Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 2 [September] 1890

Date: [September] 2, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: owu.00091

Source: The Bayley-Whitman Collection, Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, OH. The transcription presented here is derived from The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 5:79–80. 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

noon [Sept:]2 2 '90

Y'r card rec'd ab't piece—don't know of Williams having any mark'd Welsh blood—never heard ab't that—one of the stock names on the womens' (Williams')3 side was Kossabone (doubtless Causabone) (Jenny Kossabone my g't grandmother mother's side)4—Yes, keep it awhile, no hurry at all—If you feel to do so, send MS to me to see if points right—but do as you have a mind to—no hurry ab't piece—


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. This letter is addressed: Sloane Kennedy | Belmont | Mass:. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Sep 2 | 8 PM | 90. [back]

2. The date for this postal card is based on the postmark, which indicates that Whitman misdated it. For information on Whitman's maternal ancestors, see see Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), 596. [back]

3. Naomi [Amy] Williams (d. 1826) was the maternal grandmother of Walt Whitman. For more about Williams, see Amy M. Bawcom, "Van Velsor, Naomi [Amy] Williams [d. 1826]," Walt Whitman: An Enclycopedia, ed J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Whitman believed that his maternal great-grandmother was Jenny or Mary Kossabone. But genealogy records, specifically baptism records from the Dutch Reformed Church, suggest that Whitman's maternal great-grandmother may have been Margarita Pe[e]kke Ryder instead of Jenny or Mary Kossabone. [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.