Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 21 July 1891

Date: July 21, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04727

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: Ian Faith, Amanda J. Axley, Marie Ernster, and Stephanie Blalock



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

My dear Walt Whitman,

I intended to write you a good long letter tonight for tomorrow's mail, but circumstances quite prevent it. So I must content myself with a mere line or two of loving greeting & continued good wishes.

Doubtless Johnston2 will send you a long account of Dr Bucke's3 visit4 & Dr B will have sent you his5 But I must send you my version too at the first opportunity.6

Last week I got no proper opportunity of writing at all—to my great regret. So I must write when I can.

It has not only been a great joy to me to see Dr Bucke face to face, here in the room in which I write, & to talk with him about you, but it has brought you still nearer to me & I feel yet more strongly that we are friends indeed. And that is the crowning glory & privilege of my life, opening out vistas of sacred cheer & hope & purposes.

God bless you for all you have done for me & for the friends7 I love. And my deepest love to you evermore.


Wallace


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 | 42 | JY22 | 91; New York | JUL | 31; Paid | E | All; Camden, N.J. | AUG | 1 | 6AM | 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 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. 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]

4. At this time, Bucke was traveling abroad in England, where he attempted 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 also spent 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]

5. For Bucke's account of his visit with Wallace and Johnston, see Bucke's July 18, 1891, letter to Whitman. For Johnston's impressions of Bucke's visit, see Johnston's letter to Whitman of July 18, 1891[back]

6. See Wallace's letter to Whitman of July 23, 1891[back]

7. 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]


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