Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 1 April 1890

Y'r card rec'd2—thanks—fine sunny day & clear evn'g, after snow-storm &c—I have the grip at last & quite badly—am sitting here alone in my den—nothing very new—my eyes failing—Expect to give (& wish to) my "Death of Abraham Lincoln" memorandum April 15 in Phila:3—shall have a little poemet in May Century4—Did I tell you to look at (London) Universal Review Feb. 15 for piece ab't me by Sarrazin?5 Love to Mrs K—


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 letter is addressed: Sloane Kennedy | Belmont | Mass:. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Apr 1 | 8 PM | 90. [back]
  • 2. On March 31, 1890, Kennedy wrote: "The productions of Homer & Milton seem quite boyish in comparison with the profound cosmic epic L. of G." [back]
  • 3. Whitman first delivered this lecture in New York in 1879 and would deliver it at least eight other times over the succeeding years, delivering it for the last time on April 15, 1890. He published a version of the lecture as "Death of Abraham Lincoln" in Specimen Days & Collect (1882–83). For more on the lecture, see Larry D. Griffin, "'Death of Abraham Lincoln,'" Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, ed., (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. "A Twilight Song" was accepted on February 26 by Century, which printed it in May and paid Walt Whitman $25 (The Commonplace-Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
  • 5. The Universal Review reprinted Gabriel Sarrazin's essay "Poètes modernes de l'Amérique—Walt Whitman" in French. See The Universal Review 6 (1890): 247–269 [back]
Back to top