Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to John Burroughs, 5 November [1886]

Date: November 5, 1886

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:53. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: The Bayley-Whitman Collection, Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, OH

Whitman Archive ID: owu.00085

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein and Kyle Barton




Camden1
Nov. 5 P M2

Yours rec'd to-day, & glad to get it—I had a bad week last week, gastric & head troubles, but am much better—(Every time lets me down a peg.) I hear nothing from O'C[onnor]3 but fear the prospect is gloomy. Dr. B[ucke]4 is well & busy—I was out driving to-day, 11 to 1—Nothing definite done to my "November Boughs"—May be out in a year—I believe Kennedy has finished his book—


Walt Whitman


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. This letter is addressed: John Burroughs | West Park | Ulster County New York. It is postmarked: Camden | Nov | 5 | 8 PM | N.J. [back]

2. The year is conjectural, though Whitman began in 1886 to plan for the publication of November Boughs (1888); William Sloane Kennedy, of course, was actively at work on his book about Whitman. [back]

3. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

4. Richard Maurice Bucke (1837–1902) was a Canadian physician and psychiatrist who grew close to Whitman after reading Leaves of Grass in 1867 (and later memorizing it) and meeting the poet in Camden a decade later. Even before meeting Whitman, Bucke claimed in 1872 that a reading of Leaves of Grass led him to experience "cosmic consciousness" and an overwhelming sense of epiphany. Bucke became the poet's first biographer with Walt Whitman (Philadelphia: David McKay, 1883), and he later served as one of his medical advisors and literary executors. For more on the relationship of Bucke and Whitman, see Howard Nelson, "Bucke, Richard Maurice," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]


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