Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 2 January 1888

Date: January 2, 1888

Whitman Archive ID: loc.07694

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.

Related item: On the back of the last leaf of this letter, Whitman wrote his January 6, 1888, letter to Richard Maurice Bucke. He intended Kennedy's letter as an enclosure for Bucke. See loc.07629.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Ryan Furlong, Ian Faith, Stephanie Blalock, and Ashlyn Stewart



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Belmont
Jan 2 '88

To Walt Whitman:
Dear Friend:—

A letter rec'd from Fredk W. Wilson of Glasgow,1 encouraging me to go on & get subscribers for my "Walt Whitman,"— saying that I may announce his name as publisher, & that he will receive subscriptions,2 & announce that work in his lists.3

This afternoon I came home early & wrote off a rough draft of a circular for above purpose.

When Rhys4 comes he & I will talk it over.

Wd you be willing (I hardly dare to ask it) to send me for two yr book of addresses (sent by Express at my cost)—so I cd send out the circulars? Or shd I have to come on & copy them out of it in yr study?

I read to-day yr beautiful little poem in The Century.5 (I keep up my bibliogr. record always (in the "Whitman")]

I made a trip to the art museum recently to see Gen. C. G. Loring,6 the Director, about the bust. Will report later. Baxter7 has gone to Arizona, & left bust in my care. With heartiest love & greetings & Happy New Years I am as ever yr faithful son, & lover


Wm S. Kennedy

———

My idea is to charge $5. or a guinea for the vol. & print it in good style.

———

Subscribers' names be sent to me and to Wilson, and to Ernest Rhys c/o Walter Scott.8 (if I cd arrange with Rhys)

———

Correspondent:
William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and later published biographies of Longfellow 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 [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. Frederick W. Wilson was a member of the Glasgow firm of Wilson & McCormick that published the 1883 British edition of Specimen Days and Collect[back]

2. More than a year later, in his letter to Whitman of November 5, 1889, Kennedy wrote that Wilson would publish his book on Whitman only if Kennedy paid the costs of production. [back]

3. Kennedy's manuscript eventually became two books, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (1896) and The Fight of a Book for the World (1926). Alexander Gardner (1821–1882) of Paisley, Scotland, a publisher who reissued a number of books by and about Whitman, ultimately published Reminiscences of Walt Whitman in 1896 after a long and contentious battle with Kennedy over editing the book. [back]

4. Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

5. Kennedy is likely referring to Whitman's poem "Twilight," which had been published in the December 1887 issue of Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine[back]

6. Charles G. (C. G.) Loring (?–1902) was a Civil War veteran and the director of the Boston Museum of Fine Art. [back]

7. Sylvester Baxter (1850–1927) was on the staff of the Boston Herald. Apparently he met Whitman for the first time when the poet delivered his Lincoln address in Boston in April, 1881; see Rufus A. Coleman, "Whitman and Trowbridge," PMLA 63 (1948), 268. Baxter wrote many newspaper columns in praise of Whitman's writings, and in 1886 attempted to obtain a pension for the poet. For more, see Christopher O. Griffin, "Baxter, Sylvester [1850–1927]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

8. Walter Scott was a railway contractor and a publisher in London. His publishing firm, Walter Scott, was based in London and Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and it was the imprint under which Whitman's books appeared in England. Walter Scott's managing editor was bookbinder David Gordon, and Ernest Rhys—one of Whitman's major promoters in England—worked with the firm. Rhys included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. Walter Scott also published Whitman's 1886 English edition of Leaves of Grass and the English editions of Specimen Days in America (1887) and Democratic Vistas, and Other Papers (1888). [back]


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