Title: Walt Whitman to John H. Johnston, 14 February 1887
Date: February 14, 1887
Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 6:37–38. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.07363
Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Ian Faith, Stefan Schöberlein, and Stephanie Blalock
Still here in the land of the living—in pretty good heart most of the time, & comfortable enough, but horribly crippled & banged up—Spirit moved me to write you a line & send my love to Alma3 and Al4 and all—I am just going out for an hour's midday drive.
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).
1. This postal card is addressed: J H Johnston | Jeweler | 150 Bowery Cor: Broome | New York City. It is postmarked: Camden | Feb | (?) | (?); (?) | 2-14-87 | 5-(?). [back]
2. This postcard poses problems in dating: there is an ink smudge where Whitman apparently changed 12 to 14; one legible postmark is clearly "2-14-87." In 1887, however, February 14 fell on Monday, not on Sunday. The Johnstons had visited Whitman on February 6 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.), a fact (if correct) which makes some of the comments in the note superfluous. Since the poet was "half sick (or more than half) most of the month," he could have erred in dating the card either as to the day of the week or the date, or have forgotten the recent visit (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]
3. Alma Calder Johnston was an author and the second wife of John H. Johnston. Her family owned a home and property in Equinunk, Pennsylvania. For more on the Johnstons, 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]
4. Albert Johnston was the son of John H. Johnston. [back]