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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 1 October 1888


Horace Traubel2 has sent me (just to hand) "Herald" of 23d ult. have been reading the piece on you and like it well.3 Who is the author? I hope that pain has left you by this time? I have written Osler4 to ask him about you, how you are, and about that pain, what it means? though I feel pretty sure it does not mean anything serious, some indigestion or a cold—perhaps it is in the abdominal wall and not internal at all—such pains are very common—Myalgia, we call them, or muscular rheumatism. I hope it may soon go any way for  loc_es.00405.jpg it cannot add much to your comfort.

We have had six rainy days in succession here and I guess we shall have more of them. Nothing new or special about the meter5 but I fully expect to be East about it before the month is up, probably soon after the middle of the month.

The leaves here are beginning to turn and to fall also—in a very few more weeks we shall be having cold weather again and the first thing we know sleighing

Good luck to you Your friend RM Bucke  loc_es.00402.jpg See notes Oct. 4 1888.  loc_es.00403.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 2 | 88 | CANADA; CAMDEN [illegible] | OCT | 4 | 6AM | 18[illegible] | REC'D. [back]
  • 2. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the late 1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. "Walt Whitman's Words" was published anonymously in the New York Herald on September 23, 1888. [back]
  • 4. Sir William Osler (1849–1919) was a Canadian physician and one of the four founding staff members of Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he served as the first Chief of Medicine. Richard Maurice Bucke introduced Osler to Whitman in 1885 in order to care for the aging poet. Osler wrote a manuscript about his personal and professional relationship with Whitman in 1919; see Philip W. Leon, Walt Whitman and Sir William Osler: A Poet and His Physician [Toronto: ECW Press, 1995]). For more on Osler, see Philip W. Leon, "Osler, Dr. William (1849–1919)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). For more on the relationship of Osler and Whitman, see Michael Bliss, William Osler: A Life in Medicine (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999). [back]
  • 5. 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]
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