Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 26 June 1891

Date: June 26, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04722

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



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Anderton, near Chorley.
Lancashire, England1
26. June 1891

My dearest friend,

Yesterday morning I received your kind postcard of the 16th inst., & in the afternoon Johnston2 received one dated the 12th.3

I am very sorry if a phrase of ours has led you to suppose that any of your letters or p.c.s have not been delivered. I think we have received them all,—& usually very promptly, though occasionally there is a curious delay like the one mentioned above.

It is a constant wonder to us that you should write so often as you do. I feel sometimes that we are somehow guilty in taxing you so much. For it pains me to think of the effort it must cost you at times in your weakness & suffering. But, oh, how precious your messages are!—even less for their news of you (welcomed as that is) than for the wonderful loving-kindness that inspires them, & the indomitable will & serene good cheer they reveal.

I wish that our letters were a better return. But after the day's work, & amid other calls, it is not easy to write as one would like. But Johnston & I have determined to let no mail go henceforward (if we can help it) without some reminder of our constant loving thoughts & wishes.

I am glad to note from both p.c.s that you were fairly well "considering," & that you were standing the oppressive heat pretty well. But I long to hear some better news—of some gain & of your getting out more into the open air.

We look forward to the July number of Lippincotts4 & will get copies as soon as it appears.

We have had close sultry weather for 2 or 3 days with rain & thunder storms in the evenings. Tonight, however, is pretty fair, with only occasional very slight showers. As I write the dusk is closing in, & a lark is singing out in the field opposite my window. I cannot write any more tonight.—I send love to Traubel,5 Warry6 & Mrs Davis.7

With supreme love & best wishes to you
Yours affectionately
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: BOLTON | 40 | JU27 | 91; 92; [B]OLTON | 40; 92; NEW Y[ORK] | JUL | 6; A | 91; Paid | B; CAMDEN, NJ. | JUL | 6 | 6 AM | 1891 | REC'D. [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 postal cards to Wallace of June 16, 1891, and to Johnston of June 12, 1891[back]

4. Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, edited from 1886 to 1894 by Joseph Marshall Stoddart, published "Whitman's Last Word" (the poet's introduction to his second annex in Leaves of Grass, "Good-Bye My Fancy") and Horace Traubel's "Walt Whitman's Birthday: May 31, 1891" in the August 1891 issue of the magazine. [back]

5. 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]

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. [back]

7. 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]


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