Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 25 March [188]9

Date: March 25, [188]9

Whitman Archive ID: syr.00044

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), 114. 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
25 March [188]9

Your post card of 22d came to hand this morning [.] I am glad you are able to say that you are "fairly well". Shall try to see the 4th vol. of Am. Sup. to Ency. Brit. I have the Ency. itself but not the supplement.2 Have spent an hour today most pleasantly looking over the drafts of "The Song of the Redwood Tree." Studying it all from the newspaper piece (which seems to have suggested it) to the finished, printed, poem. It is all most interesting and suggestive.3 [—] Still the same wonderfull weather here, warm—bright—sunny—. Willy Gurd4 is here still will go East to work at meter probably early next week. The scheme at present is as follows: Gurd will go East and make a gas meter, then our New York partner will establish a company to manufacture—we hope to be making meters by the autumn but there may be other slips ahead of us yet and we count on nothing too certainly [/] We will just jog along and do our best and leave the rest to Providence. After all it is a matter of little consequence [/] we have done very well for a long time now without the meter and I guess we can get on all right without it still. One thing I would like to know (tho' I suppose I never shall) that is how Harned5 accounts (to himself) for his failure to carry out his agreement with us?6

I have sent copies of the Inspector's Annual Report (in which mine is printed) and shall send you one as soon as I get them

All well and quiet here

Love to you
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 27 | 1889," appears in the upper left-hand corner of the recto. The reference is to Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, March 27, 1889[back]

2. See Whitman's postal card to Bucke of March 22, 1889 and Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, March 26, 1889[back]

3. Bucke owned the following manuscript of Whitman's "Song of the Redwood Tree": 'Autograph Manuscript Revision of the "Song of the Redwood-Tree." 4 pp. 12mo, with about 20 words in manuscript and many changes in publication' (AAA, #254, p. 102). The poem was first published in Harper's Monthly Magazine (February 1874): 366–367. [back]

4. 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]

5. Thomas Biggs Harned (1851–1921) was one of Whitman's literary executors. Harned was a lawyer in Philadelphia and, having married Augusta Anna Traubel, was Horace Traubel's brother-in-law. For more on him, see Dena Mattausch, "Harned, Thomas Biggs (1851–1921)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. In an animated conversation between Whitman and Harned a week later, Harned made clear that he found Dr. Bucke to be "no sort of business man: he's all right every other way, but as a promoter he's the deadliest failure I ever came up against. My people refused to put up the money without adequate protection." See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, April 3, 1889[back]


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