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Johnston, Dr. John (d. 1918)

John Johnston, an English physician, was a Walt Whitman enthusiast; a member of Bolton "College"; a visitor, correspondent, and photographer of Whitman; and coauthor of a book with Bolton College founder James William Wallace (1853–1926) about their separate visits to the poet.

Johnston attended the Monday night meetings at the house of Wallace's father on Eagle Street in Bolton, England. Known locally as the "Eagle Street College" and abroad as Bolton College, this primarily working-class group of men included few educated professionals. The nomenclature "College" shows their humor. Anything but a college, the group held their loosely organized weekly gatherings for discussion of local interest topics, politics, and spiritual matters. In spiritual matters, Bolton College members, several of whom were Whitman students and admirers, followed the ideas of Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke, especially those about cosmic consciousness.

On behalf of Bolton College, Johnston and Wallace started corresponding with Whitman in 1887. Whitman wrote them more than 120 letters and postcards and sent Bolton College books and other gifts. Today the Metropolitan Library in Bolton houses the Whitman gifts.

In 1890 Johnston visited Whitman in Camden, where he photographed the poet and other members of the household. He then visited Andrew H. Rome in New York. Johnston also interviewed John Y. Baulsir, a Fulton Ferry deckhand. On Long Island, he spent the night at Henry Jarvis's home (the Whitman Birthplace), interviewed former Whitman student Sanford Brown, and visited painter Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist. Johnston then traveled to West Park, New York, where he visited John Burroughs.


Bucke, Richard Maurice. Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind. Philadelphia: Innes, 1901.

———. Walt Whitman. Philadelphia: McKay, 1883.

Hamer, Harold. A Catalogue of Works by and Relating to Whitman in the Reference Library, Bolton. Bolton, England: Libraries Committee, 1955.

Johnston, John, and James William Wallace. Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends. London: Allen and Unwin, 1917.

Salveson, Paul. Loving Comrades: Lancashire's Links to Walt Whitman. Bolton, England: Worker's Educational Association, 1984.

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