Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Katherine Johnston, 25 December 1888

Date: December 25, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02586

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: Alex Ashland, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

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Dec: 25 '88

Thanks dear Kitty, dear friend, dear girl, for the beautiful photo—it is indeed beautiful—give my best love to your father and mother & sisters & Al & wife & Harold2 & Calder3

I have had a bad sickness seven months but am now some better—have sat up nearly all day, & eaten some dinner.

Happy New Year to you & all—4

Walt Whitman

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. This postal card is addressed: Miss Kittie Johnston | 305 E 17th Street | New York City. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Dec [illegible] | 1 30 PM | 88; D | 12-25-88 | 8 P | N. [illegible]. Whitman's name and address are printed on the envelope as follows: WALT WHITMAN, | Camden, | New Jersey. [back]

2. Harold Johnston was one of Kitty's brothers. [back]

3. Alma Calder Johnston was an author and the second wife of John H. Johnston. For more on the Johnstons, 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]

4. On December 17, 1888, Katherine (Kitty) wrote to "My dear Uncle Walt": "We have once more made 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!)." "Kitty" and her brother Harold were photographed with the poet in 1879 (See Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., Walt Whitman: The Correspondence (New York: New York University Press, 1961–77), vol. 3, following page 202). [back]


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