Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 9 March [1887]

Date: March 9, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00834

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), 4:74. 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

March 9 noon1

Much the same with me. No further news of O'Connor, (I forward the "Transcripts"2 you send me, to him.) Rhys writes me that the Walter Scott, Eng[lish] pub's, will bring out my "Spec: Days" in one vol. & "Dem: Vistas, &c" in another.3 I have just sent on a little preface to S D. I forward a Peora paper—when you have read it, mail to Dr Bucke.4 I have just had an autograph hunter visitor, but with cheery talk and presence.

Walt Whitman

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. William Sloane Kennedy endorsed this letter: "[1887]." [back]

2. Whitman is referring to copies of the Boston Transcript[back]

3. Rhys mentioned on February 15, 1887 that separate publication of the two works was about to be considered by the publisher. Whitman noted sending to Rhys a two-page preface to Specimen Days on March 8 and an "Additional Note" on March 15 (Whitman's Commonplace Book [Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.]). In the same (missing) letter he included a receipt for the ten guineas which he had received on March 14 from Walter Scott. [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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