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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 11 October 1888


I have your welcome letter of 9th.2 enclosing slip re Osler.3 I am rejoyced to see by your letter that you are keeping so, so—not going back any, at all events, I judge. I have had a bad time with Inspector and other botherations but it is all over now for the present thank heavens. A very few days will wind up my report and then I should be comparatively free. Wm Gurd4 is with me, he goes to N.Y. next Monday—I to follow as soon as patents all safe and we shall both proceed at once to Phila. Way things look now I do not expect to get away for the East untill nearly or quite the end of the month.  loc_es.00419.jpg I have had short allowance of sleep lately—not insomnia but late to bed. last night I turned in at 8 and slept 10 hours without waking—pretty good wasn't it? Today feel first class. I send you with this a photo of self. Let me know how you like it. I don't agree with McKay5 as to cover of "N.B."6 I like it—don't believe his will be as good. Am glad you are at the autographing—guess I shall be with you before the big book7 issued? It takes a lot of work to get out such an ed. as that but it will be a big thing when done—guess it will be the sacred text by & by. The 1st Folio of S. is valuable but I guess after a little that autograph "C.W." of W.W. will lead it in the market. Burroughs8 forwarded me O'C's9 letter to you of the 5th. He is a grand fellow that the grandest of all your friends—a hero.

Your friend RMBucke  loc_es.00416.jpg See notes Oct 13, 1888  loc_es.00417.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 | OC 11 | 88 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | OCT | [illegible] | 6AM | [illegible] | [illegible]. [back]
  • 2. See the letter from Whitman to Bucke of October 9, 1888. [back]
  • 3. 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]
  • 4. 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]
  • 5. David McKay (1860–1918) was a Philadelphia-based publisher, whose company, founded in 1882, printed a number of books by and about Walt Whitman in the 1880s and 1890s, such as the 1891/1892 editon of Leaves of Grass, Whitman's November Boughs, and Richard Maurice Bucke's 1883 biography of the poet. [back]
  • 6. 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]
  • 7. Bucke is referring to the book by Whitman that would be published in December 1888 with the title of Complete Poems & Prose. [back]
  • 8. The naturalist John Burroughs (1837–1921) met Whitman on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1864. After returning to Brooklyn in 1864, Whitman commenced what was to become a decades-long correspondence with Burroughs. Burroughs was magnetically drawn to Whitman. However, the correspondence between the two men is, as Burroughs acknowledged, curiously "matter-of-fact." Burroughs would write several books involving or devoted to Whitman's work: Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and Person (1867), Birds and Poets (1877), Whitman, A Study (1896), and Accepting the Universe (1924). For more on Whitman's relationship with Burroughs, see Carmine Sarracino, "Burroughs, John [1837–1921] and Ursula [1836–1917]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 9. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication, published in 1866. For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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