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William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 3 May 1890


I1 notice that Charlie Pfaff2 is dead. "Brunswick" of the Transcript (who is Mrs Jeanette Gilder)3 has a word in his memory in Transcript.4 I am going to stop & see you in July. Love to Dr. Bucke.5 Bluebirds (a pair) building in my box. Also robin & golden woodpecker nesting in lane. What a burst of spring! Am cutting lawn, planting & sowing loving & hating, working & eating & sleeping as usual, always a brave cheery heart Thank you for yr postal bulletin. Your Transcripts you & I pay for by our contributions, that is the agreement.

So long. W. S. K.  loc.03071.001.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: Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Belmont | May | 3 | 1890 | Mass; Camden, N. J. | May | 5 | 6am | [illegible] | Rec'd. [back]
  • 2. Charles Ignatius Pfaff (ca. 1819–1890) was the proprietor of several eating and drinking establishments in New York. He was the owner of Pfaff's, a basement beer cellar, located at 647 Broadway, where a group of American Bohemians—that included Whitman—gathered in the antebellum years. For a history of Pfaff's, see Stephanie M. Blalock's open access, online edition, "GO TO PFAFF'S!": The History of a Restaurant and Lager Beer Saloon (Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 2014), which is published online at The Vault at Pfaff's: An Archive of Art and Literature by the Bohemians of Antebellum New York, Edward Whitley and Rob Weidman, ed. (Lehigh University). For more on Whitman and the American bohemians, see Joanna Levin and Edward Whitley, ed., Whitman Among the Bohemians (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2014). [back]
  • 3. Jeannette Leonard Gilder (1849–1916) helped her brother, Richard Watson Gilder (1844–1909), edit Scribner's Monthly and then, with another brother, Joseph Benson Gilder (1858–1936), co-edited the Critic (which she co-founded in 1881). For more, see Susan L. Roberson, "Gilder, Jeannette L. (1849–1916)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. Gilder's (writing as "Brunswick") piece on Pfaff appeared in the Boston Transcript in the May 3 issue. [back]
  • 5. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
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