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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 22 March [188]9

Monday night, tuesday night and wednesday night on account of traveling and one botheration or another I had short allowance of sleep so last night I went to bed early and slept 9 1/2 hours without waking or I believe moving and today I feel better. [—] We are having quite spring like weather here, warm & bright. This evening it looks a little like rain, by all appearance we shall have an early spring—our grounds are already full of robins—in the early morning they sing as if it was the middle of april.

I send you today a piece I wrote for an uncle more than thirty years ago about my old wanderings in the States 53–58 [/]2 I do not know whether you ever saw it [/] if not it may amuse you for a few minutes. I promised Horace3 to send him a copy of my Saguenay poem4 but please tell him I cannot find one and fear they are all gone.

I am hard at work getting into the run of things after by absence [/] in another day or two it will be just as if I had been here all the time.

We are all well, the health of the institution is first class. My Annual Report is out—I have written for some copies and shall send you one as soon as I get them

I am reading nothing, far too busy, feeling first rate

Love to you R M Bucke

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. Horace Traubel's note, "see | notes | March 24 | 1889," appears in the upper left-hand corner of the recto. The reference is to Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, March 24, 1889. [back]
  • 2. Bucke's own accounts of his wanderings were published as "Twenty-Five Years Ago," Overland Monthly, 1, second series (June 1883), 553–560 and as "On the Humboldt" in the London Advertiser on June 28, 1888; see also James H. Coyne, Richard Maurice Bucke: A Sketch (Toronto, Canada: Henry S. Saunders, 1923), 16–29. [back]
  • 3. 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]
  • 4. Whitman incorporated Bucke's poem in his article "Letter from Walt Whitman [on St. Lawrence River Trip]," which was published on August 26, 1880 in the London (Ontario) Advertiser, the Camden Daily Post, and the Philadelphia Press. The article contained ten paragraphs, and according to Whitman paragraphs 7–8 were by Bucke (Floyd Stovall, ed., Walt Whitman: Prose Works 1892, 2 vols. [New York: New York University Press, 1964], 1:346). [back]
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