Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William Ingram to Walt Whitman, 11 November 1890

Date: November 11, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02361

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: Cristin Noonan, Amanda J. Axley, Marie Ernster, Stephanie Blalock, and Paige Wilkinson

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Walt Whitman
Dear Friend

I have returned from New York had a pleasant visit, and took supper and breakfast with them—M John1 Alma2 May,3 Bertha4 Kitty5 Harold6 Calder and Albert,7 they all asked kindly after you and send their love, had supper in Brooklyn with Caleb Pink8 who is going to make his home in London Mrs Ingram9 was going over to see you today but was afraid to venture on account of so much rain, but I have been to the Prison in it all and had a talk to 2 poor Chinamen there, what a wretched system we have to treat our brothers worse than animals New York is the same only more so everyone seems to be striving to catch the biggest raft afloat on the uneven ocean, what a struggle to survive the stream what it all means I am at a loss to know or what it will lead to who is to say but it will be all right I suppose I have to take the next train home and send you these few lines in a hurry Mrs Ingram joins me in kind love to you

From Your Friend
Wm Ingram

William Ingram, a Quaker, kept a tea store—William Ingram and Son Tea Dealers—in Philadelphia. Of Ingram, Whitman observed to Horace Traubel: "He is a man of the Thomas Paine stripe—full of benevolent impulses, of radicalism, of the desire to alleviate the sufferings of the world—especially the sufferings of prisoners in jails, who are his protégés" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, May 20, 1888). Ingram and his wife visited the physician Richard Maurice Bucke and his family in Canada in 1890.


1. 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, Tuesday, August 14, 1888). 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]

2. 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]

3. Mary Frances (May) Johnston (1862–1957) was the daughter of John H. Johnston (1837–1919) and his first wife Amelia Johnston. She was the younger sister of Bertha Johnston (1872–1953), who was involved in the suffrage movement. May later married Arthur Levi, of London, England ("Mrs. A. C. Johnston, Author, Dies at 72," The Brooklyn Daily Eagle [May 3, 1917], 3). [back]

4. Bertha Johnston (1872–1953) was the daughter of Whitman's friend John H. Johnston and his first wife Amelia. Like her father, Bertha Johnston was passionate about literature. She was also involved with the suffrage movement and was a member of the Brooklyn Society of Ethical Culture. [back]

5. Katherine (sometimes spelled "Catherine") B. Johnston (b. 1874) was a daughter of John H. Johnston, a jeweler and close friend of Whitman's. [back]

6. Harold Johnston was the son of the jeweler John H. Johnston and his first wife Amelia F. Many Johnston (1839–1877). Amelia died the evening of March 26, 1877, while giving birth to Harold. [back]

7. Albert Edward Johnston and Calder Johnston were the sons of the jeweler John H. Johnston (1837–1919). Calder was the youngest of John H. Johnston's three sons. [back]

8. Caleb Pink was a friend of Alma Calder Johnston, the wife of the New York jeweler John H. Johnston. Pink was a land and social reform activist in Brooklyn in the 1860s and 1870s. Pink was the author of the 1895 book The Angel of the Mental Orient. The Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke credited his conversations with Pink with helping Bucke to interpret the overwhelming sense of epiphany that he felt when he first read Leaves of Grass. Bucke wrote about this experience in his book Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind (Philadelphia: Innes and Sons, 1905), in which he writes of the importance of Pink ("C.P.") and Pink's book for his own work. See Steven Jay Marsden, "'Hot Little Prophets': Reading, Mysticism, and Walt Whitman's Disciples" (Dissertation, Texas A & M University, 2004), 156.  [back]

9. Little is known about Jane Ingram (ca. 1826), the wife of William Ingram, who was the owner of a tea store in Philadelphia. [back]


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