Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 3 December 1888

Date: December 3, 1888

Editorial note: The annotation, "See notes Dec 6 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.07276

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



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

Your letter of friday & Saturday (30th & 1st)2 came to hand this afternoon and has made me feel very anxious for you. I fear you are suffering a great deal. I have written to Osler3 urging him to try and do something to releive that horrible irritation of the bladder that keeps you getting up so much at night and it seems to me imperative that the bowels should be kept open. I fear that Osler is too busy to give you the attention you require and it seems to me that you ought to have him recommend a good man who would see you every day, and twice a day if necessary while O. himself would come over from time to time and see you with him. I have also written to Traubel4 urging him to make some arrangement by which you will be seen at least once a day by some good doctor—I wish I could be with you but that is impossible at present. I shall hope to hear very soon that proper arrangements have been made and that you are more comfortable

I am always
affectionately yours
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 | AM | DE 4 | 88 | Canada; Camden, N.J. | Dec | 5 | 4 PM | 1888 | Rec'd; NY | 12-6 88 | [illegible]AM. [back]

2. See the letter from Whitman to Bucke of November 30–December 1, 1888. [back]

3. Sir William Osler (1849–1919) was a Canadian physician and one of the four founding staff members of Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he served as the first Chief of Medicine. Richard Maurice Bucke introduced Osler to Whitman in 1885 in order to care for the aging poet. Osler wrote a manuscript about his personal and professional relationship with Whitman in 1919; see Walt Whitman and Sir William Osler: A Poet and his Physician [Toronto: ECW Press, 1995]). For more on Osler, see Philip W. Leon, "Osler, Dr. William (1849–1919)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). For more on the relationship of Osler and Whitman, see Michael Bliss, William Osler: A Life in Medicine (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999). [back]

4. 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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