Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 28 November 1891

Date: November 28, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04823

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, Jason McCormick, and Stephanie Blalock



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Anderton
near Chorley
Lancashire, England1
28 Nov. 1891

Dear Walt

I intended to write to you last Tuesday evening for Wednesday's mail, but was kept busy all the evening with business matters & had to let it go.

And now that I write I have little to tell. I have seen nothing of the College friends2 since I last wrote & have no very special news.

I caught a little cold on my voyage home,3 & my outdoor work since my return home has added another to it, which at present confines me to the house.—But it is of no great consequence beyond its present annoyance.

We are having a touch of Winter just now—snowfalls, frosty nights, fog, strong winds heavy rain &c alternating. At the present moment 3-10 Saturday afternoon it is fair I think, though it has been wet all morning, & is dark & overclouded.

I had a postcard from Dr. Johnston4 this morning & expect him here soon—if he can get.

I was glad to receive your postal of the 15th5 & thank you for it. Yes, indeed, my trip was "satisfactory" to me, & more than satisfactory in every way. I shall thank God for it while I live.

And apart from other gains (& the greatest) I feel that I have gained in health & strength from it, too, though I expect to realize this more in the coming months than I do now.

Of course I have several things to attend to on my return & hardly feel settled down yet into my ordinary course. Hence, mainly, the brevity & poverty of my letters at present.

One result of my trip has been—not only to confirm my affection & reverence for yourself—but to give it a firmer sense of actuality now that I have seen you & talked with you. How much it means to me in all this I cannot tell you. But it is a constant encouragement & stimulus & joy in the battle of life.

I had a letter the other day from a friend in which he expressed his diffidence about writing to you (he—"a mere pigmy") even to thank you for your kindnesses to him & to the College. I replied that if he knew you better his diffidence would leave him. For it was the lesson of your personal presence & influence—as well as of L of G.—that he was not a pigmy—& that the gradations of intellect, virtue, station &c are of small account compared with the humanity—& all it holds & implies—that we all share, & the future development that awaits us all.

I told him that before all things else you were a man—that this included & was greater than all special merits,—& that therefore all simple human traits, & especially all honest affection & goodwill were welcome to you.

I thank you for my own lesson. I thank you, with a full heart for all your loving kindness—as simple & spontaneous as it was great & true—to me. And, please God, I will try at least to practice & incarnate some of the lessons I have learned.

4. 30.

Dr J. did not come but sent a telegram saying that he was detained & will come tomorrow.

I hope that you are having fairly good days and nights. I fear that you will not be able to go out now, though I hope to hear that you were able to avail yourself of the Indian Summer.

I look forward, however, with cheerfulness & hope to the spring & summer. Though you report as time goes on that you occasionally find another peg dropped, yet your condition seems to me on the whole to justify hope. You have a good deal of strength & vitality, & I am clear that, barring accidents, you have a fair lease yet.—May your remaining days be as comfortable as may be, and above the low-lying mists of physical weakness & suffering your spiritual skies more radiant & clear.

Love to you, my dearest friend, & best benefactor, from my heart. And may God bless 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: CHORLEY | N | NO 28 | 91; CHORLEY | N | NO 28 | 91; HIGHER ADLINGTON | B | NO 28 | 91; [illegible]LL; CAMDEN [illegible] | DEC 7 | 6 AM | 91 | REC'D. [back]

2. The "Bolton College" was a group of Whitman admirers located in Bolton, England. Founded by Dr. John Johnston (1852–1927) and James William Wallace (1853–1926), the group corresponded with Whitman and Horace Traubel throughout the final years of the poet's life. Johnston and Wallace separately visited Whitman 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 on Whitman's disciples, see Paul Salveson, "Loving Comrades: Lancashire's Links to Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Quarterly Review, vol. 14, no. 2, 57–84. [back]

3. In September 1891, Wallace traveled to the United States, arriving at Philadelphia on September 8, 1891 (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, September 8, 1891). Wallace's arrival was shortly preceded by that of the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke, who had recently returned from two months of travel in Europe, where he had spent time with Johnston, Wallace, and the Bolton College group of English Whitman admirers. Both Bucke and Wallace visited Whitman in Camden, and, after spending a few days with the poet, Wallace returned with Bucke to London, Ontario, Canada, where he met Bucke's family and friends. Wallace's account of his time with Whitman was published—along with the Bolton physician John Johnston's account of his own visit with the poet in the summer of 1890—in their memoir, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends (London: Allen and Unwin, 1917). [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 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 referring to Whitman's postal card of November 15, 1891[back]


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