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William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 10 January 1888

 loc.02904.001_large.jpg Dear Walt:—

Rhys2 is here—now two days. We are having a capital time together.

I am knocking off work to have a good visit with him. (Am so tired at night after all chores are done that I have not been able to do much more than crawl into bed. This will excuse my dilatoriness as a correspondent)

Rhys & I go up to lunch with Sanborn3 Friday—Rhys to stay all night. Saturday he goes to the Saint Botolph Club,4 & to-day (snowy) we have been concocting a Boston Herald blast (varied by a forest walk after fresh eggs. I am much pleased with Rhys  loc.02904.002_large.jpg  loc.02904.003_large.jpg his bright optimistic nature. We are rubbing together as contentedly as two cats.

Had a good letter from Sidney Morse,5 & was (as tickled as Rhys says you were) over his fine old mother.

I suppose Rhys will write you further. I fear you are suffering from that old enemy lethargy & congested brain. Keep a good heart, dear friend, & believe me yours as ever

WS Kennedy


Rhys is obeying yr injunction to show me myself. Nothing delights me more & my limitations are so many. I see changes of improvement in many directions already— from his friendly suggestions.

Rhys sends love. I may see you soon myself.


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. Based on the information provided in this letter, it was written in 1888. Whitman had misdated it in the first days of the new year. [back]
  • 2. Ernest Percival Rhys (1859–1946) was a British author and editor; he founded the Everyman's Library series of inexpensive reprintings of popular works. He included a volume of Whitman's poems in the Canterbury Poets series and two volumes of Whitman's prose in the Camelot series for Walter Scott publishers. For more information about Rhys, see Joel Myerson, "Rhys, Ernest Percival (1859–1946)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. Franklin B. Sanborn (1831–1917) was an abolitionist and a friend of John Brown. In 1860, when he was tried in Boston because of his refusal to testify before a committee of the U.S. Senate, Whitman was in the courtroom (Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer [New York: Macmillan, 1955], 242). He reviewed Drum-Taps in the Boston Commonwealth on February 24, 1866. He was editor of the Springfield Republican from 1868 to 1872, and was the author of books dealing with his friends Emerson, Thoreau, and Alcott. "A Visit to the Good Gray Poet" appeared without Sanborn's name in the Springfield Republican on April 19, 1876. For more on Sanborn, see Linda K. Walker, "Sanborn, Franklin Benjamin (Frank) (1831–1917)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. The St. Botolph Club, founded in 1880, was a well-known social club in Boston, named after Botwulf of Thorney, the patron saint of Boston, England. The club attracted many luminary figures, including Henry Cabot Lodge and John Boyle O'Reilly. [back]
  • 5. 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]
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