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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 8 March 1891


I have your post card of 5th2

Much pleased to hear you say that you are "no worse—maybe a shade better." The political racket is over for the moment but the government is weakened by the elections3 and it is doubtful if it can survive for any length of time—we shall probably have now a continuous racket and fight for months perhaps years—this will do the country no good as it will make the tariff, and consequently trade, uncertain.

I have Arnold's4 "Light of the World"—am reading it—it seems a noble poem—as such poems go.—

Dark rainy weather—has been pretty cold for two weeks—more moderate now

Love to you R M Bucke  loc_zs.00320.jpg  loc_zs.00321.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: LONDON | AM | MR | 9 | 91 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | MAR | 10 | 1 PM | 1891 | REC'D. [back]
  • 2. Bucke is referring to to Whitmans's postal card of March 5, 1891. [back]
  • 3. The main issue of the Canadian national election of 1891 was tariffs, with the Conservative Party, led by John A. Macdonald (1815–1891), wanting protective tariffs while the Liberal Party, led by Wilfred Laurier (1841–1919), wanted free trade with the U.S. The Conservatives won the election. [back]
  • 4. Sir Edwin Arnold (1832–1904) was a writer and editor best known for his The Light of Asia and over 6,000 leading articles for the Daily Telegraph (Mary Ellis Gibson, ed., "Sir Edwin Arnold," Anglophone Poetry in Colonial India, 1780–1913 [Athens: Ohio University Press, 2011], 259–260). While The Light of Asia recounted, in eight books of blank verse, the life of Gautama Buddha, Arnold's attempt to replicate the latter book's success with a narration of the life of Christ in The Light of the World, Or, The Great Consummation (1891) was apparently less successful with contemporary audiences. [back]
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