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William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, [18 February 1891]


Yes,1 I have seen Havelock's2 bk & chap. on W.W. Yes it is very gloomy weather. I am "swain by winter pinched & worn"3 somewhat myself, toothache &c. Had a stunning dinner, though today (at great upstairs Quincy market restaurant) (chicken soup & rump steak & corn bread.) Yr frequent mention of oysters has led me to think of them, & we have 'em often. I stick a can full in ulster pocket, & merrily home I glide. Good letter fr. mother today (in Oberlin). Well the richest blessings of time & eternity to you in a glass of orange wine (good, too). Love unlimited fr. yr constant lover & friend.


I4 see they are celebrating Lincoln's birthday now more and more.


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 | N[illegible] Jersey. It is postmarked: Boston, Mass | Feb 18 | 3 15 P[illegible] | 1891; Camden, N.J. | Feb | 19 | 9 AM | 1891 | Rec'd. [back]
  • 2. Henry Havelock Ellis (1859–1939) was an English physician and sexologist. He co-wrote Sexual Inversion (published in German 1896; English translation in 1897) with Whitman correspondent John Addington Symonds. His book The New Spirit, with a chapter on Whitman, appeared in 1890. [back]
  • 3. Kennedy is quoting a line from Ralph Waldo Emerson's poem "Fragments on Nature and Life" ("The Garden"): "Solar insect on the wing / In the garden murmuring, / Soothing with thy summer horn / Swains by winter pinched and worn." [back]
  • 4. Kennedy has written this postscript in the top margin of the postal card above the rest of his note to Whitman. [back]
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