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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 8 October 1889


Yours of 5th enclosing Kennedy's1 of a year ago came to hand last evening—Was glad to have the latter—in fact am always glad to get anything on that subject. So the mess work on the "Dinner Book"2 is done—that being so Horace3 ought to have sent me a copy without waiting for the binding—he promised to do that and I am disappointed he did not. Tell him if he has not mailed a copy to please to do so right away. If you or H. have a spare copy of that "New England Monthly" please send it me. Want to see what the magazine looks like. I am real glad to hear that H. will write on you in it4 he ought (and I guess will) get up a first-class paper. He ought to know  loc_es.00642.jpg his subject pretty well by this time!

No, I was not much interested in the Pan-American business5 though it is worth interest—do not see why Canada is not represented—she ought to be. It will all come right in the end only it takes time.—Good heavens! What a group of nationalities there will be in the Americas some day. Shall you and I see the show, standing together perhaps on Alcyone?

By that time you will be feeling better but I wish you could be a little more comfortable meanwhile I fear you are not having a good time

I am your friend R M Bucke

Tell H. to send the book sure at once if not sent already


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. William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and the Boston Transcript; he also published biographies of Longfellow, Holmes, and Whittier (Dictionary of American Biography [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933], 336–337). Apparently Kennedy called on the poet for the first time on November 21, 1880 (William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman [London: Alexander Gardener, 1896], 1). Though Kennedy was to become a fierce defender of Whitman, in his first published article he admitted reservations about the "coarse indecencies of language" and protested that Whitman's ideal of democracy was "too coarse and crude"; see The Californian, 3 (February 1881), 149–158. For more about Kennedy, see Katherine Reagan, "Kennedy, William Sloane (1850–1929)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 2. 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]
  • 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]
  • 4. Horace Traubel's article, "Walt Whitman at Date," was published in the May 1891 issue of the New England Magazine 4.3 (May 1891), 275–292. The article is also reprinted in the first appendix of the eighth volume of Traubel's With Walt Whitman in Camden. [back]
  • 5. The Pan-American Conference of 1889, also known as the First International Conference of American States, established North, Central, and South America as a group of affiliated nations. Canada was generally excluded from the conference because the U.S. did not want a member of the British Commonwealth present at a Western hemispheric conference. [back]
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