Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 20 September 1891

Date: September 20, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04389

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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20. Sep 1891

My dear Walt Whitman,

Another perfect day.2 I write this in Dr's3 office @ 4.30pm.—The windows—wide open—admit a gentle pleasant breeze. Outside, the sky perfectly clear & cloudless, the fountain playing, the trees across the open space, along the avenue & in the distance with shades & various colours—very beautiful in the sunshine. Dr Beemer4 just entering his buggy as I write, & driving off.

It seems to me as though I had entered an "Earthly Paradise."—Day after day of unsurpassed beauty—nights of wonderful moonlight radiance, doubly beautiful amid the trees & on the lawns & flowers of this beautiful place—the soothing rest & peace & the hospitable kindness of all the people here—all combine to make it very sweet & pleasant to me. Indeed, I tell the Dr. that unless I leave soon I shall find it difficult to tear myself away!

I have no special news since my last letter—We drove into town yesterday afternoon—everything of interest to me, the shops, the vehicles, the people, the streets, buildings, pavements, fields, everything—and everything looking its best in the glorious sunshine.—Evening spent in the house—chiefly in learning & playing "Pedro"5 with Willie6 & his friends.

To chapel this morning, & afterwards to church! (Rev'd Mr Richardson's.)7 Thoughts & feelings of a very mixed character!

Dr. writing letters &c. He seems to me to look a good deal better since he came home,—has a better colour & looks fresher.


A long pause here—discussing future arrangements as to my trip with Dr. Decided nothing, however, for the present.

I hope that we shall hear that you have been able to take a drive again this lovely weather.

Dr. says he is "going to quit whether school keeps or not." So I will quit too. With love to you always & best wishes

Yours affectionately
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.. It is postmarked: LONDON | AM | SP 21 | 91 | CANADA; CAMDEN, N.J. | Sep 22 | 12 PM | 91 | REC'D. [back]

2. When Wallace wrote this letter, he was visiting the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke at Bucke's home in London, Ontario, Canada. Wallace had traveled to the United States from Bolton, England, landing at Philadelphia on September 8, 1891 (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, September 8, 1891). After spending a few days with Whitman, Wallace traveled with Bucke to Canada, where he met Bucke's family and friends. Wallace's accounts of his travels were later published with the Bolton physcian John Johnston's account of his own visit with the poet in the summer of 1890 in their book 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. Dr. Nelson Henry (N. H.) Beemer (ca. 1854–1934) was in charge of the "Refractory Building" at Bucke's asylum and served as his first assistant physician. Whitman met Beemer during his visit there in the summer of 1880. See James H. Coyne, Richard Maurice Bucke: A Sketch (Toronto: Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, 1906), 52. [back]

5. "Pedro" is a trick-taking card game developed in Denver, Colorado, in the 1880s, very popular at the time. [back]

6. Wallace is referring to Bucke's son, William Augustus Bucke (1873–1933). [back]

7. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]


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