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Letter from Walt Whitman to John H. Johnston, 10 November 1887


The "Fusiyama"2 has come all right & I have no doubt will be beneficial—best thanks—I am under a cloud to-day physically—& the weather is dark & rainy—but no doubt a change for the better soon

—I saw Morse3 ab't an hour after you left & paid him the $10— next forenoon rec'd your card countermanding—Conway4 has been here lecturing ag't the President —as he did ag't the Devil—Probably both are indispensable & immovable—

Walt Whitman  upa.00092.002_large.jpg

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 postal card is addressed: J H Johnston | Diamond Merchant | 150 Bowery cor: Broome St:| New York City. This postal card is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Nov 10 | 430 PM | 87. John H. Johnston, the New York Jeweler, visited Whitman on November 2, at which time the poet paid Sidney Morse, presumably for one of his busts, "30 & 10-$40" (Whitman's Commonplace Book; Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). On November 15 Walt Whitman noted receipt of ten dollars from Johnston "(wh' I paid to M) (Whitman's Commonplace Book). On August 27, Whitman gave Morse $70 "to pay to caster for the 10 heads" (Whitman's Commonplace Book). Morse brought four of the heads on September 2, one of which was sent to Richard Maurice Bucke (Commonplace Book). On November 12, 1887, Conway proposed taking Whitman to visit Robert Pearsall Smith in Philadelphia for a few days, an invitation which he declined (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]
  • 2. The Fujiyama porcelain decorating workshop in Boston was producing work around this time. Johnston may have given Whitman a vase. [back]
  • 3. Sidney H. Morse (1832–1903) was a self-taught sculptor as well as a Unitarian minister and, from 1866 to 1872, editor of The Radical. He visited Whitman in Camden many times and made various busts of him. Whitman had commented on an earlier bust by Morse that it was "wretchedly bad." For more on this, see Ruth L. Bohan, Looking into Walt Whitman: American Art, 1850–1920 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 105–109. [back]
  • 4. Moncure Daniel Conway (1832–1907) was an American abolitionist, minister, and frequent correspondent with Walt Whitman. Conway often acted as Whitman's agent and occasional public relations man in England. For more on Conway, see Philip W. Leon, "Conway, Moncure Daniel (1832–1907)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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