Life & Letters

Correspondence

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


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

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]


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