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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 30 June 1890


I am well as usual—Hot weather here—eat moderately—dress light—bathe frequently—some one has sent me Volney's Ruins, a fine added-to ed'n2—carries me back 60 y'rs—(my father had a treasur'd copy)—go out almost daily in wheel chair3—have just had my supper—God bless you all—

Walt Whitman  loc_zs.00045.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: Camden, [illegible] | Jun 30 | 6 PM | 90; London | M | Jy 1 | 90 | Canada. [back]
  • 2. The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires: and The Law of Nature by Constantin Fran‡ois Chasseboeuf, Comte de Volney (1757–1820), was reissued in 1890. See Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer (New York: NY: Macmillian, 1955), 8, 122. [back]
  • 3. 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]
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