Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 9 January 1889

Date: January 9, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07290

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: Alex Ashland, Caterina Bernardini, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock



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Superintendent's Office.
Asylum
for the Insane
London.
Ontario
London, Ont.,1
9 Jan 1889

Worse and worse! Rained all last night and has rained pouring all day, still coming down as lively as ever. Country all mud and water. Nice kind of a Canadian Winter! I have yours of 7th2 this morning, yes, I should think Walsh3 not coming was a sure sign that he considers you better. Guess you will have to turn Ed. Wilkins4 out once a day for a good long walk (whenever you can best spare him) I judge from what you say that he is suffering from being too closely confined and from not having enough to do. If he cd get a cord of wood a day to saw (and would saw it) I would guarantee him against heartburn & all other indigestion.5 All quiet here—nothing new of any sort—what we want most is frost and snow and we shall not be right untill we get them. Dont forget to send me the lines you are printing in the Century6 as soon as convenient.7 The Boston Herald con'g Baxter's8 piece not here yet—I hope to get it this afternoon or in the morning

As always—love to you
R M 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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey U.S.A. It is postmarked: London | PM | JA 9 | 89 | Canada; Camden N.J. | JAN | 11 | 6 AM | [illegible] | Rec'd. [back]

2. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of January 7, 1889[back]

3. Dr. Walsh was the brother of William S. Walsh (1854–1919), an American author and editor of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine. Richard Maurice Bucke arranged to have him accompany Dr. William Osler to see Whitman, since Bucke believed it would be useful to have a younger doctor examine the poet. See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, December 5, 1888[back]

4. Edward "Ned" Wilkins (1865–1936) was one of Whitman's nurses during his Camden years; he was sent to Camden from London, Ontario, by Dr. Richard M. Bucke, and he began caring for Whitman on November 5, 1888. He stayed for a year before returning to Canada to attend the Ontario Veterinary School. For more information, see Bert A. Thompson, "Edward Wilkins: Male Nurse to Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Review 15 (September 1969), 194–195. [back]

5. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of January 7, 1889[back]

6. Whitman's poem "My 71st Year" was published in Century Illustrated Magazine in November 1889. [back]

7. See Whitman's letters to Bucke of January 2, 1889 and January 11–13, 1889[back]

8. Sylvester Baxter (1850–1927) was on the staff of the Boston Herald. Apparently he met Whitman for the first time when the poet delivered his Lincoln address in Boston in April, 1881; see Rufus A. Coleman, "Whitman and Trowbridge," PMLA 63 (1948), 268. Baxter wrote many newspaper columns in praise of Whitman's writings, and in 1886 attempted to obtain a pension for the poet. For more, see Christopher O. Griffin, "Baxter, Sylvester [1850–1927]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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