Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 4 May 1889

Date: May 4, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: duk.00920

Source: Trent Collection of Whitmaniana, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. The transcription presented here is derived from The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:331. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Alex Ashland, Brandon James O'Neil, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden
May 4 '89

Sarrazin's1 book has come "La Ranaissance de la Poésie Anglaise 1798–1889—Paris—35 quai des grandes Augustine"—279 pp. handy beautiful French style, paper—Nothing very different in my affairs—the N Y Literary News for May has a notice2—did you see that infernal farrago of my opinions!! in the Herald3 three Sundays ago by that Japanee?4—S[tedman]5 is quite mad I hear6—O'C[onnor]7 is no better.


Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and later published biographies of Longfellow and Whittier (Dictionary of American Biography). Apparently Kennedy had called on the poet for the first time on November 21, 1880 (William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman [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).

Notes:

1. Gabriel Sarrazin (1853–1935) was a translator and poet from France, who commented positively not only on Whitman's work but also on Poe's. Whitman later corresponded with Sarrazin and apparently liked the critic's work on Leaves of Grass—Whitman even had Sarrazin's chapter on his book translated twice. For more on Sarrazin, see Carmine Sarracino, "Sarrazin, Gabriel (1853–1935)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. Whitman is referring to the notice that was printed in The Literary News, 10 (May, 1889): 180–181. [back]

3. Whitman is referring to an article by C. Sadakichi Hartmann (1867–1944), "Walt Whitman. Notes of a Conversation with the Good Gray Poet by a German Poet and Traveller." It appeared in the New York Herald on April 14, 1889. For Whitman's reactions, see his April 17, 1889, letter to Bucke and his May 4, 1889, letter to William Sloane Kennedy. See also Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, April 16, 1889, and Wednesday, April 17, 1889. Bucke prepared a correction for the Herald which was not printed (Traubel, Monday, May 6, 1889). [back]

4. C. Sadakichi Hartmann (ca. 1867–1944) was an art historian and early critic of photography as an art form. He visited Whitman in Camden in the 1880s and published his conversations with the poet in 1895. Generally unpopular with other supporters of the poet, he was known during his years in Greenwich Village as the "King of Bohemia." For more information about Hartmann, see John F. Roche, "Hartmann, C. Sadakichi (ca. 1867–1944)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833–1908) was a man of diverse talents. He edited for a year the Mountain County Herald at Winsted, Connecticut, wrote "Honest Abe of the West," presumably Lincoln's first campaign song, and served as correspondent of the New York World from 1860 to 1862. In 1862 and 1863 he was a private secretary in the Attorney General's office until he entered the firm of Samuel Hallett and Company in September, 1863. The next year he opened his own brokerage office. He published many volumes of poems and was an indefatigable compiler of anthologies, among which were Poets of America, 2 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1885) and A Library of American Literature from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, 11 vols. (New York: C. L. Webster, 1889–90). For more, see Donald Yannella, "Stedman, Edmund Clarence (1833–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

6. On May 6, 1889, Kennedy observed that he thought he had the only copy of Hartmann's criticism (see Whitman's October 20, 1887 letter), but apparently there was a duplicate. Kennedy was ready to remove the Hartmann section from his manuscript. The letter concluded: "Regards to yrself & the senior members of our masculine-comrade-family—the three or four when you write 'em." [back]

7. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). 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]


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