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Walt Whitman to John H. Johnston, 20 December 1876

 loc.02554.001_large.jpg My dear Johnston

Enclosed find check for $35 for which send me on immediately as good a gold watch, hunting case, middling showy in appearance & best inside you can give me for that sum. (Let me have it at wholesale price, only paying yourself what you pay for it). I want it for a Christmas present for a young man1Can't you send it by express to-night or tomorrow morning early?

Walt Whitman 431 Stevens st cor West Camden New Jersey

I might as well leave you some margin. If you think of something a little more price or different any how, better, send it along, as it can be changed, paid for, or made right when I come on in January—

I2 find I have no revenue stamp to put on check & cannot go out to get one—


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. The watch was intended either for Harry Lamb Stafford (1858–1918), whom Whitman met in 1876, or for Edward Cattell, a hired hand at the Stafford family's New Jersey farm who became close to Whitman. See the letter from Whitman to Cattell of January 24, 1887). See also the letter from Whitman to Johnston of December 31, 1876. [back]
  • 2. Whitman wrote the remainder of this postscript in pencil. [back]
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