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Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 14 August 1890


Thanks for the Herald too with the good acc't, wh' I was wanting2—Have you seen a good acc't of the rebel veteran show at the Richmond Lee3 statue4 unveiling? It is very curious. I have a good acc't wh' I will lend you if you want—(to be return'd to me)—All goes on fairly with me these days—Have a little piece in (probably) the forthcoming Critic5—have just got outside of my supper—am going out in wheel chair.6

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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 postcard is addressed: Sloane Kennedy | Belmont Mass:. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Aug 14 | 6 AM | 90. [back]
  • 2. Kennedy described the Grand Army of the Republic (G. A. R.) convention in his letter to Whitman of August 12, 1890 and evidently sent a clipping from the Boston Herald. Apparently Whitman sent the letter to a Camden newspaper; see Kennedy's letter to Whitman on August 23, 1890. The poet did not comment on Kennedy's report of the death of Whitman's old friend John Boyle O'Reilly; however, it was noted in the Camden Morning News on August 15, 1890 (A. L. McLeod, ed., Walt Whitman in Australia and New Zealand 1964, 29). [back]
  • 3. General Robert E. Lee (1807–1870) was an American military officer who commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War. [back]
  • 4. Whitman is referring to the May 29, 1890, unveiling of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee (the Robert E. Lee Monument) in Richmond, Virginia. [back]
  • 5. Whitman's "An Old Man's Rejoinder" was published in The Critic 17 (August 16, 1890): 85–86. It was later reprinted in Good-Bye My Fancy (1891). [back]
  • 6. Horace Traubel and Ed Wilkins, Whitman's nurse, went to Philadelphia to purchase a wheeled chair for the poet that would allow him to be "pull'd or push'd" outdoors. See Whitman's letter to William Sloane Kennedy of May 8, 1889. [back]
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