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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 28 March [188]9

Your card of 26th to hand this morning.2 I grieve much that you should be depressed and by me about O'C.3 but I am anxious that his possible death at any time should not take you unawares for if it did I fear it [would] be a terrible shock to you. [—] Weather here bright and colder, very pleasant—We keep all well—nothing new with us. [—] I have had quite a time the last few days arranging and posting recent additions to my W. W. Collection. It is growing rapidly and assuming very considerable proportions. Nothing new about the meter Willy Gurd4 still here—he is waiting for Nesbit5 (our other partner) who should have been here to consult long ago but does not come for some reason

Best regards 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 30 | 1889," appears in the upper left-hand corner of the recto. The reference is to Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Saturday, March 30, 1889. [back]
  • 2. See Whitman's postal card to Bucke of March 26, 1889. [back]
  • 3. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication, published in 1866. For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. William John Gurd (1845–1903) was Richard Maurice Bucke's brother-in-law, with whom he was designing a gas and fluid meter to be patented in Canada and sold in England. Bucke believed the meter would be worth "millions of dollars," while Whitman remained skeptical, sometimes to Bucke's annoyance. In a March 18, 1888, letter to William D. O'Connor, Whitman wrote, "The practical outset of the meter enterprise collapsed at the last moment for the want of capital investors." For additional information, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, March 17, 1889, Monday, March 18, 1889, Friday, March 22, 1889, and Wednesday, April 3, 1889. [back]
  • 5. John Nesbit was a partner with Bucke and Gurd in the marketing of the gas and fluid meter; see Bucke's letter to Whitman of August 28, 1888. [back]
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