Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to John H. Johnston, 20 December 1876

Date: December 20, 1876

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02554

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.

Notes for this letter were created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Zachary King, Eric Conrad, Alex Kinnaman, Cristin Noonan, Erel Michaelis, and Stephanie Blalock

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Dec 20 '76

My dear Johnston

Enclosed find check for $35 for which send me on immediately as good a gold watch, hunting case, middling showy in appearance & best inside you can give me for that sum. (Let me have it at wholesale price, only paying yourself what you pay for it). I want it for a Christmas present for a young man1Can't you send it by express to-night or tomorrow morning early?

Walt Whitman

431 Stevens st cor West
Camden New Jersey

I might as well leave you some margin. If you think of something a little more price or different any how, better, send it along, as it can be changed, paid for, or made right when I come on in January—

I2 find I have no revenue stamp to put on check & cannot go out to get one—

John H. Johnston (1837–1919) was a New York jeweler and close friend of Whitman. Johnston was also a friend of Joaquin Miller (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, August 14, 1888). Whitman visited the Johnstons for the first time early in 1877. In 1888 he observed to Horace Traubel: "I count [Johnston] as in our inner circle, among the chosen few" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, October 3, 1888). See also Johnston's letter about Whitman, printed in Charles N. Elliot, Walt Whitman as Man, Poet and Friend (Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1915), 149–174. For more on Johnston, see Susan L. Roberson, "Johnston, John H. (1837–1919) and Alma Calder," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. The watch was intended either for Harry Lamb Stafford (1858–1918), whom Whitman met in 1876, or for Edward Cattell, a hired hand at the Stafford family's New Jersey farm who became close to Whitman. See the letter from Whitman to Cattell of January 24, 1887). See also the letter from Whitman to Johnston of December 31, 1876. [back]

2. Whitman wrote the remainder of this postscript in pencil. [back]


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