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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 30 October 1889


Ed. Wilkins2 turned up last evening with the parcel of photos, prints &c fourteen in all, a grand collection, some of them I had not seen before or not in that shape. They make an immensely valuable addition to my "W.W. Collection" and I am wonderfully pleased to have them and thank you a thousand times. I go to Guelph—Ont. this evening to attend a murder trial, shall be back tomorrow evening. Ed. gave a very good account of you all, I had not time to talk to him much (a lot of people at the home) but he is coming soon to see me again. He seemed sorry to leave Camden but loc_es.00654.jpg thought he ought to be at his studies. A very encouraging letter from Willy Gurd3—All going well with him and the meter there in Danbury, Conn. and he hopes to be quite through very soon now. Cloudy but pleasant weather. Not cold.

Affectionately yours R M Bucke  loc_es.00651.jpg see notes | Nov 1 '89  loc_es.00652.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 | OC 30 | 89 | Canada; Camden, N.J. | Nov | 1 | 6AM | 1889 | Rec'd. [back]
  • 2. 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]
  • 3. 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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