Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 27 March 1891

Date: March 27, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04705

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, England.1
27. March 1891
(Good Friday)
a.m.

My dear Walt Whitman,

I have to thank you for the copy of the "The Critic" (March 7) you sent me, & for your kind post card of March 14th.2—both duly received.

I am sorry to learn that at the time of writing you had "no cheery or favorable news to send of physique." The weather here all through March has been bleak & stormy, & we can only hope that the better weather to follow will in part restore you.

I do not think that I "expect too much from the 2nd Annex,"3 & am prepared for its being "very brief" & "most of it seen already." But, though the fact that "it is brought out in sickness & great depression" has resulted in brevity & a less full expression than you might wish, yet I am very sure that it's influence & effect will be all the greater; & I do not doubt that a wise intent, greater than your own, will be fulfilled in it. At any rate we shall recognize in it, with all the more tender gratitude, your "soul-dearest leaves confirming all the rest—the faithfulest—hardiest—best."4

I have arranged to meet "the College" on this day fortnight, April 10th, & to give them an address on the 1855 edition of L. of G., with readings from the Preface.

I wish to give them a rough outline—so far as I can trace it (from the records of your previous life, from your ultimate decision & aims, & from scattered passages & indirections throughout your poems)—of the "long foreground"5 of experiences, thought & emotions from which it rose. Of course I can only do this in approximate outline, but I hope, in this way, to give the book an added personal interest.

I shall, perhaps, be on surer ground in attempting to explain the symbolism of its title & colour & in reading extracts from the Preface with special reference to your own aims, performance & personality.

But, at most, I only wish—as one student working with others—to incite them to further study for themselves.

I hope to arrange for another meeting on April 14th to read over your lecture on the death of Lincoln6—as we have done before.

I write this on Good Friday morning (holiday here) after a busy week. The weather is occasionally stormy (hail showers) with gleams of sunshine. After dinner I expect some friends—perhaps Dr Johnston.7

With loving thanks & good wishes

Yours affectionately
J.W. Wallace

P.S. Evening

Mr & Mrs Dixon & son8 & Dr J. came after dinner. Later we all (except the lad) had an enjoyable walk through Rivington, the weather having improved. Tea, a rest & talk & they are now gone.

Part of our talk was about you, & they send their love to you.

Our meeting on April 10th is to be at Dr Johnston's.

On Wednesday evening last the "International Club" in Bolton had a meeting which Dr Johnston attended. Our friend Fred Wild9 read a paper (20 minutes) on you & afterwards read part of Ingersoll's10 lecture.11 In the discussion that followed Dr J. took part.


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 | 54 | MR 28 | 91; Cam [illegible] | Ap [illegible] | 6AM | 1891 | Rec'd; Paid | [illegible] | [illegible]. [back]

2. See Whitman's March 14, 1891, postal card to Wallace. [back]

3. 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]

4. Wallace is quoting from Whitman's poem "You Lingering Sparse Leaves of Me," which was first published in Lippincott's Magazine in November 1887, as part of the "November Boughs" cluster of poems. The poem was later included as part of the "Sands at Seventy," first annex to Leaves of Grass, which was published as part of Whitman's November Boughs (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1888). [back]

5. In his famous letter to Walt Whitman of July 21, 1855, poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote of the first edition of Leaves of Grass, "I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have had a long foreground somewhere, for such a start." See "Letter to Walt Whitman." [back]

6. Whitman first delivered this lecture in New York in 1879 and would deliver it at least eight other times over the succeeding years, delivering it for the last time on April 15, 1890. He had published a version of the lecture as "Death of Abraham Lincoln" in Specimen Days & Collect (1882–83). For more on the lecture, see Larry D. Griffin, "'Death of Abraham Lincoln,'" Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, ed., (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. 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]

8. Wentworth Dixon 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. Dixon communicated directly with Whitman only a few times, but we can see in his letters a profound sense of care for the poet's failing health, as well as genuine gratitude for Whitman's continued correspondence with the "Eagle Street College." See Dixon's letters to Whitman of June 13, 1891 and February 24, 1892. For more on Dixon and Whitman's Bolton disciples, see Paul Salveson, "Loving Comrades: Lancashire's Links to Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, vol. 14, no. 2, 57–84. [back]

9. 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]

10. Robert "Bob" Green Ingersoll (1833–1899) was a Civil War veteran and an orator of the post-Civil War era, known for his support of agnosticism. Ingersoll was a friend of Whitman, who considered Ingersoll the greatest orator of his time. Whitman said to Traubel, "It should not be surprising that I am drawn to Ingersoll, for he is Leaves of Grass. He lives, embodies, the individuality I preach. I see in Bob the noblest specimen—American-flavored—pure out of the soil, spreading, giving, demanding light" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, March 25, 1891). The feeling was mutual. Upon Whitman's death in 1892, Ingersoll delivered the eulogy at the poet's funeral. The eulogy was published to great acclaim and is considered a classic panegyric (see Phyllis Theroux, The Book of Eulogies [New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997], 30). [back]

11. On October 21, 1890, at Horticultural Hall in Philadelphia, Robert Ingersoll delivered a lecture in honor of Walt Whitman titled Liberty in Literature. Testimonial to Walt Whitman. Whitman recorded in his Commonplace book that the lecture was "a noble, (very eulogistic to WW & L of G) eloquent speech, well responded to by the audience" and the speech itself was published in New York by the Truth Seeker Company in 1890 (Whitman's Commonplace Book [Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.]). [back]


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