Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 18 October 1889

Date: October 18, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: loc.08106

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: Whitman wrote his November 19, 1889, letter to the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke on the back of this letter from Kennedy. See loc.07734.

Contributors to digital file: Andrew David King and Stephanie Blalock

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Belmont, Mass
Oct 18 '89

To W.W.—

Yes, dear Heart, I have—a copy of the Transatlantic, sent me gratis, & I had laid it by to send you, & do so.

I go now & get a wrap up:

I have not given up, & never shall the pub. of my apotheosis of W.W. Wilson has the MS.1 I keep fondling that pocket ed. of L. of G.2 It just meets my ideal. A book is doubled in value by pocket-form. My cousin has gone. Shall send her yr word. Her 160 acres in Dakota has risen by $50 per acre. 4 miles fr. Pierre. They call the Missouri river terraces "benches" out there she says. She speaks of bull-berries or buffalo berries, small, red, set in thorns, good jelly. "Bull-berries" sounds strong & good. I don't think I shall choose to be alone on a hill-top five days again (as with her here): It's too exciting & tantalizing!! And she a widder, too!

Must go to supper

Wilhelm. S. Kennedy.

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 [New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1933], 336–337). Apparently Kennedy 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. 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]

2. Whitman had a limited pocket-book edition of Leaves of Grass printed in honor of his 70th birthday, on May 31, 1889, through special arrangement with Frederick Oldach. Only 300 copies were printed, and Whitman signed the title page of each one. The volume also included the annex Sands at Seventy and his essay A Backward Glance O'er Traveled Roads. See Whitman's May 16, 1889, letter to Oldach. For more information on the book see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary (University of Iowa: Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 2005). [back]


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