Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

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

Date: December 19, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04963

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. Dec. 1890

Dear Walt Whitman,

Since the receipt of your last letter to Dr Johnston,1 I cannot help thinking continually about you and the—complicated disorders your letter reported.2 And so,—though I have nothing else to write about,—I want to send you a line or two again to express my loving sympathy with you and my best wishes. I hope that you are better than when you wrote, & I am anxious to hear a better report.

After about a fortnight's frost, we have had today a heavy fall of snow. The young moon shines brightly tonight, & it is again freezing. It seems likely that we shall have an "old-fashioned" (frosty) Christmas.

The weather is very different to that in which Dr Johnston visited you,3 and I try to imagine you—in these short, dark days—confined to the room which Dr J's description & photographs4 have made so familiar—solitary and ill—It reminds me of my mother's5 condition in her last years—lame, suffering & much alone—and my heart goes out to you like a son's.

But, as circumstances darkened, she herself only seemed to grow sweeter and more loveable,—more loving, tender & self-forgetting and her faith deeper and brighter. And I, too, learned to love her more & more.

Day by day your influence is spreading, and new friends are learning to appreciate and to love you, with grateful reverence, and a personal affection such as no one ever aroused before.—I am deeply grateful that I, for one, am—privileged to write to you, and to act as spokesman for an increasing multitude of others who are not so privileged, but who, like myself, will think of you at this season with loving good-will and tender sympathy. God bless you & all your household

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 (1852–1927), 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. 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 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]

2. Wallace may be referring to Whitman's letter to Dr. Johnston of November 18, 1890. [back]

3. 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]

4. Whitman is likely referring to the photographs taken in Camden by Dr. John Johnston of Bolton, England, in July 1890. See The Walt Whitman Archive's Image Gallery, especially the three photographs of Walt Whitman and his nurse Warren Fritzinger (zzz.00117, zzz.00118, zzz.00119). [back]

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


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