Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 17 February 1888

Date: February 17, 1888

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:152. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00923

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden
Feb: 17 '88
2 P M

Yours of 15th rec'd1—you ought to be getting the MS—package2 as I sent it by Express three or four days ago—Nothing new or special with me—The severe cold has pinch'd me, but the weather is pleasanter to-day—Rhys3 has just left here for N Y and Boston—Dr B[ucke]4 returns from St Augustine in ab't a week. I am sitting here anchor'd in my big chair all day—Write when you can—


W W


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 informed Whitman that he had sent "375 (out of the 1000) circulars" soliciting subscribers for his "Walt Whitman, Poet of Humanity." One of the circulars was included in the letter. See the letter from Kennedy to Whitman of February 15, 1888. [back]

2. Whitman is referring to Kennedy's manuscript "Walt Whitman, Poet of Humanity." Kennedy had reported in a letter to Whitman of January 2, 1888 that Frederick W. Wilson was willing to publish the study. Kennedy's manuscript eventually became two books, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (1896) and The Fight of a Book for the World (1926). Whitman promised to return the manuscript in his letter to Kennedy of February 1, 1888[back]

3. 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]

4. 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]


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