Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 12 April 1889

Date: April 12, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07295

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, Ryan Furlong, and Stephanie Blalock



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Superintendent's Office.
Asylum
for the Insane
London.
Ontario
London, Ont.,
12 April 1889

Not a word yet from Willy Gurd.1 I expect he is working day & night almost to get his gas meter made as soon as may be. A lull generally here, no letters and no excitement of any kind, having a quiet time and getting a rest except that there is quite a bit of daily asylum work to attend to. By & by when the gas meter is done I suppose there will be excitement enough to make up for this quiet. I am still reading Brockden Brown's2 novels, he has the funniest stilted stile I ever read—mechanical—as if his sentences were made by a strawcutter—ground out of the machine. We are having a delightful warm, quiet rain—the grass has become green in the last two days. I smell the summer coming! Hurrah!3

Love to you always
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. 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]

2. Charles Brockden Brown (1771–1810) was an American writer who authored novels, short stories, and essays. His novels include Wieland (1798) and Edgar Huntly; or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker (1799). [back]

3. Whitman mentions having received this letter from Bucke in conversation with Horace Traubel. See Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, April 11, 1889[back]


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