Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 11–12 September 1890

Date: September 11–12, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04957

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, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock



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Anderton, near Chorley
Lancashire, England
11 Septbr 1890

Dear Walt Whitman,

I sent a cable message to you this aftn asking you to send me another copy of the pocket book edition of L. of G.1 and will enclose a money order herewith for 22s/— in payment of same.

The friends who have seen my copy are very much pleased with it, and have decided to present a copy to one of our number (Revd J.R.C. Hutton)2 on his birthday, the 25th inst.

He has been a very useful member of our little Society of friends3 and is very much liked by us. Since he joined us he has become a great admirer of yours & possesses the ordinary edition of your works. So "the boys" have decided to celebrate his next birthday (and a recent appointment he has received) by presenting him with the new edition, & I was asked at noon to wire for one so that it may come in time.

You will get this letter about the same date and we should like to feel that your thoughts & good will are with us. I have no better portrait to send, but I will enclose a newspaper portrait that appeared last Saturday (He sat next to me in the group of which we once sent you a photo) He is an old student of Browning,4 by whom he has been largely influenced, (in theology & otherwise) and apart from opinions—is a man of fine sensibilities, brave, unaffected, quietly devout, brotherly and loveable—already becoming a noteable man in the town.

Dr Johnston5 met me as I came away from business tonight & shewed me the papers & copies of recent poems he had just received from you. Your continued kindnesses are very precious to us.

With love to you always
Yours affectionately
J. W. Wallace

P.S.6 O. W. Holmes7 is repelled by what he considers your sins against the conventions. Here, by way of offset, is an English Vicar, among your fervent admirers!—

P.P.S.—12 Septbr.

I was very much pleased to receive your kind post card this morning8 & thank you heartily. I am sorry to learn that you were suffering from "the grip" when you woke, but hope that it has now left you altogether—We got the February number of the Universal Review when it appeared. Thank you, however, for your kind & considerate mention of it, as we wish to overlook nothing of that kind.—

Tomorrow aftn (Saturday) there will be a full meeting of our little Society—at a country farm—to hear Dr J's account of his visit9 to you. I see from "The Conservator"10 that you have a new volume in preparation, of which I presume that the slips you have sent Dr J. are proofs.11—Will you please to enrol me as a subscriber & send me a copy when ready? I will remit cash when I know the amount.


J. W. W.


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. Whitman had a limited pocket-book edition of Leaves of Grass printed in honor of his 70th birthday, on May 31, 1889, through special arrangement with Frederick Oldach. Only 300 copies were printed, and Whitman signed the title page of each one. The volume also included the annex Sands at Seventy and his essay A Backward Glance O'er Traveled Roads. See Whitman's May 16, 1889, letter to Oldach. For more information on the book see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary[back]

2. Reverend Frederick Robert Chapman Hutton (1856–1926) was the Vicar of St. George's Church, Bolton, and St. Paul's, Astley Bridge. [back]

3. Wallace and Dr. John Johnston were members of a group of Whitman admirers in Bolton, Lancashire, England, who referrred to their little circle as the "Bolton College." [back]

4. Robert Browning (1812–1889) was an English poet known for his dramatic monologues, including "Porphyria's Lover" and "My Last Duchess." Browning was also the husband of poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861). [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]

6. This postscript is written in the left margin of the fourth page of the letter. [back]

7. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809–1894) was a Bostonian author, physician, and lecturer. One of the Fireside Poets, he was a good friend of Ralph Waldo Emerson as well as John Burroughs. Towards Whitman's poetry, Holmes remained ambivalent. He married Amelia Lee Jackson in 1840 and they had three children, including the later Supreme Court judge Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. For more information, see Julie A. Rechel-White, "Holmes, Oliver Wendell (1809–1894)," (Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, eds. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings [New York: Garland Publishing, 1998], 280). [back]

8. Wallace is likely referring to Whitman's postal card of August 30, 1890[back]

9. Dr. Johnston visited Whitman in the summer of 1890, while Wallace visited both Whitman and the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke in the fall of 1891. 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). [back]

10. Horace Traubel founded The Conservator in March 1890, and he remained its editor and publisher until his death in 1919. Traubel conceived of The Conservator as a liberal periodical influenced by Whitman's poetic and political ethos. A fair portion of its contents were devoted to Whitman appreciation and the conservation of the poet's literary and personal reputation. [back]

11. Whitman's book Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) was his last miscellany, and it included both poetry and short prose works commenting on poetry, aging, and death, among other topics. Thirty-one poems from the book were later printed as "Good-Bye my Fancy 2d Annex" to Leaves of Grass (1891–1892), the last edition of Leaves of Grass published before Whitman's death in March 1892. For more information see, Donald Barlow Stauffer, "'Good-Bye my Fancy' (Second Annex) (1891)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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