Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 2 June 1885

Date: June 2, 1885

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02603

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.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, Kyle Barton, and Nicole Gray

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Belmont Mass1

Dear Mr Whitman:

Yr suggestion is excellent. I hd tho't of it, vaguely. I send a few stamps for the MS,—all I have by me.

Thanks for yr kindness & interest in the MS.2

A good holiday to you!

WS Kennedy

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. This letter is addressed: Mr Walt Whitman | 328 Mickle St | Camden | N. Jersey. It is postmarked: BELMONT | JUN | 2 | MASS.; CAMDEN, N.J. | JUN | 3 | 8 AM | 1885 | REC'D. [back]

2. Kennedy had been writing a defense of Whitman and sent a manuscript of the essay to Whitman on January 16, 1885. Growing impatient, he reminded the poet to answer his letter on March 12. Over two months later, on May 24, Whitman responded, finding the manuscript "all right" as well as "lofty, subtle & true" but suggesting Kennedy add "a criticism on Tennyson and Walt Whitman (or if you prefer on Victor Hugo, T and WW)." [back]


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