Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 2 August 1886

Date: August 2, 1886

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02900

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, Kyle Barton, and Nicole Gray

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Belmont, Mass.1
Aug. 2 / 86.

Dear Walt Whitman,

I send the MS2 to-day by Adams Express. Return at my expense by ditto.

Take yr time. I am dissatisfied with the thing.—as I always am with any work when done. But in this case I feel particularly blue—after all my rooster-crowing—for anything put beside yr writing dwindles immediately. The MS. is not done, & never would be: I have simply suspended work. I cd write forever on L. of G. because its scope is infinite. Have made the acquaintance of Sidney Morse.3 Good talks with him. He is going to bust you again in the Autumn! A good fellow!

bye bye
W. S. 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: Walt Whitman Esq | Camden | New Jersey. The return address is: 328 Mickle St. It is postmarked: BELMONT | AUG | 3 | 1886 | MASS.; [CAMDEN?] | [AUG?] | 4 | 10AM | 1886 | REC'D. [back]

2. Kennedy's manuscript, "Walt Whitman, the Poet of Humanity," eventually became two books, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (1896) and The Fight of a Book for the World (1926). [back]

3. Sidney H. Morse (1832–1903) was a self-taught sculptor as well as a Unitarian minister and, from 1866 to 1872, editor of The Radical. He visited Whitman in Camden many times and made various busts of him. Whitman had commented on an earlier bust by Morse that it was "wretchedly bad." For more on this, see Ruth L. Bohan, Looking into Walt Whitman: American Art, 1850–1920 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 105–109. [back]


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