Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 29 September 1891

Date: September 29, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04395

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: Cristin Noonan, Amanda J. Axley, and Stephanie Blalock

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29. Sep 1891
11.30 am.

Dear Walt,

Just a line or two, while I have an opportunity to convey my daily message of loving good wishes.

I wrote to you last from Dr Bucke's2 office yesterday morning.3 At one o'clock he drove me down to the Railway Station with my trunk & did one or two errands in town. (Dr Beemer4 accompanying us part way & charging me to convey his regards to you) Then back again to the house. Final adieux—& then the messenger drove me down to the cars

Left London @ 4.25—a lovely afternoon, beautiful lights upon the country as we passed, every moment presenting new & beautiful pictures—till dusk set in & we reached Hamilton. Changed trains there.—arriving at Toronto @ 8.45. Went to Walker House there, & at 9.15 went to bed

Up early & left Toronto @ 8.45. Have just arrived here & have to wait till 3 o'clock for a train on! Write this at an hotel, while waiting for dinner. After dinner will stroll through the town.

Some rain during the night at Toronto. Beautiful day again, but much cooler.

The country traversed this morning resembles in the main the country between Hamilton & London—but somewhat wilder in character. Comparatively flat, though "rolling" slightly—Wide spacious landscapes, arching skies with wonderful cloud forms, unpainted [frame?] houses (except in towns) [grate?] fences, fields full of tree–stumps—fair number of cattle.

Am full of thoughts of my old chum Fred Wild.5 It is on his account that I come out here. When he was 20, he came out here & lived for some months at Fenelon Falls and Bobcaygeon, & wrote long & most friendly letters from there. Twelve months ago, he revisited the old places, & he will be delighted to hear of my visit.

You, dearest of friends, have redoubled the value of all our friendships, & your influence is to make them more & more precious. Love & gratitude to you evermore.

All good wishes to you continually
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 | U.S. It is postmarked: CAMDEN, N.J. | OCT1 | 6PM | 91 | REC'D. [back]

2. 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]

3. Wallace visited Whitman in Camden, New Jersey, and the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke at Bucke's home in London, Ontario, Canada, in the fall of 1891. He also spent time in New York during the trip. Accounts of Wallace's visit can be found in Dr. John Johnston and Wallace's Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–91 (London, England: G. Allen & Unwin, ltd., 1917). [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. Fred Wild (d. 1935), a cotton waste merchant, was a member of the "Bolton College" of Whitman admirers and was also affiliated with the Labour Church, an organization whose socialist politics and working-class ideals were often informed by Whitman's work. A painter and scholar of Shakespeare, he was also a lively debater. With James W. Wallace and Dr. John Johnston, Wild formed the nucleus of the Bolton Whitman group. For more on Wild and Whitman's Bolton disciples, see Paul Salveson, "Loving Comrades: Lancashire's Links to Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 14.2 (1996), 57–84. [back]


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