Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 28 April 1891

Date: April 28, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04988

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 his April 30, 1891, letter to Kennedy on the back of this letter. He included this letter as an enclosure for Kennedy to read. See loc.08465.

Contributors to digital file: Dante Chaney, Rosie Crawford, Lizzy Zumwalt, Stephanie Blalock, and Amanda J. Axley

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Medical Superindent's
Insane Asylum
London Ontario
28 April 1891

Well I am here at the office again. Have been over most of the day and am feeling first rate—not particularly strong, but in good spirits and feel that things are on the right track—that I am going to be O.K. again. I have had quite a spell of it—been in bed and in my room since 10th say 17. days—a long sick spell for me1—it will last me (I hope) for a while—The weather has turned cold and blustery but the place is looking well. My work has fallen behind at the office (tho Beemer2 has done first rate while I was sick) shall have to pitch in now and catch up.

Best love
RM 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. Bucke experienced a series of accidents and bouts with illness in the winter of 1890 and spring of 1891. He dislocated his shoulder as the result of a fall in December 1890. See Bucke's letter of December 25, 1890, to Whitman's biographer and literary executor Horace Traubel, which is reprinted in With Walt Whitman in Camden, Saturday, December 27, 1890. In his April 13, 1891, letter to Whitman, Bucke writes that his foot, which had been sore for a couple of weeks, had become inflamed. He goes on to note that he was "confined" in his room while his foot was "mending," and he also explains that the "grip" he had suffered in late January seemed to have lingering symptoms that he continued to experience. [back]

2. Dr. Nelson Henry (N. H.) Beemer (ca. 1854–1934) was in charge of the "Refractory Building" at Bucke's asylum and served as his first assistant physician. Whitman met Beemer during his visit there in the summer of 1880. See James H. Coyne, Richard Maurice Bucke: A Sketch (Toronto: Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, 1906), 52. [back]


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