Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 16 May 1891

Date: May 16, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04709

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
16. May 1891

My dear friend,

Johnston2 shewed me your card of the 5th,3 which I read with thoughts & emotions not to be expressed.—

"Stars silent rest o'er us
Graves under us silent.

But heard are the Voices,
Heard are the Sages,
The Worlds & the ages
'Choose well: your choice is
Brief & yet endless.

Here eyes do regard you
In Eternity's stillness.
Here is all fullness,
Ye have, to reward you."4

How I long to hear the better reports of your health & strength which are surely even now on the way. God grant it!

Last night a little group of friends met at Wentworth Dixon's5 & to present him with the copy of L. of G. you sent. I made the presentation, & W.D. was very much moved by it & by your kind inscription. Your portrait looked down on us from his wall & we felt you to be indeed one of us, kind, loving, & blessing. Dr. J sang a song: specially written for the occasion—in one line of which he spoke of the book as coming from our "'good grey Poet' to our good grey Stoic"! (W.D. just 36 is quite grey—& is an old lover of Epictetus & the Stoics6).

The weather here is very changeable—warm & fine as in midsummer in the beginning of the week, it is now very cold with occasional snow showers.

Loving thoughts & sympathies & prayerful good wishes to you.


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: Camden | May | 28 | 6 AM | 1891 | Rec'd.; [illegible]AI [illegible] | A | ALL; [illegible] | May | 27 | 91; [illegible]ton | 56 | MY 16 | 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 postal card to Johnston of May 5, 1891. [back]

4. Wallace is quoting Thomas Carlyle's translation of a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832), entitled "Mason Lodge." [back]

5. Wentworth Dixon (1855–1928) was a lawyer's clerk and a member of the Bolton Whitman Fellowship. [back]

6. Epictetus (55–135) was a Greek Stoic philosopher. Stoics believe that humans should not be controlled by fear, pain, and desire, but should contemplate them in the pursuit of self-discipline and the fair treatment of others. Stoicism is one of the fundamental components of Western ethics. [back]


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