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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 25 October 1889


I have your cards of 21st & 22d (one came in morning other in afternoon yesterday)2 also Daily Telegraph of 7th. That is a grand letter of Arnolds,3 one of the best (most useful) letters we have had when you consider the writer and the enormous circulation it will have. I feel quite set up over it. No sign of Ed. Wilkins4 here yet—he must have gone home (lives some miles from here in country) and no doubt he will be here today or tomorrow.5 I was out in country pretty much all yesterday seeing an old friend who is sick. Yes, I should be glad to see the "Critic" whenever you have one that you neither want to keep nor to send to someone else—It is a paper I always feel interested  loc_es.00648.jpgin looking over. A thousand thanks for your assurance as to the 1872 L. of G.6 and also for the prospect of "Harrington" which I sincerely hope you may some day find. All well here, no further word from Willy Gurd7 in re meter but I am satisfied that all is well in that quarter. We are all well.

Love to you R M Bucke  loc_es.00645.jpg  loc_es.00646.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 | OC 25 | 89 | Canada; Camden, N.J. | Oct | 27 | 5 PM | 1889 | [illegible]. [back]
  • 2. See Whitman's postal cards to Bucke of October 21, 1889 and October 22, 1889. [back]
  • 3. Sir Edwin Arnold (1832–1904) was the author of the controversial The Light of Asia . . . Being the Life and Teaching of Gautama . . . as told in verse by an Indian Buddhist (London: Truber & Co., 1879). Arnold had visited Whitman on September 13, 1889. Whitman reported the visit to Traubel: "[Arnold's] visit was only in transit—he goes back to New York at once—then across to San Francisco—then to Japan and the East Indies." Whitman found the visitor interesting but too effusive: "My main objection to him, if objection at all, would be, that he is too eulogistic—too flattering" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, September 13, 1889). [back]
  • 4. Edward "Ned" Wilkins (1865–1936) was one of Whitman's nurses during his Camden years; he was sent to Camden from London, Ontario, by Dr. Richard M. Bucke, and he began caring for Whitman on November 5, 1888. He stayed for a year before returning to Canada to attend the Ontario Veterinary School. Wilkins graduated on March 24, 1893, and then he returned to the United States to commence his practice in Alexandria, Indiana. For more information, see Bert A. Thompson, "Edward Wilkins: Male Nurse to Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Review 15 (September 1969), 194–195. [back]
  • 5. In his letter to Whitman of October 30, 1889, Bucke reported that Wilkins visited him on October 29, 1889 and brought him a package of photographs from Whitman. [back]
  • 6. Bucke had coveted the 1872 edition of Leaves of Grass for some time. During his visit to Whitman (February to March 1889) Bucke had accidentally come across a copy. (See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, March 5, 1889.) [back]
  • 7. 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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