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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 24 April 1889


Your welcome card of 22d to hand this morning.1 By same mail a letter from W.J. Gurd2—he is getting on well with the gas meter and writes in excellent spirits. All goes well with us here, we are having at the present moment a splendid rain which will do a lot of good. The trees are coming into leaf rapidly and in a few more days at the present rate the country will be green. I have the Tribune you sent me con'g an acct. of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Walt, if I were in your fix I would think seriously of going there for the next six months or a year (or even longer, but that would depend) as a private patient. They might do you good (they will have the best skill going) and if they did not you would be more comfortable there than anywhere else perhaps in the world. If you would loc_es.00578.jpg think well of this I would go to Baltimore—make all the arrangements and then take you from Camden to the Hospital. There is no palace in Europe so comfortable for a sick or half sick man as this hospital would be. Think this over seriously (it is worth it) Show this letter to Horace3 and talk it over with him (but H. does not half realize as I do the boon such a chance would be to you)

Love to you dear Walt R M Bucke

P.S. I enclose the cutting that you may look over it again if you feel to. The more I think of it the more I think you decidedly ought to go—


N.B. I do not suppose the expence​ would be much more than the present subsidy but if it is we can easily get more money


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. See the letter from Whitman to Bucke of April 22, 1889. [back]
  • 2. 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]
  • 3. 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]
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