Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 24 May 1885

Date: May 24, 1885

Whitman Archive ID: rut.00005

Source: Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. 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 created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Editorial note: The annotation, "[Poet as a Craftsman]," is in an unknown hand.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein and Kyle Barton

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328 Mickle St.
Camden NJ
May 24 '85

Dear friend

The long MS you sent me some months since is all right & I will return it to you forthwith—The whole drift of it is lofty, subtle & true—I would not put it out by itself—Such things never strike in so well in the abstract as in illustration, of some definite personal, critical concrete thing.—I suggest to you a criticism on Tennyson and Walt Whitman (or if you prefer on Victor Hugo, T and WW) where they should be work'd in—What think you?1


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. On January 16 Kennedy sent the manuscript of "The New Ars Poetica," in which he attempted to defend Whitman's poetic style. On June 2 he accepted Whitman's suggestion of expanding his article. This essay became part of The Poet as A Craftsman (see the letter from Whitman to Kennedy of December 2, 1885). [back]


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