Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 17 July 1887

Date: July 17, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00854

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), 4:109. 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, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock

Sunday Evn'g July 17 '87

Heat, heat, heat, night & day—I find Evn'g a great relief—have pass'd great part of to-day lying on the lounge, with a big palm-leaf fan—have read Fullerton in the Record and Mrs. E. in Herald1—best thanks to both—I suppose O'C[onnor]2 is in Wash'n, very poorly, but have not got word thence of his arrival3—I am just going to my supper (blackberries)—

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 Morlow Fullerton's eulogistic two-column review apparently appeared in the Sunday Record and then was reprinted on July 20 in the Boston Advertizer (Charles E. Feinberg Collection, the Library of Congress). Fullerton thanked Whitman on August 1 for some photographs and pamphlets. The article by "Mrs. E." has not yet been identified, but it was probably written by Mrs. Elizabeth Fairchild. On July 5 the Boston Herald copied from the Providence Journal "The Whitman Craze," which mocked the Whitman clubs. [back]

2. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication, published in 1866. For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Apparently Whitman had a lapse of memory; see Whitman's letter to William Sloane Kennedy of July 13, 1887[back]


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