Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 9 December 1891

Date: December 9, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04825

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, England1
9. Dec. 1891

Dear Walt,

Quite a beautiful afternoon as I write. After frequently threatening rain, the sky has cleared up & for a little time at least it promises to be fine. So in a few minutes I will walk out to meet Fred Wild2 who sent me word he would come out this aftn.

I had a letter from him this morning in which he told me that he had written to you & to Dr Bucke.3 So I suppose you will get his letter along with this.

I am almost clear of my "cold" now, only my long confinement to the house has rather taken it out of me. And it makes it more difficult for me to get properly acclimatised again. For the wet, dull raw weather we are having here, with its variability, storms & showers is a great change after the beautiful weather we had over there.4

However, I shall soon be all right again. I don't know when I had a cold that took such persistent hold as this one has done. But the fact is that I got 2 or 3 colds in succession—first in the gale at sea & then in my outdoor work in wretched weather.

I wrote to Dr Bucke & to Traubel's5 yesterday. To the latter I have sent more detailed particulars of my voyage & home coming—as requested by them—I wished afterwards that I had written them to you, in case they might interest you at all, but they hardly seemed worth while at the time. And I have written in a microscopic hand that is hardly readable.

Horace reports that you remain pretty much as before.—Of course our best wishes & love are with you anyway. And we hope to hear pretty regularly, as heretofore how you are getting on.

I have not seen much of the "College" friends6 yet. They had a meeting at Dixon's7 on Monday night (not well attended, the weather being stormy) to discuss Bucke's "Mans Moral Nature"8—Fred Wild leading the discussion. Dr. J.9 was there, & will doubtless mention it in writing to you. I sent a letter as my contribution to the talk.

Horace says that you refer to my American trip sometimes as "a triumph" for me. Anyhow it was a crowning good fortune. It is very wonderful to me when I consider how little I had to do with it, how it was shaped & guided by external circumstances, & how intimately it filled & crowned so much that had preceded. I felt all through that, in old phrase, I was indeed led by the Spirit, & divinely favoured.

It must be my care now to turn it to use. This my main aim & prayer.

But apart from these considerations I am glad to to remember that I have seen you face to face, & talked, & eaten & drunk with you in the simplest human way. Apart altogether from your books I have met you as man with man, friend with friend. And its result has been to confirm & strengthen all the bonds which bound me to you before, & to deepen my personal love.—And more besides, yet to be unfolded.

Please do give my kindest regards to Warry10 & to Mrs Davis.11 With all best wishes

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 | DE 9 | 91; NEW YORK | DEC | 19; PAID | K | ALL; AD [illegible]GTON | B | DE 9 | 91 | LANC; CAMDEN, N.J. | DEC 21 | 6 AM | 91 | [illegible]. [back]

2. Fred Wild, a cotton waste merchant, was a member of the "Bolton College" of Whitman admirers, and was also affiliated with the Labour Church, an organization whose socialist politics and working-class ideals were often informed by Whitman's work. [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. Wallace visited both Whitman and the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke in the fall of 1891. Dr. John 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). Wallace discusses the significance of his time with Whitman, as well as his return journey later in this letter. [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. 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]

7. Wentworth Dixon (1855–1928) was a lawyer's clerk and a member of the Bolton Whitman Fellowship. [back]

8. Wallace is referring to Richard Maurice Bucke's Man's Moral Nature: An Essay (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1879). The book is dedicated to Whitman, and Bucke writes in his introduction that one of his purposes in the work is to "discuss the moral nature—to point out in the first place, its general relation to the other groups of functions belonging to, or rather making up, the individual man, and also its relations to the man's environment" (11). [back]

9. 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]

10. 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]

11. 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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