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William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 16 June 1887


[illegible] of 13 req. I shall at once get over to Baxter.1 Think—in fact sure—that O'Reilly2 is no more—surer of the fund than Baxter or I. But he might well be. All he has is the Papyrus paper of promises & ten dollars or so in cash. Baxter has abt $200 or over in cash. I for my part will advise him to collect and send on the whole amount as soon as he possibly can. It wd be a good idea perhaps for him to send on now what he has [illegible] on. I am sure we shall all be quite satisfied with yr plans, for my part I am [illegible] pleased that you are going to make [illegible] [illegible] the matter & take it with yr own hands for [illegible] how vital a matter it is to you. There is only one drawback with me, however, and it is that my excuse for visitig you is gone. [illegible] had cunningly arranged that my contribution [illegible] be my expenses to Camden & board bills [illegible] there helping you get domicilled. I was going [illegible] actually hammer & saw if necessary. (I built my own study out in Ohio when a lad). But as you will not be unwilling to see me a few days any [illegible] though you don't write me to ever come. I thought you might be bored with so many visitors as you probably are. By the way, please give for [illegible] a cordial invitation to Mr Gilchrist3 to come and see me [illegible] here. I felt [illegible] sons about yr health. You had better write me [illegible] Baxter, as he is chef in the cottage farm business.4 Am [illegible] abt [illegible] Thanks for telling me abt him.

As always yrs affec. WS Kennedy  bpl.00013.001_large.jpg

PS. I have a shrewd guess that you intend to sell or rent yr present house, & build or buy the new one on the Long Island shore. But I shan't impart my surmise to any one else. How happy I shall be to come & see you when you are in the new house! Egad, think of that, man,—the new house, I mean. Mrs F.5 has just sent on some plans for a building. They don't seem to know that you are a house builder.

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. Sylvester Baxter (1850–1927) was on the staff of the Boston Herald. Apparently he met Whitman for the first time when the poet delivered his Lincoln address in Boston in April, 1881; see Rufus A. Coleman, "Whitman and Trowbridge," PMLA 63 (1948), 268. Baxter wrote many newspaper columns in praise of Whitman's writings, and in 1886 attempted to obtain a pension for the poet. For more, see Christopher O. Griffin, "Baxter, Sylvester [1850–1927]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 2. John Boyle O'Reilly (1844–1890) was a fervent Irish patriot who joined the British Army in order to sabotage it. He was arrested and sentenced to be hanged in 1866. Later the decree was altered, and O'Reilly was sent to Australia, where he escaped on an American whaler in 1869. In 1876 he became the coeditor of the Boston Pilot, a position which he held until his death in 1890. See William G. Schofield, Seek for a Hero: The Story of John Boyle O'Reilly (New York: Kennedy, 1956). For more on O'Reilly, see also the letter from Whitman to James R. Osgood of May 8, 1881. [back]
  • 3. Herbert Harlakenden Gilchrist (1857–1914), son of Alexander and Anne Gilchrist, was an English painter and editor of Anne Gilchrist: Her Life and Writings (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1887). For more information, see Marion Walker Alcaro, "Gilchrist, Herbert Harlakenden (1857–1914)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. Boston friends were raising money to buy a summer cottage they hoped would improve Whitman's failing health. Whitman eventually used the money to build his extravagant mausoleum in Harleigh Cemetery—to the shock and dismay of those who had worked hardest to solicit money for the cottage. [back]
  • 5. Elizabeth Fairchild was the wife of Colonel Charles Fairchild, the president of a paper company, to whom Whitman sent the Centennial Edition on March 2, 1876 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). He mailed her husband a copy of Progress in April, 1881, shortly after his visit to Boston, where he probably met the Fairchilds for the first time (Commonplace Book). [back]
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