Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 28 August 1890

Date: August 28, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04955

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: Kirby Little, Ian Faith, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock



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Anderton, near Chorley
Lancashire, England.
28 August 1890

Dear Walt Whitman,

I received the "Camden Post" on Tuesday morning, the 26th inst, and in the evening of the same day I received the "Camden Morning News"—the "screed" from "The Critic"1—and your post card—in reply to which latter I wired to you at once.2

It isn't possible for me to write much at present. I have read all the pieces you sent—especially the letter to "The Critic."—It suggests some points I should like to write about, but I must only note one—and that is your remark that you are "still rejected by the great magazines" &c.—Well—so much the worse for them! It is only of a piece with your continued rejection by some of your leading men of letters and the absurdly inadequate recognition of those who seem friendly.—I could wish it were otherwise,—and that the solitude of soul in which you have lived might at last, in your old age, be cheered by the advent of a completely intelligent & loving recognition & response. That you are still, in a great degree, "despised & rejected of men"3 is, however, only the price you pay for your greatness, and corresponds with the experience of other great benefactors & redeemers.—But there is a wise encompassing Love which transcends all our thinking—"Love like the light silently wrapping all"4—which holds both yourself & your work in safe and tender keeping—Future generations will love you all the more passionately for your rejection by your contemporaries, and we who have already come to partly understand you and to love you also love you more proudly and tenderly because of it.

Your great kindness—most fatherly, most tender—to Dr Johnston5 & myself stirs my heart more deeply than I can tell you. We thought it a precious privilege to minister, in however slight a degree to you, and, behold! you load us in return with the most unlooked for and unmerited kindnesses! Thanks to you from my heart—and God bless you!

I cannot write more now but I think I will send you a slip I cut from a newspaper last Decbr. I thought of sending it to you at the time & will now do so.—

With reverent grateful love always
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 (d. 1918), 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. Wallace is referring to Whitman's "An Old Man's Rejoinder," which appeared in The Critic 17 (August 16, 1890), 85–86. The article is a response to John Addington Symonds's essay on "Democratic Art," which was inspired by Whitman. See Symonds, Essays Speculative and Suggestive (London: Chapman and Hall, 1890). The "Rejoinder" was later reprinted in Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) (see Prose Works 1892, Volume 2: Collect and Other Prose, ed. Floyd Stovall [New York: New York University Press, 1964], 655–658). [back]

2. See Whitman's postcard of August 15, 1890. Whitman also writes to Wallace on August 26, 1890 to thank him for sending the cable about their mutual friend Dr. John Johnston. [back]

3. Wallace is referencing the Bible; see the book of Isaiah, Chapter 53, Verses 3–5. [back]

4. Wallace is quoting from Whitman's poem "Song of the Universal." [back]

5. Dr. John Johnston (d. 1918) was a physician from Bolton, England, who, 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 (d.1918)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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