Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 5 September 1890

Date: September 5, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04956

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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "a photo: the bust taken half length like the one you have," is in the hand of Walt Whitman.

Contributors to digital file: Kirby Little, Ian Faith, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock



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Anderton, nr Chorley
Lancashire, England
5th Septbr 1890

Dear Walt Whitman,

It is impossible for me to write much now, but I want to get a letter off by this mail in acknowledgement of your very kind post card1 to hand this morning.—Thanks to you indeed!

Yes! I received your portrait2 "in good order"—and with emotions which I have already tried to indicate.3—Apart from its extrinsic value to me as a gift from yourself, I find its intrinsic merit very great indeed.—It has "grown" upon me very much, and authenticates itself, to my mind, more and more, as a true characteristic portrait. Indeed, I am delighted with it. (Certainly, far better than the "Illustrated News" one!)

I wished to carry out your instructions literally, & to put it in place of the other in the same frame.—But it did not fit quite satisfactorily so I decided to have a new frame made like the old one (plain oak 3" wide) and to use the old frame for something else.

Dr Johnston,4 too, has had the portrait you gave him (of yourself—painted by Sidney Morse5) framed, (gold mat & frame) and is very pleased with it

He called on me at noon today & I shewed him your post card. He is deeply sensible of your great loving–kindness & your solicitude about him. He has improved in health since his return, & is, I think, very well now.

He kindly brought me, as a present, the two vols. of "Essays" by J. A. Symonds6 which I have not yet read.7 I have glanced them over & find much to stir my appetite.

But I must not write more now.

With the deepest love gratitude & reverence to you always, Dr. Johnston joining me
I remain
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. See Whitman's postal card of August 26, 1890, asking if the portrait he sent with the Bolton physician John Johnston made it in "good order." [back]

2.  [back]

3. The following authorial note appears in the left margin bracketing this paragraph: "a photo: the last taken half length like the one you have." [back]

4. 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]

5. Sidney H. Morse (1832–1903) was a self-taught sculptor as well as a Unitarian minister and, from 1866 to 1872, editor of The Radical. He visited Whitman in Camden many times and made various busts of him. Whitman had commented on an earlier bust by Morse that it was "wretchedly bad." For more on this, see Ruth L. Bohan, Looking into Walt Whitman: American Art, 1850–1920 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 105–109. [back]

6. John Addington Symonds (1840–1893), a prominent biographer, literary critic, and poet in Victorian England, was author of the seven-volume history Renaissance in Italy, as well as Walt Whitman—A Study (1893), and a translator of Michelangelo's sonnets. But in the smaller circles of the emerging upper-class English homosexual community, he was also well known as a writer of homoerotic poetry and a pioneer in the study of homosexuality, or sexual inversion as it was then known. See Andrew Higgins, "Symonds, John Addington [1840–1893]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

7. Wallace is referring to Symonds's Essays Speculative and Suggestive (London: Chapman and Hall, 1890). The chapter on "Democratic Art" is mainly inspired by Whitman. [back]


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