Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 3 February 1888

Date: February 3, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02920

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: Jeannette Schollaert, Stefan Schöberlein, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

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Frid. '881

Dear W.W.

Dr. Bucke2 tells me that the list of names he sent me was yr own list—up to 1880. If you know any intelligent young fellow who wants to earn a dollar, or $1.50, by copying from yr book (if you have such) or yr record (if you have such) the names you may have kept since that time. I shd be glad indeed to have the list. It might insure the publication of the book; for purchasers of L. of G. are of all most likely to buy my [work?].

I see that Howells3 has in the "Ed. Study" of Feb. Harper's Monthly some colorless & diplomatically drawing-roomish talk on you & Tolstoi. Pretty good though, & worth yr reading. H. is never profound, methinks; but is graceful & happy.

comradely yrs
W.S. Kennedy

How is yr health? I fear you are "loguey."

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. It is postmarked: BELMONT | FEB | 3 | MASS; CAMDEN. N.J. | FEB | 4 | 10AM | REC'D. [back]

2. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. William Dean Howells (1837–1920) was the novelist and "Dean of American Letters" who wrote The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885) among other works. He described his first meeting with Whitman at Pfaff's in Literary Friends and Acquaintances (New York: Harper & Bros., 1900), 73–76. [back]


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