Richard Maurice Bucke

19th century Canadian psychiatrist and Whitman disciple, author of Man's Moral Nature, Walt Whitman, and Cosmic Consciousness.

Richard Maurice Bucke Richard Maurice Bucke

Richard Maurice Bucke

James H. Coyne

James Henry Coyne (1849-1942) was a literary friend of Bucke, and a Registrar of Deeds in St. Thomas, Ontario (county seat of Elgin). He was the first to write a biography of Richard Maurice Bucke after his death in 1902. His "sketch" uses Bucke's letters and autobiographical writings extensively. Most later biographies use Coyne's work as their primary source (although the bibliography is known to be incomplete and inaccurate).

Coyne's Sketch was first published in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada (R.S.C) in 1906.

Two further editions were printed. The first appeared in Horace Traubel's The Conservator (a journal dedicated to keeping Whitman's works alive), in 1907 and 1908, in eight installments. Coyne revised the original R.S.C.-article for this publication.

In 1923, the Toronto bibliophile and Whitmanite Henry S. Saunders (1864-1951) published Coyne's Sketch in book form, of which 157 copies were printed. Each copy was bound by hand, numbered and signed by the publisher.

The revised manuscript Coyne made for the Conservator (of which the first page is reproduced here below) can be found in the Digital Library. It both contains factual corrections (names, dates, etc.) and additions in pen, as well as many layout changes in pencil.

James H. Coyne

Richard Maurice Bucke, A Sketch. By James H. Coyne.

  • Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, second series, 1906-1907, volume XII, section II, p. 159-196. Published by J. Hope & Sons, Ottawa, 1906. (also issued as an offprint in 1906)
  • Revised edition. The Conservator: XVIII (1907), 118-119; 133-135; 149-151; XVIII (1908), 166-168; 181-183; XIX (1908), 5-7; 21-23; 37-39.
  • Revised edition. Published by Henry S. Saunders, Toronto, Canada, 1923. 77 p. The edition was printed by The Belcher Printing Company (Toronto).

Note: we will soon release a newly revised edition of this book!
See the Publishing page for more details.

Richard Maurice Bucke - A Sketch

John Burroughs

In 1906 James Coyne was working on his Bucke sketch, and wrote several of Bucke's friends asking for information. John Burroughs' response below is interesting, especially because he states his opinion on Bucke's work:

West Park NY
April 7, [1906?]

My Dear Sir,

I have read yours of March 24th. I fear I have no important facts to give you about Dr. Bucke. I knew him but not intimately. The only picture I have of him & myself is the one your refer to. I do not know that he & Whitman ever had their picture taken together. I was not deeply impressed by his work. He was too dogmatic & tied his knots too hard. His Cosmic Consciousness will do as a suggestion, but not as a demonstration. The Moral Nature I have not read. His Bacon-Shakespeare theory did not appeal to me. I do not believe Francis Bacon wrote these plays any more than John Locke did.

I was much interested in your account of his last-hours. I had never heard these particulars. I thank you for them. He was an able & brotherly man & I greatly valued his friendship.

Very Sincerely Yours,

John Burroughs

To: James H. Coyne Esq.
St. Thomas

John Burroughs letter

Letter in Digital Library


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