Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Wentworth Dixon to Walt Whitman, 13 June 1891

Date: June 13, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01474

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 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.

Contributors to digital file: Andrew David King, Cristin Noonan, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock



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1 Wheatfield Street
Bolton Lancashire
England.
13 June 1891.

Dear Mr. Whitman,

I have been perplexed how to express to you my feelings of gratitude for the gift of the letter which you wrote to our mutual friend, Wallace,1 with instructions to give it to me "if I cared for it."2 I do indeed care for it and shall always prize it for your sake. I am especially pleased to learn from it that you share my admiration for the noble stoic Epictetus,3 and I am quite with you in thinking that the Stoic teachings "are specially needed in a rich & luxurious & even scientific age." Worthy all admiration & honor are those brave spirits who have withstood the forces & temptations of the age & given us examples of lives lived according to nature in the Stoic sense—in harmony with the highest reason, simple just, brave, free, cheerful & beneficent & magnanimous; and all honor to you dear friend whose example is so striking & encouraging. Your philosophy & practice approximate in many respects, as was pointed out by Wallace, to the Stoic ideal. You however superadd to their teachings the doctrine of immortality, which as a belief in the continuance of conscious identity hereafter, the Stoics or, at least Epictetus, do not seem to have professed. Whether this doctrine be an addition to the truths they taught I have not yet been able to determine though I perceive from your works it has been of commanding importance in your life giving to it force buoyancy & hope; and I look upon it as a circumstance of great weight that one who has had your unique experience of life & death, & who is so conversant with the latest teaching of science should be so profoundly convinced of its truth. This fact at any rate is sufficient to make one pause before coming to a negative conclusion.

I have also to thank you, Mr Whitman, for inscribing my name in the copy of Leaves of Grass which the "Boys of the College" gave to me on my birthday. It was a thoughtful kindness both on your and their parts which I highly appreciate. The book has become almost the bible of the College & a vade mecum4 in our country walks & holidays adding light & interest to almost every scene. I therefore need not say how pleased I was to possess a copy containing your and their autographs.

I have seen your letter to Dr. Johnston5 about your birthday and also "Warry's";6 both of them are full of deep interest. Many thanks for the kind messages to the boys (in which I always include myself) contained in them & your numerous other letters which have all been read to us.—I am pleased to observe that your health was better after the "spree." May it long continue to improve & may you enjoy many such sprees.

My loving sympathy to you in your painful infirmities and wishing you the best of good cheer, in which my wife joins

I am yours sincerely
Wentworth Dixon


Correspondent:
Wentworth Dixon was a member of the "Bolton College" of Whitman admirers, and was also affiliated with the Labour Church, an organization whose socialist politics and working-class ideals were often informed by Whitman's work. Dixon communicated directly with Whitman only a few times, but we can see in his letters a profound sense of care for the poet's failing health, as well as genuine gratitude for Whitman's continued correspondence with the "Eagle Street College." See Dixon's letters to Whitman of June 13, 1891 and February 24, 1892. For more on Dixon and Whitman's Bolton disciples, see Paul Salveson, "Loving Comrades: Lancashire's Links to Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, vol. 14, no. 2, 57–84.

Notes:

1. James William Wallace (1853–1926), of Bolton, England, was an architect and great admirer of Whitman. Along with John Johnston (d. 1918), a physician from Bolton, he founded the "Bolton College" of English admirers of the poet. Johnston and Wallace corresponded with Whitman and with Horace Traubel and other members of the Whitman circle in the United States, and they separately visited the poet and published memoirs of their trips in John Johnston and James William Wallace, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends (London: Allen and Unwin, 1917). For more information on Wallace, see Larry D. Griffin, "Wallace, James William (1853–1926)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. See Whitman's letter to Wallace of May 28, 1891 [back]

3. Epictetus (55–135) was a Greek Stoic philosopher. Stoics believe that humans should not be controlled by fear, pain, and desire, but should contemplate them in the pursuit of self-discipline and the fair treatment of others. Stoicism is one of the fundamental components of Western ethics. [back]

4. Vade mecum means a handbook or a guide. [back]

5. Dr. John Johnston (d. 1918) was a physician from Bolton, England, who, with James W. Wallace, founded the "Bolton College" of English admirers of the poet. Johnston and Wallace corresponded with Whitman and with Horace Traubel and other members of the Whitman circle in the United States, and they separately visited the poet and published memoirs of their trips in John Johnston and James William Wallace, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends (London: Allen and Unwin, 1917). For more information on Johnston, see Larry D. Griffin, "Johnston, Dr. John (d.1918)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. Frank Warren Fritzinger (1867–1899), known as "Warry," took Edward Wilkins's place as Whitman's nurse, beginning in October 1889. Fritzinger and his brother Harry were the sons of Henry Whireman Fritzinger (about 1828–1881), a former sea captain who went blind, and Almira E. Fritzinger. Following Henry Sr.'s death, Warren and his brother—having lost both parents—became wards of Mary O. Davis, Whitman's housekeeper, who had also taken care of the sea captain and who inherited part of his estate. [back]


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