Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, [18 February 1891]

Date: [February 18, 1891]

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03125

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: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ian Faith, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock

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Yes,1 I have seen Havelock's2 bk & chap. on W.W. Yes it is very gloomy weather. I am "swain by winter pinched & worn"3 somewhat myself, toothache &c. Had a stunning dinner, though today (at great upstairs Quincy market restaurant) (chicken soup & rump steak & corn bread.) Yr frequent mention of oysters has led me to think of them, & we have 'em often. I stick a can full in ulster pocket, & merrily home I glide. Good letter fr. mother today (in Oberlin). Well the richest blessings of time & eternity to you in a glass of orange wine (good, too). Love unlimited fr. yr constant lover & friend.


I4 see they are celebrating Lincoln's birthday now more and more.

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 | N [illegible] Jersey. It is postmarked: Boston, Mass | Feb 18 | 3 15 P [illegible] | 1891; Camden, N.J. | Feb | 19 | 9 AM | 1891 | Rec'd. [back]

2. Henry Havelock Ellis (1859–1939) was an English physician and sexologist. He co-wrote Sexual Inversion (published in German 1896; English translation in 1897) with Whitman correspondent John Addington Symonds. His book The New Spirit, with a chapter on Whitman, appeared in 1890. [back]

3. Kennedy is quoting a line from Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem "Fragments on Nature and Life" ("The Garden"): "Solar insect on the wing / In the garden murmuring, / Soothing with thy summer horn / Swains by winter pinched and worn." [back]

4. Kennedy has written this postscript in the top margin of the postal card above the rest of his note to Whitman. [back]


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