Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 19 September 1890

Date: September 19, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: med.00931

Source: Edwin Haviland Miller derives his transcription from a transcript of the letter published in William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (London: Alexander Gardener, 1896), 88. . The transcription presented here is derived from The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 5:88. 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

Sept. 19, '90

A basket of nice Seckel pears just rec'd (Prof. Cattell,1 Penn. Univ.:), sweet and juicy.

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. Henry Ware Cattell (1862–1936), a pathologist and medical editor affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, was a member of the American Anthropometric Society; following the autopsy of Whitman in 1892, he would remove the poet's brain so that it could be stored and studied as a specimen of an advanced human brain. See James R. Wright, "Henry Ware Cattell and Walt Whitman’s Brain," Clinical Anatomy 31 (2018), 988–996. [back]


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