Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Alma Calder Johnston, 6 March 1887

Date: March 6, 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), 4:73–74. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Private collection of Doris Neale

Whitman Archive ID: prc.00106

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, Kevin McMullen, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden
Sunday Afternoon March 6 '87

Am sitting here quietly—(rather dully)—to-day in the little down stairs room—nothing at all eventful or new with me—a dark sulky day outside, cold yet not quite cold enough to freeze—no visitors—have had my dinner & relished it with appetite—went over to the theatre yesterday afternoon—Wilson Barrett1 sent over a carriage for me & I had just a good ride, & liked the play "Clito"2—Mrs. Davis3 went with me, & every thing was enjoyable—I was made much of & got back (thro' a snow storm) just before sunset—So you see I do get around some—(when I am helped—not much of my own volition)—Alma, I shall have to draw on your good nature to accept [this thin?] gossip for a letter—thank you for yours, & the girls' from Dresden, that came to me safely—

Love to you & John4—& Ally5 & all—
Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. Wilson Barrett (1846–1904) was a British actor and playwright who was then performing in the United States. He played the lead role in Clito, a new blank-verse drama set in ancient Greece, written by the English dramatist Sydney Grundy (1848–1914) in collaboration with Barrett. Whitman was apparently quite taken with Barrett's acting and even met with him several times in early 1887. [back]

2. Clito was a new blank-verse drama set in ancient Greece, written by the English dramatist Sydney Grundy (1848–1914) in collaboration with Barrett, who played the lead role. [back]

3. Mary Oakes Davis (1837 or 1838–1908) was Whitman's housekeeper. For more, see Carol J. Singley, "Davis, Mary Oakes (1837 or 1838–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [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. Probably Albert Johnston (see the letter from Whitman to Mannahatta Whitman of June 22–26, 1878). However, as Whitman's letter of March 7, 1887 to John H. Johnston indicates, the reference may be to a new child. [back]


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