Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 7 September 1888

Date: September 7, 1888

Editorial note: The annotation, "See notes Sept 10, '88," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07233

Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Ian Faith, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock



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Superintendent's Office.1
ASYLUM FOR THE INSANE
LONDON.
ONTARIO
London, Ont.,
7 Sept 1888

"Same subject continued" glorious weather and all quiet here at Asylum. Annual Report will have to be written this month, not begun yet, meter2 moving slowly, wedding to attend in Sarnia next week—a nephew of Mrs Bucke's (Fred. Kittermaster3 a young and very promising lawyer) marrying a daughter of Mr Pardee4—will be a grand affair. You ought to see the melon patch in our garden here—hundreds of melons lying thick on the ground Little Robbie has just come into the office—all the rest of the children go to school5—Robbie has got to be a great boy for horses—wants to be riding or driving all the time—can handle a quiet horse as well as any one—will be seven years old the coming Xmas.

I suppose you have not yet read "Robert Elsmere" by Mrs Ward6—it is quite a book & I believe has made quite a stir in England—I am just reading it—it is calculated to make the modern Britisher think—

Love to you
RM Bucke


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey | U.S.A. It is postmarked: LONDON | PM | SP 7 | 88 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | SEP | 9 | [illegible]M | [illegible] | REC'D. [back]

2. 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]

3. Frederick William Kittermaster (?–1904) was a lawyer in Sarnia, Ontario; he married Louisa Helen Pardee (1865–1950) in 1888. [back]

4. Timothy Blair Pardee (1830–1889) was a Canadian lawyer and politician, member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontaria, Canada, and Minister of the Crown. Pardee appointed Richard Maurice Bucke, with whom he was a close friend, as the Superintendent of the Asylum for the Insane in Hamilton at its founding in 1876, and then the next year as Superintendent of the Asylum for the Insane in London. For more on Pardee, see H. V. Nelles, "Pardee, Timothy Blair," Dictionary of Canadian Biography Vol. 11 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982).  [back]

5. The Buckes had three daughters and five sons: Clare Georgina (1866–1867), Maurice Andrews (1868–1899), Jessie Clare (1870–1943), William Augustus (1873–1933), Edward Pardee (1875–1913), Ina Matilda (1877–1968), Harold Langmuir (1879–1951), and Robert Walpole (1881–1923). [back]

6. Mary Augusta Ward (1851–1920) was a British novelist who wrote under her married name, Mrs. Humphry Ward. Robert Elsmere was by far her most popular novel, and one that inspired discussions on the role of Christian beliefs in modern England. [back]


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