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Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 4 June 1889


Your c'd just recd2—by this time you must have got papers I sent with report of dinner &c: All was a great success, intense meaning & expression yet very quiet—I was there an hour & a half at the last (drank a bottle of champagne) I felt unusually well, wh has continued ever since, till to day (not so well at present).3 The idea now is to print all in a little book4—Do you want further papers? If so I can send you. What do you mean by "the $4.99" on y'r card? I have rec'd none—

W W  loc.03027.001.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. This postal card is addressed: Sloane Kennedy | Belmont | Mass:. It is postmarked: CAMDEN, N.J. | JUN 4 | 8PM | 89. [back]
  • 2. On June 3, 1889, Kennedy had sent a brief notice of the birthday celebration from the Boston Evening Transcript and a check for $4.99, his facetious way of ordering the pocket-book edition of Leaves of Grass (Edwin Haviland Miller, ed., Walt Whitman: The Correspondence [1886–1889], 4:344n32). [back]
  • 3. For Whitman's seventieth birthday, Horace Traubel and a large committee planned a local celebration for the poet in Morgan's Hall in Camden, New Jersey. The committee included Henry (Harry) L. Bonsall, Geoffrey Buckwalter, and Thomas B. Harned. See Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Tuesday, May 7, 1889. The day was celebrated with a testimonial dinner. Numerous authors and friends of the poet prepared and delivered addresses to mark the occasion. Whitman, who did not feel well at the time, arrived after the dinner to listen to the remarks. [back]
  • 4. The notes and addresses that were delivered at Whitman's seventieth birthday celebration in Camden, on May 31, 1889, were collected and edited by Horace Traubel. The volume was titled Camden's Compliment to Walt Whitman, and it included a photo of Sidney Morse's 1887 clay bust of Whitman as the frontispiece. The book was published in 1889 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. [back]
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