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Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 29 November 1890


Have been out nearly an hour in wheel chair2—sunny but cool—yr's rec'd thanks3—had a pretty good night's rest—belly ache comes on first thing at daybreak lasts three or four hours then gone—will probably pass over—letters to day f'm Bolton Eng:4

Walt Whitman  loc_jm.00380.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 | Asylum | London | Ontario Canada. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Nov 30 | 5PM | 90; London | PM | De 1 | 90 | Canada. [back]
  • 2. 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]
  • 3. It is uncertain which letter Whitman is referring to here, but he may mean the Bucke's letter of November 23, 1890. [back]
  • 4. Whitman may be referring to the November 15, 1890, letter from the physician Dr. John Johnston and the November 18, 1890, letter from the architect James W. Wallace. Both Johnston and Wallace lived in Bolton Lancashire, England and were the co-founders of the "Bolton College" group of English admirers of Whitman. [back]
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