Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 26 January 1887

Date: January 26, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00830

Source: The Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:65–66. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

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

Jan. 26 '87

Your card, acknowledging paper, came—Sylvester Baxter1 (back'd by Mr Lovering2) opened the pension proposal five weeks ago—I immediately wrote to S B positively prohibiting it3—the next thing I hear of is Mr. L's bill—I have finally concluded to let the thing take its course—I do not expect the bill to pass—I am ab't as usual—a bodily wreck—did you get "My Book & I" slip?


William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and the Boston Transcript; he also published biographies of Longfellow, Holmes, and Whittier (Dictionary of American Biography [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933], 336–337). Apparently Kennedy called on the poet for the first time on November 21, 1880 (William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman [London: Alexander Gardener, 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).


1. Sylvester Baxter (1850–1927) was on the staff of the Boston Herald. Apparently he met Whitman for the first time when the poet delivered his Lincoln address in Boston in April, 1881; see Rufus A. Coleman, "Whitman and Trowbridge," PMLA 63 (1948), 268. Baxter wrote many newspaper columns in praise of Whitman's writings, and in 1886 attempted to obtain a pension for the poet. For more, see Christopher O. Griffin, "Baxter, Sylvester [1850–1927]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. Henry Bacon Lovering (1841–1911) held several political positions at state and federal levels. Lovering represented Massachusetts' sixth district in the U.S. House of Representatives between 1883 and 1887, and was appointed as the United States Marshal for Massachusetts by President Grover Cleveland in 1888. He later served as the United States Pension Agent at Boston between 1894 and 1898. Lovering was involved in efforts to get Whitman a government pension in recognition of his Civil War hospital service. [back]

3. See the letter from Whitman to Sylvester Baxter of December 8, 1886. On January 19, Walt Whitman noted the introduction of Lovering's bill, which was to grant the poet a pension of $25 a month (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). On February 4 he replied to a letter from Lovering (Whitman's Commonplace Book); both letters are apparently lost. [back]


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