Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 25 April 1888

Date: April 25, 1888

Editorial note: The annotation, "To Walt Whitman," 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: Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Whitman Archive ID: yal.00289

Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Ian Faith, Stefan Schöberlein, and Stephanie Blalock



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Superintendent's Office.
ASYLUM FOR THE INSANE
LONDON.
ONTARIO
London, Ont.,
25 April 1888

To Walt Whitman

I have had the two enclosed letters and your note to Kennedy1 and myself of 18th inst somedays,2 been too busy to write even a line, have never been so crowded with work of all kinds as I am at present. I do wish you were well enough to accept Mr. Fords proposition to go to England & Scotland. I am dead sure you would have the biggest kind of a time and lots of money (if wanted) might be made out of it. But I suppose it is no use thinking of such a thing. O'Connor's3 letter is not cheerful but for all that middling for him poor fellow, his writing is I think better than it has been, firm & clear—if he could only get better! But we must not wait for it.

All well here, lovely weather, spring coming on as fast as the North West wind off the [neat?] ice fields of Lake Huron will let it.


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. William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and later published biographies of Longfellow and Whittier (Dictionary of American Biography). Apparently Kennedy had called on the poet for the first time on November 21, 1880 (William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman [1896], 1). Though Kennedy was to become a fierce defender of Whitman, in his first published article he admitted reservations about the "coarse indecencies of language" and protested that Whitman's ideal of democracy was "too coarse and crude"; see The Californian, 3 (February 1881), 149–158. For more about Kennedy, see Katherine Reagan, "Kennedy, William Sloane (1850–1929)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. See the letter from Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy and Richard Maurice Bucke of April 18, 1888[back]

3. 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]


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