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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 28 November 1888


Thank you very much for "Critic" and "American" received today. I quite agree with you (in the "Critic") that America has produced several poets (among those who are dead) equal to several of the thirteen.2 All quiet here—a long letter from William Gurd3 today—all going well with him and the meter but it goes slow, slow—looks as if there would never be an end of it—We are having here loc_es.00493.jpg warm, dull, muggy weather. All quiet here (not to say dull)

I sent "the second head"4 the other day to an Art Loan in London—and felt quite dull without it—have got it back again—it is looking cheerfully at me now from its bracket in the corner of my office


R M Bucke  loc_es.00490.jpg see notes Dec 1st 1888  loc_es.00491.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 | NO 29 | 88 | CANADA; [illegible] | 11-30-88 | 9AM | [illegible]; Camden, N.J.| NOV | 30 | [illegible]AM | [illegible] | REC'D. [back]
  • 2. See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, October 22, 1888. See also Floyd Stovall, ed., Walt Whitman: The Prose Works 2 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1964), 2:676. [back]
  • 3. 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]
  • 4. Bucke is referring to the bust of Walt Whitman by Sidney Morse. [back]
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