Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 26 January 1888

Date: January 26, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00897

Source: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:145. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, Stefan Schöberlein, and Stephanie Blalock

Jan: 26 late Evn'g [1888]

I have look'd over the MS1 &c—hardly made any emendations—Shall send it back soon—y'r card dated 24th rec'd2—What do you mean ab't E R[hys]3?—write more fully & plainly—I am ab't as usual—very cold here—It is most 10 & I am going off to bed—


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. Kennedy worked for many years on a book about Whitman and often sent Whitman sections to review; not until after Whitman's death, in 1896, was his Reminiscences of Walt Whitman published. [back]

2. This letter is apparently lost. Since Kennedy and Ernest Rhys failed to hit it off, the lost letter probably referred to the impending rift between them. See also the letter from Whitman to Herbert Gilchrist of March 12, 1888[back]

3. Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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