Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 14 August 1891

Date: August 14, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04663

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, Brandon James O'Neil, and Stephanie Blalock

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Anderton, near Chorley.
Lancashire, England.
14 August 1891

My dear Walt Whitman,

It is too late for me to write much tonight.—But I must thank you heartily for your kind postcard of August 2nd & 3rd.1

It pains me that though you report "fine weather" you are not able to go out in it & enjoy it, but "lie on the bed a good deal of the time;"—even though "all goes fairly enough with you."—God bless you!—

What else can I say? That you exert yourself to write to us, & that you send your best love to us, is characteristic of you, & wins responding love from us—That, at least, will endure always.

We have received copies of the "Camden Post" for August 1st from Traubel.2 His article about Dr. Bucke's3 visit here is very affecting to us in many ways.4 It seems so very disproportionate in its references to us & to our reception of Dr. B—and Dr. B's own letters are generous & kind to an affecting degree.—But what appeals to us most is the fact that our doings should be noted at all.—They seem so small & futile compared with what is due to you, & with what will surely soon come.

But as time goes on groups of friends will be drawn more & more to the study of your books, & to knowledge of you, & will find, as we have found, their friendships deepened, & new Whitmanic comrades added. Till myriads of men find themselves knit together—"brethren & lovers as we are."5

It is a wonderful privilege to us to count you, & Dr Bucke, & Horace Traubel amongst our friends too. It seems as though God, himself, has come very near to us. My prayer is that it may bear fruit in our lives.

But I am too sleepy to write any more now.

Weather here dull & wet. Cold for the time of year, & very little sunshine for some time past—since Dr Bucke left us!

With my heart's best love to you, & constant good wishes

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. See Whitman's postal card to Wallace of August 2–3, 1891[back]

2. 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]

3. 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]

4. Wallace is referring to Traubel's article, "Walt Whitman Abroad," Camden Post (August 7, 1891), 1. Traubel's piece focuses on the warm reception Bucke received from Wallace, Dr. John Johnston, and the members of the Bolton College, as well as the English admirers' reverence for Whitman. [back]

5. Wallace is referencing Whitman's poem, "To Him that Was Crucified." [back]


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