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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 13 April 1891


I went to Toronto Thursday last (9th inst.) intending to stay a week and do a lot of things—but, rather curiously, my foot, which had been a little sore for a couple of weeks became much inflamed the same night I went down so that I had to make the best of my way home the next day—I have suffered a good deal of  loc_zs.00338.jpg pain and loss of sleep with it and am still confined to my room but am mending. I have your card of the 7th2 and your good letter of 8th and 9th3 and am glad to see that you are no worse. I have asked for leave of absence f'm 26th April to 1st June4 no answer yet—if I get it will spend part of the time at Atlantic City and part (I guess) at Ingram's?5. I guess the grip (which  loc_zs.00339.jpg I had pretty bad about end Jan.) left something behind it (as it is apt to do) and I am suffering largely f'm that, whatever it is, but it has not taken on a serious form and I guess it won't—Lovely weather here bright and warm—will write again very soon

With love R M Bucke  loc_zs.00340.jpg see notes April 15 1891  loc_zs.00341.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 | PM | AP 13 | 91 | CANADA.; CAMDEN, N.J. | APR | 15 | 1PM | 1891 | REC'D. [back]
  • 2. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of April 7, 1891. [back]
  • 3. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of April 8–9, 1891. [back]
  • 4. Bucke requested a leave so that he could attend the poet's 71st birthday dinner at Reisser's restaurant in Philadelphia, where noted orator and agnostic Robert Ingersoll would speak. [back]
  • 5. William Ingram, a Quaker and a friend of Whitman's, kept a tea store–William Ingram and Son Tea Dealers–in Philadelphia. Ingram and his wife visited Bucke and his family in Canada in 1890. [back]
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