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Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 13 July 1887

Very hot to-day—now two weeks of it & I am pulled down by it badly—feel it to-day worse than yet—have had a few mouthfuls of dinner, & am sitting here in my big chair—after reading your letter & O'C[onnor]'s1 to you2—H[erbert] G[ilchrist]3 is here painting, & Morse4 sculping—I enclose my last little piece—a slip copy—a N Y newspaper syndicate (S S McClure, Tribune Building) vehemently solicited, & gave me $25 (far more than it is worth)—Then I have sent a three line piece "Twilight" ($10) to the "Century"5 wh' they accepted & paid for—Hartman6 has been in Phila ten days, but returns to B[oston]—what do you think of him & of his projected "Society"—As I close every thing is faint & still with the heat—

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. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication, published in 1866. For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 2. O'Connor wrote on July 2 to Dr. Bucke and Kennedy (Charles E. Feinberg Collection, the Library of Congress). Whitman received a (lost) card from Mrs. O'Connor on July 12 (Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [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. Sidney H. Morse (1832–1903) was a self-taught sculptor as well as a Unitarian minister and, from 1866 to 1872, editor of The Radical. He visited Whitman in Camden many times and made various busts of him. Whitman had commented on an earlier bust by Morse that it was "wretchedly bad." For more on this, see Ruth L. Bohan, Looking into Walt Whitman: American Art, 1850–1920 (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006), 105–109. [back]
  • 5. The poem appeared in the December issue. [back]
  • 6. Carl Sadakichi Hartmann (1869–1944) was the son of a German father and a Japanese mother and author of books on religion, art, and poetry. On June 21, 1889, Baxter informed Whitman of a "call" from "your friend Hartmann, who is on his way back to Philadelphia from Europe." Hartmann published in the New York Herald on April 14, 1889, "Walt Whitman. Notes of a Conversation with the Good Gray Poet by a German Poet and Traveller." Whitman expressed his disapproval of the article in his letter to William Sloane Kennedy of May 4, 1889. Hartmann also tried to establish a Walt Whitman Society in Boston. Whitman would later credit Kennedy and Sylvester Baxter with putting an end to Hartmann's Whitman Club at the poet's request (Horace Traubel, ed., With Walt Whitman in Camden, Saturday, September 8, 1888). [back]
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