Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to John H. Johnston, 20 April [1887]

Date: April 20, 1887

Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Notes for this letter were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977).

Location: Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Whitman Archive ID: yal.00250

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Stefan Schöberlein, Kevin McMullen, and Stephanie Blalock



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Camden
April 20 noon1

I am well as usual—(I sent Mr Chandler2 his L of G. yesterday) I rec'd this morning (through Gilder3) a check from Andrew Carnegie4 for $350 for his box last Thursday night—making my N Y lecture recompense me $6005—Love to you, Alma,6 Al7 & the dear little boys—(see Harper's Weekly April 23)8


Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. This postal card is addressed: John H. Johnston | Diamond Merchant | 150 Bowery cor: Broome St: | New York City. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Apr 20 | 1 30 PM | 87. There is one additional postmark, but it is entirely illegible. [back]

2. Arthur D. Chandler, of the Christian Union in New York, sent $3 for the book (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). See Whitman's postal card to Chandler of April 19, 1887[back]

3. Richard Watson Gilder (1844–1909) was the assistant editor of Scribner's Monthly from 1870 to 1881 and editor of its successor, The Century, from 1881 until his death. Whitman had met Gilder for the first time in 1877 at John H. Johnston's (Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer [New York: New York University Press, 1955], 482). Whitman attended a reception and tea given by Gilder after William Cullen Bryant's funeral on June 14; see "A Poet's Recreation" in the New York Tribune, July 4, 1878. Whitman considered Gilder one of the "always sane men in the general madness" of "that New York art delirium" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, August 5, 1888). For more about Gilder, see Susan L. Roberson, "Gilder, Richard Watson (1844–1909)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919), the prominent industrialist and admirer of Whitman, had donated twice to the support of the aged poet. [back]

5. Whitman is referring to his lecture entitled "The Death of Abraham Lincoln," which he delivered in New York City on Thursday, April 14, 1887. He first delivered this lecture in New York in 1879 and would deliver it at least eight other times over the succeeding years, delivering it for the last time on April 15, 1890. He had published a version of the lecture as "Death of Abraham Lincoln" in Specimen Days (1882–83). For more on the lecture, see Larry D. Griffin, "'Death of Abraham Lincoln,'" Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, ed. (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), 169–170. [back]

6. Alma Calder Johnston was an author and the second wife of John H. Johnston. [back]

7. Albert Johnston was the son of John H. Johnston. [back]

8. Harper's Weekly for this date contained a chatty column on WW's preference for Walter Scott's poetry ("The only poetry that had nourished him"), his daily reading of the Bible, and his fondness for children who loved "Uncle Walt." [back]


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