Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 20 January 1881

Date: January 20, 1881

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02598

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial notes: The annotation, "from W S Kennedey, a college-bred man of 30, southern born but northern educated, an author & magazine writer," is in the hand of Walt Whitman. The annotation, "see notes June 24 1888," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Kirsten Clawson, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Eder Jaramillo, Nicole Gray, Stefan Schöberlein, Elizabeth Lorang, and Kenneth M. Price

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1107 Girard St.
Jan 20 / 81

Dear Mr W.

Thanks for the N. A. Review. I had already read two or three times yr admirable, cheerful & spirited paper, & wanted to buy it but did not feel able. I think (though I am not sure) that an article on it will appear in The American soon, by a couple of us. You will be safe in attributing the praise to me, though I "have somewhat against you" for rapping the dii minores among our poets, so hard over the coxcombs. Still it will do them good doubtless. They have treated you ungenerously & foppishly—always (most of them).

You have no idea how I welcome an utterance of yrs. I get so utterly sick of the idiocy and knavery of the mass that it is like a sea-breeze to feel & hear your voice. It tickles my diaphragm to see you run yr huge subsoil prairie plough so deep down under the feet of the Lilliputians—knocking down their sham structures & leaving them either sprawling on the ground, or looking foolishly at one another because exposed in their small trickeries, & small literary bookeries.

I heartily congratulate you, dear friend, that at last you are having justice done you (in some degree) by the literary class of this country. My heart, at least, swells with gladness & pride on account of yr honors this winter. It is a red letter season in yr life—The honor not much; but then one likes to stand well at home too, as well as abroad;—one likes it a little better too.

But I have never wondered that you were caviare to the general; because, although I see clearly that yr object in treating the passions as you do is a noble & pure one; yet I have thought that the world was not ready for such a move yet. And besides, I am inclined to think with Stedman, that (to such poor limited and petty creatures as we bipeds are) there is something intrinsically disagreeable in the various grosser functions of the body.

I hope we shall grow to be such giants sometime that this will not be so. But that it is the case now, I do not see how we can help admitting. I can't for my poor self at any rate. But never mind this, I congratulate you again on this success.

Yr friend cordially,
W. S. Kennedy.


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