Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 4 May 
Date: May 4, 1886
Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:28. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: The Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library
Whitman Archive ID: duk.00811
Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein and Kyle Barton
328 Mickle Street
May 4 pm
The wine has arrived, has been tried, & proves delicious1—best & many thanks—warm, dry, growing weather here—I am going out for a two-hours evening drive—go out most every day—Dr Bucke2 is in England—Burroughs is going to jaunt through Kentucky.3
William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and later published biographies of Longfellow and Whittier (Dictionary of American Biography). Apparently Kennedy had called on the poet for the first time on November 21, 1880 (William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman , 1). Though Kennedy was to become a fierce defender of Whitman, in his first published article he admitted reservations about the "coarse indecencies of language" and protested that Whitman's ideal of democracy was "too coarse and crude"; see The Californian, 3 (February 1881), 149–158. For more about Kennedy, see Katherine Reagan, "Kennedy, William Sloane (1850–1929)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).
2. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
3. On May 5 Whitman had a "visit from John Burroughs, en route for Kentucky" (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). Of this visit Burroughs observed in his journal: "He was not very well, and I was myself dull" (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1931], 262). For more information on Burroughs, see "Burroughs, John [1837-1921] and Ursula [1836-1917]." [back]