Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 30 September 1891

Date: September 30, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04396

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, "see notes Oct 3 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Amanda J. Axley, and Stephanie Blalock

page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4
page image
image 5
page image
image 6

Fenelon Falls
30. Sept. 1891
10.30 am

Dear Walt,

A splendid morning again—blue cloudless sky, bright sunshine, clear atmosphere, & the air cool but tonic & bracing.

And here I am at Fenelon Falls!2—"What made you come into this wilderness?" a stranger asked me yesterday. To which the answer was that I came here for a friend's sake.

My dear old friend, Fred Wild!3 We are very different in many—perhaps in most respects. May be it is in good part for that very reason that we have been affectionate friends ever since we were at school together. Poor Fred! Things have gone roughly with him in many ways—but he preserves his fresh jollity & mirthfulness, & his warm affections. & is one of those frank, unaffected, careless fellows whom most people like at once. What affectations he has are rather of the defiant kind—would rather one thought him worse than he really is than better.

When he was 20 he came out to Canada, & visited a friend of his father's near here. Then he got some work to do in this place—at a shingle mill—& lived here for some months, supporting himself. He had no intention of staying here, but set himself to see what he could do in a new country where his previous training was of next to no use to him, &, above all, to taste the luxury of manly independence & self reliance.

He became very friendly with a young farmer here—Tom Rutherford4— & during the 16 years since his return has corresponded with him regularly.

Last year he revisited the old place, & had a good time.

I arrived at Fenelon Falls about 4 o'clock yesterday. Tom Rutherford met me at the station & received me with a cordiality & evident delight that touched me deeply. He invited me out to his farm—5 miles away—but I decided to stay here a day—so it is arranged that he comes for me between 12 & 2—that I stay all night with him, & then go tomorrow by boat to a place called Bobcaygeon—returning here at night, & leaving here again on Friday evening.

It would have done you good to see the introductions I got, & the welcomes I got as "Fred Wild's friend." It did me good anyway, & I was delighted to find how affectionately he is thought of here.

At the post office were two letters from Chas. Stewart5—an elderly gentleman at Haliburton where I go next—very cordial & kind. One begins

"Yours of the 23rd to hand. It will always be to me a real, genuine, out-and-out, a yard-wide & all-wool,—pleasure to meet any friend of Fred Wild's. So come along."

I have just finished a long letter to Fred telling him all the news, & am both tired of writing & impatient to get out & look round. But it pleases me to tell you all this, our supreme comrade & lover always.

Heartfelt love to you & all best wishes
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: CAMDEN, N.J. | OCT 8 | 4PM | 91 | REC'D. Wallace has written the following in the bottom left corner of the recto of the envelope: From J W. Wallace | Fenelon Falls | Ontario | Canada. [back]

2. 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]

3. 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]

4. Little is known about Tom Rutherford, whom Wallace describes as a Canadian farmer with Scottish ancestry in Wallace and Dr. John Johnston's book Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–91 (London, England: G. Allen & Unwin, ltd., 1917), 171. [back]

5. Charles R. Stewart (1826–1905) was the resident agent for the Canadian Land and Immigration Company. He was also the first settler in the village of Haliburton, Ontario, Canada. His son, C. E. Stewart (1851–1921), became a newspaper editor for the Bobcaygeon Independent[back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.