Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 4 June 1889

Date: June 4, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03027

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



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Camden
pm June 4 '891

Your c'd just recd2—by this time you must have got papers I sent with report of dinner &c: All was a great success, intense meaning & expression yet very quiet—I was there an hour & a half at the last (drank a bottle of champagne) I felt unusually well, wh has continued ever since, till to day (not so well at present).3 The idea now is to print all in a little book4—Do you want further papers? If so I can send you. What do you mean by "the $4.99" on y'r card? I have rec'd none—


W W


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. This postal card is addressed: Sloane Kennedy | Belmont | Mass:. It is postmarked: CAMDEN, N.J. | JUN 4 | 8PM | 89. [back]

2. On June 3, 1889, Kennedy had sent a brief notice of the birthday celebration from the Boston Evening Transcript and a check for $4.99, his facetious way of ordering the pocket-book edition of Leaves of Grass (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., Walt Whitman: The Correspondence [1886–1889], 4:344n32). [back]

3. For Whitman's seventieth birthday, Horace Traubel and a large committee planned a local celebration for the poet in Morgan's Hall in Camden, New Jersey. The day was celebrated with a testimonial dinner. Numerous authors and friends of the poet prepared and delivered addresses to mark the occasion. Whitman, who did not feel well at the time, arrived after the dinner to listen to the remarks. [back]

4. The notes and addresses that were delivered at Whitman's seventieth birthday celebration on May 31, 1889 in Camden, were collected and edited by Horace Traubel. The volume was titled Camden's Compliment to Walt Whitman, and it included a photo of Sidney Morse's 1887 clay bust of Whitman as the frontispiece. The book was published in 1889 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. [back]


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