Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 4 October 1891

Date: October 4, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04397

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: Andrew David King, Cristin Noonan, and Stephanie Blalock

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Sunday. mg. 4. Oct '91

Dear Walt,

I have not had any opportunity of writing to you since Wednesday morning, when I was at Fenelon Falls.1—Immediately after dinner Tom Rutherford2 came for me & drove me out to his farm, 5 miles out; where I stayed till the following afternoon. I enjoyed the visit immensely. Tom himself is a man well worth knowing & we were soon great friends—(for Fred Wild's3 sake as well as his own.) He is simply an average farmer—not educated—but a fine fellow in all the essential qualities of manhood, cute, intelligent, industrious, faithful, true, & a warm-hearted friend, husband & father. My friend Fred Wild thinks a lot of him & has kept up a steady correspondence with him for the last 17 years. And it was delightful to me to see how deep & warm was the friendship on Tom's side.—And as I have heard so much of him for so many years, it was like meeting an old friend of my own. At any rate we are friends now!

He farms 55 acres, which he has cleared himself. He has had a rough laborious life, but is doing well & prospering—though slowly. It was a novel experience to me to see backwood's farming & life, but I enjoyed it very much.—I liked too to get out into the "bush"—chipmunks calling & playing about me—one little fellow descending a tree in front of me & playing about for fully 5 minutes before running off amid the rustling leaves.

The following afternoon Tom took me down to Sturgeon Point—2 miles away—where I took the steamer along Lake Sturgeon to Bobcaygeon. I called on a friend of Fred Wild's there, & stayed all night. Bobcaygeon is quite a pleasure resort during the season—people going there from Buffalo & Rochester, & even from Kansas (Indian name, meaning short, shallow rapids)—Took steamer back next morning (Friday) to Sturgeon Point & up to Tom's. After dinner he drove me back to Fenelon Falls, where I caught the 4 o'clock train here—Tom seeing me off with moist eyes.

Reached Haliburton @ 7 oclock. (It is the terminus north of the Grand Trunk Ry.) Was met by Mrs Stewart4 who drove me here. The house here is a boarding house during the season (now over) & is beautifully situated at the end of a small lake—(one of a chain of lakes)—Haliburton being at the other end.—Mr Stewart5 came out here 28 years ago—used to be a journallist in London—& is Crown Land Agent here. He is a well read, clever & entertaining man whom I heartily like. He has 11 children, nearly all married, & has 3 or 4 sons in the States (Is strongly in favor of Annexation).—Yesterday he took me in a boat to the second lake, 7 miles from here, to visit a young farmer who is sick. I enjoyed it very much, the hills at the sides of the lake wooded down to the water's edge—occasional clearings & farmsteads at distant intervals.—

This morning we have a little rain, & I write this in Mr. S's office overlooking the lake. I propose to leave here on Tuesday morning for New York via Kingston, Albany, & the Hudson River.

I have not heard of you since Monday, but hope that you are keeping "the better side out." With love to you always.

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. Wallace visited Fenelon Falls, Ontario, because it was the former home of his school friend Fred Wild, who was also a member of the Bolton College of English Whitman admirers. Wild lived in Fenelon Falls when he arrived in Canada at the age of twenty, and while he was there, he worked in a shingle mill and became close friends with Tom Rutherford, a farmer. See Wallace's letter to Whitman of September 30, 1891[back]

2. Little is known about Tom Rutherford, whom James W. 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]

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


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