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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 18 July 1889


Nothing very new—I am dull—rather extra so in head, belly &c.—tho't it might be instigated by my tonic—& have intermitted it to-day (for the first since you sent)—am sitting here after my supper, & shall go out in wheel chair2 to river side—y'r letters rec'd3—weather pleasant.

Walt Whitman  loc_as.00021_large.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 postal card is addressed: Dr Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Jul 19 | 6 AM | 89; NY | 7-19-89 | 10:30AM | . [back]
  • 2. Horace Traubel and Ed Wilkins, Whitman's nurse, went to Philadelphia to purchase a wheeled chair for the poet that would allow him to be "pull'd or push'd" outdoors. See Whitman's letter to William Sloane Kennedy of May 8, 1889. [back]
  • 3. Whitman is likely referring to Bucke's letters of July 12 and July 14, 1889. The letter Bucke wrote on July 12 does not seem to be extant. [back]
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