Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, [3 February 1890]

Date: [February 3, 1890]

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03084

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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "See notes Feb. 3 1890," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

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Spent1 last Sunday reading O'Connor's2 stories & roared in the Athenaeum over his ballad of Sir Ball in "The Sword of Manley"3 I was set aglow by the hearty, bluff humor, the luxuriance & abullience of one one of the characters. All of O'C's stories contain himself as one character. He always makes me better. Pity he hadn't written more. Yr card rec'd4 to-night This is the one peaceful hour before bed & sleep. Wife sewing cats gorged with meat stretched before grate, clock ticking. Heard Booth5 recently in Rich[leen?]—as ever.

W S Kennedy

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: Camden, N.J. | Feb | 3 | 9AM | 1890 | 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. The Galaxy published O'Connor's "The Ballad of Sir Ball" in March of 1868; see Whitman's May 18, 1868, letter to Messrs. Sheldon and Company. [back]

4. Kennedy may be referring to Whitman's letter of January 27, 1890[back]

5. Edwin Thomas Booth (1833–1893) was an American actor, famous for performing Shakespeare in the U.S. and Europe, the son of actor Junius Brutus Booth (1796–1852), and the brother of Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth (1838–1865), also an actor. He was the owner of Booth's Theatre in New York. [back]


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