Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 3 April [188]9

Date: April 3, [188]9

Whitman Archive ID: syr.00050

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), 119. 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
3 April [188]9

Willy Gurd2 has gone East. Left here this morning on 11.30 train, goes direct to N.Y., will spend a couple of days there buying certain material wanted for meter, then proceed to Danbury3 to construct gas meter. About end of May he ought to be through and if all goes well I may be East again in June or July. [—] I send you today a copy of my Annual report, after you have looked it over let Horace4 have it—I have only a very few copies so cannot send one to Each as I intended—tell H. to show it to anyone he knows of who wants to see it. It is warmer today, snow nearly gone, spring may set in in earnest soon now tho' it is still very early with us for any growth. I am well, getting a good rest since my return home, sleep about 10 hours a night right along. Am still very much occupied all day so that I have time to read only a very little—Am just finishing "Wieland"5 [by] Chas. Brockden Brown6 [/] first of his I ever read (got a set of his books from McKay7 more than a year ago but never looked at them till now)—it is one of the most ghastly books conceivable, old (Castle of ontranto)8 style. No doubt you have read some of Brown's books if not all of them.9 [—] A gloomy but pleasant afternoon here as I sit at my desk in my office and look out the window, roads very sloppy with the melting snow. I hope you are prospering but I fear you are not to any marked extent

Always 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. Horace Traubel's note, "see | notes | April 5 | 1889 | [mutilation]," appears in the upper left-hand corner of the recto. The note refers to Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, April 5, 1889[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. Bucke is referring to Danbury, Connecticut. [back]

4. 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]

5. Charles Brockden Brown's Wieland (1798), a novel of religious fanataicism, scandal, and murder, is the story of Clara Wieland and her brother Theodore and the tragic events that befall their family. [back]

6. Charles Brockden Brown (1771–1810) was an American writer who authored novels, short stories, and essays. His novels include Wieland (1798) and Edgar Huntly; or, Memoirs of a Sleep-Walker (1799). [back]

7. David McKay (1860–1918) took over Philadelphia-based publisher Rees Welsh's bookselling and publishing businesses in 1881–2. McKay and Rees Welsh published the 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass after opposition from the Boston District Attorney prompted James R. Osgood & Company of Boston, the publisher Whitman had originally contracted with for publication of the volume, to withdraw. McKay also went on to publish Specimen Days & Collect, November Boughs, Gems from Walt Whitman, and Complete Prose Works. For more information about McKay, see Joel Myerson, "McKay, David (1860–1918)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

8. The Castle of Otranto (1764) by Horace Walpole is often regarded as the first Gothic novel. It details the story of Manfred, lord of the castle, and the adventures of his family, and introduces many Gothic plot elements, such as secret passages and portraits that move. [back]

9. See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, April 5, 1889[back]


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