Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 5 November 1889

Date: November 5, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07323

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: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ashlyn Stewart, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock



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Superintendent's Office.
Asylum
for the Insane
London.
Ontario
London, Ont.,
5 Nov 18891

It is 7.30 P.M. I have come over to the office to read and write for an hour or two. All well with us here. Yesterday afternoon I lectured to the students for two hours and a half (second lecture) finished "Melancholia" next lecture will be on "Mania" I am taking the "Century" dictionary—have the first six parts of it and have looked there over a good deal—it seems to me a really great work of its kind.

No word yet from Willy Gurd2—I had hoped to hear from him today but did not.—

I had a little bundle of papers from you this forenoon—thanks.

It is getting colder, begins to look and feel wintry, leaves all down, we have had no snow yet but we must have some soon—the children3 are all longing to see it—cannot say that I am, present weather good enough for me


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 | AM | NO 6 | 89 | Canada; NY | 11-7-89 | 9AM | [illegible]; Camden, N [illegible] | Nov | 3PM | 1889 | 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. The Buckes had three daughters and five sons: Clare Georgina (1866–1867), Maurice Andrews (1868–1899), Jessie Clare (1870–1943), William Augustus (1873–1933), Edward Pardee (1875–1913), Ina Matilda (1877–1968), Harold Langmuir (1879–1951), and Robert Walpole (1881–1923). [back]


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