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Kennedy, William Sloane



  • Existence: 1850-1929

biographical statement

William Sloane Kennedy, son of the Reverend William Sloane Kennedy and Sarah Eliza Woodruff Kennedy, was born on September 26, 1850, in Brecksville, Ohio, near Cleveland. His father was a Presbyterian minister and his mother was the daughter of a Congregational minister. The family moved to Sandusky, Ohio, then Cincinnati, Ohio, where his father died in 1861. Kennedy's widowed mother moved with her four children to Oxford, Ohio, where he grew up and received his early education. Summers were spent on his grandfather Kennedy's farm in southern Illinois. He attended Miami University, Oxford, from 1867-1873, then entered Yale as a junior in 1873. After graduating from Yale he remained there for a year of private studies. Kennedy taught school until 1879, the latter part of the period in Meadville, PA. He began to study theology at the Meadville Theological Seminary, then went to Harvard for two years of study at the Divinity Schoo!. He left Harvard in 1880 without graduating or ordination; he wanted to pursue his literary interests instead. Kennedy became a member of the staff of The American in Philadelphia in 1880, but in the fall of 1881 he returned to Cambridge to continue literary studies. In subsequent years he was an editorial writer on the staff of the Boston Transcript and a special contributor to the New York Critic, the Boston Herald, the Boston Index, and Literary World. Kennedy was married on June 17, 1883, to Adeline Ella Lincoln, daughter of Cyrus and Abigail Lincoln of Cambridge, Massachusetts. They soon moved to Belmont, Massachusetts, where they built a house and resided for forty years. They had one son, Mortimer, who died in infancy. After his wife's death in 1923, Kennedy moved to West Yarmouth near Hyannis on Cape Cod. While living in Philadelphia, Kennedy became a friend of Walt Whitman's. He remained in close contact with the poet until Whitman's death in 1892. The friendship had a great impact on his life and work, and led to the publication of The Fight of a Book for the World: A Companion Volume to Leaves of Grass (1926), considered by Kennedy to be his most important book. A prolific writer, Kennedy was also the author of several biographies, the best known being The Real John Burroughs. Kennedy made several trips to Europe, and from 1909 to 1920 his primary interest was in Italy and the study of the Italian culture, language and literature. In 1927 he published Italy in Chains-A Nation Under the Microscope, a critical study of Mussolini. Kennedy drowned on August 4, 1929, while taking his daily swim in Lewis Bay near his West Yarmouth home and was buried in Mt. Auburn Cemetery, Boston. He bequeathed some of his personal papers, books, and a fund to establish the Walt Whitman Collection to Rollins College.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Whitmaniana Memorial Collection by William Sloane Kennedy

Identifier: SP-Whitman
Scope and Contents The collection contains the correspondence and papers, both personal and business, of William Sloane Kennedy. Many of his rough drafts, proofs, and final published copies of articles, poetry, essays, and books are represented in the collection. His interest in a broad range of topics is well documented by files of clippings and articles. Throughout his adult life he maintained the habit of keeping journals and notebooks to record information on his research, travel, and literary studies;...
Dates: Other: Majority of material found in 1870-1929