Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 27 December 1890

Date: December 27, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.04964

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, England1
27. Decbr 1890.

Dear Walt Whitman,

I have to thank you for the copy of the "Philadelphia Enquirer" of the 12th inst, which I received this morning. I was very pleased to read the paragraph marked, and still more pleased by the kind remembrance & consideration which prompted you to send it.

I wish that, besides the information it gives as to what you are doing, it had also said how you were. By its account of your "buoyant spirits," and of your "getting outdoors in good weather" it indirectly conveys a good impression of your health, but I am anxious to hear a more authentic account. I earnestly hope that you are much better than when you wrote last. Dr Johnston2 received a long & most kind & interesting letter yesterday from J. A. Symonds3 which he sent on to me to read. He intended to forward a copy to you by this mail, & I have no doubt but that he will do so.

Symonds's letter is so kind, & so pathetic in its interest, that I am inclined to write to him myself;—and, if a favourable opportunity presents itself, I will do so. Your name will be a sufficient warrant for my intruding upon his Alpine solitude and 7 months winter—in "broken health" & "meditations upon the problem of approaching death" (referred to in the Preface to his last Essays4)—with a note of friendliness & sympathy—with no little of reverence and gratitude too. God bless him.

We have had a very seasonable Christmas here.—snow on the ground with slight frost, rather dull & overcast, with heavy snowfall in the evening.

We had a slight thaw for a day or two previously, but it seems likely to revert to frost again. Last week end—while the keen frost continued & the trees were hung with rime—we had two of the most lovely moonlight nights here I ever remember to have seen. The country about Rivington—near here was beautiful beyond description. I only wish that I had the time & the power to give you some account of it. But one element in a description of its effect upon me as I walked through it would lie in the influences your books have had on me to make me receptive to its marvellous & mystic beauty. Thanks to you.—and love to you—now and always.

When you get this we shall have entered upon a new year. I hope that it may bring you renewed health and strength & blessedness & joy. All good be with you, & the increasing love of an increasing number of those who are entering upon the blessed fruits of the long travail of your soul.

With love & best wishes

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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman, | 328, Mickle St | Camden | New Jersey. | U. S. America. It is postmarked: Bolton | 58 | DE27 | 90; Paid | D | All; 91. [back]

2. 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]

3. 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]

4. Symonds's Essays Speculative and Suggestive were published by the London firm of Chapman and Hall in 1890. The chapter on "Democratic Art" is mainly inspired by Whitman. [back]


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