Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 16 January 1891

Date: January 16, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04694

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: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ian Faith, Alex Ashland, 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
page image
image 7
page image
image 8
page image
image 9
page image
image 10


Anderton, near Chorley
Lancashire, England1
16. Jany. 1891.

Dear Walt Whitman,

I can't write much tonight, but I want to send you a few lines by this mail.

Fred Wild2 called to see me yesterday & had dinner with me (in Bolton). I spoke of my last letter to you, & said that if I had had a spare copy of his photo: I would have sent it to you.—So, this morning, I was pleased to receive a letter from him enclosing one, which I forward herewith.

He is very much pleased with his copy of L. of G.,3 (he is an old lover of yours,) & regards its presentation from Johnston4 & myself as "another token of our brotherhood," covenanted anew in your dear & honoured name. He hopes that the influence of the book "may bind our hearts more firmly together in the coming years," & asks me, when I write to you again, "to at least send you his warmest love & good wishes."—I am glad to do so at once, for I know well how sincere & deep his love & admiration for you are.

He is not "literary" at all, though he is not without appreciation of the best literatures. He has an artist's eye for the beauties of Nature (paints a little), but prefers Nature at first hand, with its vital freshness & movement. (Loves the sea especially—boating, sailing, fishing &c). He is not conventional, but rather too unconventional, & always prefers to be considered much worse than he is, rather than better. He has a wild, native wit of his own, & is frank, outspoken & free, in speech & manners—But he is liked at once by all wherever he goes. And, at the heart of him is a deep, constant affectionateness, faithful & unswerving, & a native reverence of soul, all the deeper because so impatient of make-belief as to seem irreverent & irreligious. He has a wife & four children of whom he is fond. And I, his friend & intimate chum from boyhood, have found him stedfastly loyal & true & affectionate, through thick & thin.

I wish the portrait were a better one, but such as it is, it may serve as a message of his personal love & adhesion.

I rejoice to think that natures like his respond to you so spontaneously & so warmly. You can afford to let the literary classes stand in antagonism to you (though it can be for a short time only), while the masses (the great majority,) who deal with life & nature & experience at first hand, & who despise second hand presentations in books & art, see in you a master, as fresh & vital as Nature itself, offering them love & faith, & vistas before unknown.

I hope that you are better, & your "health points" more "favourable" than when you wrote last.

With love to you always

I remain
Yours affectionately
J.W. Wallace


Correspondent:
James William Wallace (1853–1926), of Bolton, England, was an architect and great admirer of Whitman. Along with John Johnston (d. 1918), a physician from Bolton, he 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).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman, | 328, Mickle St. | Camden | New Jersey. | U.S. America. It is postmarked: New Y [illegible] | Jan | 2 [illegible]; [illegible]AID | A | ALL; Camden, N.J. | Jan | 27 | 6AM | 1891 | Rec'd; Bo [illegible] | 87 | JA17 | [illegible]. [back]

2. Fred Wild, 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. [back]

3. For more on the gift copy of Leaves of Grass to Fred Wild, a member of the Bolton group, see James W. Wallace's January 9, 1891, letter to Whitman and Johnston's January 17, 1891, letter to Whitman (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]

4. Dr. John Johnston (d. 1918) was a physician from Bolton, England, who, with James W. Wallace, 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 Johnston, see Larry D. Griffin, "Johnston, Dr. John (d.1918)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


Comments?

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.