Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 11 September 1891

Date: September 11, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08170

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 note: The annotation, "see notes Sept 14 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Andrew David King, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock



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Medical Superintendent's
Office.
INSANE ASYLUM
LONDON ONTARIO1
11 Sept. 1891

Wallace2 and I reached here sound and well about 8 o'clock last evening. The Asylum band was out in front of the house and they played quite a while to welcome me home.—All is in good shape here and the folk all well—the health of the Asylum has been excellent during my 2 month absence.3 I have a pile of work in front of me which it will take me weeks to wade thro' but I feel well and able to accomplish the whole job. Wallace will like it here and he will have a good visit and rest. Mrs Bucke4 sends her love to you. I will not write much of a letter now but will drop a line from day to day and whatever turns up you shall have it fresh.

Always with 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: LOND(?) | AM | SP 12 | 91 | CANADA.; CAMDEN, N.J. | SEP14 | 6AM | 91 | REC'D.  [back]

2. James William Wallace (1853–1926), of Bolton, England, was an architect and great admirer of Whitman. Along with John Johnston (d. 1918), a physician from Bolton, he 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]

3. At this time, Bucke had just returned from traveling abroad in England in an attempt to establish a foreign market for the water meter he was building with his brother-in-law William Gurd. Wallace had returned with Bucke to visit Canada. [back]

4. Jessie Maria Gurd (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]


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