Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 14 September 1888

Date: September 14, 1888

Editorial note: The annotation, "See notes Sept 17, 1888," 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.07241

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.,
14 Sept 1888

I have been away two days—went Wednesday—wedding yesterday back today. Did some meter business2 at same time. The wedding3 was a very pleasant one, both groom & bride very jolly—everything went smoothly and we all had a good time—. The affair was very stilish—6 bridesmaids &c &c Champaine breakfast. And all the rest of it—wedding presents very handsome and very numerous—Got back home at noon today and all afternoon we have been having "athletic sports" at the asylum.—quite a "big time" attendants and patients taking part—we had over $100. worth of prizes and had a lot of fun. I suppose the books are getting on? I hope you will settle down to the notion of issuing the big book4 yourself without the intermediary of any publisher—print 400 or 500 copies—get them up in all ways in first class style—number each—sell for $10. Advertise in the "N.B."5 and perhaps in "Critic" & "Pall Mall Gazette"— let Horace6 do all the work except autographing—make it a solid remembrance of yourself for your friends—make it as personal as possible

Love to you
RMBucke


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 | [illegible] | SP 15 | 88 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | SEP | 17 | [illegible]PM | 1888 | 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. Bucke is referring to the recent marriage of Mrs. Bucke's nephew, the lawyer Frederick Kittermaster to Louisa Helen Pardee (1865–1950), daughter of Timothy Blair Pardee (1830–1889), a Canadian lawyer and politician. [back]

4. Whitman wanted to publish a "big book" that included all of his writings, and, with the help of Horace Traubel, he made the presswork and binding decisions for the volume. Frederick Oldach bound Whitman's Complete Poems & Prose (1888), which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. The book was published in December 1888. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom's Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary. [back]

5. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. 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 mid-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]


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