Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Richard Maurice Bucke, 7 June 1891

Date: June 7, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08060

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 Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented, updated, or created by Whitman Archive staff as appropriate.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Jason McCormick, Stephanie Blalock, and Brandon James O'Neil



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Camden1
Sunday P M June 7 '91

Much the same, but mainly free f'm the deadly weakness of yesterday—a great relief—rainy & coolish—am sitting the day out mostly in chair—Mr Buckwalter2 call'd but I excused—(have quite a good many visitors—often send excuses)—rose late—tea & wet Graham toast for breakfast (am pretty abstemious)—quiet day, negative (the best I expect now)—Remembrances & love to Mrs: B3 and Annie4


Walt Whitman


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: Dr Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: Camde[n, N.J.] | Jun 8 | 6 AM | 91; N. Y. | 6-8-91 | [10 AM?] | [illegible] London | PM | JU 9 | 91 | Canada. [back]

2. Geoffrey Buckwalter, a Camden friend and one of the organizers of the seventieth birthday celebration. [back]

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

4. Anne Montgomerie (1864–1954) married Horace Traubel in Whitman's Mickle Street house in Camden, New Jersey, in May 1891. After Whitman's birthday celebration on May 31, 1891, the couple traveled with the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke back to London, Ontario, where they stayed until returning to Camden, New Jersey, on June 14. The couple had one daughter, Gertrude (1892–1983), and one son, Wallace (1893–1898). Anne was unimpressed with Whitman's work when she first read it, but later became enraptured by what she called its "pulsating, illumined life," and she joined Horace as associate editor of his Whitman-inspired periodical The Conservator. Anne edited a small collection of Whitman's writings, A Little Book of Nature Thoughts (Portland, Maine: Thomas B. Mosher, 1896). After Horace's death, both Anne and Gertrude edited his manuscripts of his conversations with Whitman during the final four years of the poet's life, which eventually became the nine-volume With Walt Whitman in Camden[back]


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