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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 29 January 1890


I have a line from Osler2 this moment. In answer to mine asking if they would look after you in Johns Hopkins. I enclose the note. I do not understand all of it fully but this much is clear that for about $25. a week (which it seems to me we could easily afford) you could be accommodated and provided with every thing—of course before taking any step we would find out every thing and I would visit Johns Hopkins myself—I will write again tomorrow when I get Osler's further letter promised in this one3

R M Bucke  loc_es.00712.jpg  loc_es.00709.jpg  loc_es.00710.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 | Ja 29 | 90 | Canada; Camden, N.J. | Jan | 31 | 1 PM | 1890 | Rec'd. [back]
  • 2. Sir William Osler (1849–1919) was a Canadian physician and one of the four founding staff members of Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he served as the first Chief of Medicine. Richard Maurice Bucke introduced Osler to Whitman in 1885 in order to care for the aging poet. Osler wrote a manuscript about his personal and professional relationship with Whitman in 1919; see Philip W. Leon, Walt Whitman and Sir William Osler: A Poet and His Physician [Toronto: ECW Press, 1995]). For more on Osler, see Philip W. Leon, "Osler, Dr. William (1849–1919)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). For more on the relationship of Osler and Whitman, see Michael Bliss, William Osler: A Life in Medicine (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999). [back]
  • 3. On April 24, 1890, Bucke wrote of "the John Hopkins Hospital. Walt, if I were in your fix I would think seriously of going there for the next six months or a year . . . as a private patient. . . . I do not suppose the expence would be much more than the present subsidy but if it is we can easily get more money." See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, April 26, 1889. [back]
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