Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 25 June 1889

Date: June 25, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03015

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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Just1 picked a [sweet—?] brier twig—wild—back of home. More fit to send you than cultivated roses. I dipped into Song of Myself yesterday. Am always awed by the power & superhuman worth of that greatest of poems yet made. If it were not so very great it wd make me envious! I sent three lines—just—to Gardner2 of Paisley—yesterday, asking him if I had missed a letter fr. him, that I had not heard since April.

affec. yr friend
W. S. Kennedy.

Am reading Mahaffy's Rambles in Greece,3 good writer4

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. It is postmarked: North Cambridge Sta, Mass. | Jun | 25 | 8AM | 1889; Camden, N.J. | JUN | 26 | 8AM | 1889. [back]

2. 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]

3. Irish Scholar John Pentland Mahaffy (1839–1919) published Rambles and Studies in Greece in 1876. [back]

4. Kennedy has added this postscript by writing over his message to Whitman on the recto of the postal card. The postscript begins at the top of the right side of the recto. [back]


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