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Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 19 September 1890

A basket of nice Seckel pears just rec'd (Prof. Cattell,1 Penn. Univ.:), sweet and juicy.

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. Henry Ware Cattell (1862–1936), a pathologist and medical editor affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania, was a member of the American Anthropometric Society; following the autopsy of Whitman in 1892, he would remove the poet's brain so that it could be stored and studied as a specimen of an advanced human brain. See James R. Wright, "Henry Ware Cattell and Walt Whitman’s Brain," Clinical Anatomy 31 (2018), 988–996. [back]
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