Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to John H. Johnston, 28 December 1884

Date: December 28, 1884

Whitman Archive ID: med.00712

Source: The location of this manuscript is unknown. Miller derives his summary of the letter from a summary that was published in the catalog of the American Art Association, April 19–21, 1932. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 3:384. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Marie Ernster, and Stephanie Blalock

December 28, 1884

[WW acknowledged receipt of money for his portrait.]1

John H. Johnston (1837–1919) was a New York jeweler and close friend of Whitman. Johnston was also a friend of Joaquin Miller (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, August 14, 1888). Whitman visited the Johnstons for the first time early in 1877. In 1888 he observed to Horace Traubel: "I count [Johnston] as in our inner circle, among the chosen few" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, October 3, 1888). See also Johnston's letter about Whitman, printed in Charles N. Elliot, Walt Whitman as Man, Poet and Friend (Boston: Richard G. Badger, 1915), 149–174. For more on Johnston, see Susan L. Roberson, "Johnston, John H. (1837–1919) and Alma Calder," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. Johnston had visited Whitman shortly before the poet moved to Mickle Street and at that time arranged to purchase Charles Hine's portrait of Whitman for $200. The portrait—an oil painting of Whitman—had served as the basis for Stephen Alonzo Schoff's engraving of the poet for Leaves of Grass (1860). On March 25, Johnston sent $100. On August 10, Whitman noted receipt of an additional $25 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.), and Johnston sent additional partial payments for the portrait. In an undated entry that was likely written about December 28, Whitman recorded the receipt of $50 from Johnston "for portrait—now paid in full, $200" (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]


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