Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Katherine Johnston to Walt Whitman, 17 December 1888

Date: December 17, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02585

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, "(from my dear friend, Little Kitty (14 yr's old) daughter of my friend Johnston the jeweler—with very nice photo)—answered," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Alex Ashland, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

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305 &. 17th str. N.Y.,
Dec. 17th 1888.

My dear Uncle Walt:

I thought you would like to see your little Kittie's face so send my photograph wishing with it that you may have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We have once more a nest but need one dear person to make the family complete; this person is a Grandpa; won't you come and be one to us; we would all be so happy if you came. There is a pretty park in front which is nice even in Winter; at night the electric lights are very pretty. Then in Summer you could walk in the park with us children as you used to do on 5th Ave. Do come when ever it pleases you (but I want you very; very soon!)

I go to a school about a mile from here which gives me a nice walk on pleasant days.

We children expect to go to "Little Lord Fauntleroy"1 sometime this week.

Good bye now, Dear Uncle Walt, hoping to see you soon,

I am,
your loving little

Katherine (sometimes spelled "Catherine") B. Johnston (b. 1874) was a daughter of John H. Johnston, a jeweler and close friend of Whitman's. Katherine had at least six siblings, four of whom were older and two that were younger. When Whitman visited the Johnston family for the first time early in 1877, Katherine ("Kittie," "Kitty") would have been three years old.


1. Little Lord Fauntleroy was a children's novel by English-American novelist Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849–1924) and was a sensation when published in 1886; the stage adaptation of the novel opened on Broadway in December of 1888. [back]

2. 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). [back]


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