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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 31 October 1890


Horace2 has ret'd safely3 & was here last evn'g—Have signatured the books and wrapt them safely to be express'd back to you—suppose they will go forthwith—grip on me badly—headache & congestion—slim mail with me—have been out to day in wheel chair4—clear, colder weather—small miserable local politics & elections Penn: and N.J. now—a fight of crows & kites—("intestinal agitation") y'rs recd5

God bless you all Walt Whitman  loc_jm.00371.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 postal card is addressed: Dr Bucke | London | Asylum | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Nov 1 | 6 AM | 90; N.Y. | 11–1–90 | 10 30 AM | [illegible]; London | AM | NO 3 | 9O | Canada. [back]
  • 2. 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]
  • 3. Following a lecture event in honor of Whitman at Philadelphia's Horticultural Hall on October 21, 1890, Horace Traubel had traveled to Canada with Bucke. [back]
  • 4. 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]
  • 5. Whitman is likely referring to Bucke's letter of October 29, 1890. [back]
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