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Walt Whitman to William Sloane Kennedy, [13? August 1886]

Have look'd over the whole MS.1 pretty well—with an eye to correction of dates & statistics—have a very few times made my own comments & suggestions (from my own point of view, or feeling, or knowledge)—you follow the suggestions or not, as you think best2

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's manuscript, "Walt Whitman, the Poet of Humanity," eventually became two books, Reminiscences of Walt Whitman (1896) and The Fight of a Book for the World (1926). [back]
  • 2. This note to Kennedy may have been attached to the manuscript itself, which was returned on August 13. See Whitman's note to Kennedy, sent in the afternoon on August 13, 1886. [back]
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