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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 5 June 1890


Thanks for the "Post" and "Inquirer" just to hand.2 The "Post" article is exceedingly fine, did Horace3 get it up? The warm weather has stuck up here and yesterday and today we don't need a turkish bath to make us sweat. This is election day in Ontario. I have just voted. All is quiet here. My folks at the house are all well. I shall be pretty busy now for a while after my absence4 gathering up the ends of the strings and getting them in order in my hands again—fortunately for me I have good, honest, faithful, capable assistants. I trust you are rested after the dinner.5 You looked tired on Sunday morning or was it that you caught a little cold over night?

R M Bucke

We all send love to you6

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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 | JU 5 | 90 | Canada; [illegible]en, N.J. | JUN | [illegible] | [illegible] PM | 90 | Rec'd. [back]
  • 2. Whitman enclosed two newspaper stories about the birthday dinner his friends gave him on May 31, 1890. See note 3 below. [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. Bucke had just returned from his trip to Philadelphia to attend Whitman's 71st birthday dinner. [back]
  • 5. In honor of Whitman's 71st birthday, his friends gave him a birthday dinner on May 31, 1890, at Reisser's Restaurant in Philadelphia. The main speaker was Col. Robert G. Ingersoll, and there were also speeches by the physicians Richard Maurice Bucke and Silas Weir Mitchell. The Camden Daily Post article "Ingersoll's Speech" of June 2, 1890, was written by Whitman himself and was reprinted in Good-Bye My Fancy (Prose Works, 1892, ed. Floyd Stovall, 2 vols. [New York: New York University Press: 1963–1964], 686–687). "Honors to the Poet" appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer, June 1, 1890. See also the notes on Whitman's birthday party in the poet's June 4, 1890, letter to Bucke. [back]
  • 6. The postscript is written in red ink in the upper-left margin. [back]
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