Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 11 June 1891

Date: June 11, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04718

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.

Notes for this letter were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented, updated, or created by Whitman Archive staff as appropriate.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Amanda J. Axley, Marie Ernster, and Stephanie Blalock



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Anderton, near Chorley.
Lancashire, England
Thursday. 11 June '91
10. p.m.

To Walt Whitman,
——————————

Copy of pencil note scribbled in open air—8.30 pm.
——————————

Here I sit in my favourite seat on a bank overlooking Rivington Lake—(where we sat Sunday afternoon, May 31st.) I must write to you tonight (my last chance this week) but as it is a beautiful evening I decided to ramble out here first—to enjoy the lovely scene & the fresh air. And now while resting here I may as well draft my letter.

The sun is setting behind me—the lake below flecked with ripples reflects the gray blue sky—the gently undulating country just beyond green & wooded here & there—with purple moorland hills behind. To the right, across the lake, is the charming little hamlet of Rivington, with the Pike beyond.—The birds are singing their evening concert—a thrush especially calling loudly close by.

A most peaceful & sweet ending to a glorious day. No gorgeous display of sunset hues, but sober, calm, vital & beautiful. L. of G. is with me & my thoughts are of you. Especially so as we have received today your account of your birthday "spree" in Camden1—(celebrated by us here)

Dr. J.2 came to see me this morning, in great delight,—to shew me your kind good letter just received,3 & to consult me as to the best way of copying it. He also shewed me a good letter he had received from Warry.4 We have wondered many a time how you got through that day, & looked forward to some account of it. It was a great pleasure to us to learn that you triumphed so grandly over your infirmities & that the dinner was such a great success. We rejoice too that you were apparently no worse for it next day, & hope that you have kept better since. Dr. J. came to see me again at noon, & in the afternoon brought me one of two copies of the "Camden Post" received from Warry.

It pleased us very much to learn from Warry's letter that you had expressed a wish that we, too, were all present That could not be, but our thoughts were with you, & our heart's best love & good will.

I hope that your 73rd year, so auspiciously begun, may be marked by greater immunity from pain, by some recovery of strength, & by further accession of lovers & friends.

I do wish to hear that you are able to get out more & that you are reaping benefit from the summer weather.

Sure am I always—as I ramble here—that nature has found no voice to express her like yours—as also that she transcends all expression, & promises new & diviner meanings evermore, as we advance on our endless course.

May this letter, written in her presence, convey some slight aroma of her cheer & beauty to your room.—If only you sat here with me now.

God bless you, & my heart's best love to you always.
J. W. Wallace

P.S. I like the profile photo, immensely, & hope to receive one for myself.


Correspondent:
James William Wallace (1853–1926), of Bolton, England, was an architect and great admirer of Whitman. Wallace, along with Dr. John Johnston (1852–1927), a physician in Bolton, 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. Whitman's seventy-second (and last) birthday was celebrated with friends at his home on Mickle Street. He described the celebration in a letter to Dr. John Johnston, of Bolton, England, dated June 1, 1891: "We had our birth anniversary spree last evn'g—ab't 40 people, choice friends mostly—12 or so women—[Alfred, Lord] Tennyson sent a short and sweet letter over his own sign manual . . . lots of bits of speeches, with gems in them—we had a capital good supper." [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 the architect 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. Wallace is referring to Whitman's June 1, 1891, letter to the Bolton physician, Dr. John Johnston. [back]

4. 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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