Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 14 August 1890

Date: August 14, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03089

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 created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Contributors to digital file: Ian Faith, Ryan Furlong, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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Aug: 14 '90 Evn'g

Thanks for the Herald too with the good acc't, wh' I was wanting2—Have you seen a good acc't of the rebel veteran show at the Richmond Lee3 statue4 unveiling? It is very curious. I have a good acc't wh' I will lend you if you want—(to be return'd to me)—All goes on fairly with me these days—Have a little piece in (probably) the forthcoming Critic5—have just got outside of my supper—am going out in wheel chair.6


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 postcard is addressed: Sloane Kennedy | Belmont Mass:. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Aug 14 | 6 AM | 90. [back]

2. Kennedy described the Grand Army of the Republic (G. A. R.) convention in his letter to Whitman of August 12, 1890 and evidently sent a clipping from the Boston Herald. Apparently Whitman sent the letter to a Camden newspaper; see Kennedy's letter to Whitman on August 23, 1890. The poet did not comment on Kennedy's report of the death of Whitman's old friend John Boyle O'Reilly; however, it was noted in the Camden Morning News on August 15, 1890 (A. L. McLeod, ed., Walt Whitman in Australia and New Zealand 1964, 29). [back]

3. General Robert E. Lee (1807–1870) was an American military officer who commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War. [back]

4. Whitman is referring to the May 29, 1890, unveiling of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee (the Robert E. Lee Monument) in Richmond, Virginia. [back]

5. Whitman's "An Old Man's Rejoinder" was published in The Critic 17 (August 16, 1890): 85–86. It was later reprinted in Good-Bye My Fancy (1891). [back]

6. Horace Traubel and Ed Wilkins, Whitman's nurse, went to Philadelphia to purchase a wheeled chair for the poet that would allow him to be "pull'd or push'd" outdoors. See Whitman's letter to William Sloane Kennedy of May 8, 1889[back]


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