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). Apparently Kennedy had 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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