Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 17 July [188]8

Date: July 17, [188]8

Whitman Archive ID: med.00853

Source: The current location of this manuscript is unknown. Artem Lozynsky derives his transcription from letter in the private collection of Gertrude Traubel. The transcription presented here is derived from Richard Maurice Bucke, The Letters of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, ed. Artem Lozynsky (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1977), 41. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Alex Ashland, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock




[London, Ont.,]
17 July [188]81

You ask how long it takes a letter to come from you here—well your last letter2 (now before me) is postmarked 5 P.M. 15th (Sunday) and reaches me at 10 this A.M. [—] If your letter had been posted at 8.15 (the time you mention) I am not sure whether I should get it by the same mail here or whether prehaps it would come by afternoon mail and rea[c]h me 4. P.M. In a general way you may reckon from a day and a half to two days for a letter to pass from Camden or Philadelphia here. [—] Judging by your letter and by all accounts I think you are certainly on the mend Walt, and I hope we shall have you middling bright and lively again after a little.3 That would be a grand thing if we could only see it.

About half of my folk [illegible] are gone and going to Sarnia on a visit—Clare4 & Ina5 went yesterday, Mrs B.6 Willie,7 & Pardee8 go tomorrow morning. I shall have a quiet house for awhile. The weather here keeps perfect, quiet, [illegible] hazy, sleepy days—You might fancy it the land of the Lotus Eaters but the devil of it is it is not—wish it was—too much work here altogether—however perhaps too much is better than not enough and as long as one is able to do it it is not [illegible] right to complain

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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle Street | Camden | New Jersey | U.S.A. It is postmarked: London | PM | JY 17 | 88 | Canada. [back]

2. Bucke is referring to Whitman's letter of July 14–15, 1888[back]

3. See Whitman's letter of July 14–15, 1888[back]

4. Jessie Clare Bucke (1870–1943) is the daughter of the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke and his wife, Jessie Maria Gurd (1839–1926). [back]

5. Bucke is referring to his daughter, Ina Matilda Bucke (1877–1968). [back]

6. 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]

7. William John Gurd (1845–1903) was Richard Maurice Bucke's brother-in-law, with whom he was designing a gas and fluid meter to be patented in Canada and sold in England. Bucke believed the meter would be worth "millions of dollars," while Whitman remained skeptical, sometimes to Bucke's annoyance. In a March 18, 1888, letter to William D. O'Connor, Whitman wrote, "The practical outset of the meter enterprise collapsed at the last moment for the want of capital investors." For additional information, see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, March 17, 1889, Monday, March 18, 1889, Friday, March 22, 1889, and Wednesday, April 3, 1889.  [back]

8. Timothy Blair Pardee (1830–1889) was a Canadian lawyer and politician, member of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Ontaria, Canada, and Minister of the Crown. Pardee appointed Richard Maurice Bucke, with whom he was a close friend, as the Superintendent of the Asylum for the Insane in Hamilton at its founding in 1876, and then the next year as Superintendent of the Asylum for the Insane in London. For more on Pardee, see H. V. Nelles, "Pardee, Timothy Blair," Dictionary of Canadian Biography Vol. 11 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982). [back]


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