Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 4 February 1891

Date: February 4, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07910

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 note: The annotation, "see notes Feb. 6 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

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

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Medical Superintendent's
4 Feb 18911

Yours of 2d2 to hand this forenoon. I am here at office at work as usual (none the worse but rather, I think, the better) for the few days at home and in bed. You see I was not sick—just a little pain and bad cold. I got a nice rest and change and it did me good. You must not be the least uneasy about me—should I get really sick I will send you word but untill I tell you the contrary consider me well. I gave Beemer3 one of the 4 pictures—shall not part with any of the other unless the spirit strongly moves me to do so. We have a cold snap here—mercury down to zero this morning—no meters4 yet! May have the first dozen out by end of this week.

Mrs Bucke5 went to Sarnia yesterday—she goes from there today (with some friends) to Windsor to attend Willy Kittermaster's wedding6 at 7 this P.M. I guess you will remember W.K. you knew him well (quite a boy then) in 1880. Willy remembers you very well and with much affection. Mrs. B. will stay in Windsor and Sarnia a few weeks

All well and quiet here
Best love to you
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: CAMDEN, N.J. | FEB | 6 | 6AM | 1891 | REC'D; [illegible] | [illegible] | [illegible] | 91 | CANADA. [back]

2. Bucke is referring to Whitman's letter of February 2, 1891[back]

3. Dr. Nelson Henry (N. H.) Beemer (ca. 1854–1934) was in charge of the "Refractory Building" at Bucke's asylum and served as his first assistant physician. Whitman met Beemer during his visit there in the summer of 1880. See James H. Coyne, Richard Maurice Bucke: A Sketch (Toronto: Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, 1906), 52. [back]

4. Bucke and his brother-in-law William John Gurd were designing a gas and fluid meter to be patented in Canada and sold in England. [back]

5. 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]

6. Frederick William Kittermaster (?–1904) was a lawyer in Sarnia, Ontario, and he was Mrs. Bucke's nephew. [back]


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