Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 21 September 1888

Date: September 21, 1888

Editorial note: The annotation, "See notes Sept. 24, 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.07245

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.,
21 Sept 1888

Yours of 18th & 19th to hand,2 enclosing Herald scrap3 and Logan Smith's4 letter5. Thanks for all. All quiet here and nothing new. I guess things are pretty quiet, not to say dull, with you. You will very soon now have your autographing to do, quite a job for you I should think (?). Annual Fair begins in London today so no doubt we shall have enough visitors for the next week or ten days. I expect W. Gurd6 (and my boys) home this evening—guess we shall be able to move ahead with meter now. A certain little hitch there was seems to be got over all O.K.

We are talking of having a copy made (or get a casting) of your (Sidney Morse)7 bust and putting it in our new (big) amusement room (now building)—hope we shall be able to manage it. It would go over the front of store (the plan was to put Shakespeare there but as we cannot be sure of his likeness and can be of yours we think of this change).

Mrs Bucke8 and children all well—we are all enjoying the quiet autumn days, and the good fresh fruit and vegetables from our orchards & gardens—we have never had a more plentiful season.

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 21 | 88 | CANADA; RECEIVED | SEP | 23 | 730PM | PHILA; CAMDEN, N.J. | SEP 23 | 6AM | 1888 | REC'D. [back]

2. See the letter from Whitman to Bucke of September 18–19, 1888. [back]

3. This was a notice for November Boughs appearing in the New York Herald[back]

4. Logan Pearsall Smith (1865–1946) was an essayist and literary critic. He was the son of Robert Pearsall Smith, a minister and writer who befriended Whitman, and he was the brother of Mary Whitall Smith Coestelloe, one of Whitman's most avid followers. For more information on Logan, see Christina Davey "Smith, Logan Pearsall (1865–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Smith sent Whitman a letter from Wales on September 7, 1888[back]

6. 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]

7. Sidney H. Morse (1832–1903) was a self-taught sculptor as well as a Unitarian minister and, from 1866 to 1872, editor of The Radical. He visited Whitman in Camden many times and made various busts of him. Whitman had commented on an earlier bust by Morse that it was "wretchedly bad." For more on this, see Ruth L. Bohan, Looking into Walt Whitman: American Art, 1850–1920 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 105–109. [back]

8. Jessie Maria Gurd (1839–1926) married Richard Maurice Bucke in 1865. The couple had eight children. [back]


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