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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 25 June 1890


Am ab't as usual—slice of bread, raspberries & cup of tea for breakfast—fierce hot temperature here to-day—rain last night—G W Curtis2 asks (I hear) in last Harpers (Easy Chair—July) "Who can tell whether W W a hundred y'rs hence will be forgotten or rated a g't poet?"3 A mighty ticklish question—

Walt Whitman  loc_zs.00043.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: Dr Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario Canada. It is postmarked: London | PM | Ju 27 | 9 | Canada. [back]
  • 2. George William Curtis (1824–1892), author and editor of Harper's Magazine, was a New England writer and orator who had been a neighbor of Ralph Waldo Emerson for some time in the 1840s. [back]
  • 3. The "Editor's Easy Chair" section in the July 1890 issue of Harper's New Monthly Magazine mentions "our good friend Walt Whitman" and poses the question Whitman mentions here (311). [back]
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