Commentary

Selected Criticism

Title:
Kennedy, William Sloane (1850–1929)
Author:
Reagan, Katherine
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

Biographer, editor, and critic, William Sloane Kennedy was one of Whitman's most devoted friends and admirers. Born in Brecksville, Ohio, to Rev. William Sloane Kennedy and the daughter of a minister, Sarah Eliza Woodruff, Kennedy attended Yale, graduating in 1875. He left Harvard Divinity School in 1880 without taking his degree, deciding instead to pursue a literary career. Kennedy first met Whitman in Philadelphia in 1880 while working on the staff of the American. He soon became a frequent correspondent and visitor to Whitman's Camden, New Jersey, home, a constant contributor of small gifts, and the author of several essays and newspaper articles in praise of Whitman. Kennedy also dedicated himself to writing, over a period of many years, a book-length study of the poet. Although Whitman at times expressed reservations about this work-in-progress (see Traubel 165), he appreciated Kennedy's devotion, calling him a "loyal guardsman" (Traubel 382). Whitman moreover supplied much editorial comment to Kennedy's work, which did not appear in print until after the poet's death in 1892. In 1896 Kennedy published Reminiscences of Walt Whitman with Extracts from His Letters and Remarks on His Writings. He then edited Walt Whitman's Diary in Canada (1904) and in 1926 published The Fight of a Book for the World: A Companion Volume to "Leaves of Grass," which he considered to be his most important work. Kennedy drowned while taking his daily swim in Lewis Bay near his home in West Yarmouth, Massachusetts, on 4 August 1929.

Bibliography

Kennedy, William Sloane. The Fight of a Book for the World. West Yarmouth, Mass.: Stonecroft, 1926.

———. Reminiscences of Walt Whitman. London: Alexander Gardner, 1896.

Traubel, Horace. With Walt Whitman in Camden. Vol. 1. 1906. New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 1961.

Whitman, Walt. Walt Whitman's Diary in Canada. Ed. William Sloane Kennedy. Boston: Small, Maynard, 1904.


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