Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 22 April 1888

Date: April 22, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02942

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.

Notes for this letter were derived from Whitman and Rolleston: A Correspondence, ed. Horst Frenz (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1951), and supplemented, updated, or created by Whitman Archive staff as appropriate. The material appears here courtesy of Indiana University Press.

Contributors to digital file: Jeannette Schollaert, Ian Faith, Stefan Schöberlein, and Stephanie Blalock

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Dear Friend:1

C'est A great moment at last this April 22, (88) Sund. Eve (I free from the gnarring of the [finite?] at my heels). Your very interesting letters rec'd & forwarded.

Last night I saw Bronson Howard's2 play—Henrietta—Robson & Crane3 chief actors. A very useful play—satire on Wall Street.

Matthew Arnold's4 article on America in the April Nineteenth Century5 you ought to read. He's as insolent & haughty toward us (amusingly so) as all other Englishmen. They are getting afraid of us—to tell the truth?


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 postal card is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey. The postmarks are illegible. [back]

2. Bronson Howard (1842–1908) was an American journalist and dramatist, whose work earned him membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters. [back]

3. Stuart Robson (1836–1903) and William Henry Crane (1845–1928) were American comedic actors who formed a popular theatrical duo that lasted twelve years. Productions such as Our Bachelors (1878) and Sharps and Flats (1880) were so successful that Bronson Howard's The Henrietta (1887) was written specifically for them. For more on Robson & Crane, see Lewis C. Strang, Famous Actors of the Day in America (Boston: L.C. Page and Company, 1900). [back]

4. The English poet and critic Matthew Arnold (1822–1888) first came to America on a lecture tour in October, 1883, and remained until March, 1884. He "returned to England confirmed by experience in his conception of the average American as a hard uninteresting type of Philistine." After a second trip to the United States in the summer of 1886, Arnold commented on American life being "uninteresting, so without savour and without depth" (Stuart P. Sherman, Matthew Arnold [Indianapolis, 1917], 46–49). [back]

5. Arnold's "Civilisation in the United States" appeared in the April 1888 issue of Nineteenth Century[back]


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