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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 14 April 1890


I have your card of 10th2 reporting some improvement in your condition—that you had eaten bread and drank coffee for first time in ten days. So far good and I trust all is still on the mend with you. Just here your letter of 11th3 comes to hand, you are evidently gaining, but I feel exceedingly doubtful as to the propriety of your attempting the lecture tomorrow—no doubt however the question will be settled one way or another before you get this. I wish I could see you and I will before many weeks. Horace4 has asked me to write a little piece, "W.W. and Modern Science" for the Conservator.5 Shall do it of course. All quiet here. Weather much cooler/more seasonable today

Love to you as always R M Bucke  loc_es.00737.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 has been struck through with a line in black ink that extends from the top right to the bottom left of the letter. [back]
  • 2. Bucke is referring to Whitman's letter of April 10, 1890. [back]
  • 3. Bucke is referring to Whitman's letter of April 11, 1890. [back]
  • 4. 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]
  • 5. Bucke published this article with the title of "'Leaves of Grass' and Modern Science." See The Conservator 1.3 (May 1890). See also Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, April 15, 1890. [back]
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