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). Apparently Kennedy had 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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