Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Alma Calder Johnston, 15 August 1888

Date: August 15, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: owu.00023

Source: The Bayley-Whitman Collection, Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, OH. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Stephanie Blalock, Brandon James O'Neil, Marie Ernster, and Amanda J. Axley

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Wednesday Noon
Aug: 15 '88

Dear friend

Here is William Ingram's1 letter2—forwarded at his request to you—He comes to see me occasionally & is always welcome—John's3 good letter was rec'd this forenoon4 & is cheery & hospitable as always—Yes my dear friend if I get able again to get about—& you settle down & the machinery moves regularly &c.—I may come to New York & see you all—We will see how the cat jumps—I still remain in my sick room—tho' I have had no set back any thing worth mentioned,—but remain very enfeebled & almost helpless in strength of legs & body, without improvement at all.

—This week so far the temperature has been just right here—My little booklet November Boughs5 is ab't done—will make 140 pages—I have for the concluding one a disjointed paper on "Elias Hicks"6—the publication will be delayed yet a number of weeks—I am sitting up in my big arm chair writing this—am comfortable—Best love to you all.

Walt Whitman

Alma Calder Johnston was an author and the second wife of John H. Johnston. Her family owned a home and property in Equinunk, Pennsylvania. For more on the Johnstons, 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. William Ingram, a Quaker, kept a tea store—William Ingram and Son Tea Dealers—in Philadelphia. Of Ingram, Whitman observed to Horace Traubel: "He is a man of the Thomas Paine stripe—full of benevolent impulses, of radicalism, of the desire to alleviate the sufferings of the world—especially the sufferings of prisoners in jails, who are his protégés" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, May 20, 1888). Ingram and his wife visited the physician Richard Maurice Bucke and his family in Canada in 1890. [back]

2. Whitman enclosed Ingram's August 10, 1888, letter for Alma Calder Johnston at Ingram's request. [back]

3. 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). [back]

4. This letter has not been located. [back]

5. Whitman is referring to his book November Boughs, which would be published in October 1888. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. Elias Hicks (1748–1830) was a Quaker from Long Island whose controversial teachings led to a split in the Religious Society of Friends in 1827, a division that was not resolved until 1955. Hicks had been a friend of Whitman's father and grandfather, and Whitman himself was a supporter and proponent of Hicks's teachings, writing about him in Specimen Days (see "Reminiscence of Elias Hicks") and November Boughs (see "Elias Hicks, Notes (such as they are)"). For more on Hicks and his influence on Whitman, see David S. Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America (New York: Knopf, 1995), 37–39. [back]


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