Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

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

Date: April 13–14, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04708

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 April 25 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ian Faith, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock



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Anderton, near Chorley.
Lancashire, England1
13. April 1891

My dear Walt Whitman,

When I got to the office this morning I found a note from Dr Johnston2 waiting me, enclosing your long letter of March 30th & 31st.3 He called on me at noon, when I returned it, so that he might shew it to "the boys"4 tonight.

I cannot tell you how pleased we are to receive your letter,—both for its own sake & the information it contains, & because of the great loving-kindness it manifests.—

We had come to love you long ago as the dearest of friends & benefactors, but your inexhaustible kindness to us personally stirs our hearts to their lowest depths.—

Tonight when I got home I found a parcel waiting me too, with your dear & familiar superscription. This I found to contain "Munyon's Magazine" for March & "Once a Week" for March 24th Thanks to you, my dearest friend for all.—

I was delighted to find the autograph copy of your poem "The Commonplace."5 I have read it several times already, & rejoice in it greatly. It accords with the spirit & teaching of your books throughout, but this special statement & lesson was also needed.

Dr J shewed me at noon a complete copy (from shorthand report) of my address last Friday. As my talk was crude enough, & I had only been able to give it very slight preparation indeed, it affected me to see how much my poor effort was valued. For it simply meant that, through me, they had a new presentment (which they could more readily apprehend) of certain aspects of your personality & teaching. And it is touching to note how strongly these appeal to the depths of widely different people. Of the wide & loving response you will yet meet with I am very sure.

Tomorrow night I expect Dr. J. & Greenhalgh6 here, when I intend to read your lecture on Lincoln's death,7 & the "Burial Hymn."

I am pleased & touched by the "Memories of Lincoln" in Munyon's Magazine, & especially by the story of his visit to Findley Hospital. It is very beautiful, & associates him in my mind with you too.

Will you give my love to Traubel8 & to Warry9 & Mrs Davis?10 With my hearts supreme love to you always

I remain
Yours affectionately
J.W. Wallace

P.S. April 14th 10.30 p.m.

Instead of Dr. J. & Greenhalgh coming here tonight (as I had proposed, for health reasons) I stayed in Bolton. After tea Greenhalgh, Fred Wild11 & I met at the Dr's, &, in their company (with Davidson Dr J's assistant) I read aloud your Lecture on the death of Lincoln & the "Burial Hymn." Had I been sure of being able to attend, we should have arranged accordingly, & had a better attendance.

I wonder under what circumstances you are celebrating this eventful day.12

I hope, at any rate, that you are better in health, & that you may be able to read your lecture without over-exertion.

The weather here has been rather better these last few days & more spring-like. I rejoice for your sake in the improvement.

I see that Symonds13 has an article in this month's "Fortnightly", which I will forward by next mail.

With loving thoughts & wishes

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 | 40 | AP 15 | 91; Ca [illegible] N J. | [illegible] | 24 | 4PM | 1891 | Rec'd; PAID | F | ALL; New York | [illegible]pr | 24 | 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 30–31 letter to Johnston. [back]

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

5. Johnston is referring to Whitman's poem, "The Commonplace," which first appeared (in manuscript facsimile) Munyon's Magazine in March, 1891. [back]

6. Richard Greenhalgh, a bank clerk and one of Whitman's Bolton admirers, frequently hosted annual celebrations of the poet's birthday. In his March 9, 1892, letter to Traubel, Greenhalgh wrote that "Walt has taught me 'the glory of my daily life and trade.' In all the departments of my life Walt entered with his loving personality & I am never alone" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, March 20, 1892). James Wallace described Greenhalgh as "undoubtedly a rich, royal, plain fellow, not given to ornate word or act" (Sunday, September 27, 1891). For more on Greenhalgh, see Paul Salveson, "Loving Comrades: Lancashire's Links to Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, vol. 14, no. 2, 57–84. [back]

7. This is a reference to Whitman's lecture entitled "The Death of Abraham Lincoln." He 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 and 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]

8. 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]

9. 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]

10. Mary Oakes Davis (1837 or 1838–1908) was Whitman's housekeeper. For more, see Carol J. Singley, "Davis, Mary Oakes (1837 or 1838–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [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]

12. Wallace is writing his postscript on the anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination on April 14, 1865. [back]

13. 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]


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