Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 1 July 1886

Date: July 1, 1886

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02897

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: Alex Kinnaman, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

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July 1.

Dear W.W.

The birth of the baby occurred in Fitchburg where Mrs Kennedy has been, at her aunt's, for a month. The child will have to be with relatives, I fear, for a year or so, until I get a settled position.2 You were partially right in thinking me connected with a large printing establishment. I do do proof-reading for such at times, but have no reg. position. I had a $100. job this winter, reading Greek & Hebrew proofs. But my chief reliance is on my pen at present. I am pulling every rope to get into the custom house. In the mean time, calmly, toilingly, ohne hast, ohne rast, working away on my literary chef-d-oeuvre, "Whitman, the Poet of Humanity,"—here in my idyllic, noiseless home-cottage. Wish I cd send you some of the pinks, accept my love instead in return for yours, as something more precious. You renovate & cheerify my ethical nature every time I visit you.

WS Kennedy.

Take good care of yourself, now, & don't go & have another sun-stroke

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: Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey | 328 Mickle St.It is postmarked: BELMONT | JUL | [2?] | 1886 | MASS.; CAMDEN . N. J. | JUL | 3 | [1 PM?] | 1886 | REC'D. [back]

2. Kennedy had married Adeline Ella Lincoln (d. 1923) of Cambridge, Massachusetts, on June 17, 1883. Their son Mortimer died in infancy. [back]


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