Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 6 July 1890

Date: July 6, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07353

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, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock



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Superintendent's Office.
ASYLUM FOR THE INSANE
LONDON,
ONTARIO
London, Ont.,1
6 July 1890

Your card of 2nd2 came to hand yesterday morning. Kennedy3 was here and I showed it to him. He left by 11.30 a.m. train for the west. I took him to the station and saw him off. He could only stay with me from Wednesday evening to Saturday morning—a short visit but I was glad to have him—would have been more glad if he could have stayed longer. We had some good talks and altogether a real good time. I wish you could get the little "annex"4 out at once—I want much to see it but suppose it cannot be issued untill Lippencott gets the poems printed that he has.5

It is sunny, warm (not hot) and pleasant here. The place looks well and all is going quietly and well with us.

My brother Eustace6 (who you will remember)—we call him Duke—arrived here at noon today from Ottawa We have spent a few pleasant hours together this afternoon

Love to you—So long!
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 | JY 7 | 90 | Canada; NY | 7-8-90 | 9 AM | [illegible]; Camden, N.J. | Jul | 8 | 3 PM | [illegible] | Rec'd. [back]

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

3. William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and later published biographies of Longfellow and Whittier (Dictionary of American Biography). Apparently Kennedy had called on the poet for the first time on November 21, 1880 (William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman [1896], 1). Though Kennedy was to become a fierce defender of Whitman, in his first published article he admitted reservations about the "coarse indecencies of language" and protested that Whitman's ideal of democracy was "too coarse and crude"; see The Californian, 3 (February 1881), 149–158. For more about Kennedy, see Katherine Reagan, "Kennedy, William Sloane (1850–1929)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Whitman's book Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) was his last miscellany, and it included both poetry and short prose works commenting on poetry, aging, and death, among other topics. Thirty-one poems from the book were later printed as "Good-Bye my Fancy 2d Annex" to Leaves of Grass (1891–1892), the last edition of Leaves of Grass published before Whitman's death in March 1892. For more information see, Donald Barlow Stauffer, "'Good-Bye my Fancy' (Second Annex) (1891)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. See Whitman's July 2, 1890, letter to Bucke. [back]

6. Philip Eustace Bucke (b. 1831). His occupation is unknown, but according to Seaborn's "Genealogy of the Bucke family" (MS) Philip Eustace "Left home when 16 . . . crossed ocean 92 times . . . Retired at 55—spent rest of time in making rods & flies." [back]


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