Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 18 February 1892

Date: February 18, 1892

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04836

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: Cristin Noonan, Amanda J. Axley, and Stephanie Blalock



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Anderton, nr Chorley
Lancashire, England1
18. Feb. 1892.

Dear Walt,

Your letter of Feb 6th & 7th2 to Johnston3 to hand today. We have just spent the evening together—first at his house, then in a 4 mile walk in the country here—Johnston returning by train. Snow on ground, air clear & frosty, stars large & lustrous—Venus & Sirius especially so.

We intend to have exact fac-similes of your letter lithographed & to send them to all your friends.4

How deeply your letter has stirred us I cannot tell you.5 Our hearts best love to you for ever.

God bless you.
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 | 31 | FE [illegible] | 92; NEW YORK | FEB | 24; PAID | C | All; D | 92; CAMDEN, N.J. | FEB 4 | 4PM | 92 | [REC'D]. [back]

2. Wallace is referring to Whitman's letter of February 6–7, 1892, in which he details for Dr. John Johnston some of his ailments and notes that it "may be [his] last" letter as his "right arm [is] giving out." Johnston had a facsimile of this letter produced, which he distributed to Whitman's friends. [back]

3. 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]

4. According to Dr. John Johnston's February 27, 1892, letter to Whitman, facsimiles of Whitman's February 6–7 1892, letter to Johnston were sent to seventy of the poet's friends. [back]

5. On December 17, 1891, Whitman had come down with a chill and was suffering from congestion in his right lung. Although the poet's condition did improve in January 1892, he would never recover. He was confined to his bed, and his physicians, Dr. Daniel Longaker of Philadelphia and Dr. Alexander McAlister of Camden, provided care during his final illness. Whitman died on March 26, 1892. [back]


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