Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 18 January 1891

Date: January 18, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07908

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.

Notes for this letter were derived from The Letters of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, ed. Artem Lozynsky (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1977), and supplemented, updated, or created by Whitman Archive staff as appropriate.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Zainab Saleh, Stephanie Blalock, and Andrew David King



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Medical Superintendent's
Office.
INSANE ASYLUM
LONDON ONTARIO1
18 Jan 1891

Postcard of 15th2 from you came to hand yesterday—very quiet here—guess it is much the same with you but am sorry to see that you still have only a poor time of it with your troublesome ailments—glad to see however that Horace3 who is with you so much fancies you are doing well—this goes to show that even if you suffer (as undoubtedly you do) your constitution is bearing up wonderfully well under it and will perhaps shake off some of it yet. I go to Toronto tuesday (day-after-tomorrow) to consult with the government in the case "Ross v. Bucke"4 Shall know then (I suppose) whether they are going to stand by me—guess they will—guess they must—but will tell you definitely when I know myself—we are all well—shoulder nearly all right again

Love to you
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 | JA 19 | 91 | 91 | CANADA. [back]

2. See Whitman's January 15, 1891, postal card to Bucke. [back]

3. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the mid-1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919],"Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Bucke was sued for defamation of character by a former female employee of the London Asylum whom he had fired. [back]


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