Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 28 April 1889

Date: April 28, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.02999

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, and Stephanie Blalock

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April 28 891

Dear friend:—

Let me thank you now, lest I forget it, for your kind thoughtfulness in offering to remember me with a copy of the new flexible pocket Ed.n of L. of G.2 It is what I have long wished for. I think the value of a book of poems is many times multiplied by being in pocket form. I recently b't (35 cts) a copy of Rhys's3 Ed.n. They had no business to sell it. It came over in an invoice of Camelot Classics. There are no more to be had here. But it is only a fragment—mutilated, & has mistakes in it. I bt it to lend to Whitman beginners & weaklings. Have loaned it now to Dr. Clarence J. Blake,4 the finest aurist in Boston.

When will the little vol. be out? My yard is looking finely. 2 doz. hyacinths out.

bye bye
W. S. K.

The squirrel is eating his nut on the hickory limb while the cat half-asleep in the house-gutter on the roof eyes him askance with one eye.

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: North Cambridge Sta., Mass. | APR | 29 | 8AM | 1888; Camden, N.J. | APR | 30 | 10AM | 1888 | Rec'd. [back]

2. A special edition of Leaves of Grass was issued in honor of Whitman's 70th birthday in 1889. It was printed on thin Bible paper and had a flexible leather binding in a pocket-size format. [back]

3. Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Clarence James Blake (1843–1919) was a prominent ear doctor in Boston, professor of otology at Harvard Medical Schoool, and head of Boston's Marlborough Hospital. In addition to many medical accomplishments, he aided Alexander Graham Bell with his invention of the telephone. [back]


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