Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 22 February 1889

Date: February 22, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02991

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: Kirby Little, Caterina Bernardini, Ian Faith, Zainab Saleh, and Stephanie Blalock

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22nd Feb. 89.

Dear Walt W.:—

How is the healthy invalid to-day? I rcd mag. of poetry (& re-mailed) & the Chicago paper. Good "ads" for you they ought to be. How hard it is to live down a pre-conceived wrong impression! These very numerous articles ought to sell any man's books rapidly.

I have just spent an hour or so writing to publishers Gardner1 & Wilson.2 Have expressed the MS. to Gardner, after waiting six weeks in vain on Wilson.3 I dislike him & his ways much. But I tell him it is still not too late if he will say the word. He acts like an imbecile—to me.

W S.K.

New4 Electric lamps in Belmont. Beautiful! I have just been out to see the brilliant star-show; noticed the big cherry tree in the lane splashed all over one side with white, & found it was one of the Electric lamps a full quarter of a mile away (on a rise of ground) that caused it. These new lights poetize the night wonderfully don't they?

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. Alexander Gardner (1821–1882) of Paisley, Scotland, was a publisher who reissued a number of books by and about Whitman; he ultimately published William Sloane Kennedy's Reminiscences of Walt Whitman in 1896 after a long and contentious battle with Kennedy over editing the book. Gardner published and co-edited the Scottish Review from 1882 to 1886. [back]

2. Frederick W. Wilson was a member of the Glasgow firm of Wilson & McCormick that published the 1883 British edition of Specimen Days and Collect[back]

3. Kennedy had reported in a letter to Whitman of January 2, 1888 that Frederick W. Wilson was willing to publish his study of Whitman. Kennedy's manuscript eventually became two books, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (1896) and The Fight of a Book for the World (1926). [back]

4. Kennedy's postscript appears (upside down) in the upper left corner of the verso of the letter. The second image has been rotated for easier reading of the postscript; the third image shows the postscript as it appears on the manuscript. [back]


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