Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 14 April 1891

Date: April 14, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08135

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 notes: The annotation, "dialoge," is in the hand of Walt Whitman. The annotation, "see notes may 9 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Cristin Noonan, Zainab Saleh, Amanda J. Axley, Marie Ernster, and Stephanie Blalock

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14 April 91

Am still here in my big bedroom (across the hall from the one you had in '802) but sitting up most of the day & mending—the foot is much better3—Last night I got some sleep and altogether I am getting on as well as possible. Shall be around as usual (no doubt) before the end of the week. Have been reading Goldwin Smith's4 book (just out) on "Canada & the Canadian Question"5 have not got to his summing up yet but I believe he thinks (as I do) that union with the States is the only solution of the very ugly knot existing now.

It was a most agreable distraction to me this morning to receive your card of 11th and letter of 12th6 containing Wallace's7 W. W. letter to his friend Mr Goldstraw.8 It was good of you to send it me—it is a noble production and raises Wallace even higher than ever in my regard—I know W. pretty well and between ourselves I think he is a very choice spirit—his spiritual insight is especially keen and fine—I guess there is no man understands L. of G. more profoundly

I have just had a letter f'm the Inspector9 and leave to attend the meeting as Washn is not granted me—I shall therefore not be along your way for a little while yet. I shall not try to make any fresh plans now until after the Annual meeting of the Gurd meter Co10 (End of next week)—It may be I shall go to England later on but nothing can be settled at present—in any case I must see you before a very great while

Love to you dear Walt
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: LOND(?) | P(?) | A(?)14 | 91 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | APR | 1(?) | (?)M | 1891 | REC'D. [back]

2. Whitman had visited Dr. Bucke's home in London, Ontario, in the summer and fall of 1880. [back]

3. In his April 13, 1891, letter to Whitman, Bucke had reported that his foot, which had been sore for a couple of weeks, had become inflamed. [back]

4. Educated at Eton College and Magdalen College, Oxford, Goldwin Smith (1823–1910), was a British historian and journalist. In the 1860s, he taught at Cornell University in New York. He was the author of numerous works on a wide range of subjects from the American Civil War and European political history to the life of the English novelist Jane Austen. [back]

5. Smith's book Canada and the Canadian Question was published in 1891, in which he discussed Canada in the nineteenth century and his belief that Canada and the United States could merge into a single country. [back]

6. Bucke is referring to Whitman's postal card of April 11, 1891 and Whitman's letter of April 12, 1891[back]

7. James William Wallace (1853–1926), of Bolton, England, was an architect and great admirer of Whitman. Wallace, along with Dr. John Johnston (1852–1927), a physician in Bolton, founded the "Bolton College" of English admirers of the poet. Johnston and Wallace corresponded with Whitman and with Horace Traubel and other members of the Whitman circle in the United States, and they separately visited the poet and published memoirs of their trips in John Johnston and James William Wallace, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends (London: Allen and Unwin, 1917). For more information on Wallace, see Larry D. Griffin, "Wallace, James William (1853–1926)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

8. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

9. Bucke is likely referring to the Inspector of Asylums for the Province of Ontario, Canada. [back]

10. 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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