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Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, 2 [September] 1890

Y'r card rec'd ab't piece—don't know of Williams having any mark'd Welsh blood—never heard ab't that—one of the stock names on the womens' (Williams')3 side was Kossabone (doubtless Causabone) (Jenny Kossabone my g't grandmother mother's side)4—Yes, keep it awhile, no hurry at all—If you feel to do so, send MS to me to see if points right—but do as you have a mind to—no hurry ab't piece—


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 letter is addressed: Sloane Kennedy | Belmont | Mass:. It is postmarked: Camden, N.J. | Sep 2 | 8 PM | 90. [back]
  • 2. The date for this postal card is based on the postmark, which indicates that Whitman misdated it. For information on Whitman's maternal ancestors, see see Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), 596. [back]
  • 3. Naomi [Amy] Williams (d. 1826) was the maternal grandmother of Walt Whitman. For more about Williams, see Amy M. Bawcom, "Van Velsor, Naomi [Amy] Williams [d. 1826]," Walt Whitman: An Enclycopedia, ed J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. Whitman believed that his maternal great-grandmother was Jenny or Mary Kossabone. But genealogy records, specifically baptism records from the Dutch Reformed Church, suggest that Whitman's maternal great-grandmother may have been Margarita Pe[e]kke Ryder instead of Jenny or Mary Kossabone. [back]
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