Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, [18 August 1886]

Date: August 18, 1886

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02902

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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Dear Walt Whitman

The MS. to—hand1

I am very glad indeed, & thankful, for all the capital suggestions & amendments you have made. I have followed them all, or am doing it. I have a good many little additions to make myself—things which the close work of concordance-making suggested to me. I will cut out everything you advise. As to Ballou2 & Scovel,3 I will cut out nearly everything of Ballou's retaining only a little to put with large quotations from Scovel's article. I can improve that personal chapter very much by working it over, smoothing down & melding things together more.

How wd that MS—"Of That Blithe Throat" &c—You gave me, do for a fac-simile page to put into the Bibliography where I speak of your typographical finesse &c? Or wd you prefer to send me a clean draft of something in case the publishers thought best to give the fac-simile? People like to see the erasures &c I believe.

I have thought that I might perhaps get more from Chatto & Windus if I guaranteed them for three years against the republication of the book in this country. I am going to copyright it, here right away, or very soon. What wd you say to this—guaranteeing the British publisher the market?

An error in L. of G.

By the way I suppose of course you have noticed that the characters "§ 9" of the Salut are by mistake omitted in L. of G.4

I have a nice letter form Scovel wh. I shall answer.

The hot weather has [worked?] on me a little too.

As ever dear Walt
W.S. Kennedy

I will omit Conway5 & Goldsmith entirely, & not sorry to do it.

If Morse6 makes a bust satisfactory to you, I shall have picture of it in the book.

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. See Whitman's letter of August 13, 1886[back]

2. William H. Ballou (1857–1937) was a journalist and natural scientist who falsely reported in the Cleveland Leader and Herald in 1885 that Whitman was about to go to England to visit Tennyson; he conducted two interviews with the poet in 1885 and 1886. See Ballou's interview with Whitman of June 28, 1885 for the Leader and Herald and his interview with Whitman of June 12, 1886 for the Chicago Daily Tribune[back]

3. James Matlack Scovel (1833–1904) worked as a layer in Camden before entering the New Jersey legislature during the Civil War and becoming a colonel in 1863. He campaigned actively for Horace Greeley in 1872, and was a special agent for the U.S. Treasury during Arthur's administration. In the 1870s Whitman frequently went to Scovel's home for Sunday breakfast. For a description of these breakfasts, see Walt Whitman's Diary in Canada, ed. William Sloane Kennedy (Boston: Small, Maynard, 1904), 59–60. For Scovel, see George R. Prowell's The History of Camden County, New Jersey (Philadelphia: L. J. Richards, 1886). [back]

4. The section number "9" was indeed omitted from "Salut au Monde!" in the 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass[back]

5. Moncure Conway (1832–1907) was a Unitarian minister who lived in England from the 1860s until 1885, where he served as a supporter of Whitman and wrote frequently about the poet. [back]

6. 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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