Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: James Watt to Walt Whitman, 2 October 1891

Date: October 2, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04641

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: Ethan Heusser, Cristin Noonan, Breanna Himschoot, Brandon James O'Neil, 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

High St. Annan, Scotland.1

Mr W. Whitman,
Dear Sir,

It is a long step in years, from the teens to the eighties, the flickering hopes of eighteen to the rock of faith of eighty, the toiling in work of the one, the reaping and rejoicing of the other.

"All seems beautiful to me, I can repeat over to men and women You have done such good to me I would do the same to you, I will recruit for myself and you as I go,"2 rejoicing with you in your settled faith, to recruit for myself, recognising, failures and disappointments notwithstanding, a common bond; and know that success is possible, not in poesy, not in art, but a poem written in our lives, and in being that which is above all art—a true man.

Distance prevents me from putting my hand in yours in person.

Whitman, I know will receive with kindly heart my sincere greeting. With devoted respect,

I am,
Dear Sir,
Yours faithfully,
James Watt.
Oct. 2nd. 1891.

James W. Watt (1873–1948) was a Scottish stationer, bookseller, and minister, born in Annan in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. He was one of five children born to David Watt (1824–1903) and Margaret Wield (b. 1844). Watt began working at a young age as an assistant in his father's shop—selling books, stationary, and fancy goods—located at 68 High street in Annan. The shop became known as David Watt & Son around 1900 when Watt was made full partner in the business (see, for example, The International Directory of Booksellers, and Bibliophile's Manual, edited by James Clegg [London: Elliot Stock, 1903], 74). After his father's death, James Watt moved to Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, England, and in 1907 married Henrietta Brook. The couple had at least one son, Douglas Weild Watt (1910–2003). James Watt was ordained in 1929 by the United Free Church of Scotland and married his second wife, Marion Leonora Bray (1896–1980), in 1938.


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey | N.Y. | U.S.A. It is postmarked: Annan | 3 | OC 2 | 91 | [illegible]; Annan | 3 | OC 2 | 91 | [illegible]; Annan | 3 | OC 2 | 91 | [illegible]; [New York | Oct]; Camden, N.J. | Oct 12 | 4pm | 91. [back]

2. Watt is quoting here from Section 5 of Whitman's "Song of the Open Road." [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.