Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 16 March 1891

Date: March 16, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: med.00924

Source: The location of this manuscript is unknown. Miller derives his transcription from a transcription of the letter published in William Sloane Kennedy's Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (London: Alexander Gardener, 1896), 68. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 5:177. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Cristin Noonan, Andrew David King, Breanna Himschoot, and Stephanie Blalock

March 16.

Obstinate long continued horrible indigestion—base of all, parent of most all physical harm.1

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. Edwin Haviland Miller notes the "curious verbal repetitions here," seeing in this letter references to Whitman's poem "The Base of All Metaphysics" and a repetition of "the Mother of All" refrain from Whitman's "The Return of the Heroes." [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.