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William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, [On or After 12 July 1889]

 loc.03029.001_large.jpg Dear Walt:

I guess we We have to wait for the book1 & pub. it here sometimes I send you the poltroon's2 letter.3 How do you feel this weather,

aff. WS Kennedy  loc.03029.002_large.jpg  loc.03030.001_large.jpg  loc.03030.002_large.jpg  loc.03030.003_large.jpg  loc.03030.004_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. Kennedy is referring to his book manuscript "Walt Whitman, Poet of Humanity," which later became two books, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (1896) and The Fight of a Book for the World (1926). Alexander Gardner, a publisher from Paisley, Scotland, would ultimately publish Reminiscences of Walt Whitman in 1896 after a long and contentious battle with Kennedy over editing the book. [back]
  • 2. In his April 8, 1889, letter to Whitman, Kennedy refers to Alexander Gardner—the publisher who reissued a number of books by and about Whitman—as a "poltroon" or coward. Gardner had accepted Kennedy's manuscript for Walt Whitman the Poet of Humanity, but wanted to cut out "the censor's list of objectionable passages." Kennedy writes, "I suppose his idea is that people will buy L. of G. more if they are not given the passages in question in my book. . . . I shall satisfy him." [back]
  • 3. Kennedy is referring to a letter he had received from Gardener, dated July 12, 1889, which expresses Gardner's increasing reluctance to publish Kennedy's book. Kennedy then sent this letter from Gardner as an enclosure for Whitman. Although Kennedy did not provide a date for this letter to Whitman, Kennedy must have written it after receiving Gardner's letter of July 12, 1889. Images of both Kennedy's letter to Whitman and the enclosed letter from Gardner to Kennedy are provided. [back]
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