Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 28 September 1889

Date: September 28, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07317

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, "Removal of stamp be[fore?]," is in the hand of Gertrude Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Caterina Bernardini, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock



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Superintendent's Office.
Asylum for the Insane
London.
Ontario
London, Ont.,
28 Sept 18891

Yours of 25th reached me last evening. I was real glad to get it and the note from John Burroughs2 enclosed. This morning the Harper's Weekly came with the little gem of a sonnet3—thanks, hearty thanks. A letter today from our New York meter partner—he has seen William Gurd4 and the new index5—pronounces it first class. The meter prospects look at present exceedingly bright. All well here. Perfect weather, bright and cool. Glorious nights to sleep!

Love to you
R M Bucke

Removal of stamp be[fore?]6

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 USA. It is postmarked: London | PM | SP 28 | 89 | Canada; Camden, N.J. | Sep | 30 | 6AM | 1889 | Rec'd. [back]

2. The naturalist John Burroughs (1837–1921) met Whitman on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1864. After returning to Brooklyn in 1864, Whitman commenced what was to become a lifelong correspondence with Burroughs. Burroughs was magnetically drawn to Whitman. However, the correspondence between the two men is, as Burroughs acknowledged, curiously "matter-of-fact." Burroughs would write several books involving or devoted to Whitman's work: Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and Person (1867), Birds and Poets (1877), Whitman, A Study (1896), and Accepting the Universe (1924). For more on Whitman's relationship with Burroughs, see Carmine Sarracino, "Burroughs, John [1837–1921] and Ursula [1836–1917]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Whitman's poem "Bravo, Paris Exposition!" was published in Harper's Weekly on September 28, 1889. [back]

4. 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]

5. A meter index is the gauge on the gas meter that measures usage. [back]

6. This note, likely written by Gertrude Traubel, appears on the front of the envelope that contained the letter. [back]


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