Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, [10 October] 1889

Date: [October 10], 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03052

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, Breanna Himschoot, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock



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I forgot1 to tell you that I had a nice visit w. Mrs O'Connor.2 We walked and talked for an hour in Athenaeum & on Common. I refunded $5. to her & we went down and saw Benj. Tucker3 & he wd take nothing of course for six copies4 of the paper on William.5 Mrs K6 being away I could not have Mrs O'C out here this time but invited her for another.—Busy times, lots of letters, have a visitor—cousin—coming to see me for a few days. Baxter7 had an article on you in Herald.8 I see by it you have the new ed. of L. of G. out, glad of it.


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. This letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey | It is postmarked: CAMDEN | NJ | OCT 11 | 6 AM | 1889 | REC'D. There is a Belmont postmark, but it is illegible. [back]

2. Ellen M. "Nelly" O'Connor was the wife of William D. O'Connor (1832–1889), one of Whitman's staunchest defenders. Before marrying William, Ellen Tarr was active in the antislavery and women's rights movements as a contributor to the Liberator and to a women's rights newspaper Una. Whitman dined with the O'Connors frequently during his Washington years. Though Whitman and William O'Connor would temporarily break off their friendship in late 1872 over Reconstruction policies with regard to emancipated black citizens, Ellen would remain friendly with Whitman. The correspondence between Whitman and Ellen is almost as voluminous as the poet's correspondence with William. For more on Whitman's relationship with the O'Connors, see Dashae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas [1832–1889]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, ed. (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Benjamin Ricketson Tucker (1854–1939) was an American activist and editor of the anarchist periodical Liberty, which ran from 1881 to 1908. [back]

4. In her September 26, 1889 letter to Whitman, Nelly writes "I have written to Tucker asking him to save six copies for me till I go to Boston, & can call or send for them." [back]

5. 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]

6. William Sloane Kennedy married Adeline Ella Lincoln of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1883; they lived for forty years in a house they built in Belmont, Massachusetts. [back]

7. Sylvester Baxter (1850–1927) was on the staff of the Boston Herald. Apparently he met Whitman for the first time when the poet delivered his Lincoln address in Boston in April, 1881; see Rufus A. Coleman, "Whitman and Trowbridge," PMLA 63 (1948), 268. Baxter wrote many newspaper columns in praise of Whitman's writings, and in 1886 attempted to obtain a pension for the poet. For more, see Christopher O. Griffin, "Baxter, Sylvester [1850–1927]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

8. Baxter reviewed "Whitman's Complete Works" in the Boston Herald on January 3, 1889; no later 1889 Baxter piece on Whitman in the Herald is known. [back]


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