Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 19 December 1890

Date: December 19, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07134

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, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock

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Medical Superintendent's Office.
Insane Asylum
London Ontario1
19 Dec 1890

Your welcome2 card of 16th3 came to hand yesterday. My brother Eustace (Duke)4 was back again for the day and left for home (Ottawa) at 5.30 last evening. Splendid sleighing here and I thoroughly enjoy it—get out for a good drive every day—sometimes twice.

This morning the air is cold but the sun shining like a lovely June morning, have just been to North Building with Dr. Beemer5 all going well and quietly at asylum. In the city the meter6 affairs go on as usual "slow but sure" I think we shall be turning out meters within a month from now, have begun making but are not in a position yet to make all the parts [illegible] turn out meters. Xmas holidays [illegible] us a little delay but not much.

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. There is a diagonal cancellation mark on the recto of this letter, suggesting that Whitman intended to use the blank verso as scrap paper. [back]

2. As yet we have no information about this correspondent. [back]

3. See Whitman's letter of December 16[back]

4. Philip Eustace Bucke (1831–1918) was Richard Maurice Bucke's older brother. He was born in Methwold, Norfolk, England, and, when he was seven years old, emigrated to Canada with the rest of the Bucke family. [back]

5. 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]

6. 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]


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