Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, [13 May 1889]

Date: [May 13, 1889]

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03013

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: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Breanna Himschoot, Brandon James O'Neil, and Stephanie Blalock

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P.S. to letter1

I shd like exceedingly to learn particulars—of O'C2 last hours.3

In his letter to me I alluded to in my letter of this date to you, O'C says, "I sincerely hope no memoir long or short, of me will be written." Yet surely a newspaper notice wd not offend him. I shd like to see any such, if you receive one.


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 "P.S." could refer to Kennedy's letter of May 11–12, 1889. If it refers to another letter posted on the 13th and thus received by Whitman on the morning of the 14th in Camden, as this postal card was, then that letter is not extant. The present postal card is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Belmont | May | [illegible]; Camden [illegible] | May | 14 | 10 | Rec'd. [back]

2. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication, published in 1866. 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]

3. Ellen O'Connor informed Whitman of the death of her husband and Whitman's longtime friend and defender, William Douglas O'Connor, in her letter of May 9, 1889[back]


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