Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, [3] April 1891

Date: April [3], 1891

Whitman Archive ID: loc.03171

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, Marie Ernster, Cristin Noonan, Paige Wilkinson, Stephanie Blalock, and Amanda J. Axley



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Trans. Office—1
Frid

Dear Walt

I did not realize that you were [so?] ill. Accept deep sympathy

Nor did I realize that the booklet2 was so far along Yes, the lines appeared in Youth's Companion3—4 lines.4

Wifekin5 sends love & sympathy.

I am quite worn by the hard winter & by work; but am so so.

I must send you a jug of orange wine—three years old—when I get round to it. I see O'Connor's6 Android7 has place of honor in Atlantic monthly8 just out. I must read it.

affec.
WS Kennedy


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. Kennedy was a frequent contributor to The Boston Evening Transcript[back]

2. Whitman's book Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) was his last miscellany, and it included both poetry and short prose works commenting on poetry, aging, and death, among other topics. Thirty-one poems from the book were later printed as "Good-Bye my Fancy 2d Annex" to Leaves of Grass (1891–1892), the last edition of Leaves of Grass published before Whitman's death in March 1892. For more information see, Donald Barlow Stauffer, "'Good-Bye my Fancy' (Second Annex) (1891)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. The Youth's Companion, a weekly magazine for families and children, was founded by Nathaniel Willis in 1827. During its more than one-hundred-year run, the magazine published contributions by Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. For more on the Youth's Companion, see Susan Belasco, Youth's Companion[back]

4. Kennedy appears to be responding to a question Whitman posed in a previous letter, but the extant letters from the poet to Kennedy preceding this one do not include such a question. Kennedy might be referring to Whitman's five-line poem, "Ship Ahoy!," which appeared in The Youth's Companion (March 12, 1891): 152. [back]

5. Kennedy's wife was Adeline Ella Lincoln (d. 1923) of Cambridge, Massachusetts. They married on June 17, 1883. The couple's son Mortimer died in infancy. [back]

6. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). 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]

7. First written in 1862 but not published until 1891, William D. O'Connor's story "The Brazen Android" appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in two installments: Part 1, vol. 67, no. 402, April 1891, pp. 433–454; Part 2, vol. 67, no. 403, May 1891, pp. 577–599. The story also appeared in the collection Three Tales: The Ghost, The Brazen Android, The Carpenter (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1892), for which Whitman wrote the Preface (which he later included in Good-Bye My Fancy [Philadelphia: David McKay, 1891], 51–53). [back]

8. The Atlantic Monthly, founded in 1857 in Boston, was during Walt Whitman's lifetime a prestigious literary magazine, in which Whitman published two poems: "Bardic Symbols" and "Proud Music of the Sea-Storm." For more on Whitman's relationship with the magazine, see Susan Belasco's "The Atlantic Monthly." [back]


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