Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 29 November [1887]

Date: November 29, 1887

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, Faint Clews & Indirections, ed. Clarence Gohdes and Rollo G. Silver (Durham: Duke University Press, 1949), 118. 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.00892

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




Camden
Nov. 29 [1887] latter p m

As I write I am sitting in my big chair—cold to-day here—sunny however—Morse1 is here working on a life size Emerson2—(somewhat of a demand for them)—Your last letter good reading for him (& me too)—don't push the getting of the head3 into any Boston gallery ("wait for the wagon")—it must depend on its artistic merits—as a piece of modeling &c—Nothing new with me—No E Rhys4 yet——I have heard from O Connor5—tolerable—


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. 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]

2. The sculptor produced a plaster head of Emerson that was much admired by Emerson's friends and family. [back]

3. This is a reference to the sculptor Sidney Morse's plaster bust of Whitman; see Whitman's letter to Sylvester Baxter of November 16, 1887[back]

4. 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]

5. 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]


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