Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 16 January 1890

Date: January 16, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07334

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, Breanna Himschoot, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

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Superintendent's Office
for the Insane
London, Ont.,
16 Jan 18901

At the house we are getting better. Am feeling considerably better myself. W.J. Gurd2 and all the rest are also mending. But at the asylum it is doubtful if we have yet seen the worst of this infernal La Grippe. A large number of the offices and attendants are more or less sick with it so that it is all we can do to get through the daily necessary work. Has it come your way yet? I do not see any accounts in the papers of the epidemic in Philadelphia and Camden. If you get it you will probably be pretty miserable for a few days but it is not likely it will do you any more harm than that

It is wintry today, ground white (though no sleighing) and air frosty. I am pretty well through with my days work (it is 4 P.M.) and after making this short report to you shall read L. of G. for a lttle while and then go to the house.

Perhaps you have a touch of La Grippe for I have not heard from you for quite a long time (your last note was written 9 days ago, viz: on 7th)3

Tell me how you are

Your friend
R M Bucke

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).


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey U.S.A. It is postmarked: London | PM | Ja 17 | 90 | Canada; Camden, N.J. | Jan | 18 | 4PM | 1890 | 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. See Whitman's January 7, 1890, letter to Bucke. [back]


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