Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 22 November 1888

Date: November 22, 1888

Editorial note: The annotation, "See notes Nov 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.

Notes for this letter were derived from The Letters of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, ed. Artem Lozynsky (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1977).

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

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07271

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Stefan Schöberlein, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock



page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4


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

If I had Hamlin Garland's2 address I think I would write him a few lines to say how much I admire his calm and pleasant sentences in the "Transcript".3 I do not know when I have read anything that pleased me more—not I think since I read O'Connor's4 letter in the N.Y. Tribune on the Osgood-Stevens affair.5 We are coming to the front at last—and shall come—I have no fear, no doubt. It is only a question of waiting a few years untill men have time to take it in. Another quarter or half century will see L. of G. acknowledged to be what it really is—The bible of America.

My visit East is likely to be delayed some weeks. We have abt. decided that we will not show the meter untill it is protected (by patent) in other countries as well as in the States. Wm Gurd6 will return here from N.Y. almost at once and proceed to Ottawa—arrange there for the Canadian and other patents—as soon as these are secured we shall go East. I, of course, cannot say how soon this will be but I am in hopes we shall get to Phila immediately after Xmas.

Saw Pardee7 on Monday he is bad—very sick indeed—mind very feeble. Do not hear from O'Connor, do you?8

I am thinking over something to say about you and L. of G. if I have the chance when I am in Phila; impossible to say yet what it will come to, if anything.—must only wait and see. It seems to me a long time since I wrote you last—I have been in9 a kind of a whirl, better luck in future!

Love to you
R M 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 | NO 22 | 88 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | NOV | 24 | 10AM | [illegible] | REC'D. [back]

2. Hamlin Garland (1860–1940) was an American novelist and autobiographer, known especially for his works about the hardships of farm life in the American Midwest. For his relationship to Whitman, see Thomas K. Dean, "Garland, Hamlin," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Garland's review of November Boughs appeared in the Boston Transcript on November 15, 1888. He spoke of his review in letters to Whitman dated November 9, 1888 and November 16, 1888. Whitman commented to Horace Traubel: "The Transcript piece has as a trifle a certain air almost of apology: but for that feature I like it. We are forcing the enemy to listen to us" (see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Saturday, November 17, 1888).  [back]

4. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. On March 1, 1882, Oliver Stevens, the District Attorney of Boston, notified Osgood and Co., the publishers of the seventh edition (1881–1882) of Leaves of Grass, that Whitman's book was officially classified as obscene and was to be suppressed. Stevens wrote: "We are of the opinion that this book is such a book as brings it within the provisions of the Public Statutes respecting obscene literature and suggest the propriety of withdrawing the same from circulation and suppressing the editions thereof" (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., Walt Whitman: The Correspondence [1886–1889], 6 vols., 4:267 n16; see also Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer [1955], 498–500). O'Connor wrote a long letter condemning Stevens' ruling; the letter was published as "Suppressing Walt Whitman" in the New York Tribune (May 25, 1882). [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. 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]

8. Both Timothy Blair Pardee and William Douglass O'Connor had been in poor health; both men died in 1889. For Whitman's reaction to the news of the death of O'Connor, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, May 10, 1889. For his thoughts upon learning of Pardee's death, see With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, July 25, 1889[back]

9. This letter is continued at the top of the first page. [back]


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.