Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 2 July 1890

Date: July 2, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: med.00891

Source: The location of this manuscript is unknown. Edwin Haviland Miller derives his transcription from William Sloane Kennedy's Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (London: Paisley 1896), 61. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 5:58. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

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




July 2, '90

Have seen your piece sent to H[orace Traubel's1 "Conservator"2] on my Quaker Traits; and I like it, and the statistics are right.3. . . The Transcript comes promptly and I always read it.


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. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the mid-1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. Horace Traubel founded The Conservator in March 1890, and he remained its editor and publisher until his death in 1919. Traubel conceived of The Conservator as a liberal periodical influenced by Whitman's poetic and political ethos. A fair portion of its contents were devoted to Whitman appreciation and the conservation of the poet's literary and personal reputation. [back]

3. "The Quaker Traits of Walt Whitman" appeared in the July issue of The Conservator; it was reprinted in In Re Walt Whitman (Philadelphia, PA: David McKay, 1893), 213–214, edited by Horace Traubel, Richard Maurice Bucke, and Thomas B. Harned, and in William Sloane Kennedy's Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (London: Alexander Gardner, 1896), 86–87. In Fight of a Book for the World (West Yarmouth, MA: The Stonecroft Press, 1926) Kennedy confirms: "The date authenticated by W.W." (273). [back]


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