Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 1 January 1889

Date: January 1, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04982

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

Related item: Whitman wrote printer's instructions for a "New Ed'n Leaves of Grass" on the back of Bucke's letter.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock



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Superintendent's Office.
Asylum
for the Insane
London.
Ontario
London, Ont.,
1 Jan 18891

Your card of 30th2 to hand this forenoon. I am glad you are holding out but I fear you are not having a very good time. We had a young peoples' party at the home last night and they danced the new year in. We were very merry (as old Pepys would say) but it makes a fellow feel rather stupid next day. Was a lovely bright forenoon, clouded over now. Nesbit3 is here since yesterday afternoon, he, Gurd4 and I consulting over the meter—not sure yet what our next step in advance will be. I enclose a note from Mrs Pardee5 wh may interest you—

Your friend
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. Whitman has drawn three lines through Bucke's letter in ink; they extend from the top left to the bottom right of the page. [back]

2. See Whitman's postal card to Bucke of December 30, 1888[back]

3. John Nesbit was a partner with Bucke and Gurd in the marketing of the gas meter; see Bucke's letter to Whitman of August 28, 1888[back]

4. 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]

5. Bucke may be referring to Louisa Helen Pardee (1865–1950), the daughter of the Canadian lawyer and politician Timothy Blair Pardee (1830–1889). She married Mrs. Bucke's nephew, the lawyer Frederick Kittermaster. He could also be referring Emma Kirby Pardee, the wife of Timothy Blair Pardee. [back]


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