Title: John Burroughs to Walt Whitman, 13 January 1879
Date: January 13, 1879
Source: Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.
Location: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Whitman Archive ID: loc.01132
Contributors to digital file: Alicia Bones, Vince Moran, Eder Jaramillo, Nicole Gray, and Stefan Schöberlein
Jany 13. 79
Dear Walt Whitman:
We are back only a few days from Delaware C., where we had a good time, tho' the winter was very severe & I was storm bound in the house 4 days.1 I spent all the good days upon the hills & mountains hunting [foxes?] or else upon the ice hooking up suckers; & now I am paying the penalty of the exposure to the severe cold in another attack of neuralgia in my arm & shoulder: it is very severe night & day. Wife2 & baby are pretty well; the baby is a great help, though he makes lots of work & trouble. Smith & family are well; he is working on the ice. He was pleased with his gloves.
I have just sent off my MS. to Briton. At first the publisher liked the title "Locusts & Wild Honey"3 but now they write me they dont like it—think it will mystify people &c.
Tell me what you think. I send you a list of the subjects. They have nearly all been in print in the magazines, but I have been overhauling them very severely this fall. If I can devise a better title I shall do so, but I think my readers will understand this one; the great public does not care for my books anyhow.
When are you coming to N.Y?
With much love
1. The naturalist John Burroughs (1837–1921) met Whitman on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1864. After returning to Brooklyn in 1864, Whitman commenced what was to become a lifelong correspondence with Burroughs. Burroughs was magnetically drawn to Whitman. However, the correspondence between the two men is, as Burroughs acknowledged, curiously "matter-of-fact." Burroughs would write several books involving or devoted to Whitman's work: Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and Person (1867), Birds and Poets (1877), Whitman, A Study (1896), and Accepting the Universe (1924). For more on Whitman's relationship with Burroughs, see Carmine Sarracino, "Burroughs, John [1837–1921] and Ursula [1836–1917]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
2. Ursula North Burroughs (1836–1917) was John Burroughs's wife. Ursula and John were married on September 12, 1857. The couple maintained a small farm overlooking the Hudson River in West Park, Ulster County. They adopted a son, Julian, at two months of age. It was only later revealed that John himself was the biological father of Julian. [back]
3. Burroughs published Locusts and Wild Honey, a collection of allegorical nature writing, in 1879. The volume contains a meditation on water that praises Whitman's expression "the slumbering and liquid trees" from "Song of Myself." See John Burroughs, Locusts and Wild Honey (1879; Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1895), 71. [back]
4. The published book contains the same chapter titles, except that "Sharp Eyes" precedes "Strawberries" instead of coming after it. See Burroughs, Locusts and Wild Honey. [back]