Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to John H. Johnston, 18 November 1884

Date: November 18, 1884

Whitman Archive ID: sal.00001

Source: Salisbury House. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 3:382–383. 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 and Kyle Barton

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328 Mickle Street1
Nov. 18 '84

Dear friend

Yours of yesterday just rec'd—with the $25—(making 150 in all)2—best thanks—So you like the Brignoli bit3—I was not sure it amounted to much, but it came from the heart—(it was first sent to the Tribune to be published the morning of B's funeral, but the T sent it back)—

How are you all? How is Al, under the new dispensation? I send my love specially to Alma and the girls & the new Mrs J—

Nothing very new with me—I am ab't as well as usual except an increasing lameness—Anticipate a time not remote when I shall be unable to walk at all—Have not forgotten the Memorandum History of the Portrait—have already outlined & partly prepared it—you shall have it soon4

I am writing this up in my big den—the floor all around horribly litter-rary, but a cheery wood fire in the little stove—& I comfortable in my great capacious rattan arm-chair—(which I may will to Al, if he cares for it)—


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. This letter is addressed: J H Johnston | Jeweler | 150 Bowery Cor: Broome St. | New York City. It is postmarked: PHILADELPHIA | PA | NOV 18 84 | 7 PM; (?) | 11 19 84 | 12-IA | N.Y. [back]

2. These are Johnston's partial payments for Charles Hine's portrait of Whitman, which the poet had agreed to sell to him. [back]

3. Brignoli, the Italian tenor, was buried on November 3. "The Dead Tenor" appeared in The Critic on the following day. A newspaper clipping reporting the funeral and a proof of the poem are in the Charles E. Feinberg Collection (Library of Congress, Washington D.C.). Whitman heard Brignoli sing in 1867, in 1872 (see the letter from Whitman to Peter Doyle of March 15, 1872), and on September 16, 1876, at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]

4. Johnston had requested a history of the portrait by Hine on March 25, 1884[back]


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