [back]
  • 4. Bucke is referring to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's tragic play, published in 1808. [back]
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