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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 21 December 1888


Your card of 19 came this evening2. Yes, I have had all the letters you mention as having written including the circular letter written on scotch title-page of "Nov. Boughs."3 They have all an intense (sometimes most painfull) interest to me—but whether cheering or the reverse my interest in them and you never flags and I think never will while I am above ground—and if there is self-consciousness beyond the grave (as I trust there is) I expect to take far more interest in L. of G. there (and in all belonging to it)  loc_es.00537.jpg than I ever did or do here. We shall see—at least we will not give up the ship untill we have to.

You must be gaining—"sitting up 4½ hours & getting a little appetite"4 that sounds mighty well—I hope to see you in pretty fair shape yet when I go East. By the way, no word from Willy Gurd5 for over a week now—think he will surely be here tomorrow (saturday) night, at latest—he does not seem to get on at all and this ever-lasting putting off and waiting is most wearisome—but it must come to an end by & by. I never tire of looking at and looking over the big book6—it is grand

Love to you R M Bucke  loc_es.00534.jpg see notes Dec 24 1888  loc_es.00535.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 | DE 22 | 88 | CANADA; Cam[cut away] | DEC | 2[cut away] | 6 AM | [cut away] | REC'D; INSANE ASYLUM LONDON ONTARIO. [back]
  • 2. Bucke is referring to Whitman's postal card of December 19, 1888. [back]
  • 3. Bucke is referring to the circular letter (see December 3–4, 1888) which was written on "a proof sheet of the title page of the Scottish edition of November Boughs" (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., The Correspondence [New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977], 4:241). [back]
  • 4. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of December 19, 1888. [back]
  • 5. 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]
  • 6. Bucke is referring to Whitman's Complete Poems & Prose, which was published in December 1888. [back]
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