Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Dr. John Johnston to Walt Whitman, 16 December 1891

Date: December 16, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02536

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, "29," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Andrew David King, Cristin Noonan, and Stephanie Blalock



page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4
page image
image 5
page image
image 6


54 Manchester Road,
Bolton.
England1
Decr 16th 1891

Dear Walt

Brief must this missive be. You will probably receive it on or about Christmas Day & I send it with my best love & fervent wishes for a happy time! May it find you free from physical pain & distress & able to enjoy the society of your dear friends who will come with their loving congratulations & good wishes for your dear welfare.

May all good attend you & yours & may the Best Blessings of God be vouchsafed to you!

I have been thinking much about you during the last few days & have often wondered how things were going on with you. Better on the whole I fondly hope & trust.

There is nothing of much importance here to tell you about at present—things are moving on much in their usual way & most folks seem to be busy with their own concerns—I among the rest with occasional dips into books, which however have to occupy a very subordinate place in my life & I prefer contact with the things themselves, after all, & especially with the people.

I had Wallace2 here for 3 hours last night. He is better again but has not yet got into work—there is a hitch between him & his employers wh. however will, I think turn out all right in the end tho I can see that it worries him a little.

Greenhalgh3 also came in for an hour while he was here.

I haste this to you in the interval between my morning & afternoon round of visits.

Another wind storm here last night.

Good day to you!
A Merry Christmas to you!
from yours affectionately
J Johnston

P.S.4 Got "Modern Authors"5 last night & lent it to J.W.W. at once.


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: [BO]LTON | 55 | DE19 | 91; NEW [YORK] | DEC | 22 | D | PAID | ALL; CAMDEN, N.J. | DEC 29 | 6 AM | 91 | REC'D. [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 Greenhalgh, a bank clerk and one of Whitman's Bolton admirers, frequently hosted annual celebrations of the poet's birthday. In his March 9, 1892, letter to Traubel, Greenhalgh wrote that "Walt has taught me 'the glory of my daily life and trade.' In all the departments of my life Walt entered with his loving personality & I am never alone" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, March 20, 1892). James Wallace described Greenhalgh as "undoubtedly a rich, royal, plain fellow, not given to ornate word or act" (Sunday, September 27, 1891). For more on Greenhalgh, see Paul Salveson, "Loving Comrades: Lancashire's Links to Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, vol. 14, no. 2, 57–84. [back]

4. This postscript appears vertically along the left margin of the fourth and final page of the letter. [back]

5. Johnston is referring to Modern Authors: A Review and a Forecast (London: Ward and Downey, 1891) by the English writer and politician Arthur Lynch (1861–1934). The book devotes much attention to Whitman, and Lynch writes that Whitman "has the true poet's largeness of soul" but "lacks a little the singing faculty, though the divine afflatus at his best carries him safely along" (41). For more information on Lynch, see Stephen Due, "Arthur Lynch: Parliamentarian, Physician and Author," Journal of Medical Biography, vol. 7 no 2. (May 1999), 93–99. [back]


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.