Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 5 December 1891

Date: December 5, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04824

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, and Stephanie Blalock



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Anderton, near Chorley.
Lancashire, England.1
5 Dec 1891

Dear Walt,

Dr Johnston2 sent me a postal he had received from you dated Nov 22nd3 from which I am sorry to learn that you were "in depressed condition." But I trust that you are now better.

I have not much to write about at present as I have been at home 10 days4—confined to the house 7 or 8 days—with a cold. It has not been serious at all, or very severe, but it has been persistent & bad to shake off.—I got cold on my voyage home, & in the outdoor work I took up soon after my return I got additional cold. However, it is passing away

One result is that I have not been to Bolton lately & have not seen the friends.5—But I expect to do so before long.

Despite my cold, I am confident that my trip has done me good, & that when I get clear of it, & fairly acclimatised & settled down again I shall feel marked benefit.

The weather has been better than when I last wrote, though dark & dull as befits the season here—But yesterday afternoon was extremely beautiful—clear & fine, with loveliest clouds & atmospheric effects. I took a short walk in the country here & enjoyed it very much. I had partly expected Dr. Johnston over, & was only sorry that he could not enjoy it with me.

He seems to be very busy now-a-days, & finds it almost impossible to get out here. However I hope to see him soon.

I have had quite an idle time, while unwell at home, I have been reading Shakespeare6 a good deal, with renewed pleasure & delight. He has been my main company.

I think of you continually. None of your photos seem to me quite satisfactory, but each recalls you in some degree to memory, & there are times when I seem to see your face & hear your voice.

Will you give my love to Warry7 & to Mrs Davis8? With dearest love & best wishes to yourself always

Yours affectionately
J.W. Wallace

PS Curious to me, now, how I cannot read your prose writings without seeming to hear your voice & see your face—so identical are they with your actual speech—


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: CAMDEN,N.J. | DEC15 | 9AM | 91 | REC'D; G | NEW YORK | DEC 14 | PAID | B | ALL | 91; BOLTON | 56 | DE [illegible] | 91. [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. Wallace is referring to Whitman's November 22, 1891, letter to Dr. John Johnston. [back]

4. Wallace had recently returned to England after traveling in the United States and Canada. Wallace visited both Whitman and the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke in the fall of 1891. Johnston visited Whitman in the summer of 1890. Accounts of these visits can be found in Johnston and Wallace's Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–91 (London, England: G. Allen & Unwin, ltd., 1917). [back]

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

6. William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was an English poet and playwright and is widely considered the world's greatest dramatist. He was the author of numerous plays, sonnets, and narrative poems. [back]

7. 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]

8. 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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