Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Dr. John Johnston, 19 December 1890

Date: December 19, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08325

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), 5:134. 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, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden New Jersey U S America1
Dec: 19
Evn'g '90

Y'r circular (ab't Art meeting2) rec'd this mn'g—this & all letters & papers &c: welcomed—the celluloid plate3 promises a good impression—(it is now over in the photo–printers' in Phila: to have some printed for me)—Am poorly enough to–day, head, gastric & bladder trouble all bad. I suppose you rec'd Engineering Record of N Y. with obituary4 of my dear brother Jeff5 at St Louis—Love to you and Wallace6—best respects to all the friends—sunset just shining out here—


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 I 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. | Dec 20 | 6 AM | 90. [back]

2. Johnston's letter to Whitman of December 13, 1890 includes a reference to an enclosure of an issue of the Bolton Journal, which contained an account of a meeting of the Bolton Art Club. [back]

3. Johnston sent a photo celluloid plate containing negatives of several photographs he had taken during his visit with Whitman in Camden in the summer of 1890. According to Whitman's November 25, 1890, letter to Johnston, the poet had granted permission to the New England Magazine to use reproductions of Johnston's photographs to accompany Horace Traubel's essay "Walt Whitman at Date," which would be published in the magazine in May 1891. [back]

4. In his November 28, 1890 letter to Bucke, Whitman tells of the passing of his brother Jeff in St. Louis from typhoid pneumonia. The Engineering Record (New York) of December 13, 1890, contained an obituary of Thomas Jefferson Whitman, which Whitman wrote and reprinted in Good-Bye My Fancy (1891). [back]

5. Thomas Jefferson Whitman (1833–1890), known as "Jeff," was Walt Whitman's favorite brother. As a civil engineer, Jeff eventually became Superintendent of Water Works in St. Louis and a nationally recognized figure. For more on Jeff, see Randall Waldron, "Whitman, Thomas Jefferson (1833–1890)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [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]


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.