Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Dr. John Johnston to Walt Whitman, 5 September 1891

Date: September 5, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02518

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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Bolton, England1
Sat Sept 5/91

Intended writing letter to you but prevented.

Nothing new to report. We are all anxiously longing for news of dear J.W.W.2 & Dr. B.3 Latter will probably be with you today & J.W.W. on Mon (7th).4

I send you New Review for Sept containing article on "Literature in the United States," in wh your name occurs.5

Hope you are keeping better.

My continued love & sympathy to you. God bless you & yours.

Ever
Johnston

PS JWW's father6 says that the Critic & another large paper have arrived. Thanks for J.W.W. Adieu!

PS You might send New Review on to Dr B. & J.W.W.—Canada


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 postal card is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle St | Camden | New Jersey | U. S. America. It is postmarked: CAMDEN, N.J. | SEP 17 | 6 AM | 91 | REC'D; BOLTON | 56 | SP 5 | 91. [back]

2. 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]

3. 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]

4. Wallace visited both Whitman and the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke in the fall of 1891. Dr. John Johnston visited Whitman in the summer of 1890. Accounts of these visits can be found in Johnston and Wallace's Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–91 (London, England: G. Allen & Unwin, ltd., 1917). [back]

5. Johnston is referring to the article "Literature in the United States" by George Lathrop Parsons (The New Review 5 [1891], 244–255). The enclosure that Johnston sent has not been located. [back]

6. Little is known about James Wallace, Sr., who was a millwright. Wallace, Sr. and his wife Margaret Thornburrow Wallace, were the parents of James William Wallace, an architect in Bolton, England. [back]


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