Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 24 April 1890

Date: April 24, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07347

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 notes: The annotation, "for Horace," is in the hand of Walt Whitman. The annotation, "see notes April 26 '90," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Breanna Himschoot, Ian Faith, Stephanie Blalock, and Zainab Saleh

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Superintendent's Office
for the Insane
London, Ont.,1
24 April 1890

I have your note of Sunday,2 enclosing letter from Barnard O'Dowd3 of Melbourne, Australia.4 Also your card of 22d5 and "Camden Post" of same date. I have read all with great interest. Have been from home a couple of days on asylum business that is why I am answering all in a lump—got home last ev'g. I guess "La Grippe" is still sticking to you—(she is the devil to stick)—and is making you feel miserable—but patience! (you used to have a good stock but must be getting toward the bottom of it I should think) the worst is over and the dregs of it will be run out in a little while now. Mrs Bucke6 and little Pardee7 got back home yesterday from their five weeks' visit in Sarnia with various friends there—I am happy to say

they are both looking better for the rest and change. Nothing settled yet about my visit East but hope to leave (as mentioned before) about 12th May.8

Very pleasant weather here now—cool and bright—vegetation is coming forward quite slowly (as I like to see it—less likely to be cut back by frost)—

Love to you always
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 | AP 24 | 90 | Canada; Camden, N. J. | Apr | 25 | 6PM | 90 | Rec'd. [back]

2. See Whitman's April 20, 1890, letter to Bucke. [back]

3. Bernard Patrick O'Dowd (1866–1953) was an Australian poet, lawyer, activist, and journalist. He and his wife, Evangeline Mina Fryer, began a weekly discussion club with secular and Whitmanesque inclinations called the Australeum. His letter of March 12, 1890, began a correspondence with Whitman that lasted until November 1, 1891, and assumed the character of a religious experience, always saluting Whitman with reverential appellations. For more, see Alan L. McLeod, "Whitman in Australia and New Zealand," J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. It is uncertain which letter is being referred to here. [back]

5. See Whitman's April 22, 1890, postal card to Bucke. [back]

6. Jessie Maria Gurd Bucke (1839–1926) grew up in Mooretown, Upper Canada. She was the daughter of William Gurd, an army officer from Ireland. Gurd married Richard Maurice Bucke in 1865. The couple had eight children. [back]

7. Bucke is referring to his son, Edward Pardee Bucke (1875–1913). [back]

8. Bucke left London on May 12, 1890, for Cape May City, N.J. He remained in the United States until June 1, 1890. [back]


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