Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 1 September 1890

Date: September 1, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03090

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 Sept. 4, '90," is in the hand of Horace Traubel.

Contributors to digital file: Kirby Little, Ian Faith, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

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Have1 written piece.2 Do you know whether Amy Williams,3 or her husband, was of Welsh descent? I believe all Williamses are Welsh. I shall look up Savage's genealogy4 anent.

Shant pub. quite yet, though. Want to look up things a little first.

W. S. K.

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 postal card is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Belmont | Sep | 1 | 1890 | Mass.; Camden, N.J. | Sep | 2 | 9am | 1890 | Rec'd. [back]

2. Kennedy published "Dutch Traits of Walt Whitman" in Horace Traubel's Conservator (February 1891); it was reprinted in Horace Traubel, Richard Maurice Bucke, and Thomas B. Harned, ed., In Re Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1893), 195–199; the piece ends with Kennedy's speculation: "As for Whitman's imaginative genius, I have sometimes wondered, did it not come in, perchance, through a Welsh crevice? His maternal grandmother was a Williams, and almost all Williamses are Welsh." [back]

3. Naomi [Amy] Williams (d. 1826) was the maternal grandmother of Walt Whitman. For more about Williams, see Amy M. Bawcom, "Van Velsor, Naomi [Amy] Williams [d. 1826]," Walt Whitman: An Enclycopedia, ed J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. James Savage's (1784–1873) Genealogical Dictionary of the First Settlers of New England (1860) was an important source of genealogical information about the first generations of European immigrants to North America. [back]


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