Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to John Burroughs, 28 April 1882

Date: April 28, 1882

Whitman Archive ID: hun.00054

Source: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. 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.

Notes for this letter were created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schoeberlein, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Eder Jaramillo, and Nicole Gray

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431 Stevens Street
Camden N J
April 28 '82

Dear friend

Just returned from a fortnight down in the Jersey woods1—not feeling well this month, (a bad cold, neuralgia, other head trouble, bowel trouble &c—yet nothing serious—will blow over in a few days) went down for a change, had bad weather & nothing propitious—but I have just come back & am already better—shall get along

—So Emerson is dead2—the leading man in all Israel—If I feel able I shall go to his funeral—improbable though—A new deal in the fortunes of Leaves of Grass—the District Attorney at Boston has threatened Osgood with indictment "under the statutes against obscene literature," specifies a long list of pieces, lines &c.—Osgood is frightened asks me to change & expurgate—I refuse peremptorily—he throws up the book & will not publish it any more—wants me to take the plates, wh: I shall try to do & publish it as before—(in some respects shall like it just as well)3—Can you help me? Can you loan me $100?4

—The next N A Review (June number) will have a piece A Memorandum at a Venture signed by my name in which I ventilate my theory of sexual matters treatment & allusion in Children of Adam—I shall have some slips & will send you some to England5

—Am writing this in great haste angry with myself for not having responded before to your good letter of April 10—Love to 'Sula & the kid—

Walt Whitman


1. Whitman was inaccurate: he was at Glendale from April 22 to 27 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). This was his "excuse" for not replying to Burroughs's (lost) letter of April 10. [back]

2. Emerson died on April 26, 1882. On April 29 Whitman sent to The Critic "By Emerson's Grave," which appeared in the issue of May 6, along with Burroughs's "Emerson's Burial Day." The poet received $3 for the piece (Whitman's Commonplace Book). It was included in Specimen Days (ed. Floyd Stovall [New York: New York University Press, 1963], 290–291). [back]

3. With his letter of May 1, Burroughs included a communication from O'Connor dated April 28, in which the latter related how he had convinced associates in his office that the Boston censorship was "the greatest outrage of the century" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, December 21, 1888, 351). O'Connor wrote to Richard Maurice Bucke about the matter on April 29 (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1931], 212). On May 1, Burroughs wrote to Gilder, probably Richard, "So far as this is the wish of the city of Boston, I pray for the wrath of Sodom and Gomorrah to descend upon her" (Barrus, 211). [back]

4. In reprinting Burroughs's letter of May 1, Traubel interpolated an explanation of the loan: "This was money in my possession belonging to Walt. J. B. 1912." (With Walt Whitman in Camden, Friday, December 21, 1888, 350). Burroughs and Traubel, however, were in error, for on January 27, 1883, Whitman noted: "returned $100 to John Burroughs" (Whitman's Commonplace Book). See also Barrus, 210. [back]

5. Whitman had sent the article to the magazine on April 8, and on April 27 received $25 "with 'sincere thanks'" (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]


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