Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 25 March 1891

Date: March 25, 1891

Whitman Archive ID: rol.00003

Source: Rollins College. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Notes for this letter were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented, updated, or created by Whitman Archive staff as appropriate.

Contributors to digital file: Ryan Furlong, Amanda J. Axley, Marie Ernster, and Stephanie Blalock



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Camden NJ—
March 25 '911

Am still worrying it out poorly enough—no worse however—the Doctor2 comes every 2d day—I am satisfied with him—the printing of "Good-Bye"3 gets along slowly—I read proofs—I believe I told you the 20 pp: poetic stuff (end of L of G) was done & cast—I ask'd you if the youth's comp:4 had printed "Ship Ahoy"5 & have not rec'd any answer6

best respects to frau7
Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. This postal card is addressed: Sloane Kennedy | Belmont | Mass. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | MAR25 | 8 PM | 91. [back]

2. Daniel Longaker (1858–1949) was a Philadelphia physician who specialized in obstetrics. He became Whitman's doctor in early 1891 and provided treatment during the poet's final illness. For more information, see Carol J. Singley, "Longaker, Dr. Daniel [1858–1949]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R.LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. Whitman's book Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) was his last miscellany, and it included both poetry and short prose works commenting on poetry, aging, and death, among other topics. Thirty-one poems from the book were later printed as "Good-Bye my Fancy 2d Annex" to Leaves of Grass (1891–1892), the last edition of Leaves of Grass published before Whitman's death in March 1892. For more information see, Donald Barlow Stauffer, "'Good-Bye my Fancy' (Second Annex) (1891)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. The Youth's Companion, a weekly magazine for families and children, was founded by Nathaniel Willis in 1827. During its more than one-hundred-year run, the magazine published contributions by Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. For more on the Youth's Companion, see Susan Belasco, Youth's Companion[back]

5. Whitman's poem "Ship Ahoy!" was published in the March 12, 1891, issue of the Youth's Companion[back]

6. It is uncertain which letter is being referred to here. [back]

7. Whitman is referring to Kennedy's wife. Kennedy married Adeline Ella Lincoln (d. 1923) of Cambridge, Massachusetts, on June 17, 1883. [back]


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