Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 21 February 1887

Date: February 21, 1887

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:68–69. 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.00831

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, Kevin McMullen, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden
Feb. 21 '87 p m

Dear WSK—

Yours of 19th came (always welcome)1 with Rhys's2 letters (herewith returned) & the Transcript—Thanks—for your warm words, y'r affectionate personal & literary extra appreciation—always—thanks for writing & sending—I am kept in here quite all the time & was glad you sent R's letters—Poor dear noble O'Connor's3 ailment is I fear locomotor ataxyia—induration of the spine—I have heard nothing further—time only can decide—but I have serious apprehensions—

Nothing new with me—am glad your book over there is under Ernest Rhys's management & overseeing—He makes the impression on me of a deep true friend of L of G & of myself—What is that ab't Trowbridge?4 I do not understand.5 Had a drive yesterday thro' a splendid snowstorm—


Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
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 [1896], 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).

Notes:

1. Kennedy's letters to Whitman from this time are not extant. [back]

2. Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. John Townsend Trowbridge (1827–1916) was a novelist, poet, author of juvenile stories, and anti-slavery reformer. Though Trowbridge became familiar with Whitman's poetry in 1855, he did not meet Whitman until 1860, when the poet was in Boston overseeing the Thayer and Eldridge edition of Leaves of Grass. For several weeks in 1863, Trowbridge stayed with Whitman in Washington, D.C., along with John Burroughs and William D. O'Connor. [back]

5. For more information, see the letter from Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy of February 25, 1887[back]


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