James William Wallace, an English architect, was a Whitman enthusiast, a founding member of Bolton "College," a Whitman correspondent, a visitor to Walt Whitman in Camden in 1891, and coauthor of a book with Dr. John Johnston (d. 1918), fellow Bolton "College" Member, about their separate visits to Whitman.
In 1885 Wallace, thirty-one and unmarried, organized Monday night meetings at his father's house on Eagle Street in Bolton, England. Known locally as "The Eagle Street 'College'" and abroad as Bolton "College," this group included mostly working-class men with limited educational backgrounds. The appellation "College" shows the humor of the group, which met without formal organization or purpose for discussion of local interest topics, politics, humor, and spiritual matters.
After the death of his mother in January of 1885, Wallace had a mystical experience about which he wrote and which Dr. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837-1902) included in his Cosmic Consciousness.
Wallace and Johnston began a correspondence with Walt Whitman in 1887. By the time of his death, Whitman wrote the two men more than 120 letters and postcards. Whitman also presented his stuffed canary to Wallace. Today, the Metropolitan Library in Bolton holds the canary and other Whitman gifts to the group.
In 1891 Wallace visited Whitman in Camden and Bucke in London, Ontario. Wallace also visited Andrew H. Rome in New York and the Cranberry Street room where the Romes printed Leaves of Grass (1855). He visited the Whitman Birthplace, Jayne's Hill, both Whitman maternal and paternal homesteads and burial grounds, and various Whitman relatives on Long Island.
Bucke, Richard Maurice. Cosmic Consciousness: A Study in the Evolution of the Human Mind. Philadelphia: Innes, 1901.
Hamer, Harold. A Catalogue of Works by and Relating to Walt Whitman in the Reference Library, Bolton. Bolton, England: Libraries Committee, 1955.
Johnston, John, and J.W. Wallace. Visits to Walt Whitman in 1890-1891. London: Allen and Unwin, 1917.
Salveson, Paul. Loving Comrades: Lancashire's Links to Walt Whitman. Bolton, England: Worker's Educational Association, 1984.
Wallace, J.W. Walt Whitman and the World Crisis. Manchester: The National Labour Press, 1920.