Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 20 March [188]9

Date: March 20, [188]9

Whitman Archive ID: syr.00039

Source: Walt Whitman Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Library, Syracuse, N.Y. 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), 110. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Caterina Bernardini, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock




[London, Ont.,]1
20 March [188]9

Willy Gurd2 & I went to New York Monday evening3 [/] put up at Grand Union Hotel 42d Street [/] —I saw Johnston4 next day and lunched with him—they all asked most particularly after you. I saw J's new store (Union Square) he seems to be doing well but says he needs more capital than he has. We had a long conference with our New York lawyer and decided on a line or action in reference to the meter.5 We left N.Y. 6 o'clock last evening and after a very pleasant run of 17 3/4 hours arrived at London 11.45 today, 5 minutes (only) late. Find my folk all well and the asylum in good shape—a lot of work had accumulated which it will take a few days to wade through but that is nothing. As things look now I hope to be down your way again early in the summer, meanwhile you must keep me posted as to your health &c &c. [—] I find a book (sent for before I left home) [a]waiting me here—"The Bacon-Shakspere question answered" by C. Stopes.6 He /(rather she Charlotte Stopes[)] /believes S. wrote the plays—I expect to find the volume interesting and will send it to you if you would like to see it as soon as I gave run through it. [—] Willy Gurd & myself (though we should have been glad to found a company for the manufacture of the meter in Phila) are not the least discouraged by our failure. We believe more strongly than ever that the meter is immensely valuable and that we shall eventually carry our plans through—the only subject of regret on my own part / (except regret on Horaces7 account). /is that I shall not see you as much in the immediate future as I had hoped but I trust a few months will make this all right—all the folk here were greatly interested to hear from me all about you and they were much pleased that I could give so good an account of your health. (though certainly you might easily be better than you are).

I will soon write again
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. Horace Traubel's note, "see | notes | March 22 | 1889," appears in the upper right-hand corner of the recto. The reference is to Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, March 22, 1889. The note "TO WW?" is written in an unidentified hand. [back]

2. 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]

3. See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Volume 4: 224–371. [back]

4. John H. Johnston (1837–1919) was a New York jeweler and close friend of Whitman. Johnston was also a friend of Joaquin Miller (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden [New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1915], 2:139). Whitman visited the Johnstons for the first time early in 1877. In 1888 he observed to Horace Traubel: "I count [Johnston] as in our inner circle, among the chosen few" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, October 3, 1888). See also Johnston's letter about Whitman, printed in Charles N. Elliot, Walt Whitman as Man, Poet and Friend (Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1915), 149–174. For more on Johnston, see Susan L. Roberson, "Johnston, John H. (1837–1919) and Alma Calder," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. 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]

6. Bucke is referring to Charlotte Carmichael Stopes's The Bacon Shakespeare Question Answered, 2nd ed (London: Truber & Co., 1889). As Bucke states here, Stopes believed that Shakespeare had written the plays attributed to him. The title of her book, however, refers to arguments that Shakespeare's plays had been written by Francis Bacon. [back]

7. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the mid-1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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