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William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, [4 September 1888]

 loc.02955.001.jpg Dear Walt W.

I enclose letter fr St Louis1

I have begun to copy over (clean) some 70 pp of the Whitman ms. (my book).

Glad to hear of yr new books.2 Am still reading proof.

WS Kennedy

I don't see much prospect of my work on you seeing the light soon, But—.

Regards to Traubel.3


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. On September 1, 1888, Jacob Klein, a St. Louis lawyer, wrote to Kennedy to inquire whether he should write directly to Whitman in order to obtain the 1876 edition of Leaves of Grass. Kennedy forwarded the letter to Whitman, including it as an enclosure with this letter. Whitman wrote "ans'd" on Klein's note. See also Whitman's letters to Klein of September 10, 1888 and September 17, 1888. [back]
  • 2. Kennedy is probably referring to Whitman's November Boughs, which would be published in October 1888, and Complete Poems & Prose, which would be published in December 1888. [back]
  • 3. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the late 1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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