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William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, 12 May 1891


I bt Traubel's1 piece—The New Englander Whitman number—today2 & frau3 & I are sitting here by kitchen fire enjoying it. It's the best thing ever done here in Massat. & on W.W. good for T. & Mead!4 What, I wonder, do the Vice Society, idiots here think of these things?

W.S.K. see notes May 18 1891  loc.03163.001_large.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. 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]
  • 2. Kennedy is referring to the the May 1891 issue of the New England Magazine, which contained Horace Traubel's article, "Walt Whitman at Date." For Traubel's article, see New England Magazine 4.3 (May 1891), 275–292. The article is also reprinted in the first appendix of the eighth volume of Traubel's With Walt Whitman in Camden. [back]
  • 3. Kennedy had married Adeline Ella Lincoln (d. 1923) of Cambridge, Massachusetts, on June 17, 1883. [back]
  • 4. Edwin Doak Mead (1849–1937) was an editor and author who edited the New England Magazine from 1889 to 1901; his work is credited with helping spark the Progressive Era. [back]
  • 5. This postal card is addressed: Walt Whitman | Camden | New Jersey. It is postmarked: Belmont | May | 13 | 1891 | M [illegible], Camden, N.J. | May | 14 | 9AM | 1891 | Rec'd. [back]
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