Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to James W. Wallace, 7 April 1891

Date: April 7, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08024

Source: Henry S. Saunders Collection of Walt Whitman Papers, 1887–1923, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 5:188. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Andrew David King, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden N J U S America1
April 7 '91

Y'rs rec'd to-day2—thanks—fine sunny spring-like day out—keeping on much the same—no worse I guess—Have you seen my dead friend O'Connor's3 story "The Bronzoid Android" com[mence]d in April Atlantic monthly?4

Am sitting here (listless & stupid as a great log) in my den—take medicine every day—God's blessings on you & Dr. [Johnston]5—& my love6


Walt Whitman


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: J W Wallace | Anderton near Chorley | Lancashire | England. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Apr 8 | 6 AM | 91. [back]

2. Whitman may be referring here either to Wallace's letter dated April 3, 1891 or that dated March 27, 1891[back]

3. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. At the behest of Ellen O'Connor, Houghton, Mifflin & Company published her late husband William D. O'Connor's story "The Brazen Android" (which Whitman misremembers here as "The Bronzoid Android") in The Atlantic Monthly in April and May of 1891. They also planned to publish a collection that included three of O'Connor's stories and a preface by Whitman. Three Tales: The Ghost, The Brazen Android, The Carpenter was published the following year, in 1892. [back]

5. 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]

6. Wallace responded soulfully to this brief card on April 21: "Your loving-kindness—inexhaustible, warm and ever-renewed—deeply impresses us, and the lowest deeps of our hearts and souls respond to it. Your words to me—'God's blessings on you and the Doctor and my love'—seem to me to carry their own fulfilment, for I feel, indeed, that in your love God has given me his authentic and dearest blessing, more sacred and precious to me than all besides, except the memories of my mother" (typescript: County Borough of Bolton [England] Public Libraries). [back]


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