Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 19 March 1891

Date: March 19, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04704

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



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Anderton, near Chorley.
Lancashire, England1
19. March 1891

My dear Walt Whitman,

Your two post cards of March 8th & March 10th2 addressed to Dr. Johnston3 were received together yesterday—along with one from Warry.4

We were very pleased to receive them & to compare them, so as to arrive at a fair idea of your condition. We were very glad to note in the later one (March 10th) that there was "a suspicion of shade of betterment" in your condition. We hope that the improvement is now more pronounced, as Traubel5 was "quite convinced" it would be, & look for a better report when the weather improves.

It affects us very deeply that, in the midst of your weakness & suffering, & your other correspondence & writing, you are so constantly mindful of us, & so kind in writing to us.—What can we say in return? but that our deepest gratitude & our heart's best love & sympathy are with you always.

I wish that we could shew them better than by mere letter writing, & by sending such papers & magazines as are likely to interest you. But since even these please you, we shall continue to send them, as poor tokens of our deepest affection.

We have not only cause for gratitude to you for all that your books have done for us,—& will continue to do for us as we more deeply explore them, & assimilate their teaching & spirit—& for the glad wonderful gift of your personal affection & constant, ever-thoughtful kindness, (so deeply enhancing the personal appeal of your books too), but for the warm & ever widening comradeship & affection which comes to us through your influence. Love & gratitude to you evermore.

Surely this "ever widening commune of brothers & lovers"6 is destined to develop to unprecedented extents. Wherever the songs of Burns7 are sung Scotchmen meet together as brothers, in a common spirit of patriotism.

But when your influence & fame reach their height, not Americans only, but your readers in every country will feel themselves linked together in a common bond & a common love.

But, outside this acknowledged brotherhood, your influence will permeate further still;—as in small beginnings it does now. For in our daily lives it makes itself felt in all our dealings with others. Johnston feels it in his professional work, & I, too, in mine. Brought daily into contact with numbers of others, we learn to regard them more & more in your own spirit,—& are ourselves happier thereby.

———

I am glad to learn that you "are getting on fairly with proofs of 2nd Annex,"8 & can understand how relieved you will be when you get it fairly out of your hands. And to us its interest will be very great indeed.

I turn again & again, with inexhaustible interest & delight, to the wonderful preface to your first edition, (illustrating & harmonizing so well, in every word, with all your after performance.) And I cannot but look forward with tender swelling joy & pride & love to your latest confirmation of the "message from the heavens" of which you have been the mouthpiece—"nor once losing nor faith nor ecstacy in Him."9

From the poems which have already appeared, (as in Lippincott's10) I quite believe Traubel's words (in a letter to me) that they will detract nothing from previous years & work," but will add to them, & that the book "is saturated with divine flavors."—

But I must close. I intended to write to Traubel by this mail, but will ask you to convey my affectionate regards to him instead.

I expect Johnston & Fred Wild11 here tomorrow afternoon (Sat. 4) if the weather is favourable. In that case Johnston will post this for me on his return to Bolton (Post from here tomorrow night too late for mail).

With best love to you always

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: Bolton | 58 | [illegible] | 91; New York | Mar | 28; PAID | P | ALL; Camden, N.J. | Mar | 30 | 6 AM | 1891 | Rec'd. Wallace initialed the envelope, "J.W.W." [back]

2. See Whitman's March 8, 1891, and March 10, 1891, postal cards to Dr. John 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. 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]

5. 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]

6. Wallace is quoting from the 1855 Preface to Leaves of Grass. The phrase originally reads as follows: "Is it [literature] for the evergrowing communes of brothers and lovers, large, well-united, proud beyond the old models, generous beyond all models?" [back]

7. Robert Burns (1759–1796) was widely regarded as Scotland's national poet. An early Romantic poet who wrote in both Scots and English (often though not exclusively inflected by Scottish dialect), Burns is perhaps best known for his poems "Auld Lang Syne," "Tam o' Shanter" and "To a Mouse" (from which the title of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men is derived). Of Burns, Whitman wrote in November Boughs: "Though so much is to be said in the way of fault-finding, drawing black marks, and doubtless severe literary criticism . . . after full retrospect of his works and life, the aforesaid 'odd-kind chiel' remains to my heart and brain as almost the tenderest, manliest, and (even if contradictory) dearest flesh-and-blood figure in all the streams and clusters of by-gone poets." For Whitman's full opinion of Burns as it appeared in November Boughs, see "Robert Burns as Poet and Person," November Boughs (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1888), 57–64. [back]

8. Whitman's book Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) was his last miscellany, and it included both poetry and short prose works commenting on poetry, aging, and death, among other topics. Thirty-one poems from the book were later printed as "Good-Bye my Fancy 2d Annex" to Leaves of Grass (1891–1892), the last edition of Leaves of Grass published before Whitman's death in March 1892. For more information see, Donald Barlow Stauffer, "'Good-Bye my Fancy' (Second Annex) (1891)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

9. The quote is from Whitman's "Prayer of Columbus." The lines originally read as follows: "A message from the Heavens whispering to me even in sleep" and "Thou knowest I have not once lost nor faith nor ecstasy in Thee." [back]

10. In March 1891, Lippincott's Magazine published "Old Age Echoes," a cycle of four poems including "Sounds of the Winter," "The Unexpress'd," "Sail Out for Good, Eidólon Yacht," and "After the Argument." Also appearing in that issue was an autobiographical prose essay by Whitman ("Some Personal and Old-Age Memoranda") and another piece on Whitman by the poet's biographer Horace Traubel. [back]

11. 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]


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