Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to John Burroughs, 23 November [1879]

Date: November 23, 1879

Source: The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1964), 3:170–171. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Location: Walt Whitman Collection, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley

Whitman Archive ID: ucb.00056

Contributors to digital file: Alicia Bones, Grace Thomas, Eder Jaramillo, Kevin McMullen, and Stefan Schöberlein

2316 Pine Street
St Louis Missouri1
Sunday afternoon Nov 23

Dear friend

I am still here—not yet (as an old Long Island aunt used to say) "not yet out of my misery" but I go out on the streets, or to the Public Library, most every day, & have no doubt I shall be as well as usual before long—I believe I told you I was in nice quarters & very comfortable here2—I send you Mrs Gilchrist's letter, which you needn't return3—Gilder's, which I also enclose, I wish you to send back, some time4—Upon receiving this, post me a card—tell me how the mother is & 'Sula, also the baby, also Smith5—Just got a postal from Mrs Gilchrist giving her address.

1 Elm Villas Elm Road Heath street Hampstead London Eng:

The rough map enclosed gives you some idea of my present jaunt, on the red line (the blue lines are old travels of mine)6—I have seen the December Scribner's—What you say of me in Nature & the Poets thoroughly delights, satisfies & prides me7—I saw in the Library a late London Fortnightly in which J A Symonds, touching briefly but very commendingly & mentioning my name, makes quite an extract from Dem[ocratic] Vistas (summing up the general spirit of British literature as being markedly sombre & bilious)8—A B Alcott is expected here, to talk—I may see him—This is quite a place for the most toploftical Hegelian transcendentalists, a small knot but smart—the principal of them, W T Harris,9 editor of Speculative Philosophy, has been often to see me, has been very kind, & I like him much—Probably ten days more will end my stay here, (but I am not fixed)10—A fine day as I write, & I am feeling comfortable. Best love to 'Sula—

Walt Whitman


1. The envelope for this letter bears the address: John Burroughs | Esopus-on-Hudson | Ulster County | New York. It is postmarked: Saint Louis | Nov | (?) | Mo. [back]

2. Apparently Whitman wrote Burroughs two days earlier about William Douglas O'Connor; see the cryptic entry in his diary (Walt Whitman Review, 7 [1961], 11). [back]

3. Her letter of October 6–12 (see the letter from Whitman to Anne Gilchrist of November 10, 1879). [back]

4. R. W. Gilder, writing to Whitman from England on October 1, mentioned Charles Bonaparte Wyse, a young Irish poet, who wanted to visit, in his own words, "this most sympathetic of poets, for whose large & lofty nature my admiration is merged with love." [back]

5. Smith Caswell, Burroughs's hired-hand, to whom Whitman wrote (lost) on November 4. [back]

6. Reproduced by Clara Barrus in Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades (Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1931), 188. [back]

7. Whitman, in short, approved of his own contribution to Burroughs's article in Scribner's Monthly (see the letter from Whitman to Burroughs of August 29, 1879). [back]

8. In his review of Matthew Arnold's Selections from Wordsworth, in The Fortnightly Review, 27 (1879), 686–701, Symonds quoted Whitman's indictment of English literature as "no model for us," but added that if Whitman had read Wordsworth, "he would have made at least a qualified exception in his favor." [back]

9. See the letter from Whitman to William Torrey Harris of October 27, 1879[back]

10. Whitman did not leave St. Louis until January 4, 1880. [back]


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