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Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 5 August [1885]

Your card rec'd some days since—I had a sun stroke two weeks ago—makes me weak since (legs and bones like gelatine)—but I guess I am recuperating—My Phila: publisher McKay was just over here to pay me the income on the last six months' sales of my two Vols. L of G. and S Days—the am't was $22: & six cts.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. This card flattered Kennedy, who observed fervidly in August: "Your confidential item ab't royalties also makes me glad & wrings my heart at the same time." He enclosed $5, which, he declared, "is a pure business debt. $5000. represents my soul indebtedness to Walt Whitman, who is the only god I at present worship apart from the Universe as a whole." [back]
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