Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to James W. Wallace, 13–14 September 1891

Date: September 13–14, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08054

Source: 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), 5:241–242. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

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




Camden N J1
Sept: 13 '91

Dear J W W—

rec'd letters f'm Dr J[ohnston]2 Bolton, yesterday—all well—went out latter afternoon on a drive four miles out to "Pea Shore" (Mrs. Bush,3 Horace4 & I)—fine fresh moist south east breeze, welcome to me— M D Conway5 here yesterday an hour talking & inquiring ab't Tom Paine—(wh' life he is soon to pub. in book)6—with altogether my poor brain was wrapped all up like an apple-dumpling—restful & quiet day to-day—Hope you share the long stretch of fine cool sunny weather we are having here—Warry7 well & blooming— Miss D[avis]8 ditto—I continue same as before (thankful it's no worse)—but bad enough when I'm not on parade—I enclose Ernest Rhys's9 letter f'm Wales—he must be having good times—(he is a handsome smart litterateur worthy of a better fate)—

Sept. 14—fine weather continued—thank you for y'r good letter rec'd this mn'g—also Dr B[ucke]'s10— I can almost see the whole scene, the lawn, the evn'g shades, the crowd, Dr's return, y'r arrival—& hear the band11—my friend, take my advice, resign yourself tacitly to rest & absorb quietly, reposeful for a while, tying up for the nonce—I appreciate y'r loving wishes, as ever12


Walt Whitman


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. This letter is addressed: J W Wallace | Care Dr Bucke | Asylum | London | Ontario | Canada. It is postmarked: Camden (?) | Sep 14 | 8 PM | 91. [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. Whitman is referring to the wife of Harry D. Bush. Harry Bush was one of the poet's pallbearers. See Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1931], 295 See also John Johnston and James W. Wallace, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1918), 102. [back]

4. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the mid-1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Moncure Conway (1832–1907) was a Unitarian minister who lived in England from the 1860s until 1885, where he served as a supporter of Whitman and wrote frequently about the poet. [back]

6. Conway published The Life of Thomas Paine in two volumes in 1892 and The Writings of Thomas Paine (1894–1896) in four volumes. [back]

7. Frank Warren Fritzinger (1867–1899), known as "Warry," took Edward Wilkins's place as Whitman's nurse, beginning in October 1889. Fritzinger and his brother Harry were the sons of Henry Whireman Fritzinger (about 1828–1881), a former sea captain who went blind, and Almira E. Fritzinger. Following Henry Sr.'s death, Warren and his brother—having lost both parents—became wards of Mary O. Davis, Whitman's housekeeper, who had also taken care of the sea captain and who inherited part of his estate. [back]

8. Mary Oakes Davis (1837 or 1838–1908) was Whitman's housekeeper. For more, see Carol J. Singley, "Davis, Mary Oakes (1837 or 1838–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

9. Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

10. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

11. The band is described in a letter from Bucke on September 11, 1891, and also one from Wallace on the same date. [back]

12. On September 11 Wallace had written: "You remind me so much of my dear mother. . . . You seem to me now as near & intimate as well as dear as my own Kith & Kin—Nay, dearer." On September 13 he observed that Bucke's "interesting" collection of Whitmaniana "affects my sleep." [back]


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