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William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 19 January 1891

 loc.03120.001.jpg Dear WW.

Yes of course let Traubel2 have it (the Dutch article).3 I am just as well pleased, & glad the Lippincott project4 is not abandoned, too. I think Traubel's paper just the place for it. I always think more lightly of these little truth-telling papers than of the big lying, or at least conventional journals. Glad to hear always of yr health, Walt, or rather no health. My mind is fallow now, but I suppose it is for the best. I hardly know my old self as seen in my old Index articles.5 However, Sursum! Resurgam! Forward! Am reading a pocket Shakspere,6 nothing like a pocket ed. of a writer.

I7 do a good many editorial jottings & review Belmont theatricals always for Transcript. We have had a magic ice-spectacle here—trees all candied.

 loc.03120.002.jpg  loc.03120.003.jpg see | notes | Jan 20 | 1891  loc.03120.004.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 letter is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Boston | Mass. | Jan 19 91 | 7 45 P; Camden, N.[cut away] | Jan | 20 | 12[cut away]. [back]
  • 2. 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]
  • 3. 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]
  • 4. In March 1891, Lippincott's Magazine published "Old Age Echoes," a cycle of four poems including "Sounds of the Winter," "The Unexpress'd," "Sail Out for Good, Eidólon Yacht," and "After the Argument." Also appearing in that issue was an autobiographical prose essay by Whitman ("Some Personal and Old-Age Memoranda") and another piece on Whitman by Traubel. In his January 7, 1891, letter to the Canadian physician Richard Maurice Bucke, Whitman referred to the March issue of Lippincott's as "a Whitman number." See also Whitman's January 20–21, 1891, response to Kennedy. [back]
  • 5. Kennedy was a contributor to the Boston Herald and the Boston Index, among other newspapers. [back]
  • 6. William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was an English poet and playwright and is widely considered the world's greatest dramatist. He was the author of numerous plays, sonnets, and narrative poems. [back]
  • 7. Kennedy wrote this part of the letter sideways in the left margin. [back]
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