Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Dr. John Johnston, 3 November 1891

Date: November 3, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08448

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), 5:261. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Amanda J. Axley, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden N J—U S America1
Nov: 3 '91

Sunny cool day—Wallace2 went hence this mn'g well & in good spirits to take City of Berlin f'm N Y to morrow mn'g3—Sir Edwin Arnold4 & others here yesterday—all went well—A is being recepted here finely—he is evidently one of my warmest & solid friends—I continue ab't same as before—Y'rs rec'd—thanks—


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 R'd | Bolton Lancashire | England. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Nov 3 | 8 PM | 91; Phil[adelp]hia, Pa. | Nov 3 | 11 PM | Paid. [back]

2. 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]

3. At this time, Wallace was returning to his home in Bolton, Lancashire, England, after spending several weeks' traveling in the United States and Canada. Wallace had arrived at Philadelphia on September 8, 1891 (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, September 8, 1891). Wallace's arrival had been shortly preceded by that of the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke, who had been returning from two months of travel in Europe. Both Bucke and Wallace visited Whitman in Camden, and, after spending a few days with the poet, Wallace returned with Bucke to London, Ontario, Canada, where he met Bucke's family and friends. Wallace's account of his time with Whitman was published—along with the Bolton physician John Johnston's account of his own visit with the poet in the summer of 1890—in their memoir, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends (London: Allen and Unwin, 1917). [back]

4. Sir Edwin Arnold, the British poet and journalist, paid a surprise visit to Whitman in Camden on November 2, 1891. An account of the visit was published in the Philadelphia Press with the title "A Poet's Greetings to a Poet." See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, November 3, 1891 for more information. In his commentary, Traubel described the account of Whitman's visit with Arnold as "almost idiotic—certainly foolish." See also The Springfield Republican article published on November 7, 1891, which further reported on what Whitman and Traubel deemed an "interesting incident." [back]


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