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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 13 April 1889


Your p.c. of 11 just to hand.2 It is too bad that you should be so plagued with that confounded cold. As for the constipation you must not allow that to continue, it must be overcome at any price. If you are not better when you get this have in some doctor and take some measures. I would gladly advise you but think it would be much better to be guided by some one who cd see you. Am well pleased to see that the "70th year Ed." of L. of G. is being kept in hand.3 This complete pocket Ed. I think will be one of the best stakes yet. It ought to be actually pubd on your birth day—that would be in time for all the summer outings of the year.4 I have had a long cheery letter from Willy Gurd.5 He is hard at work at Danbury on the gas meter. He expects that we shall soon be "reaping a harvest from an unlimited field." I hope the grain will turn out good quality! All well here, weather very pleasant—we have had a good rain, it is now bright again & warm enough, guess we shall have an early spring

R M Bucke  loc_es.00574.jpg  loc_es.00571.jpg  loc_es.00572.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 | AP 13 | 89 | Canada; Camden, N.J. | APR | 15 | 6 AM | 1889 | Rec'd. [back]
  • 2. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of April 11, 1889. [back]
  • 3. Whitman had a limited pocket-book edition of Leaves of Grass printed in honor of his 70th birthday, on May 31, 1889, through special arrangement with Frederick Oldach. Only 300 copies were printed, and Whitman signed the title page of each one. The volume also included the annex Sands at Seventy and his essay A Backward Glance O'er Traveled Roads. See Whitman's May 16, 1889, letter to Oldach. 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]
  • 4. See Whitman's letter to William Sloane Kennedy, William D. O'Connor, and Richard Maurice Bucke of April 8, 1889. [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]
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