Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 8 July 1886

WSK  loc.02898.001_large.jpg Dear W S K

I have returned from my jaunt to the Jersey sea shore1—& have rec'd yours of the 1st—Don't exactly know the scope, draft, spine of your proposed book ab't me, but entertain full faith that it has a reason-for-being, & that it will fulfil that reason—

I see in your letter, you have crossed out the "Walt" in the name—I like best to have the full name always if possible instead of merely "Whitman"2—Give both words, & don't be afraid of the tautology. I will help you & suggest or criticise freely & candidly, leaving the decision to you of course—hope you understand this, as it is.

Very hot weather here—I am quite comfortable, though—Have you rec'd Dr Knortz's German lecture?3—Burroughs is home from his Kentucky trip4—Dr Bucke will be back from England next week5

Love to you Walt Whitman  loc.02898.002_large.jpg

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. Whitman stayed at the "Minerva House" in Sea Isle City, N. J., from July 3 to 6 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
  • 2. Kennedy, on July 1, in citing the title of his "literary chef-d-oeuvre" as "Whitman, the Poet of Humanity," had stricken "Walt" from his tentative title. [back]
  • 3. On July 10 Kennedy praised Knortz's tract unstintedly. [back]
  • 4. Burroughs had commented on his trip to Kentucky on June 29. He also noted his visit with O'Connor, who "has probably got that horrible disease called progressive locomotor ataxia." [back]
  • 5. Richard Maurice Bucke came to Camden on July 18: "We go down to Glendale" (Whitman's Commonplace Book). Writing from England on June 9, Bucke had urged Whitman to spend the summer with him in London, Canada. [back]
Back to top