Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 19 December 1891

Date: December 19, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04829

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
19. Dec 1891

Dear Walt,

Quite a beautiful day—clear & frosty—very pleasant & bracing after the wet stormy weather we have had of late.—

The last two evenings I have been paying long-deferred visits to friends—Fred Wild1 & Sam Hodgkinson2—with a brief call on Hutton3 on Thursday.—All well & prospering fairly.

I was at Johnston's4 too one evening—Tuesday I think I called too on Nightingale5 & he is to come tomorrow morning (Sunday) to spend the day here.

I have been quite unsettled as to business arrangements since I came home.—The offers I have received have been unsatifactory to me & I have refused them. But I have practically decided on coming to terms on a basis which, though far from satisfactory to me, may do provisionally.

It is perhaps better so. For I know more clearly than I did the character of the men I have been dealing with, & the nature of my position. And I can act accordingly.

I have been reading Carpenter's6 book "Towards Democracy,"7 & like it much better than I expected. I feel impelled to write to him & should like to know him better

Lynch's8 book I have not read yet—beyond the first chapter.

I am clear of my cold again & feel pretty well. And all the friends are well I think.

I have scarcely realized that Christmas is so close upon us. It will be over when you get this. I ordered some cards & expected to get them in time for the American Mail, but owing to some blunder I have not got them yet.

I am anxious to receive some better account of your health & condition than that in your last postal.9

Copies of "Three Tales"10 received. I quite like the get up of the little book & am very pleased to have it.

Love to Mrs. Davis11 & Warry12 & to yourself supremely.

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. 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]

2. Sam Hodgkinson, a hosiery manufacturer, was a friend of both Wallace and the Bolton physician Dr. John Johnston (Johnston and Wallace, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends [London : G. Allen & Unwin, ltd., 1918], 104). [back]

3. Reverend Frederick Robert Chapman Hutton (1856–1926) was the Vicar of St. George's Church, Bolton, and St. Paul's, Astley Bridge. [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. Fred Nightingale was a clerk and a member of the Bolton Fellowship of Whitman admirers. [back]

6. Edward Carpenter (1844–1929) was an English writer and Whitman disciple. Like many other young disillusioned Englishmen, he deemed Whitman a prophetic spokesman of an ideal state cemented in the bonds of brotherhood. Carpenter—a socialist philosopher who in his book Civilisation, Its Cause and Cure posited civilization as a "disease" with a lifespan of approximately one thousand years before human society cured itself—became an advocate for same-sex love and a contributing early founder of Britain's Labour Party. On July 12, 1874, he wrote for the first time to Whitman: "Because you have, as it were, given me a ground for the love of men I thank you continually in my heart. . . . For you have made men to be not ashamed of the noblest instinct of their nature." For further discussion of Carpenter, see Arnie Kantrowitz, "Carpenter, Edward [1844–1929]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. Towards Democracy was a book-length poem expressing Carpenter's ideas about "spiritual democracy" and how to achieve a more just society. The work was influenced by Whitman's Leaves of Grass and the Bhagavad Gita, the work of Hindu scripture. [back]

8. Arthur Lynch (1861–1934) was a writer and politician who served twice in the UK House of Commons. Born in Australia to an Irish father and Scottish mother, Lynch was educated at the University of Melbourne and worked as a civil engineer before relocating to Galway, Ireland. During the Second Boer War, he raised an Irish brigade that fought against the Crown; as a result, he was convicted of treason, sentenced to death, and subsequently pardoned. Upon his release, Lynch attended St. Mary's Hospital Medical School and became a general practitioner. Lynch wrote prolifically in several genres, including fiction, poetry, and philosophy; the "little book" alluded to in this letter may refer to Lynch's Modern Authors: A Review and a Forecast (London: Ward and Downey, 1891). The book devotes much attention to Whitman, and Lynch writes that Whitman "has the true poet's largeness of soul" but "lacks a little the singing faculty, though the divine afflatus at his best carries him safely along" (41). For more information on Lynch, see Stephen Due, "Arthur Lynch: Parliamentarian, Physician and Author," Journal of Medical Biography, vol. 7 no 2. (May 1999), 93–99. [back]

9. As Whitman's most recent correspondence with Wallace directly, prior to December 19, 1891, is dated November 15, 1891, it seems likely that Wallace is referring to Whitman's letter to Dr. John Johnston dated December 1, 1891, in which Whitman stated that he was in "bad & depress'd physical condition night & day—no hour without suffering...." Whitman frequently addressed both Johnston and Wallace in his letters to either; see, for example, his postal card sent to Johnston dated December 10, 1891, in which he enclosed copies of "the new complete" Leaves of Grass for both men as Christmas presents. [back]

10. Ellen O'Connor hoped to publish a collection of her late husband's fiction. Three of William D. O'Connor's stories with a preface by Whitman were published in Three Tales: The Ghost, The Brazen Android, The Carpenter (Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1892). Whitman's preface was also included in Good-Bye My Fancy (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1891), 51–53. [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]

12. 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]


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