Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 9–11 April 1891

Date: April 9–11, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04707

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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "see notes June 23 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ian Faith, Andrew David King, and Stephanie Blalock



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Anderton, nr Chorley.
Lancashire, England.1
9. April 1891

My dear Walt Whitman,

This morning's post brought me a note from Dr J.2 with copy of a postcard recd from you (dated March 29th)3 & a very cordial inspiriting letter from Traubel.4 (March 28).

It gladdened my heart to note the cheerful hopeful tone in which Traubel refers to your condition, & to the way in which you "swim the current still, with brave arm & confident soul."

Your own report, the day following,—"no worse, I guess, but bad enough"—"head distress today"—harmonise only too sadly, when one notes in both letters how adverse the weather has been. It has been no better here & still continues bleak & cold. I am afraid that we cannot look for much definite progress till better weather comes. But it must come soon, & we look forward to it longingly, in confident hope that you will then emerge from your long illness, & delight our hearts with reports of progress & regained freedom & cheer.

Tomorrow night I am to address the friends in Bolton.5 I intend to briefly review the records of your life prior to 1855, & to point out as well as I can the influences which led to the production of L. of G. & which shaped & coloured it. I wanted to prepare for it carefully, but circumstances have prevented it. So I have merely jotted down heads for an informal talk, & will let it go at that. Perhaps it will be better so.

I cannot write more tonight. But my thoughts have been very full of you of late, & my heart's best love goes out to you always.

Yours affectionately
J.W. Wallace

P.S. The "Contemporary" contains an article on "The Influence of Democracy on Literature" by Edmund Gosse,6 which it may interest you to glance over. I have ordered a copy & will send it to you with this.7

P.S. Saturday morning 11 a[p?]

Our meeting came off last night & was well attended—the usual hearty friendliness of tone prevailing. I can only write a line or two, so will leave the account of it to Johnston.

A letter received by me from Dr Bucke8 this morning confirms the welcome news of the improvement in your condition, & is altogether hopeful & cheering


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 | [illegible] | AP 11 | 91; PAID | C | ALL; NEWARK | APR [illegible] | [illegible]0; CAMDEN | AP [illegible] | 2 [illegible] | 91. [back]

2. 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]

3. See Whitman's March 29, 1891, postal card to Dr. John Johnston. [back]

4. 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]

5. Wallace is referring to the "Bolton College," a group of English admirers of Whitman, that he and the English physician Dr. John Johnston co-founded. [back]

6. Sir Edmund William Gosse (1849–1928), English poet and author of Father and Son (a memoir published in 1907), had written to Whitman on December 12, 1873: "I can but thank you for all that I have learned from you, all the beauty you have taught me to see in the common life of healthy men and women, and all the pleasure there is in the mere humanity of other people" (see Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, June 1, 1888). Gosse reviewed Two Rivulets in "Walt Whitman's New Book," The Academy, 9 (24 June 1876), 602–603, and visited Whitman in 1885 (see Whitman's letter inviting Gosse to visit on December 28, 1884 and The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller [New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977], 3:384 n80). In a letter to Richard Maurice Bucke on October 31, 1889, Whitman characterized Gosse as "one of the amiable conventional wall-flowers of literature" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection). For more about Gosse, see Jerry F. King, "Gosse, Sir Edmund (1849–1928)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. Gosse's "The Influence of Democracy on Literature" appeared in Contemporary Review 59 (April 1891), 523–536. [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]


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