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Richard Maurice Bucke to Walt Whitman, 18 January 1889


All quiet here; the ground is frozen again and of course the roads are more difficult to travel than the path to heaven, all lumps and ruts. I am reading George Eliot's1 Romola2 over again—have not read it for many years—do not find it as much of a book as I used to fancy it—a lot of padding in it. We have had a new deal in our Ontario govt (just heard of it an hour ago)—Pardee's3 resignation has apparently been accepted for A.S. Hardy4 (who was Provincial Secretary—and duk.00537.002_large.jpg in whose department runs the asylum) is made Commissioner of Crown Lands and a new man (Gibson of Hamliton)5 is made Provincial Secretary. We (i.e. the asylum officials) shall not be sorry for the change tho' I cannot say that I care particularly—Mr Hardy always used me well. Still on the whole the change will probably be a good one for the asylum service. Patients dance going on upstairs in the amusement room—I must go up.

I send you best wishes R M Bucke

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).


  • 1. "George Eliot" was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans (1819–1880), one of the most influential British writers of the nineteenth century. Her works include The Mill on the Floss (1860), Middlemarch (1871–1872), and Daniel Deronda (1876). Whitman was especially enamored by Eliot's essay writing: "She is profound, masterful: her analysis is perfect: she chases her game without tremor to the very limit of its endurance" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, October 31, 1888). [back]
  • 2. Eliot's historical novel Romola, set in Florence during the Italian Renaissance, was published in 1863. [back]
  • 3. 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]
  • 4. Arthur Sturgis Hardy (1837–1901) was the fourth Premier of the Province of Ontario, from 1896 to 1899. Hardy was admitted to the bar as a criminal lawyer in 1865 and served as provincial secretary and registrar under Sir Oliver Mowat beginning in 1877. In 1889, he was made Commissioner of Crown Lands, and Premier of Ontario seven years later. According to his obituary, "no man bore so large a share of the responsibility for the administration of the province as Arthur Hardy." For more information, see "The Late Hon. A. S. Hardy," Buffalo Morning Express and Illustrated Buffalo Express, June 23, 1901, 8. [back]
  • 5. Sir John Morison Gibson (1842–1929) was the tenth Lieutenant Governor of Ontario from 1908 to 1914. Until 1895, he was Commanding Officer of Hamilton, Ontario's 13th Regiment, and fought against the Fenian Brotherhood at the Battle of Ridgeway in 1866. After Arthur Hardy's promotion to Commissioner of Crown Lands, Gibson served as provincial secretary under Sir Oliver Mowat from 1889 to 1896. He then followed Hardy as Commissioner in 1896, after Hardy was made Premier. For more information, see his obituary, "Death Calls Sir John Gibson," The Border Cities Star (Windsor, Ontario), June 4, 1929, 21. [back]
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