Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 22 August 1890

Date: August 22, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: med.00930

Source: Edwin Haviland Miller derives his transcription of this letter from a photostat in the possession of Prof. Gay Wilson Allen. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 5:74. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

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

Aug: 22, '90

Thanks for Wednesday's Herald1—& indeed for all papers &c:—the calamus lozenges2 come [on] an occasion (rec'd quite a while ago)—Am well as usual—eat &c: heartily—hot weather here—plenty wet—am anchor'd helpless here all day but get along fairly—fortunately have a placid, quiet, even solitary thread quite strong in the weft of my disposition—

Walt Whitman

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. "Walt Whitman's Art," with quotations from Whitman's brief essay "An Old Man's Rejoinder," appeared in the Boston Herald on August 20. [back]

2. Kennedy occasionaly sent Whitman treats that Mrs. Kennedy had made, including "calamus sugar plums" and "calamus lozenges." [back]


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