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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 8 November 1888

Yours of 6th2 just rec'd—still leaning to favorable—I have [just?] had a complete bath & flesh-rubbing—very good—Ed: W[ilkins]3 is very good and attentive to me—No visitors to-day yet—cloudy, damp, coolish weather—

As you see Harrison4 is probably elected—this one tack—but the ship will go on on her voyage many a sea & many a year yet—

Walt Whitman

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: Dr R M Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Nov 8 | 8 PM | 88. [back]
  • 2. See Bucke's letter to Whitman of November 6, 1888. [back]
  • 3. 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]
  • 4. Benjamin Harrison (1833–1901) was the twenty-third U.S. president and grandson of the ninth president, William Henry Harrison. Harrison was the Republican nominee who defeated Democratic incumbent Grover Cleveland in 1888. Whitman had very negative views of Harrison, once calling him a "scalawag" and a "shit-ass": "I never had any faith in him, in his course!" See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, April 21, 1889. [back]
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