Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 10 May 1889

Date: May 10, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: pml.00090

Source: The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York. The transcription presented here is derived from The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:335. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Caterina Bernardini, Brandon James O'Neil, and Stephanie Blalock




Camden
May 10 '891

Our dear friend O'Connor2 died peacefully yesterday at 2 A M3


Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
William Sloane Kennedy (1850–1929) was on the staff of the Philadelphia American and later published biographies of Longfellow 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 [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. This letter is addressed: Sloane Kennedy | Belmont | Mass:. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | May 10 | (?) | 89. [back]

2. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. On May 11-12 Kennedy responded: "How can we really believe in death? It is in yr writings, & there alone that I have found the deepest glimpses into death-realm. You have made it life-realm to me—given me an idea of it grand in mystic possibilities." [back]


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