Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 9 July 1888

Date: July 9, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07213

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 created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Editorial note: The annotation, "See notes Aug 19 '88," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Ian Faith, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock

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Superintendent's Office.
London, Ont.,
9 July 1888

I read pp 68, 69, 70 of the book1 (on slang) with great delight—have never seen it before—must be printing now from M.S.? I hope there is a lot more of it, it is one of the best, most original, prose things of yours I have seen so far. I have your letter of the 5th & 6th. I fear you are not having a good time but it is a great comfort to me to know that you are at least being looked after—in this regard I feel sure nothing could be better than Baker2 & Traubel3 and I think we are most fortunate in getting the assistance of these two young fellows. Yes, as you imagine I am indeed up to my eyes in work but one thing I am glad of—I have got over the engagement I had with Pardee4 to go to Chicago and shall be here all the time now and so on hand in case I should require to go to Philadelphia.

The weather here keeps extremely pleasant, warm (not hot) generally bright, refreshing showers from time to time—we are cutting our hay. Had the last of our strawberries and the first of our currants today All goes well with us.

Your loving friend
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. Whitman was at this time reading proofs for November Boughs and asking friends to read them as well. [back]

2. Nathan M. Baker was one of Whitman's caregivers. He would leave on July 15, 1888, to resume his medical training. Baker was replaced by W.A. Musgrove. For Whitman's comments on the transition, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Monday, July 16, 1888[back]

3. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the late 1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Timothy Blair Pardee (1830–1889) was a Canadian lawyer and politician, member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontaria, Canada, and Minister of the Crown. Pardee appointed Richard Maurice Bucke, with whom he was a close friend, as the Superintendent of the Asylum for the Insane in Hamilton at its founding in 1876, and then the next year as Superintendent of the Asylum for the Insane in London. For more on Pardee, see H. V. Nelles, "Pardee, Timothy Blair," Dictionary of Canadian Biography Vol. 11 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982). [back]


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