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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 25 May 1891


I do not hear from you. Feel uneasy abt. you all the time. Fear you are having a bad time perhaps very sick. Am strongly minded to go to Camden next friday2 & see for myself how you are. May drop in upon you Saturday morning and stay around till monday or Tuesday. Am feeling O.K. but still some lame3 but can get around. Grounds here look well now—lilacs just beginning to come out. We loyal Kanucks are keeping the Queen's birthday—my fam all out fishing—3 parties of them—all off—from my brother 60 yrs old4 to my youngest 9.5 Suppose we shall have fish now till we are tired of them! I have spent the day here in office writing and reading—looking thro' "Good-Bye"6 among other things—I like the little last leaves well—they are just what they7 should be under all the circumstances not great but very touching & charming

Best love R M Bucke  loc_zs.00471.jpg see notes May 27 1891  loc_zs.00472.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: GTWESTNRWYSTAT | AM | MY25 | 91 | LONDON,CAN.; CAMDEN, N.J. | MAY | 27 | 12PM | 1891 | REC'D. [back]
  • 2. Bucke meant that he was planning to visit Whitman on or around May 31, 1891—Whitman's seventy-second (and last) birthday. The occasion was celebrated with friends at Whitman's home on Mickle Street. [back]
  • 3. In his April 13, 1891, letter to Whitman, Bucke writes that his foot, which had been sore for a couple of weeks, had become inflamed. Bucke's foot was still healing, and is the reason for his lameness. [back]
  • 4. Bucke is referring to his brother Philip Eustace Bucke (b. 1831), who would have been sixty years old in 1891. [back]
  • 5. Bucke and his wife Jessie Maria Gurd Bucke (1839–1926) had eight children. The youngest was Robert Walpole Bucke (1881–1923). [back]
  • 6. Whitman's biographer and disciple Horace Traubel had recently sent Bucke a set of proofs—"a full set (66p) 'Good-Bye' annex." See Whitman's letter to Bucke of April 14, 1891. Whitman's book Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) was his last miscellany, and it included both poetry and short prose works commenting on poetry, aging, and death, among other topics. Thirty-one poems from the book were later printed as "Good-Bye my Fancy 2d Annex" to Leaves of Grass (1891–1892), the last edition of Leaves of Grass published before Whitman's death in March 1892. For more information see, Donald Barlow Stauffer, "'Good-Bye my Fancy' (Second Annex) (1891)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 7. Bucke writes the final part of the letter in red ink at the top of the page. [back]
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