Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 8 February 1891

Date: February 8, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08114

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

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Zainab Saleh, Stephanie Blalock, and Breanna Himschoot

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Medical Superintendent's
8 Feb 18911

Your card (welcome as always) of 5th2 to hand last evening. The "Republican" slip belongs to '81,3 was anent of good Ed. of L. of G. . I find I have it in my catalogue. Am well—as we all are here, thank goodness—only wish you were the same. The Canadian House of Commons is dissolved—General Election 5th next month—whole country in tremendous excitement, for the issue is most important—Viz: Stay as we are getting poorer all the time in men and money or commercial (and probably finaly political) union with U.S.A. and along with that (it is to be hoped) comparative prosperity. I am (of course) along with the whole liberal party for trade and even union with our neighbors. It will be a most bitter fight but we are sanguine of victory.4

No meters5 yet but we look to have the first batch out in two or three days more—after that we can make them as fast as we like—but this political fight may cause some delay letting them on the market—but I care nothing for that if we can only win the day

As always, dear friend, best love
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 | 10 | 12 M | 1891 | REC'D, LONDON | AM | FE 9 | 91 | CANADA [back]

2. See Whitman's letter of February 5, 1891[back]

3. Whitman may be referrring to the notice that appeared on November 10, 1881. See Whitman's letter to the Editor of The Springfield Republican of November 13, 1881[back]

4. The main issue of the Canadian national election of 1891 was tariffs, with the Conservative Party, led by John A. Macdonald (1815–1891), wanting protective tariffs while the Liberal Party, led by Wilfred Laurier (1841–1919), wanted free trade with the U.S. The Conservatives won the election. [back]

5. 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]


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