Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to John Burroughs, 7 December 1873

Date: December 7, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: har.00058

Source: Manuscripts Department, Houghton Library, Harvard University. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Ted Genoways (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2004), 7:38. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Jonathan Y. Cheng, Elizabeth Lorang, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Alex Kinnaman, and Nicole Gray

431 Stevens st.
cor West, Camden, N. J.
Sunday afternoon
Dec. 7

Dear John Burroughs,

I am still here, & still very much the same as when I last wrote you—have not retrograded any, nor had any more of the very bad spells like those in the early part of October—bodily strength is certainly better— dont so easily tire, & give out—locomotion still very bad—& head not out of the woods yet—but spirits & feelings pretty good—I have sent you the Graphic, with piece by me, about the Capitol, which I suppose you rec'd—also same paper with my portrait & criticism by "Matador"1—I have rec'd a letter lately from Eldridge—nothing new at Washington, in my affairs—Mrs. O'Connor was to return last Tuesday—I have written a couple of new poems, which I have sold to a magazine & got the money for—I think one will appear in January number—I will leave you to guess the magazine—How are you getting along? How is 'Sula?—Love to both of you—I am writing this up in my room—it is growing dark—I am going out to tea, to an acquaintance here—


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 decades-long 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).


1. The review of Leaves of Grass by "Matador," claiming that "it takes seven years to learn to appreciate Walt Whitman's poetry," appeared with a portrait of Whitman in the New York Daily Graphic on November 25, 1873, the day after Whitman's "Halls of Gold and Lilac" appeared in the same newspaper. [back]


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