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). Apparently Kennedy had 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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