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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 30 September 1888


I did not write you yesterday—had a couple of men here to look at meter and Gurd2 & myself were with them all day. One of them a big capitalist and manufacturer from Montreal. No definite announcement made with them—and may not be—but they were pretty impressed by the meter and I expect they will make us a proposition. Our fine weather left us right in the middle of fair week—i.e. last week has got very cold dark & dull all at once, rains more or less every day—altogether dismal  loc_es.00401.jpg decidedly—I am looking out anxiously for "N.B."3 & "C.W."4 hope to get the first any how this week and the other next week at latest. Johnston has written me5 for a likeness of myself to be used in an article on "Walt and his friends" Have not had one taken for years—shall go in tomorrow (if all well) and have one done—shall of course send you a copy—Maurice6" goes to Toronto in morning to college again. I shall have to get at my lectures on "mental diseases" for the students at medical college here as soon as possible—meanwhile I have not more than half written "Annual Report." Such is life!

Love to you RM Bucke  loc_es.00398.jpg See notes Oct 2, '88  loc_es.00399.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 | OC 1 | 88 | CANADA; CAMDEN [illegible] | OCT | 2 | 12PM | 1888 | REC'D. [back]
  • 2. 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]
  • 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]
  • 5. When Whitman received this letter, he mistakenly thought Bucke was referring to Whitman's Philadelphia friend J. H. Johnston and was mystified since he had not heard about such a project (see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, October 3, 1888), but in fact Bucke is probably referring to the British disciple, Dr. John Johnston, whose "Notes of Visit to Walt Whitman and His Friends in 1890" (finally published in 1917) contained a portrait of Bucke; Johnston began corresponding with Whitman in 1887 and began planning a trip to the U.S. to visit the poet and his friends. [back]
  • 6. Maurice Andrews Bucke (1868–1899) was Dr. Bucke's oldest son. [back]
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