Philip W. Leon

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise


William Osler served as one of Walt Whitman’s physicians from 1884, when he moved to Philadelphia to become Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, until 1889, when he left Philadelphia for Baltimore. Osler was introduced to Whitman by a mutual friend, Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke, Whitman’s avid disciple and biographer. After his stroke of 1873, Whitman suffered from recurrent episodes of illness (perhaps small strokes?). Osler first paid a call to Whitman’s home in Camden at Bucke’s request and subsequently visited him on numerous occasions.

Published in this book for the first time is Osler’s unfinished 1919 manuscript for a lecture recounting his relationship with Whitman. Much of the book is a gloss on this short manuscript. The book actually deals as much (or more) with the remarkable figure of Richard Maurice Bucke, Whitman’s spokesman and the developer of a theory of "cosmic consciousness," as it does with the two title characters. In sum, Whitman respected Osler, but did not particularly like his sunny, optimistic bedside manner. Osler respected Whitman, but for the most part did not like his poetry. (Leon, however, discovered some handwritten notes on Osler’s copy of Leaves of Grass that suggest Osler grew in his later years to appreciate Whitman’s poetry.)

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