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William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 12 January 1891


Have got back & copied out fair (adding to) the Dutch paper.2 I think it has value, but it can be but a sketch (suggestions). I send it this A.M. to Stoddart.3 You will like it. Told him to hand over to you if not used, or to Traubel.4 Thank you Traubel for the Shillaber5 paper. We shall undoubtedly use in whole or nearly so. It did me good to hear that somebody in the world believes in me & thinks kindly of me. I shall emerge—when it suits me.

affec. W.S.K.

on cars Mon to [illegible]6

 loc.03119.001.jpg 1891 | 13 | Jan | see notes

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 | Jan 12 91 | 12 30 PM; Camden, N.J. | Jan | 13 | 9 AM | 1891 | Rec'd. [back]
  • 2. William Sloane Kennedy's "Dutch Traits of Walt Whitman" was published in The Conservator 1 (February 1891), 90–91. It was reprinted in In Re Walt Whitman, ed. Horace Traubel, et al. (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1893), 195–199. [back]
  • 3. Joseph Marshall Stoddart (1845–1921) published Stoddart's Encyclopaedia America, established Stoddart's Review in 1880, which was merged with The American in 1882, and became the editor of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in 1886. On January 11, 1882, Whitman received an invitation from Stoddart through J. E. Wainer, one of his associates, to dine with Oscar Wilde on January 14 (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1931], 235n). [back]
  • 4. Horace L. Traubel (1858–1919) was an American essayist, poet, and magazine publisher. He is best remembered as the literary executor, biographer, and self-fashioned "spirit child" of Walt Whitman. During the late 1880s and until Whitman's death in 1892, Traubel visited the poet virtually every day and took thorough notes of their conversations, which he later transcribed and published in three large volumes entitled With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906, 1908, & 1914). After his death, Traubel left behind enough manuscripts for six more volumes of the series, the final two of which were published in 1996. For more on Traubel, see Ed Folsom, "Traubel, Horace L. [1858–1919]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 5. Benjamin Penhallow Shillaber (1814–1890) was an editor and humorist. He became famous for writing a series of articles as Mrs. Ruth Partington for the Boston Daily Post. Whitman reminisces about Shillaber in Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Sunday, August 5, 1888. [back]
  • 6. Kennedy has written this postscript at the top of the postal card, near the date. He seems to be indicating that he will be traveling by train the following day. [back]
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