Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Dr. John Johnston to Walt Whitman, 13 September 1890

Date: September 13, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02440

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: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock



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54 Manchester Road
Bolton
Lancs. England
Sept 13th 1890

Dear Walt Whitman

Just a few lines to acknowledge the receipt of the "Camden Daily Courier" for June 2nd 18831 "Unity" Aug 28th 18902 & the accompanying slips "Of that blithe throat of thine" "Yonnondio" "Halcyon Days" & "The voice of the rain."3 The Daily Courier is of especial interest as containing an admirable critique of Dr Bucke's4 book & I fear in sending it to me you have despoiled yourself of one of your treasures but this will all the more enhance its value to me and I desire to thank you very cordially for it & for the other papers you so kindly sent.

Mr Wallace5 has kindly shewn me the post card he received from you on Sept 12th6 from which I am extremely sorry to learn that you are suffering from an attack of the Grippe—though from the fact that you were not then confined to the house we are in hopes that it is not a very severe one & we both hope that it has by this time passed off & left no bad effects upon you. We hope to hear better news from you soon.

We have seen the French article in the Universal Review7—in fact I have the number containing it.

Later 8pm

We have had a glorious day for our out-of-door meeting—an ideally perfect day. Nearly all "the boys"8 were present with two friends & the reading of my notes &c which took place in a green field beneath a tree, occupied nearly two hours & was much enjoyed by every one & by none more than myself for I seemed to be living over again the happy time I spent with you Much were they all interested in all I had to say & much do they appreciate all your kindness to me & thro me to them. They esteem it a high honour to have been medially brought into personal contact with you & Mr Wallace has been commissioned to express this to you by letter which he will do probably by next mail

Pardon my writing more at present as it is close on mail time

With reverential love & gratitude
I remain
Yours affectionately
J. Johnston

To
Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. Johnston is probably referring to the Camden County Courier, which published a notice of Richard Maurice Bucke's biography, Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), on June 2, 1883. [back]

2. Johnston is referring to the following article: Horace Traubel, "Walt Whitman's Birthday," Unity (28 August 1890), 215. [back]

3. "Of That Blithe Throat of Thine" was first published in Harper's Monthly Magazine 70 (January 1885), 264; "Yonnondio" originally appeared in the Critic 11 (November 26, 1887), 267; "Halcyon Days" was first published in the New York Herald (January 29, 1888), 12; and "The Voice of the Rain" originally appeared in Outing 6 (August 1885), 570. Whitman reprinted all four poems in November Boughs, which supplied the poems for the "Sands at Seventy" annex to the 1889 reprinting of the 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass[back]

4. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. 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]

6. See Whitman's postal card of August 30, 1890, to J.W. Wallace. [back]

7. Gabriel Sarrazin's "Poètes modernes de l'Amérique—Walt Whitman" appeared in La Nouvelle Revue 52 (May 1888), 164–184. The Universal Review reprinted Sarrazin's essay in French. See The Universal Review 6 (1890), 247–269. [back]

8. Johnston is referring to the "Bolton College," a group of English admirers of Whitman, that he and Wallace co-founded. [back]


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