Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 20 July 1890

Date: July 20, 1890

Whitman Archive ID: uka.00001

Source: Walt Whitman Collection, University of Kansas, Kenneth Spencer Research Library. 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.

Contributors to digital file: Ashlyn Stewart, Amanda J. Axley, Marie Ernster, Paige Wilkinson, and Stephanie Blalock

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noon July 20 '90

Will write a word as I suppose you are back at B—Am greatly disappointed at not seeing you here—Horace T2 is too—but perhaps you will be coming to Phil. for two or three days the coming fall or winter—We all like the little "Quaker traits"3 piece—it is a bit of style too, like the happiest songs or pictures—veracity (I hope) of the most undeniable, with curious ease, carelessness & impromptude—Yes, I want to send a book (or books) to Trans: man (or men) for courtesy in sending me paper—It comes promptly & I always read it—

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. This postal card is addressed: Sloane Kennedy | Belmont | Mass:. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | JUL 21 | 8 AM | 90; NY. | 7-21-90 | 11 AM | [illegible]. [back]

2. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the late 1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. "The Quaker Traits of Walt Whitman" appeared in the July 1890 issue of Horace Traubel's The Conservator; it was reprinted in In Re Walt Whitman (Philadelphia, PA: David McKay, 1893), 213–214, a volume edited by Horace Traubel, Richard Maurice Bucke, and Thomas B. Harned. It was also reprinted in William Sloane Kennedy's Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (London: Alexander Gardner, 1896), 86–87. In Fight of a Book for the World (West Yarmouth, MA: The Stonecroft Press, 1926), Kennedy confirms: "The date authenticated by W.W." (273). [back]


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