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William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 31 March 1890

 loc.03072.002.jpg Dear W. W.

Yesterday (Sunday) afternoon) read again with deepest interest the Songs of Parting. I keep touching deeper & not before understood tho'ts with my plummet in reading you,—espec. in these solemn hymns of the Infinite. The productions of Homer & Milton seem quite boyish in comparison with the profound cosmic epic L. of G. It is a refreshing draught to me after the Bafflement of the week in newspapers. Be sure to read Tyndall's2 fascinating long article of reminiscences of Carlyle3 in January Fortnightly.

With the old love— W. S. K.  loc.03072.001.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: Boston | Mass. | Mar 31 90 | 10 30 AM; Camden, N.J. | Apr | 1 | 9 AM | 1890 | Rec'd. [back]
  • 2. John Tyndall (1820–1893) was a British physicist, science teacher, public intellectual, and a pioneer mountain climber. His "Personal Recollections of Carlyle" was published in the Fortnightly Review in January 1890. [back]
  • 3. Thomas Carlyle (1795–1881) was a Scottish essayist, historian, lecturer, and philosopher. He wrote frequently on the conflict between scientific changes and the traditional social (often religious) order. His History of Friedrich II of Prussia, called Frederick the Great was published in 1858. For more on Carlyle, see John D. Rosenberg, Carlyle and the Burden of History (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1985). For Whitman's writings on Carlyle, see "Death of Thomas Carlyle" (pp. 168–170) and "Carlyle from American Points of View" (170–178) in Specimen Days (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1882). [back]
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