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William Sloane Kennedy to Walt Whitman, [3] April 1891

 loc.03171.001.jpg Dear Walt

I did not realize that you were so ill. Accept deep sympathy

Nor did I realize that the booklet2 was so far along Yes, the lines appeared in Youth's Companion3—4 lines.4

Wifekin5 sends love & sympathy.

I am quite worn by the hard winter & by work; but am so so.

I must send you a jug of orange wine—three years old—when I get round to it. I see O'Connor's6 Android7 has place of honor in Atlantic monthly8 just out. I must read it.

affec. WS Kennedy  loc.03171.002.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. Kennedy was a frequent contributor to The Boston Evening Transcript. [back]
  • 2. Whitman's book Good-Bye My Fancy (1891) was his last miscellany, and it included both poetry and short prose works commenting on poetry, aging, and death, among other topics. Thirty-one poems from the book were later printed as "Good-Bye my Fancy" in Leaves of Grass (1891–1892), the last edition of Leaves of Grass published before Whitman's death in March 1892. For more information see, Donald Barlow Stauffer, "'Good-Bye my Fancy' (Second Annex) (1891)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 3. The Youth's Companion, a weekly magazine for families and children, was founded by Nathaniel Willis in 1827. During its more than one-hundred-year run, the magazine published contributions by Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. For more on the Youth's Companion, see Susan Belasco, Youth's Companion. [back]
  • 4. Kennedy appears to be responding to a question Whitman posed in a previous letter, but the extant letters from the poet to Kennedy preceding this one do not include such a question. Kennedy might be referring to Whitman's five-line poem, "Ship Ahoy!," which appeared in The Youth's Companion (March 12, 1891): 152. [back]
  • 5. Kennedy's wife was Adeline Ella Lincoln (d. 1923) of Cambridge, Massachusetts. They married on June 17, 1883. The couple's son Mortimer died in infancy. [back]
  • 6. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication, published in 1866. For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 7. First written in 1862 but not published until 1891, William D. O'Connor's story "The Brazen Android" appeared in The Atlantic Monthly in two installments: Part 1, vol. 67, no. 402, April 1891, pp. 433–454; Part 2, vol. 67, no. 403, May 1891, pp. 577–599. The story also appeared in the collection Three Tales: The Ghost, The Brazen Android, The Carpenter (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin, 1892), for which Whitman wrote the Preface (which he later included in Good-Bye My Fancy [Philadelphia: David McKay, 1891], 51–53). [back]
  • 8. The Atlantic Monthly, founded in 1857 in Boston, was during Walt Whitman's lifetime a prestigious literary magazine, in which Whitman published two poems: "Bardic Symbols" and "Proud Music of the Sea-Storm." For more on Whitman's relationship with the magazine, see Susan Belasco's "The Atlantic Monthly." [back]
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