Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 16 December 1888

Date: December 16, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07282

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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "See notes Dec 18, 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Stefan Schöberlein, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock



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Superintendent's Office.
ASYLUM FOR THE INSANE
LONDON.
ONTARIO
London, Ont.,1
16 Dec 1888

The books did not arrive last ev'g to my great disgust. I went in on purpose to inquire for them at express office. I shall no doubt get them tomorrow forenoon, will then write again. I wonder how you are getting on by now? Much better I hope but I dare not count on anything and am very anxious all the time. We are having gloomy weather which does not tend to cheer one, raining all day and looks as though it might rain for a week—the roads were hard and were getting nice and smooth now they will be in a devil of a mess again. Willy Gurd2 is to be home early in the week—I shall try and hurry up the meter patents so as to get East as soon as possible. But it seems difficult to get on, every step takes such a time—however the end must come at last

I wish I could hear from O.C.3 I imagine all sorts of things about him and worry a good deal. My chief interest now is the [pat?], I trust I shall hear tomorrow morning that you are easier

Always your friend
R M Bucke

P.S.

I have the "Boston Literary World" of 8th inst. Horace4 had it sent to me. Not a bad little review at all of "November Boughs"5 Do you know who did it? He is a good friend and has considerable insight into matters—is evidently holding himself in in the little col. and half article—

RMB

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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey U.S.A. It is postmarked: London | AM | DE 17 | 88 | Canada; Camden N.J. | DE [illegible] | 18 | 12 [illegible] | Rec'd. [back]

2. William John Gurd (1845–1903) was Richard Maurice Bucke's brother-in-law, with whom he was designing a gas and fluid meter to be patented in Canada and sold in England. Bucke believed the meter would be worth "millions of dollars," while Whitman remained skeptical, sometimes to Bucke's annoyance. In a March 18, 1888, letter to William D. O'Connor, Whitman wrote, "The practical outset of the meter enterprise collapsed at the last moment for the want of capital investors." For additional information, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, March 17, 1889, Monday, March 18, 1889, Friday, March 22, 1889, and Wednesday, April 3, 1889.  [back]

3. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. 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 mid-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]

5. Bucke is referring to "Whitman's November Boughs," an anonymous review published in The Literary World on December 8, 1888. [back]


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