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Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy and Richard Maurice Bucke, 22 January 1889


Still keep up & read & write ab't the same—but remain cribb'd in my room. Situation much the same & am ceasing to count for any thing seriously better—(only hug myself on the tho't it might be & has been much worse)—Sunny to day, & markedly cold—I have a good wood fire—

I send enclosed quite a budget of letters wh' explain themselves—I also send the French Nouvelle Revue1 of May last2—I shall send you & Dr B. copies of the German book3 soon as I get them—Have rec'd Wilson's4 (publisher's) letter5—I shouldn't wonder if he has been a little frighten'd by Alex: Gardner of Paisley,6 who had a small ed'n of Nov: Boughs7 (I hear we have quite a clientage in Scotland)—I have sent the Complete Works8 Vol. to Rolleston9 by mail—McKay10 has rec'd several orders, & is waiting for the better binding—I guess the N B has done & is doing fairly publisherially—have just had a short visit from two young deaf mutes f'm Washington D C11—Am feeling comfortable—I will keep you posted, & you must me—

Best love & prayers Walt Whitman

Send12 this letter, with all enclosures, to Dr Bucke—also the French magazine

William Sloane Kennedy and Richard Maurice Bucke were two of Whitman's closest friends and admirers. Kennedy (1850–1929) first met Whitman while on the staff of the Philadelphia American in 1880. He became a fierce defender of Whitman and would go on to write a book-length study of the poet. 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). Bucke (1837–1902), a Canadian physician, was Whitman's first biographer, and would later become one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


  • 1. Whitman is referring to Gabriel Sarrazin's "Poétes modernes de l'Amérique: Whitman," which was published in La Nouvelle Revue on May 1, 1888. Sarrazin himself, on January 6 1889, informed Whitman that his essay had been abridged in the journal, and that the excised portions would be restored when printed in La renaissance de la poésie anglaise. See also Roger Asselineau's article in Walt Whitman Review 5 (1959), 8–11. [back]
  • 2. Whitman asked William Sloane Kennedy and Richard Maurice Bucke to make an abstract in English of Sarrazin's essay (see Whitman's letter to Bucke of January 27, 1889). Sarrazin's piece is reprinted in an English translation by Harrison S. Morris in In Re Walt Whitman (1893, pp. 159–194). [back]
  • 3. Whitman is referring to Grashalme, the German translation of Leaves of Grass by Karl Knortz and Thomas W. Rolleston. The poet received his copies on February 25, 1889. See his letter of February 25, 1889, to William Sloane Kennedy. [back]
  • 4. Frederick W. Wilson was a member of the Glasgow firm of Wilson & McCormick that published the 1883 British edition of Specimen Days and Collect. [back]
  • 5. On January 21, 1889 Kennedy wrote about his manuscript and Howells' article. He argued on January 29, 1889 with Whitman's speculation about Wilson. [back]
  • 6. Alexander Gardner (1821–1882) of Paisley, Scotland, was a publisher who reissued a number of books by and about Whitman; he ultimately published William Sloane Kennedy's Reminiscences of Walt Whitman in 1896 after a long and contentious battle with Kennedy over editing the book. Gardner published and co-edited the Scottish Review from 1882 to 1886. [back]
  • 7. Whitman's November Boughs was published in October 1888 by Philadelphia publisher David McKay. For more information on the book, see James E. Barcus Jr., "November Boughs [1888]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 8. Whitman's Complete Poems & Prose (1888), a volume Whitman often referred to as the "big book," was published by the poet himself—in an arrangement with publisher David McKay, who allowed Whitman to use the plates for both Leaves of Grass and Specimen Days—in December 1888. With the help of Horace Traubel, Whitman made the presswork and binding decisions for the volume. Frederick Oldach bound the book, which included a profile photo of the poet on the title page. For more information on the book, see Ed Folsom, Whitman Making Books/Books Making Whitman: A Catalog and Commentary (University of Iowa: Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, 2005). [back]
  • 9. Thomas William Hazen Rolleston (1857–1920) was an Irish poet and journalist. After attending college in Dublin, he moved to Germany for a period of time. He wrote to Whitman frequently, beginning in 1880, and later produced with Karl Knortz the first book-length translation of Whitman's poetry into German. In 1889, the collection Grashalme: Gedichte [Leaves of Grass: Poems] was published by Verlags-Magazin in Zurich, Switzerland. See Walter Grünzweig, Constructing the German Walt Whitman (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1995). For more information on Rolleston, see Walter Grünzweig, "Rolleston, Thomas William Hazen (1857–1920)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 10. David McKay (1860–1918) took over Philadelphia-based publisher Rees Welsh's bookselling and publishing businesses in 1881–82. McKay and Rees Welsh published the 1881 edition of Leaves of Grass after opposition from the Boston District Attorney prompted James R. Osgood & Company of Boston, the original publisher, to withdraw. McKay also went on to publish Specimen Days & Collect, November Boughs, Gems from Walt Whitman, Complete Prose Works, and the final Leaves of Grass, the so-called deathbed edition. For more information about McKay, see Joel Myerson, "McKay, David (1860–1918)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 11. Whitman seems to have written a note to communicate with his visitors, who could neither hear nor speak. See Whitman's letter of January 22, 1889. [back]
  • 12. Whitman wrote this postscript at the top of the first page of the letter above the city and the date. [back]
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