Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 13 September 1891

Date: September 13, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08171

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 21, 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Zainab Saleh, Stephanie Blalock, and Brandon James O'Neil



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

Wallace2 and I are having a quiet pleasant time here.3 I have a great deal to do but am taking it quieter than I have usually taken such crises and am wading through with considerable equanimity and comfort. If you want to "disillusion" W. you will need to take some more heroic method as I do not see that he is any better at all at present—he is a very good fellow and as solid and reliable as a block of granite. The weather here is perfect neither hot nor cold. Our fruits and vegetables (corn, melons, tomatoes, potatoes &c &c) are abundant and extra fine—I have no desire to go to England or anywhere else at present

With 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 | SP 14 | 91 | CANADA.; CAMDEN, N.J. | SEP 15 | 12 M | 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 (1852–1927), 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. During the months of July and August, Bucke had traveled in England in an attempt to establish a foreign market for the gas and fluid meter he was developing with his brother-in-law William Gurd. Bucke returned to the United States in September 1891, arriving in New York and then traveling to Camden to see Whitman. Wallace traveled to the U.S. as well, landing at Philadelphia on September 8, 1891 (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, September 8, 1891). After spending a few days with Whitman, Wallace traveled with Bucke to the physician's home in London, Ontario, Canada. [back]


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