Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Dr. John Johnston, 25 June 1891

Date: June 25, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08073

Source: Henry S. Saunders Collection of Walt Whitman Papers, 1899–1913, 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), 5:217–218. 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, Amanda J. Axley, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock




June 25 '91—
Camden N J—America1

Am feeling fairly considering—first I must tell you do not bother ab't July Lippincotts,2 as the birth day acc't is not printed, for some reasons,3 (probably over crowd of matter)—Y'rs of 11th & 17th4 rec'd with the yellow fac similes5 wh' are capital—(with them, & such matters, give them out & do as you feel to—I stand by the fac simile)—Wallace's6 dear letter also rec'd7—ab't the p.o. order you sent,8 I consider it overpaying—I shall retain it, but don't do any thing like that again—I sh'l send the picts9 (& more books too)—

Love to you & all—
Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
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 the architect 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).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: Dr Johnston | 54 Manchester road | Bolton | Lancashire England. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Jun 25 | 1 30 PM | 91. [back]

2. Lippincott's Monthly Magazine was a literary magazine published in Philadelphia from 1868 to 1915. Joseph Marshall Stoddart was the editor of the magazine from 1886 to 1894, and he frequently published material by and about Whitman. For more information on Whitman's numerous publications here, see Susan Belasco, "Lippincott's Magazine." [back]

3. Horace Traubel's article "Walt Whitman's Birthday, May 31, 1891," was published in Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in August 1891. It was a detailed account of Whitman's seventy-second (and last) birthday, which was celebrated with friends at the poet's home on Mickle Street. [back]

4. Wallace had written to Whitman on June 11, 1891[back]

5. Whitman is referring to his June 1, 1891, letter to Johnston, which included Whitman's description of his seventy-second birthday dinner. Johnston had a facsimile of the letter made, and he distributed copies to many of Whitman's friends and admirers. See Johnston's letter to Whitman of June 11, 1891[back]

6. James William Wallace (1853–1926), of Bolton, England, was an architect and great admirer of Whitman. Wallace, along with Dr. John Johnston (1852–1927), a physician in Bolton, 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). [back]

7. See Johnston's letters of June 11 and June 17, 1891. [back]

8. Johnston enclosed a p. o. order with his letter of June 11, 1891[back]

9. Whitman had planned to publish a group of photographs of himself, but it was never issued. He often discussed the project, which he considered calling "Portraits from life of Walt Whitman," with Horace Traubel; see, for example. Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, August 4, 1889[back]


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