Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 13–14 March 1891

Date: March 13–14, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04703

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: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ian Faith, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock



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Anderton, near Chorley.
Lancashire, England.1
13. March 1891

My dear Walt Whitman,

We were very much pleased to receive your kind postcard of Feb 26th,2 addressed to Dr. Johnston,3 & only wish that you could have reported an improved condition of health, instead of "about same." We hope to receive better news later.

I can't write much now, but will send you a copy of a very kind & friendly letter I have received from J.A. Symonds,4 which will no doubt interest you.

Not the least interesting thing about it to me is the frank cordial spirit of comradeship & kindness, ("real & not fictitious") it reveals, & which seems to distinguish those who are "sealed of the tribe of Walt."5

I had asked him not to trouble with replying to my letter, & he sends me this long friendly letter in return!

The "forgeries" he refers to are facsimile copies of a letter & post cards received from you which I made & sent him—along with copies Dr. J. had made of letters from Traubel6 & Warry.7 (I afterwords sent him a copy of Dr. Bucke's8 letter).

It has been my custom to make as careful copies as possible of your correspondence, & to give Dr. J. copies of the postcards I receive. I sent these (last received) to Symonds.

The weather here is very fine but cold—frosty nights, & clear, sunshiny days with north & north-east winds.

Have had a busy week & cannot write at much length, but with best love to you always

I remain
Yours affectionately
J.W. Wallace.

P.S. March 14th

Your card of the 3rd inst to hand.9 It pains us to note that you are still "in a bad way," though so cheerful & kind. Your loving-kindness in writing to us so frequently, while so unwell, affects us very deeply, & rouses in us depths of responding gratitude & love & sympathy beyond expression. If only we could do something to help you, what a relief it would be to our impotent yearning!

Dr Johnston called on me this morning, & told me he intended to send you a copy of one of my letters. I don't think it worth it, but I allowed him to do as he wished.

It is addressed to the friend in Liverpool who procured my copy of the 1855 edition of L of G. He had looked into it, but could make nothing of it. In a hurried note he told me his impressions (adverse ones) & asked what I had to say about them. When I replied I was tired & out of sorts. And I felt that it was labour thrown away (in a sense) as he was quite unlikely to come under your influence. He is many years older than I. But he is one of the most respected & valued of my friends, & I owed him such return as I could make for many kindnesses; so I wrote at some length. But the letter is too elementary & inadequate to be worth your perusal, & was, of course, only meant to meet the special case of the man to whom it was addressed.

I have known him many years, but chiefly at a distance & through correspondence.

Johnston received a letter yesterday morning from Capt. Nowell,10 in which he mentioned that he had told you of a copy of L. of G. he had seen offered for sale in L'pool for £6.18.0. Probably it was the copy which Goldstraw11 got for me @ £6.—A piece of extravangance on my part, perhaps, but I value it too highly to think so

With dearest love to you
always (in haste)
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: B [illegible]on | 58 | MR14 | 91; New York | Mar | [illegible]; PAID | L | ALL; Camden, N.J. | Mar | 24 | 6AM | 1891 | Rec'd. [back]

2. See Whitman's February 26, 1891, postal card to Johnston. [back]

3. 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]

4. John Addington Symonds (1840–1893), a prominent biographer, literary critic, and poet in Victorian England, was author of the seven-volume history Renaissance in Italy, as well as Walt Whitman—A Study (1893), and a translator of Michelangelo's sonnets. But in the smaller circles of the emerging upper-class English homosexual community, he was also well known as a writer of homoerotic poetry and a pioneer in the study of homosexuality, or sexual inversion as it was then known. See Andrew Higgins, "Symonds, John Addington [1840–1893]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. On March 7 John Addington Symonds wrote to Wallace of his health, of his fears for his family, of an autobiography ("which perhaps may yet be published; if its candour permits publication"), and of his affection for Walt Whitman: "What is beautiful in this sunset of a great strong soul, is the man's own cheerful & calm acceptance of the situation.'It will be all right either way.' Ab eo disce vivere ac mori!" (Wallace's transcription: Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C). [back]

6. 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]

7. Frank Warren Fritzinger (1867–1899), known as "Warry," took Edward Wilkins's place as Whitman's nurse, beginning in October 1889. Fritzinger and his brother Harry were the sons of Henry Whireman Fritzinger (about 1828–1881), a former sea captain who went blind, and Almira E. Fritzinger. Following Henry Sr.'s death, Warren and his brother—having lost both parents—became wards of Mary O. Davis, Whitman's housekeeper, who had also taken care of the sea captain and who inherited part of his estate. [back]

8. 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]

9. Wallace is referring to a postal card that was addressed to Johnston. See Whitman's March 3, 1891, postal card to Johnston. [back]

10. Little is known about S. Nowell, the Captain of the S. S. British Prince. On October 8, 1890, Horace Traubel notes that Whitman received a letter from Captain Noell [sic] stating that Johnston and Wallace had given him a blanket of Bolton manufacture to deliver personally to the poet in Camden. Traubel notes a few days later on October 14: "W. said Captain Noell [sic] had been in with the blanket." See the letter from S. Nowell to Whitman of October 8, 1890. [back]

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


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