Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to James W. Wallace, 4 June 1889

Date: June 4, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08132

Source: Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. The transcription presented here is derived from The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:345. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Caterina Bernardini, Ryan Furlong, and Stephanie Blalock




328 Mickle Street
Camden New Jersey
U S America1
June 4 '89

The good letter, the £10 & the photos: reach me safely—& most affectionate responses & wishes to you & Dr J[ohnston]2 & "the boys" all3—(Note a paper with report of public dinner,4 sent to J)—If different f'm last acc'ts I am rather better—get out almost daily in the open air, push'd on a wheel'd chair5 by a stout Canadian friend, my nurse6—We are all gloomy from the great cataclysm west7


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 | 14 Eagle Street | Haulgh | Bolton England. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Jun 4 | 8 PM | 89. [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. Johnston and Wallace sent the gift on May 21, 1889[back]

4. For Whitman's seventieth birthday, Horace Traubel and a large committee planned a local celebration for the poet in Morgan's Hall in Camden, New Jersey. The committee included Henry (Harry) L. Bonsall, Geoffrey Buckwalter, and Thomas B. Harned. See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, May 7, 1889. The day was celebrated with a testimonial dinner. Numerous authors and friends of the poet prepared and delivered addresses to mark the occasion. Whitman, who did not feel well at the time, arrived after the dinner to listen to the remarks. [back]

5. Horace Traubel and Ed Wilkins, Whitman's nurse, went to Philadelphia to purchase a wheeled chair for the poet that would allow him to be "pull'd or push'd" outdoors. See Whitman's letter to William Sloane Kennedy of May 8, 1889[back]

6. Edward "Ned" Wilkins (1865–1936) was one of Whitman's nurses during his Camden years; he was sent to Camden from London, Ontario, by Dr. Richard M. Bucke, and he began caring for Whitman on November 5, 1888. He stayed for a year before returning to Canada to attend the Ontario Veterinary School. For more information, see Bert A. Thompson, "Edward Wilkins: Male Nurse to Walt Whitman," Walt Whitman Review 15 (September 1969), 194–195. [back]

7. Whitman is referring to the Johnstown flood. In his Commonplace Book he wrote on June 1, 1889; "The most pervading & dreadful news this m'ng is of the strange cataclysm at Johnstown & adjoining Cambria County, Penn: by wh' many thousands of people are overwhelm'd, kill'd by drowning in water, burnt by fire, &c: &c:—all our hearts, the papers & the public interest, are fill'd with it—the most signal & wide-spread horror of the kind ever known in this country—curious that at this very hour, we were having the dinner festivities &c—unaware" (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). C. H. Browning, now the Philadelphia representative of the New York World, was instructed by Julius Chambers to ask Whitman for a "threnody on the Johnstown dead," which became "A Voice from Death" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, June 5, 1889). The poem was published in the New York World on June 7, 1889. [back]


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