Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 18 September 1890

Date: September 18, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07112

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.

Notes for this letter were derived from The Letters of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, ed. Artem Lozynsky (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1977), and supplemented, updated, or created by Whitman Archive staff as appropriate.

Editorial notes: The annotation, "Dr B is interested in a new meter a simple patented machine for measuring the flow of water, gas, or anyything & also a cheap easy motor &c. I sent him one of the two group pictures.," is in the hand of Walt Whitman. The annotation, "see notes Sept 4 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock



page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3


Insane
Asylum London
Ontario
18 Sept. '90

A lovely bright cool Autumn day. Am working away here in my office at the Asylum as usual. Have from you this morning "Poet Lore"1 and photo. of Johnston, Wallace and others2—thanks.

Nothing stirring here but the usual work—am hard at my Annual Report while all other Asylum matters must be attended to at the same time—then I spend about an hour a day on the meter.3 All these things keep me going pretty well. A few weeks will see me in calmer water I hope. The meter goes well but not to say rapidly—it will be a couple of weeks yet I guess before we get fairly started making (this "start" is always a couple of weeks ahead—but we will catch up to it yet!)—We are getting a lot of new books for the Asylum library and among them are a set of Little, Brown & Co's4 Dumas5 Works—I am reading (evenings) the Count of Monte Cristo—it is many years since I read it first (more than forty, I guess)—This L.B. ed. is a good translation and it is a grand story (and I must say there is nothing I like much better than a real good story of the old fashioned kind—Marryatt,6 Scott,7 or Dumas—these modern "Psycological Analisis" folk such as George Eliot,8 Wilkie Collins,9 Tolstoi,10 Turgenieff11 & co. though splendid in their own way don't go to the right spot after all in the same direct straightforward manner).

I am anxiously waiting to hear more about the Ingersoll12 Lecture for the benefit of W.W.

Best love to you
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. The article Whitman sent to Bucke was probably Jonathan Trumbull, "Walt Whitman's View of Shakespeare," Poet-Lore 2.7 (July 15, 1890): 368–371. [back]

2. Dr. John Johnston and James William Wallace were members of a group of Whitman admirers in Bolton, Lancashire, England, who referrred to their little circle as the "Bolton College." Dr. Johnston visited Whitman in the summer of 1890, while Wallace visited both Whitman and Bucke in the fall of 1891. An account of "Bolton College" and of these visits is found in their Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–91 (London, England: G. Allen & Unwin, ltd., 1917). Bucke visited them in July 1891. [back]

3. Bucke and his brother-in-law William John Gurd were designing a gas and fluid meter to be patented in Canada and sold in England. [back]

4. Founded by Charles Little (1799–1869) and James Brown (1800–1855), Little, Brown and Company began as a bookseller and publishing firm in Boston in 1837. The firm published the works of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington and were also well known as a legal publisher; later they published numerous volumes of works by British poets. Today, Little, Brown and Company is part of the Hachette book group, and they continue to publish both fiction and nonfiction works. [back]

5. Alexandre Dumas (1802–1870) was a French author known best for his works The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo[back]

6. Frederick Marryat (1792–1848) was a novelist, Royal Navy Officer, and a friend of the British novelist Charles Dickens. Marryat is known for such works as the novel Mr. Midshipman Easy (1836) and a children's novel titled The Children of the New Forest (1847). [back]

7. Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832) was a Scottish statesman, historical novelist, playwright, and poet, best known for Ivanhoe (1820), The Lady of the Lake (1810), and Waverly (1814). For Whitman's views Scott, see Vickie L. Taft, "Scott, Sir Walter (1771)–1832)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

8. "George Eliot" was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans (1819–1880), one of the most influential British writers of the nineteenth century. Her works include The Mill on the Floss (1860), Middlemarch (1871–1872), and Daniel Deronda (1876). Whitman was especially enamored by Eliot's essay writing: "She is profound, masterful: her analysis is perfect: she chases her game without tremor to the very limit of its endurance" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, October 31, 1888). [back]

9. Wilke Collins (1824–1889) was an English novelist and playwright. He was a close friend of Charles Dickens, and some of his writings were first published in All the Year Round and Household Words, magazines that Dickens edited. Collins is best known for his novels The Woman in White (1859) and The Moonstone (1868), which is often considered the first English detective novel. [back]

10. Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (1828–1910) was a Russian realist writer of novels, plays, short stories and novellas. [back]

11. Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev (1818–1883) was a Russian playwright and novelist. He is regarded as one of the leading figures in Russian Realism. [back]

12. Robert "Bob" Green Ingersoll (1833–1899) was a Civil War veteran and an orator of the post-Civil War era, known for his support of agnosticism. Ingersoll was a friend of Whitman, who considered Ingersoll the greatest orator of his time. Whitman said to Traubel, "It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is Leaves of Grass. He lives, embodies, the individuality I preach. I see in Bob the noblest specimen—American-flavored—pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, March 25, 1891). The feeling was mutual. Upon Whitman's death in 1892, Ingersoll delivered the eulogy at the poet's funeral. The eulogy was published to great acclaim and is considered a classic panegyric (see Phyllis Theroux, The Book of Eulogies [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997], 30). [back]


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.