Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace and Dr. John Johnston to Walt Whitman, 26–27 May 1891

Date: May 26–27, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04711

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 July 8 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Andrew David King, Cristin Noonan, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock

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Anderton, nr Chorley.
Lancashire, England1
26. May 1891

My dear Walt Whitman,

I can only write a line or two tonight—but wish to send you my loving greeting & best wishes—How I long to hear better reports of you! I trust that you are at least somewhat better than when you last wrote.—Every day I think of you, & wish that I could penetrate the darkness of distance & long postal delays that I might know how you are. God bless you always.

Tomorrow night I am engaged to have tea with Johnston & to spend a little time with him.—

Weather here wet & cold for the time of year. But we have occasional bursts of bright sunshine & perfect beauty.—Last evening, for instance was gloriously fine.

I hope to have a few friends here on Sunday to celebrate your birthday. May it be a blessed day for you! With a heart full of love & good wishes.

Yours affectionately
J.W. Wallace


P.S by J Johnston. Bolton. May 27th 1891. 8 p.m.2

I intended writing a brief note tonight but Wallace, who has just left me, suggested that I might utilize this space on his letter, to send you my word of greeting & my best wishes.

We are wearying to have some news of you & to know how you are keeping these days; & fondly hope that "no news is good news."

God grant that you may be favoured with surcease from pain and some increase of strength!

The other day I read a good letter from your friend Prof. Dowden,3 in wh: he says: "It is a long time since I read anything that interested me more than your "Notes of visit to Walt Whitman."4 Nothing that I have seen about Whitman brings him nearer to me & I like to know that he has such good & pleasant folk about him as Mrs. Davis,5 & "Warry."6

I send you the secondhand of the "Academy Pictures."

Now, all peace & all good & all joy be with you my dear old Master & Friend, is the heartfelt prayer of yours most affectionately, J. Johnston.

James William Wallace (1853–1926), of Bolton, England, was an architect and great admirer of Whitman. Along with John Johnston (1852–1927), 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). For more information on Johnston, see Larry D. Griffin, "Johnston, Dr. John (1852–1927)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman, | 328, Mickle St | Camden | New Jersey. | U.S. America. It is postmarked: [illegible]TON | R | MY27 | [illegible]; CAMDEN, N.J. | JUN | 6 | 6 AM | 1891 | REC [illegible]. [back]

2. A postscript from Dr. John Johnston appears on the back of Wallace's letter, dated "May 27th 1891." The postscript begins on the back of the second page of Wallace's letter, after his closing. [back]

3. Edward Dowden (1843–1913), professor of English literature at the University of Dublin, was one of the first to critically appreciate Whitman's poetry, particularly abroad, and was primarily responsible for Whitman's popularity among students in Dublin. In July 1871, Dowden penned a glowing review of Whitman's work in the Westminster Review entitled "The Poetry of Democracy: Walt Whitman," in which Dowden described Whitman as "a man unlike any of his predecessors. . . . Bard of America, and Bard of democracy." In 1888, Whitman observed to Traubel: "Dowden is a book-man: but he is also and more particularly a man-man: I guess that is where we connect" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, June 10, 1888, 299). For more, see Philip W. Leon, "Dowden, Edward (1843–1913)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. See Johnston and Wallace's Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1917). See also their accounts of these vists, taken from the book, which are available on the "Whitman Interviews & Reminiscences" section of The Walt Whitman Archive[back]

5. 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]

6. 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. A picture of Warry is displayed in the May 1891 New England Magazine (278). See Joann P. Krieg, "Fritzinger, Frederick Warren (1866–1899)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), 240. [back]


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