Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 19 June 1891

Date: June 19, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04720

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: Andrew David King, Cristin Noonan, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock



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Anderton, near Chorley.
Lancashire, England.
19. June 1891.

My dear Walt Whitman,

I was very pleased and proud yesterday morning to receive the stitched copy of "Good Bye"1 you sent me, & the enclosed profile photo.

Of course I have seen Johnston's2 copy of "Good Bye," but I only had it for one evening's hasty reading. So that I am very glad to have a copy that I can read at leisure & absorb fully. And I am very proud to receive it from you, my dearest friend & benefactor.

The profile photo. pleases me immensely. It's strong contrasts of black & white (no half tones) & the peculiar disposition of the lights are very striking, & give it a strange effect—as of a half materialized spirit (one of Ossian's ghosts—or some antique prophet) grand & pensive, brooding over unfathomable mysteries, sad & tender. The majestic dome of the head is better shewn than in any other portrait I have, & the noble strength & tenderness of the expression are very fine. I shall treasure it while I live as a precious addition to my other portraits of you.

Johnston sent me copies of your P.C. of June 6th & your letter of June 9th3 (recd today) I am glad to learn from the latter that you were "more free from excessive lassitude." But I fear the results of the extreme heat reported from the States. I was very glad to read Traubel's4 good & interesting letter.

I haven't seen Johnston for over a week!—the first time such a thing has happened since he returned from America. (I usually see him several times in a week.) But I have been very busy, & out of town a good deal, & when he has called on me I have been out.

I will send the sketches from Rivington by book post this mail.5 (Lent them to Greenhalgh6 tonight to show to one or two of the friends) I have numbered them in pencil on the back.

No 1—Painted at place referred to in two or three letters—(where we had our talk May 31st) Fairly good as a whole—Outline of Pike not satisfactory,—where shewn level it really rises by beautiful & subtle curves to buttress the main elevation—moorland hills to left not indicated—church too large &c.

(Three small lakes in all in line This the middle one—nearest here, the most beautiful of the three, & the one I usually visit & often walk round. Very inadequately represented by this one sketch)

No. 2 The lowest lake seen from just below the Village. This lake much the least interesting of the lot.

No. 3 Rivington Church sketched from the village green

No. 4 Sketch in Rivington village green on the left. Very pretty little village (about a dozen houses & cottages) but too scattered to be focussed into a picture.

The last three are sketched (as the above notes indicate) from points very near each other. Cooper's7 time being very limited he couldn't get over the ground, so he had to do as he best could, making his own selection of bits.(I choosing No. 1).

I wish I could send you a more representative lot of sketches of a bit of country very dear to us—homely, unsophisticated, pure & sweet—a bit of old world English country & country life left untouched by the swarming populations & murky industries of Lancashire. Such as they are, however, I send them to you with my love.

Good night & God bless you—
Wallace

P.S. If Traubel fancies any of them I shall be glad to arrange with Cooper for a painting on his return from Norway. I wanted to send T. something & can think of nothing better. Bright warm summer weather.


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. 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]

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. See Whitman's postcard to Johnston of June 6, 1891, and his letter of June 9, 1891[back]

4. 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]

5. See Wallace's letter to Whitman of June 16, 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. Alfred Heaton Cooper (1863–1929) was an English landscape artist. On June 19, 1891, Wallace sent to Whitman four watercolor sketches of Rivington by Cooper. In a postscript he wrote "If Traubel fancies any of them I shall be glad to arrange with Cooper for a painting . . . I wanted to send T. something & can think of nothing better." This picture of the lakes at Rivington, near Bolton, was commissioned by the members of the Bolton Whitman Fellowship for presentation to Horace and Anne Traubel in 1892. Cooper, then resident in Bolton, was a friend of the English physician Dr. John Johnston and Wallace, and he later gained fame for his Lakeland paintings and book illustrations. In 1948 Anne Traubel presented it to the Bolton Public Libraries as being of special interest to the Bolton Whitman Fellowship. [back]


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