Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 2–3 May 1891

Date: May 2–3, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08140

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 May 7 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Zainab Saleh, Stephanie Blalock, and Alex Ashland



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Medical Superintendent's Office.
INSANE ASYLUM
LONDON ONTARIO
2 May 18911

Your post card of 29th2 came to hand yesterday afternoon and I got it on my return from the city in the evening—I am sorry enough to see that you are still suffering. Of course you could not go to New York on 31st but I hope you will be well enough by then to go over to Philadelphia.

Everything quiet here, I am coming round gradually, hope to be all right in another week or so.

The leaves are coming out rapidly here and the grounds are getting beautiful.

3 May Sunday

Had to break off here and could not resume yesterday—went to city (after a lot of talk and business) and attended Annual Meeting of the Grand Meter Co.3 Got through with that about 6 p.m. then home to tea pretty well tired out—for I am not strong yet tho' doing well—improving every day.4

All looks well with the Grand Meter Co. We have (I fully believe) by far the best and cheapest to make meter on the market—but it is a new thing—no one is interested to help it along and many (all the old meter men & their friends) are interested to keep it back and the trouble is to get the meter in use so that it will be proved and its merits become known. We are tackling this problem in earnest now and hope soon to solve it.

It does not look now as if I should go to England5 until say the middle of the summer—if this is the case I may be able to run down to Camden for a few days at end May6

Best love
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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey | U.S.A. It is postmarked: LONDON | AM | MY 4 | 91 | CANADA.; CAMDEN, N.J. | MAY | 5 | 1 P[M] | 1891 | R[EC'D]. [back]

2. See Whitman's letter to Bucke of April 29, 1891[back]

3. 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]

4. Bucke experienced a series of accidents and bouts with illness in the winter of 1890 and spring of 1891. He dislocated his shoulder as the result of a fall in December 1890. See Bucke's letter of December 25, 1890, to Whitman's biographer and literary executor Horace Traubel, which is reprinted in With Walt Whitman in Camden, Saturday, December 27, 1890. In his April 13, 1891, letter to Whitman, Bucke writes that his foot, which had been sore for a couple of weeks, had become inflamed. He goes on to note that he was "confined" in his room while his foot was "mending," and he also explains that the "grip" he had suffered in late January seemed to have lingering symptoms that he continued to experience. [back]

5. As Bucke's letters in May and June 1891 both to Whitman and Horace Traubel make clear, he was going abroad to establish a foreign market for his gas and fluid meter, a subject to which he referred constantly in his communications but which the poet studiously ignored. [back]

6. Bucke meant that he was planning to visit Whitman on or around May 31, 1891—Whitman's seventy-second (and last) birthday. The occasion was celebrated with friends at Whitman's home on Mickle Street. [back]


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