Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, [18] April 1889

Date: April [18], 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02997

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 Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented, updated, or created by Whitman Archive staff as appropriate.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Breanna Himschoot, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock



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April '891

Yes, I sent on the letter of Stedman2 & O'C.3 (& yrs). Stedman's letter4 was extremely interesting, impetuous, egotistic, vain, extravagant, affectionate & warm—quite characteristic. His Lib. of Am Lit.5 I can't like very much, somehow. Good for cross‑road school-houses, I suppose. Thank you very much for Stedman's letter. A copious green‑silver warmish rain today. Worked to‑day on Greek type & proofs.

as always yr frd.—
W.S.K.


Correspondent:
William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and later published biographies of Longfellow 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 [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).

Notes:

1. The date appears after the signature. The card was originally addressed to Mrs. S.E. Kennedy, but her name has been crossed out. This postal card is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Apr | 19 | 10 AM | 1889 | Rec'd. [back]

2. Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833–1908) was a man of diverse talents. He edited for a year the Mountain County Herald at Winsted, Connecticut, wrote "Honest Abe of the West," presumably Lincoln's first campaign song, and served as correspondent of the New York World from 1860 to 1862. In 1862 and 1863 he was a private secretary in the Attorney General's office until he entered the firm of Samuel Hallett and Company in September, 1863. The next year he opened his own brokerage office. He published many volumes of poems and was an indefatigable compiler of anthologies, among which were Poets of America, 2 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1885) and A Library of American Literature from the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time, 11 vols. (New York: C. L. Webster, 1889–90). For more, see Donald Yannella, "Stedman, Edmund Clarence (1833–1908)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Kennedy is referring to Stedman's letter to Whitman of March 27, 1889. Whitman had enclosed Stedman's letter in his April 8, 1889, letter to Kennedy. [back]

5. A Library of Great American Literature: From the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time was an eleven-volume set compiled and edited by Stedman and Ellen MacKay Hutchinson and released from 1889–1890. [back]


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