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Richard Maurice Bucke to [Walt Whitman], 15 June 1889


All goes well with us here. We are all well and flourishing. I am just finishing Romanes "Origin of the Human Faculty"2 the best book I have read for a long time. I have been hoping to hear something definite as to the publication of W.S. Kennedy's3 "W.W."4 but I hear nothing—hope to see K. here before a great while but have not heard from him for so long that do not know whether to expect him or not. Inspector has been here three days—will go East tomorrow—all goes well with meter5 as far as I know but it seems slow work

Love to you R M Bucke  owu.00024.001_large.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. There are a few words scribbled illegibly at the top and bottom left corners of the first page of this letter. [back]
  • 2. Bucke is referring to Mental Evolution in Man, Origin of Human Faculty (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1889) by Canadian evolutionary biologist and Darwin disciple George John Romanes (1848–1894). [back]
  • 3. William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and the Boston Transcript; he also published biographies of Longfellow, Holmes, and Whittier (Dictionary of American Biography [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933], 336–337). Apparently Kennedy called on the poet for the first time on November 21, 1880 (William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman [London: Alexander Gardener, 1896], 1). Though Kennedy was to become a fierce defender of Whitman, in his first published article he admitted reservations about the "coarse indecencies of language" and protested that Whitman's ideal of democracy was "too coarse and crude"; see The Californian, 3 (February 1881), 149–158. For more about Kennedy, see Katherine Reagan, "Kennedy, William Sloane (1850–1929)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. Kennedy worked for many years on a book about Whitman and often sent Whitman sections to review; not until after Whitman's death, in 1896, was his Reminiscences of Walt Whitman published. [back]
  • 5. Bucke and his brother-in-law William John Gurd were designing a gas and fluid meter to be patented in Canada and sold in England. [back]
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