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James W. Wallace to Walt Whitman, 16 June 1891

 loc_vm.01227_large.jpg To Walt Whitman, Copy of note scribbled in pencil in open air, Rivington, 8 p.m.

Here I sit again in the place I occupied this night week overlooking Rivington lake. A similar evening, but even calmer. The sun is just about setting behind a low thinly stratified bank of clouds. The rest of the sky is perfectly cloudless—grey purplish blue above, merging to palest salmon colour on the horizon.  loc_vm.01228_large.jpg The lake—calm & free from ripples—perfectly reflects the green wooded banks across the lake & the opalescent colours of the Pike, broken here & there by the rings left by leaping fish. (The furthest surface of the lake glazed later with ripples.) The glory with which the sun lately filled the whole scene has faded, & a more subdued & sober harmony has taken its place, deepening as the evening advances. The spirit of the whole is that of uttermost peace, content & cheer. But the air is thick with the varied music of birds,— loc_vm.01229_large.jpgnot loud & vivacious—but sweet & gentle, blending well with the scene.

Besides me sits a young artist friend—A.H. Cooper2 who is just beginning a small water colour sketch of the east end of the lake, showing Rivington church & village, & the Pike beyond.

He came to see me last night, & we had a good long ramble of several miles round the country here. He is an admirer of yours, so I asked him if he would make 2 or 3 sketches for me to send loc_vm.01230_large.jpg to you. But he is going to Norway for 3 or 4 month's painting in 2 or 3 days, & his time is of course very limited. However, as I wanted them for you, he kindly promised to come here for a short time today & again tomorrow to do what he could.—I met him half an hour ago & he shewed me two slight bits he had sketched in Rivington village, & he has just begun one here. If it is fair again tomorrow (weather forecast rain) I hope that he will be able to add one or two more.


I wish that he had more time. For he would then be able to get over more ground & to give you sketches at once more varied & more characteristic of the country here. But we can only do what we can, & they will give you a kink or two into a country which is very beautiful in a homely idyllic fashion & very dear to me.

I hope that the next mail will bring good news of you & report some little improvement in your health. I wish you were here for a little time. It might do you good & would be an immense joy to me.


Love to you always, and an eventide as sweet & calm & cheerful as this in which I write.

Yours affectionately J.W. Wallace

Wednesday noon

A dark drizzling day.—Looks a little lighter now & may possibly clear up, but it isn't promising.—Unless it does clear up, Cooper can do nothing & I shall not be able to send you the sketches I hoped.

 loc_vm.01225_large.jpg  loc_vm.01226_large.jpg

James William Wallace (1853–1926), of Bolton, England, was an architect and great admirer of Whitman. Wallace, along with Dr. John Johnston (1852–1927), a physician in Bolton, founded the "Bolton College" of English admirers of the poet. Johnston and Wallace corresponded with Whitman and with Horace Traubel and other members of the Whitman circle in the United States, and they separately visited the poet and published memoirs of their trips in John Johnston and James William Wallace, Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890–1891 by Two Lancashire Friends (London: Allen and Unwin, 1917). For more information on Wallace, see Larry D. Griffin, "Wallace, James William (1853–1926)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman, | 328, Mickle St | Camden | New Jersey | U.S. America. It is postmarked: BOLTON | 40 | JU17 | 91; NEW YORK | JUNE | 24; K | 91; PAID | J | ALL; CAMDEN, NJ. | JUN | 25 | 6AM | 1891 | REC'D. [back]
  • 2. Alfred Heaton Cooper (1863–1929) was an English landscape artist. On June 19, 1891, Wallace sent to Whitman four watercolor sketches of Rivington by Cooper. In a postscript he wrote "If Traubel fancies any of them I shall be glad to arrange with Cooper for a painting . . . I wanted to send T. something & can think of nothing better." This picture of the lakes at Rivington, near Bolton, was commissioned by the members of the Bolton Whitman Fellowship for presentation to Horace and Anne Traubel in 1892. Cooper, then resident in Bolton, was a friend of the English physician Dr. John Johnston and Wallace, and he later gained fame for his Lakeland paintings and book illustrations. In 1948 Anne Traubel presented it to the Bolton Public Libraries as being of special interest to the Bolton Whitman Fellowship. [back]
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