Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy and Richard Maurice Bucke, 23 April 1888

Date: April 23, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07639

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. . The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:165. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Braden Krien, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, and Stephanie Blalock

April 23 '881

I send Logan Smith's2 letter—please forward this & it to Dr. Bucke—I am feeling badly enough to-day—cold in the head & accompaniments—nothing very new—dull dark raw weather, inclined to rain—I am sitting in the big chair all the forenoon & day doing nothing—or reading the papers wh' is ab't the same thing—Mrs. L C Moulton3 is coming here this afternoon4—I am reading Boswell's Johnson5—My Elias Hicks6 plaster bust7 stands in the corner—it is good—

Walt Whitman

William Sloane Kennedy and Richard Maurice Bucke were two of Whitman's closest friends and admirers. Kennedy (1850–1929) first met Whitman while on the staff of the Philadelphia American in 1880. He became a fierce defender of Whitman and would go on to write a book-length study of the poet. 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). Bucke (1837–1902), a Canadian physician, was Whitman's first biographer, and would later become one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. This letter is addressed: Wm Sloane Kennedy | Belmont | Mass. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Apr 23 | 8pm | 88. [back]

2. Logan Pearsall Smith (1865–1946) was an essayist and literary critic. He was the son of Robert Pearsall Smith, a minister and writer who befriended Whitman, and he was the brother of Mary Whitall Smith Costelloe, one of Whitman's most avid followers. For more information on Logan, see Christina Davey, "Smith, Logan Pearsall (1865–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Ellen Louise Chandler Moulton (1835–1908) was an American poet and critic who published several collections of verse and prose, as well as regular contributions to the New York Tribune and Boston Herald. [back]

4. On May 16, 1888 O'Connor commented on Mrs. Moulton: "Her fault was in being too Araminta-Seraphina-Matilda." Whitman agreed: "I can't endure her effusiveness: I like, respect her: but her dear this and dear that and dear the other thing make me shudder" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, March 1, 1889). [back]

5. On April 15 Whitman had borrowed Boswell from Harned: "I have never so far read it" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, April 15,1888). The poet did not respond to Johnson's "ponderous arrogance" (Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Wednesday, April 18, 1888), but continued to read the work "as a duty" (Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Thursday, April 26, 1888). He remained unimpressed when he finished the work on May 13 (Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, May 13, 1888). [back]

6. Elias Hicks (1748–1830) was a Quaker from Long Island whose controversial teachings led to a split in the Religious Society of Friends in 1827, a division that was not resolved until 1955. Hicks had been a friend of Whitman's father and grandfather, and Whitman himself was a supporter and proponent of Hicks's teachings, writing about him in Specimen Days (see "Reminiscence of Elias Hicks") and November Boughs (see "Elias Hicks, Notes (such as they are)"). For more on Hicks and his influence on Whitman, see David S. Reynolds, Walt Whitman's America (New York: Knopf, 1995), 37–39. [back]

7. The bust of Hicks was sculpted by Sidney Morse (1832–1903), a self-taught sculptor as well as a Unitarian minister and, from 1866 to 1872, editor of The Radical. He visited Whitman in Camden many times and made various busts of him. [back]


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