Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 3–4 July 1891

Date: July 3–4, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04724

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 17 1891," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Amanda J. Axley, Erel Michaelis, and Stephanie Blalock



page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4
page image
image 5
page image
image 6


Anderton, nr Chorley.
Lancashire, England1
3 July 1891.

My dear Walt Whitman,

I must content myself tonight with the briefest acknowledgement of receipt of the 6 "Good Bye's"2 & the photographs.3—I am delighted to have these latter (5 of them new to me) & thank you most heartily for them.

I was detained in Bolton on business till the last train tonight, but Johnston4 came to the station to see me & to show me a postcard recd this afternoon from you.5 I see that Dr Bucke6 is to sail on the 8th, so we may expect to see him soon.7 We shall be heartily glad to do so, for your sake as well as his own.

I expect Johnston here tomorrow afternoon (he has been too busy to come for a long while) & if I can I will add a line or two then.

I am glad to learn from Traubel8 that you have been distinctly better lately, & that the "birthday spree"9 seemed to give you a "peg up." But I wish to hear better news yet, & to hear that you are getting out more.

Good night, & God bless you. With a heart full of love & good wishes

Yours affectionately
J.W. Wallace

Saturday, 4 July. 5.30 pm

Johnston, W Dixon,10 Mrs Dixon & little son here.11 All just come in for tea, & write this while waiting. Have had a walk by the lake & sat for a time, at the place of the view from which you have a picture. A perfect day—the finest this year—the air wonderfully clear, pellucid, & sweet bright sunshine, cloud shadows dappling the wide expanse of hills & moorland—All join in heartfelt love to you . . Have been pressing on me the desire of the friends12 that I should come & see you (offering to pay my expenses) which, however, I do not see my way to do.

Love to you always
J.W.W.


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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | 328, Mickle St | Camden | New Jersey | U.S. America It is postmarked: BOLTON | S | JY 4 | 91; BOLTON | S | JY 4 | 91; BOLTON | S | JY 4 | 91; NEW YORK | JUl | 3; A | 91; PAID | C | ALL; CAMDEN, N.J. | JUL | 14 | 6AM | 1891 | REC'D. [back]

2. 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]

3. Whitman had planned to publish a group of photographs of himself, but it was never issued. He often discussed the project, which he considered calling "Portraits from life of Walt Whitman," with Horace Traubel; see, for example. Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, August 4, 1889. In a letter of June 10, 1891, Dr. John Johnston, the Bolton physician, increased Wallace's previous order of two copies Whitman's book Good-Bye My Fancy to six copies. Johnston and Wallace also each ordered copies of "portraits from life." [back]

4. 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]

5. Wallace is probably referring to Whitman's June 18, 1891, postal card to Johnston. [back]

6. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. Bucke was preparing to travel abroad to England, where he planned to establish a foreign market for the gas and fluid meter he was building with his brother-in-law William Gurd. During this trip he would also spend time with James W. Wallace and Dr. John Johnston, the co-founders of the Bolton College of Whitman admirers, and visited the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. [back]

8. 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]

9. 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]

10. Wentworth Dixon (1855–1928) was a lawyer's clerk and a member of the "Bolton College" of Whitman admirers. He was also affiliated with the Labour Church, an organization whose socialist politics and working-class ideals were often informed by Whitman's work. Dixon communicated directly with Whitman only a few times, but we can see in his letters a profound sense of care for the poet's failing health, as well as genuine gratitude for Whitman's continued correspondence with the "Eagle Street College." See Dixon's letters to Whitman of June 13, 1891 and February 24, 1892. For more on Dixon and Whitman's Bolton disciples, see Paul Salveson, "Loving Comrades: Lancashire's Links to Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 14.2 (1996), 57–84. [back]

11. Mira (sometimes spelled "Myra") Jane Gregory Gerrad (1857–1931) married Wentworth Dixon in 1878. The couple were the parents of at least four children: Myra Dixon, Nora Dixon, Wentworth Dixon, and Ellen Dixon. [back]

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


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.