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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 28 January 1891


Yours of 24th2 to hand yesterday. Was too much occupied to write. Sorry (and disgusted) to hear of the action of Scribner's3 but "such is life." Nothing at all new here. Charming winter weather and good roads (tho' no sleighing). My shoulder is all right4 as far as being comfortable goes but is not good for much to use yet. Am glad you like H's5 piece on W.W.—as I told you before I think very highly of it. We are ready going to have meters at last6—the first dozen will be done this week or early next—after that we can make them as fast as we want them—next thing will be to start manufacturing on your side

Affectionately R M Bucke  loc_zs.00243.jpg  loc_zs.00244.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: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey | U.S.A. It is postmarked: CAMDEN, N.J. | JAN | 30 | 12 M | 1891 | REC'D; LONDON | PM | JA [illegible]8 | 91 | CANADA. [back]
  • 2. See Whitman's letter of January 24, 1891. [back]
  • 3. On January 23, 1891, Scribner's Monthly rejected four poems that Whitman had submitted ("Old Chants," "Grand Is the Seen," "Death dogs my steps," and "two lines"). [back]
  • 4. Bucke described this accident in a December 25, 1890, letter to Whitman's disciple and biographer Horace Traubel: "I had a fall last evening and dislocated my left shoulder (it was the right arm last time, three months ago)." This letter is held in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. It is reprinted in Traubel's With Walt Whitman in Camden, Saturday, December 27, 1890. [back]
  • 5. 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]
  • 6. Bucke and his brother-in-law William John Gurd were designing a gas and fluid meter to be patented in Canada and sold in England. [back]
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