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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 16 June 1889


A sleepy, cloudy, warm, dull, balmy June day. A day to sit on the verandah and dream of old friends and old times. The syringas and roses are beginning to come out and the best of the seasons will soon be here. I should have taken a long drive in the country somewhere today but that the Inspector is still here so I stay around in case I might be required. We are all well and all goes well and quietly. I had a line from Horace2 he thinks the little book3 he is at work upon will be quite an important affair and I think likely it will be so. I hope it will soon be printed so I can have a look over it—send me an early copy

Love to you R M Bucke  loc_es.00616.jpg  loc_es.00613.jpg  loc_es.00614.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 | JU[illegible]7 | 89 | Canada; NY | 6–18.89 | 11 30 AM | [illegible]; Camden, N.J. | Jun | 18 | 8 PM | [illegible]9 | R[illegible]. [back]
  • 2. 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]
  • 3. The notes and addresses that were delivered at Whitman's seventieth birthday celebration in Camden, on May 31, 1889, were collected and edited by Horace Traubel. The volume was titled Camden's Compliment to Walt Whitman, and it included a photo of Sidney Morse's 1887 clay bust of Whitman as the frontispiece. The book was published in 1889 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. [back]
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