Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 19 September 1891

Date: September 19, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04388

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: Kara Wentworth, Ian Faith, Andrew David King, and Stephanie Blalock

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19. Sep 1891

My dear Walt Whitman,

A lovely & perfect day here,2—air fresh & sweet with pleasant breezes.

Immediately after I wrote to you yesterday afternoon the sky became suddenly overspread with stormclouds of wonderful beauty, & presently the rain began to pour & a thunderstorm began.

It was all over by tea time & the evening was clear & beautiful—the bursts of cumulus cloud on the Eastern horizon glowing with wonderful colours & effects as Dr3 & I walked across to the office in the evening.

A pleasant evening, with delightful talks with Dr. He showed me a letter from you. We were both very much pleased to hear per H.L.T.4 of Dr. Longaker's5 report. Glad to hear, too, that the oculist's report was favourable.

I have spent today very idly—giving the reins to my mood. But I have thoroughly enjoyed the perfect beauty & freshness of the day.

I was at the office a short time this morning & was very pleased to receive a parcel of papers addressed to me by you. Thank you for your constant kindness & thought.

The Dr. showed me the copy of "The Literary World" rec'd from you, with the marked par. on "Good Bye"6 which I was pleased to read.7 Since dinner I have looked through the two papers you sent, & dipped into the pamphlet on "Swedenborg."8 This last, however, I will put aside for another time.

Dr. is calling for me at 3 o'clock to go to town, so I write this brief note in the hope that I may post it there.

I hope that the day is equally beautiful with you, & that you are fairly well. How it would please me to hear that you have been out for a drive again!

Give my affectionate regards to Mrs. Davis9 & Warry.10

With love to yourself as always
J.W. Wallace

James William Wallace (1853–1926), of Bolton, England, was an architect and great admirer of Whitman. Wallace, along with Dr. John Johnston (1852–1927), a physician in Bolton, 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).


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman, | 328, Mickle St | Camden | New Jersey | US.. Wallace has written his intials "J.W.W." in the bottom left corner of the recto of the envelope. It is postmarked: LONDON | PM | SP 19 | 91 | CANADA; [illegible] | [illegible] 91 | REC'D. [back]

2. Wallace visited both Whitman and Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke in the fall of 1891. When this letter was written, Wallace was with Bucke at Bucke's home in London, Ontario, Canada. Wallace's friend and the co-founder of the Bolton College group of Whitman admirers, Dr. John Johnston, had 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]

3. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the mid-1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Daniel Longaker (1858–1949) was a Philadelphia physician who specialized in obstetrics. He became Whitman's doctor in early 1891 and provided treatment during the poet's final illness. Carol J. Singley reports that "Longaker enjoyed talking with Whitman about human nature and reflects that Whitman responded as well to their conversations as he did to medical remedies" ("Longaker, Dr. Daniel [1858–1949]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R.LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings [New York: Garland Publishing, 1998]). [back]

6. Whitman's book Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) was his last miscellany, and it included both poetry and short prose works commenting on poetry, aging, and death, among other topics. Thirty-one poems from the book were later printed as "Good-Bye my Fancy 2d Annex" to Leaves of Grass (1891–1892), the last edition of Leaves of Grass published before Whitman's death in March 1892. For more information see, Donald Barlow Stauffer, "'Good-Bye my Fancy' (Second Annex) (1891)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. Wallace may be referring to the review of Good-Bye My Fancy that was published in The Literary World on September 12, 1891[back]

8. Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) was a Swedish theologian and mystic who claimed himself as a divinely inspired Christian reformer, rejecting the concepts of the Trinity and salvation through faith alone. Swedenborg is best known for his 1758 book Heaven and Hell, in which he describes his vision of the afterlife as divided into three parts: Heaven, Hell, and a middle World of Spirits, where the recently deceased first awaken into the afterlife. Swedenborgians established the New Church in England after Swedenborg's death, a movement that spread to the U.S. in the early nineteenth century. [back]

9. Mary Oakes Davis (1837 or 1838–1908) was Whitman's housekeeper. For more, see Carol J. Singley, "Davis, Mary Oakes (1837 or 1838–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

10. Frank Warren Fritzinger (1867–1899), known as "Warry," took Edward Wilkins's place as Whitman's nurse, beginning in October 1889. Fritzinger and his brother Harry were the sons of Henry Whireman Fritzinger (about 1828–1881), a former sea captain who went blind, and Almira E. Fritzinger. Following Henry Sr.'s death, Warren and his brother—having lost both parents—became wards of Mary O. Davis, Whitman's housekeeper, who had also taken care of the sea captain and who inherited part of his estate. A picture of Warry is displayed in the May 1891 New England Magazine (278). See Joann P. Krieg, "Fritzinger, Frederick Warren (1866–1899)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), 240. [back]


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