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William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 15–16 August 1890

 loc.03076.001.jpg Wm Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman—Horace Traubel 1911

Yes wd be particularly delighted with the Lee celebration paper.1 I read eagerly all the war papers, will return to you.

I read proof for Transcript of yr Critic article2 from Critic's proof to day (Frid eve). 'Tis strong & tonicky.

Tiredly, (7 P. M) Aug 15. '90 W S K. over  loc.03076.002.jpg

Sat Morn,I shd have said that I read the proof of the last ⅓ of yr piece. I have 2 assistants in same room reading proof—at least half of the time.


They don't know much though, & their mistakes mortify me considerably. One of 'em was going to leave yr foot-note in the text, as it stood!

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. In his letter to Kennedy of August 14, 1890, Whitman offers to send a "good acc't of the rebel veteran show at the Richmond Lee statue unveiling." [back]
  • 2. Kennedy is referring to Whitman's "An Old Man's Rejoinder," which appeared in The Critic 17 (August 16, 1890), 85–86. The article is a response to John Addington Symonds's essay on "Democratic Art," which was inspired by Whitman. See Symonds, Essays Speculative and Suggestive (London: Chapman and Hall, 1890). The "Rejoinder" was later reprinted in Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) (see Prose Works 1892, Volume 2: Collect and Other Prose, ed. Floyd Stovall [New York: New York University Press, 1964], 655–658). Near the end of the essay, Whitman writes: "My own opinion has long been, that for New World service our ideas of beauty (inherited from the Greeks, and so on to Shakspere—query—perverted from them?) need to be radically changed, and made anew for to-day's purposes and finer standards" (2:658). [back]
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