Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Dr. John Johnston to Walt Whitman, 14 November 1891

Date: November 14, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02529

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, Stephanie Blalock, and Alex Ashland



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54 Manchester Road,
Bolton.
England1
Novr 14 91,

My Dear Old Friend

Your kind p.c. of the [illegible] inst just reached me two days ago.2 Please accept of my most cordial thanks for your great kindness in sending it—Kindness wh every succeeding week deepens & every succeeding token of which I value the more highly because I realise the effort it must be for you to write at all now & that you do not write to as many friends as you used to do. How grateful ought I to feel that I am still on your list of Correspondents! And that I am truly grateful & that I thoroughly appreciate my great privilege I wish to assure you of.

It pleased me greatly to know that you were no worse but I keep on hoping that some of these mails will bring me the still better news that you are improving.

Wallace3 arrived in Liverpool yesterday4 afternoon—a fact which he intimated to me by sending me this telegram—"How's your health?"

He is there yet, I believe, staying with Law5

We are preparing a Reception for him on Mon eve: at Ferguson's6 when we hope to have a real good time.

I send you the Review of Reviews7 for Novr by this mail.

Things are going on here with us much as usual. Dull Novr weather with good deal of fog & mist—Just got thru a very severe storm.

With kindest regards to all yr household & with best hearts love to yourself

I remain
yours affectionately
J Johnston

To Walt Whitman


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: CAMDEN, N.J. | NOV 22 | 4 PM | 91 | REC'D. Johnston has written his initials "JJ." in the lower left corner of the front of the envelope. [back]

2. This postal card has not been located. [back]

3. 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]

4. Wallace had just arrived in England after traveling in the United States and Canada. Wallace visited both Whitman and the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke in the fall of 1891. 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. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

6. Ferguson is identified as W. A. Ferguson in Johnston's letter to Whitman of November 4, 1891. Little is known about Ferguson, who was affiliated with the Little Hulton branch of the Bank of Bolton and was a member of the Bolton College group of admirers of Whitman in Bolton, Lancashire, England. [back]

7. The Review of Reviews was a magazine begun by the reform journalist William Thomas Stead (1849–1912) in 1890 and published in Great Britain. It contained reviews and excerpts from other magazines and journals, as well as original pieces, many written by Stead himself. [back]


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