Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 28 May 1891

Date: May 28, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04713

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: Ryan Furlong, Cristin Noonan, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock



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

My dear Walt Whitman,

A few offhand words only while the opportunity exists (my last chance for this mail.)

Johnston2 called on me just before I left the office tonight & walked with me to the Station. He had just received "Good-Bye My Fancy"3 & lent it to me that I might look it over tonight.

I took the first opportunity of doing so, & have read, I think, all the matter that I had not previously seen, & glanced through the whole book in its ensemble.—

I will not attempt any description of my emotions & thoughts in doing so.—But it has been a sacred hour with me, full of deep, complex & tender feelings & thoughts.

When I have leisure I hope to read it with greater care & to absorb it as fully as may be.

How I long to know how you are now! My thoughts are with you continually.

But as this American mail arrived in Bolton late, any communications to me will not be delivered here till tomorrow morning. How eagerly I shall await the postman's visit!

The weather here all this week has been wet & cold (for the time of year.) I hope it is better with you for your sake.

R.K. Greenhalgh4 is coming here to spend the week end with me, & on Sunday (your birthday)5 Dr Johnston & perhaps one or two other friends will come over.—I propose to read extracts from your books & to discuss your teaching in reference to Religion—(but informally— & if the weather permits—outdoors) At any rate we shall unite in loving thoughts & talk about you, & in best wishes. (I wished to have a full meeting of the friends6 but different circumstances & my own health prevent it).

I thank God that you have been enabled to finish your work so nobly & so fillingly. I pray Him that your remaining life may be visibly blessed by Him—as indeed I doubt not but it will.

(Like the evening songs of birds, your even'g songs seem to me more penetrating & sweeter—more to touch the soul than the more joyous & stronger songs" you sang before—blending with them & confirming them. Loving congratulations to you)

My heart's best love & tenderest wishes to you always7
J. W. Wallace


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman, | 328, Mickle St | Camden | New Jersey | U.S. America. It is postmarked: CAMDEN, N.J. | JUN | 7 | 4 PM | 1891 | REC'D; New York | Jun | 91; Paid | J | All.; Bolton | [56?] | MY 30 | 91. [back]

2. Dr. John Johnston (1852–1927) of Annan, Dumfriesshire, Scotland, was a physician, photographer, and avid cyclist. Johnston was trained in Edinburgh and served as a hospital surgeon in West Bromwich for two years before moving to Bolton, England, in 1876. Johnston worked as a general practitioner in Bolton and as an instructor of ambulance classes for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railways. He served at Whalley Military Hospital during World War One and became Medical Superintendent of Townley's Hospital in 1917 (John Anson, "Bolton's Illustrious Doctor Johnston—a man of many talents," Bolton News [March 28, 2021]; Paul Salveson, Moorlands, Memories, and reflections: A Centenary Celebration of Allen Clarke's Moorlands and Memories [Lancashire Loominary, 2020]). Johnston, along 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 (1852–1927)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Whitman's book Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) was his last miscellany, and it included both poetry and short prose works commenting on poetry, aging, and death, among other topics. Thirty-one poems from the book were later printed as "Good-Bye my Fancy 2d Annex" to Leaves of Grass (1891–1892), the last edition of Leaves of Grass published before Whitman's death in March 1892. For more information see, Donald Barlow Stauffer, "'Good-Bye my Fancy' (Second Annex) (1891)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. 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]

5. Whitman's 72nd (and last) birthday was May 31, 1891. [back]

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

7. Wallace's closing and signature are written in the left margin of the fourth page of the letter [back]


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