Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: John Burroughs to Walt Whitman, 2 August 1864

Date: August 2, 1864

Whitman Archive ID: loc.00851

Source: Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 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.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Heidi Bean, and Elise Cook

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Treasury Department,
Office of Comptroller of the Currency,
Aug 2d 1864

Dear Walt,

I1 am disconsolate at your long stay. What has become of you? On returning the 7th of July I found you had gone home sick. You have no business to be sick, so I expect you are well. I was so unlucky as to be sick myself all the time I was home—and most of the time since I came back. I am quite well now, however, and feel like myself. Benton2 and I looked for you at Leedsvill , as I wrote to you to come. If you have leisure now, you would enjoy hugely a visit up there. I hope you are printing Drum Taps, and that this universal drought does not reach your "grass." But make haste and come back. The heat is delicious I have a constant bath in my own perspiration. I was out at the front during the siege of Washington and lay in the rifle pits with the soldiers. I got quite a taste of war and learned the song of those modern minstrels—the minnie bullets—by heart. A line from you would be prized.

Truly yours,
John Burroughs

Care Allen Clapp & Co


1. John Burroughs (1837–1921) met Whitman on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1864, even though Burroughs had frequented Pfaff's beer cellar, where he consistently defended Whitman's poetry, in 1862. 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: Birds and Poets (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1877), Notes on Walt Whitman as Poet and Person (New York: American News Co., 1867), Whitman, A Study (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1896), and Accepting the Universe (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1920). For more information on Burroughs see Burroughs, John (1837–1921) and Ursula (1836–1917)[back]

2. "Benton" could refer to either Myron Benton or Joel Benton. The two Bentons were cousins, and both were poets and writers. [back]


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