Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, John Burroughs, and Richard Maurice Bucke, 6 May 1887

Date: May 6, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00845

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), 4:91. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Ashland, Stefan Schöberlein, Kevin McMullen, and Stephanie Blalock

May 6th 1887

Major Pond1 has written to me fixing dates for my proposed Boston (including I believe Hartford & New Haven) lecturing tour2—but I am a little fearful, & have not answered & closed with him. I go out driving every day. Have just sent a poem to the Nineteenth Century.3 Love to you all.

Walt Whitman

William Sloane Kennedy, John Burroughs, and Richard Maurice Bucke were three of Whitman's closest friends and admirers. Kennedy (1850–1929) first met Whitman while on the staff of the Philadelphia American in 1880, and would go on to write a book-length study of the poet. Burroughs (1837–1921), a naturalist, met Whitman in Washington, D.C. in 1864 and became one of Whitman's most frequent correspondents. He would also go on to write several studies of Whitman. Bucke (1837–1902), a Canadian physician, was Whitman's first biographer, and would later become one of his medical advisors and literary executors.


1. James Burton Pond (1838–1903) was a famous lecture-manager and printer. He was also awarded the Medal of Honor for his services in the Civil War. In his 1900 autobiography Eccentricities of Genius (G. W. Dillingham Co: New York), he writes of Whitman: "Whitman gave a few readings under my management during his life. They were mostly testimonials from friends, and benefits given in the theatres of New York City"; Pond concludes with an anecdote about the poet's meeting with Sir Edwin Arnold (497–501). [back]

2. On April 25, 1887, Pond proposed to Whitman a reading in Boston on May 10. [back]

3. On May 2, Whitman sent "November Boughs" (a gathering of four poems) to James Knowles, editor of Nineteenth Century, and asked £22 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). Knowles returned the poems on May 19. Thereupon Whitman sent them on May 31 to William Walsh of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine, where they appeared in November. Whitman was paid $50 (Commonplace Book). [back]


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