Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 10 October 1891

Date: October 10, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04401

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.

Notes for this letter were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented, updated, or created by Whitman Archive staff as appropriate.

Contributors to digital file: Andrew David King, Cristin Noonan, and Stephanie Blalock

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79. North Portland Avenue
10. Oct. 1891
1 45 pm

Dear Walt,

I wrote to you last evening,2 & after a short letter to Traubel3 spent the rest of the evening in chatting with Mr4 & Mrs5 Rome—about old memories of you, the changes in Brooklyn, persons & places in Annan, Scotland6 &c.

This morning we had breakfast a little after 7, & Mr Rome & son7 went to business. I followed them shortly after to see if there was any letter there for me. I was glad at heart when Andrew Rome gave me a letter from you. Tom Rome8 came up at the same time & Andrew introduced us. After a very brief talk I opened your letter & read it aloud to them both. How wonderfully it fitted in! How could it have been better? Through me you addressed a message of grateful & affectionate memories & love to them both—& there I received it in their actual presence, & without knowing its contents read it aloud to them both! You should have seen the look that came into their faces—as of a tender veil of mist over silent granite rocks. And before I came away Andrew Rome said he would try to come with me to Camden when I come—coming in the morning, returning at evening.

He came out with me & took me to Cranberry St—to the old office where you printed the Leaves. (Room now occupied by a bookbinder.) I stood a little in front of the window where you set the type—& in the corner where you used to sit to read the "Tribune" when you called in each morning.

Then he went back to business & I went down to the Fulton Ferry. I crossed & came back again—reading your poem again, & observing & absorbing all I could.9 I find that your friend, John Baulson10 has given up work as pilot—"gave it up a month ago of his own accord," the man said.

I walked across the Bridge & spent a little time in New York & then came back to dinner as promised. Am now writing letters, & by the time I have done Rome will come back here for a walk in Brooklyn with me.

Then I propose to go to Huntington, Long Island, for the week end—to visit West Hills &c. Will perhaps come back Sunday night or Monday morning—but should like to stay till Monday night, & may perhaps do so. Then another day or so in N.Y. before coming on—but will write to you again.

A. H. R told me at dinner that he met Ex-mayor Stryker11 this morning. They spoke about you, & R. said he hoped to see you soon, & S. commissioned him to convey his regards.

Love to you always from my heart of hearts
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. It is postmarked: BROOKLYN, N.Y. | OCT 10 | 630 PM | 91; CAMDEN, N.J. | OCT 11 | 4 PM | 91 | REC'D. [back]

2. At the time of this letter, Wallace was in New York. He visited both Whitman and the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke in the fall of 1891. 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. 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]

4. Andrew Rome, perhaps with the assistance of his brother Tom, printed Whitman's first edition of Leaves of Grass (1855) in a small shop at the intersection of Fulton and Cranberry in Brooklyn. It was likely the first book the firm ever printed. [back]

5. Andrew Rome's wife was the cousin of Dr. John Johnston's wife. Dr. Johnston, along with James W. Wallace, founded the Bolton group of English Whitman admirers (John Johnston and James W. Wallace, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends [1918], 63). [back]

6. Dr. John Johnston was from Annan, a town in Dumfries and Galloway, in southwest Scotland. [back]

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

8. Tom Rome (b. 1836) was a printer with A. H. Rome and Brothers, later Rome Brothers. His brother Andrew Rome, a friend of Walt Whitman, printed the first edition of Leaves of Grass in 1855. See Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary (University of Iowa: Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 2005). [back]

9. Wallace is referring to Whitman's poem "Crossing Brookyln Ferry." [back]

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

11. The carpenter and politician Francis B. Stryker (1811–1892) served as Mayor of Brooklyn in the mid-1840s before moving on to hold the offices of County Clerk and Superintendent of Sewers, a position he held until 1875. [back]


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