Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Dr. John Johnston to Walt Whitman, 3 December 1890

Date: December 3, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02451

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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "see notes 12–14–90," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Kirby Little, Ian Faith, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock



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54 Manchester Road
Bolton
Lanc. England.1
Dec 3rd 1890

Dear Walt Whitman

Just a few lines to acknowledge the rect this afternoon of yr very kind p.c. of the 25th ult,2 to thank you very cordially for it & to say how heartily glad I am to hear that your health was still so good—considering.

You must take extra care of yourself during the cold weather as nothing is more dangerous to such as you than a chill or a slight attack of bronchial catarrh I am glad to hear that the celluloid negative3 reached you safely. I am copyrighting the photo: in England in your interest.

Thank you for your kind promise to send me copies of the N.E. Mag. & the Phila. Mag. containing article & poemet to the arrival of which I shall look forward with pleasure

As I know that J. W. W.4 wd like copies would it be troubling you too much to send him one of each & I will remit the cash for all on receipt?

I called at his office today but did not see him & I have sent him a facsimile (traced) copy of yr p.c. I am writing this in a patient's5 house where pen & ink are not available, while waiting the advent of a tardy "little stranger"6 as I do not wish to miss the mail tonight.

I hope this will find you in improved health & "with jocund heart still beating in your breast."7

I cannot write more at present.

Again thanking you for yr kindness & with best love to you

I remain
yours affectionately
J Johnston

P.S. I have had two more letters from Edmund Mercer.8 He says he has written to you

P P.S Just got home in time to post this—"It's a boy" & a sturdy little chap he is with a voice like a clarionet!

I send you a copy of a nice little edition of "Auld Lang Syne"—"something for a token"9


J J

Thank you also for the Conservator!10


Correspondent:
Dr. John Johnston (1852–1927) of Annan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, was a physician, photographer, and avid cyclist. Johnston was trained in Edinburgh and served as a hospital surgeon in West Bromwich for two years before moving to Bolton, England, in 1876. Johnston worked as a general practitioner in Bolton and as an instructor of ambulance classes for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railways. He served at Whalley Military Hospital during World War One and became Medical Superintendent of Townley's Hospital in 1917 (John Anson, "Bolton's Illustrious Doctor Johnston—a man of many talents," Bolton News [March 28, 2021]; Paul Salveson, Moorlands, Memories, and reflections: A Centenary Celebration of Allen Clarke's Moorlands and Memories [Lancashire Loominary, 2020]). Johnston, along 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 (1852–1927)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle St | Camden | New Jersey | U.S. America. It is postmarked: Bolton | 58 | DE 3 | 90; Camden, N.J. | Dec | 8 | 5 PM | Rec'd; New York | Dec | [illegible]; Paid | D | All. Johnston has written his initials "JJ" in the bottom left of the recto of the envelope. [back]

2. See Whitman's postal card to Johnston of November 25, 1890. [back]

3. Johnston sent negatives of several photographs he had taken during his visit to Camden and Long Island, and reproductions of them accompanied Horace Traubel's essay "Walt Whitman at Date," which appeared in the New England Magazine in May 1891. [back]

4. James William Wallace (1853–1926), of Bolton, England, was an architect and great admirer of Whitman. Along with John Johnston (1852–1927), 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]

5. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

6. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

7. Johnston is paraphrasing lines from Whitman's poem "A Carol Closing Sixty-Nine," which was first published in the New York Herald on May 21, 1888. [back]

8. There is an Edmund Mercer (b. 1865?) registered in the 1891 census who lived in Manchester with his parents and siblings, and worked as solicitor. [back]

9. Johnston is echoing a phrase from Whitman's Calamus poem "These I Singing in Spring" ("Plucking something for tokens"). [back]

10. Horace Traubel founded The Conservator in March 1890, and he remained its editor and publisher until his death in 1919. Traubel conceived of The Conservator as a liberal periodical influenced by Whitman's poetic and political ethos. A fair portion of its contents were devoted to Whitman appreciation and the conservation of the poet's literary and personal reputation. [back]


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