Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 19 September 1890

Date: September 19, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04958

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
19. Sept. 1890.

Dear Walt Whitman,

Your kind post card of the 8th1 inst. and papers just to hand. My cordial thanks to you.—

Dr Johnston2 has already told you of the open air meeting held by our friends last Saturday–afternoon—the 13th inst—4 miles from Bolton3— to hear his account of his visit to you and to West Hills.4—It was a perfect September day,—warm, calm and bright, with a slight, pensive autumnal haze veiling the distance. We gathered together under the shade of a tree in the fields and listened for over an hour and a half to the Dr's story and examined the photos he handed round as he proceeded. It brought you very near to us all and every heart was stirred as the Dr told us of your great kindness to him, and of your kind messages to us all—since repeated, again & again, in your post cards to me. In the talk which followed a general feeling was expressed that our united gratitude, thanks & affection should be conveyed to you, and I was commissioned to write to you.— It gives me great pleasure to do so for our little society owes its very existence, indirectly, to you, and we are all, in greater or less degree, your admirers & lovers.

One of the friends (Thomas Shonock)5 has since asked me to procure a copy of the pocket–book edition of L. of G.6 for him.7 So I will enclose a money order for 22s/—, I shall be glad if you will send one at your convenience. I am just beginning my holidays (long needed) & your book accompanies me in all my rambles. I am spending the first few days at home and taking solitary walks in the lonely country lanes and on the moors near here. With you for company I have all I wish and spend blessed hours of sacred, vital communion with the wordless divine Spirit that informs all things and with my own soul. How near and dear you are to me I cannot tell you. But I am sure that no author before ever appealed to such depths of a man's nature, or aroused such tender, personal love. Very sure am I that your now despised poems will yet rank with the Hebrew Scriptures (to which alone I can compare them) as sacred and priceless—springing from divine depths—the latest modern revelation of the same Spirit.

I will enclose a cutting from last weeks paper giving another instance (at a place a few miles from here) of the latent heroism of the roughest classes.

With love to you 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. See Whitman's postal card of September 8, 1890[back]

2. 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]

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. 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]

5. As yet we have no information about this person. [back]

6. 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]

7. In Whitman's letter of September 22, 1890, he tells Wallace that he has sent the pocket–book edition "three or four days since." [back]


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