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Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 22 March 1888

Yours of 21 & the Transcripts & the Scotch papers rec'd—thanks for all—I have written you quite copiously lately—I continue well for me—all the little Herald pieces1 will appear (with misprints corrected) in November Boughs2—two things the reason why of this card. Dont let your Wilson book3 go to press till you have read the proofs. 2d—please enclose to me the Alabama letter, to be return'd to you4—dont mind its malignance—the blizzard & its immediate results all over here—dark and rainy now—I am sitting here alone in the big chair—


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. In late 1887, James Gordon Bennett, Jr., editor of the New York Herald, invited Whitman to contribute a series of poems and prose pieces for the paper. From December 1887 through August 1888, 33 of Whitman's poems appeared. [back]
  • 2. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. Whitman is referring to Kennedy's manuscript "Walt Whitman, Poet of Humanity." Kennedy had reported in a letter to Whitman of January 2, 1888 that Frederick W. Wilson was willing to publish the study. Kennedy's manuscript eventually became two books, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (1896) and The Fight of a Book for the World (1926). [back]
  • 4. Whitman is probably referring to a letter from John Newton Johnson. For the letter, see William Sloane Kennedy, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman [1896], 19–21. On March 29, 1888, Kennedy confessed "a good deal of sympathy for our cranky friend Johnson." [back]
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