Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 25 February 1891

Date: February 25, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08121

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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "see notes Feb. 28 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Zainab Saleh, Stephanie Blalock, and Marie Ernster



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Medical Superintendent's
Office.
INSANE ASYLUM
LONDON ONTARIO
25 Feb 1891

I have your Post Card of 22d1 No Lippencott2 yet.3 I fear you are still having a bad time, hope however you will be able to get ahead with your little book.4

The elections here are making everything hum again. The excitment is worse & worse—I never witnessed anythink like it.5 We carried Hamilton (a by Election) yesterday with a maj. of nearly 700. We had lost the constituency a few months ago with 70 maj. against us—looks a little as if we (the liberals) might sweep the country on 5th if we do it will be a new departure for North America and the world.

So long!6
Your friend
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. See Whitman's postal card to Bucke of February 22, 1891[back]

2. Lippincott's Monthly Magazine was a literary magazine published in Philadelphia from 1868 to 1915. Joseph Marshall Stoddart was the editor of the magazine from 1886 to 1894, and he frequently published material by and about Whitman. For more information on Whitman's numerous publications here, see Susan Belasco, "Lippincott's Magazine." [back]

3. Bucke was looking forward to seeing a copy of the March issue of Lippincott's. The March issue of the magazine in 1891 (Volume 47, pages 376–389) contained Whitman's portrait as a frontispiece, "Old Age Echoes" (including "Sounds of Winter," "The Unexpress'd," "Sail Out for Good, Eidólon Yacht!" and "After the Argument"), Whitman's "Some Personal and Old-Age Memoranda," Horace Traubel's "Walt Whitman: The Poet and Philosopher of Man," and "The Old Man Himself. A Postscript." [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. Bucke is referring to Canada's upcoming national election. 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]

6. Bucke has written his closing and signature in red ink—sideways and across part of the letterhead—in the top margin of the letter. [back]


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