Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 27 May 1887

Date: May 27, 1887

Whitman Archive ID: prc.00120

Source: Private collection of Dr. Kendall Reed. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Ted Genoways (Iowa City, Iowa: University of Iowa Press, 2004), 7:88. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Stefan Schöberlein, Caterina Bernardini, and Stephanie Blalock

May 27 '87

Yours of 25th rec'd & welcomed1—I think I will send you a good photo (or two) of myself for Mrs. F[airchild]2—I was aware she was a real friend of mine & appreciater of L of G. but not aware how deep and good—you have rec'd my letter of yesterday I suppose3—I felt dull & under a cloud yesterday & am so to-day—Morse had the model photo'd yesterday4—he is to take a casting from it forthwith—it is not a portrait in the usual sense—better I think.

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. Kennedy's letter is now lost. [back]

2. Elizabeth Nelson Fairchild (1845–1924) published poetry in several periodicals. She married Charles Fairchild in 1868. Elizabeth Fairchild is first mentioned in Whitman's correspondence as early as 1883. Whitman met the Fairchilds during his 1881 trip to Boston where he was preparing the 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass for publication. By 1887 Elizabeth Fairchild was assisting Kennedy with the Boston effort to raise funds to support Whitman. [back]

3. This letter is currently lost. [back]

4. Sidney H. Morse (1832–1903), the sculptor and Unitarian minister, was at the time working on a bust of Walt Whitman, a photograph of which would become the frontispiece of Camden's Compliment to Walt Whitman in 1889. For Morse's full account of the experience, see In Re Walt Whitman, ed. Horace Traubel and Thomas B. Harned (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1893), 367–391. [back]


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