Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 11 November 1890

Date: November 11, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07124

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.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ian Faith, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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Insane Asylum
London Ontario
11 Nov 1890

Yours of 8th2 came to hand yesterday while I was giving my third (two hour) lecture—the lecture was on mania. I have a class of over twenty students. I see that miserable grip still sticks to you—has Thomas3 been over yet abt. the glasses and have you got them? I am exceedingly anxious to know whether or no this uncomfortable feeling is at all relieved by such good glasses as he will order you—Did they make a good job of the old hat?4

All is well here—the meter5 coming on but slow, slow—but we are not depending on it to have a pretty good time—That is a good report about L. of G. in England6—but I have known it all along—it must come nothing can stop it—it is the book of the future for the next few hundred years—

We are all well pleased here too over the result of your elections,7 we hope (many of us do) that it is the beginning of the return to sanity and to a broad continental view of politics—or is this too much to hope? If we could only let union of this continent I think the (political) future of the world would be assured

My love to you
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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey U.S.A. It is postmarked: Lo[ndon] | N[O] 11 | 90; Camden, N[J] | Nov | 13 | 6AM | 1890 | Rec'd. [back]

2. See Whitman's November 8, 1890, letter to Bucke. [back]

3. Whitman was examined by an oculist, Dr. Thomas, on October 25, 1890. Thomas was to assist the poet in obtaining "suitable glasses." See Whitman's letter to Bucke of October 26, 1890. Whitman also reports on his dissatisfaction with the glasses in his letter of November 13, 1890[back]

4. See Whitman's letters to Bucke of November 13, 1890 and November 18, 1890[back]

5. 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]

6. In his November 8, 1890, letter to Bucke, Whitman wrote that he "had a lively gent visitor day before yesterday f'm Eng." who "gives a strong acc't of L of G receptivity." The English visitor was likely Joseph William (Gleeson) White (1851–1898), an English critic and editor, who wrote extensively on the subjects of design, illustration, and book-binding (Daybooks & Notebooks, ed. William White [New York: New York University Press, 1978], 2:575). [back]

7. The 1890 election was held during Republican President Benjamin Harrison's term of office (Harrison served from 1889–1893). Republicans suffered major losses in the election, with Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives, but with Republicans hanging onto control of the Senate. The Populist Party had some surprising successes, electing two U.S. Senators. In his November 8, 1890, letter Whitman wrote that he was "tickled hugely with the election." [back]


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