Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 9 June 1886
Date: June 9, 1886
Source: The transcription presented here is derived from The Letters of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, ed. Artem Lozynsky (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1977), 29. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: Papers of Walt Whitman (MSS 3829), Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature, Albert H. Small Special Collections Library, University of Virginia
Whitman Archive ID: uva.00517
Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock
9 June '86
I have your card of 25 May1—Last week Carpenter2 came to town and I spent a day with him at Alfred Withers' (do you recollect him at London) in Hyde Park &c. We had a good talk and dinner together down town—Then last Sunday I spent most of the day and dined at Herbert Gilchrists3 and Carpenter was there. I am now making a few short visits in the country, shall return to London 21 and sail 30th—expect to see you about 15, 16 or 17 July and want you to be ready to go to Canada with me so as to avoid the heat of August and September in Camden—you may go home again as soon as you like after 1 oct. but I must insist on your going with me for the two hot months—Now please do not think of refusing to go but make all necessary arrangements and we will move Northward as soon as convenient after I get across the water—My health has improved quite a good deal and I trust it will keep on the same tack4
I am dear Walt
R M Bucke
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).
1. Whitman's postcard to Bucke of May 25, 1886, appears to be lost. [back]
2. Edward Carpenter (1844–1929) was an English writer and Whitman disciple. Like many other young disillusioned Englishmen, he deemed Whitman a prophetic spokesman of an ideal state cemented in the bonds of brotherhood. Carpenter—a socialist philosopher who in his book Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure posited civilization as a "disease" with a lifespan of approximately one thousand years before human society cured itself—became an advocate for same-sex love and a contributing early founder of Britain's Labour Party. On July 12, 1874, he wrote for the first time to Whitman: "Because you have, as it were, given me a ground for the love of men I thank you continually in my heart. . . . For you have made men to be not ashamed of the noblest instinct of their nature" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [1906–1996], 1:160). For further discussion of Carpenter, see Arnie Kantrowitz, "Carpenter, Edward [1844–1929]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
3. Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist (1857–1914), son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, was an English painter and editor of Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887). For more information, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
4. Bucke visited Whitman on July 18, 1886 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]