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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 24 September 1888


We are having a devil of a time so don't be uneasy if my letters shd​ seem a little "off the center." Our Western Fair has begun in London and the Asylum is full from morning to night of people to see friends and people to see through the institution—it is a perfect babel. Office half full all the time of men and women asking after friends (patients in asylum) whether they are better? Are they going to get better? What was the cause of their insanity? &c &c &c. Meanwhile I ought to be writing  loc_es.00389.jpg my annual report—the meter2 too is likely to call on me for some attention before the week is out, besides other matters, so you see I am not likely to get dull for want of some occupation. The weather keeps lovely and all is well with us. I still hope to see you between the middle and end of Oct.

I hope you are having pleasant weather and that all is going well with the books—I hope to see a copy of "November Boughs"3 this week and one of the "Complete Works"4 in the course of next week.

Love to you always Your friend RM Bucke  loc_es.00386.jpg See notes Sept 27, '88.  loc_es.00387.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 24 | 88 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | SEP | 2[illegible] | 1PM | [illegible] | [illegible]. [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. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. Whitman wanted to publish a "big book" that included all of his writings, and, with the help of Horace Traubel, Whitman made the presswork and binding decisions for the volume. Frederick Oldach bound Whitman's Complete Poems & Prose (1888), which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. The book was published in December 1888. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary (University of Iowa: Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 2005). [back]
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