Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 3 April 1891

Date: April 3, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04706

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
3. April 1891

My dear Walt Whitman,

My best thanks to you for your kind postcard of March 23rd.2—And also thanks to you for your postcard3 to Dr Johnston,4 received this week

By far the gladdest news we have received for many a day is that contained in your latest communication (March 24th5);—"even a suspicion of a shade easier, & the long horrible drain spell being broken." God grant that this may indeed be so! It is indeed "a consummation devoutly wished"6 by us, & we shall look forward eagerly to further news confirming it. And yet I am afraid (if the weather over there at all resembles the weather here) that we must wait a little for any definite confirmation of it. But it heartens us to look forward with more assured hope to the better weather coming, when you will be able to get out again & to absorb the vitalizing influences of the glad spring & summer.

I cannot tell you how much we feel your unwearied kindness in sending us word of your condition. Thanks to you from our deepest hearts.

Dr J. & I were both very much pleased in the beginning of the week to receive letters from Traubel;7—full of hearty friendliness & replete with interesting news.—Written at night with other work (for the "Conservator"8) before him, they doubly evidenced his kindness & good will. Nor were they less interesting to us as coming from one who is so much about you, & as emanating indirectly (in a sense) from you too. Thanks to you both.

The weather here has been very stormy lately—yesterday & today especially so. As I write a strong S. E. wind is blowing, with cold heavy rain.

Tomorrow (Saturday) I expect Fred Wild9 to spend the afternoon with me—&, if the weather is better, perhaps Dr. J.

Hoping for better news, & with best love always,

I remain
Yous affectionately
J.W. Wallace

P.S. Will you give my affectionate regards to Traubel?


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 | 41 | AP 4 | 91; PAID | H | ALL; [illegible]W [illegible] | Apr | 12. [back]

2. See Whitman's March 23, 1891, postal card to Wallace. [back]

3. See Whitman's March 24, 1891, postal card to Dr. John Johnston. [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]

5. Wallace is referring to Whitman's March 24, 1891, postal card to Johnston. [back]

6. Wallace is referencing Hamlet's "To be, or not to be" soliloquy in Act 3, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare's play Hamlet[back]

7. 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]

8. Horace Traubel founded The Conservator in March 1890, and he remained its editor and publisher until his death in 1919. Traubel conceived of The Conservator as a liberal periodical influenced by Whitman's poetic and political ethos. A fair portion of its contents were devoted to Whitman appreciation and the conservation of the poet's literary and personal reputation. [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]


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