Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: John Burroughs to Walt Whitman, 11 July 1878

Date: July 11, 1878

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01131

Source: The 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: Alicia Bones, Vince Moran, Eder Jaramillo, Nicole Gray, and Stefan Schöberlein

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Esopus NY.
July 11, 78

Dear Walt:

I recd both your cards,1 also the package of Tribunes with your letter.2 I happened to get the Tribune on the 4th & so had seen the letter. It is re-printed in the Semi-Weekly edition also. I of course read it with deep interest. It is a noble eloquent letter & has the old stirring ring. I like it immensely.

I hope you have weathered this heated term, It has been tremendous here. We got our baby just as the heat began, July 1st, & we have had our hands full. He has been quite restless & sleepless, & we were both nearly worn out. He is doing better now & we hope the worst is over. He is a bright little fellow & I expect we shall "set a store" by him as the old women say

The raspberries still hang on & the currants too, but the best I can do now is to think of you when I eat them, which is three times a day. We have picked 2600 lbs of currants off that patch, & there are several hundred there yet. Smith & his family are well.

The baby is lying on the lounge in my room as I write, I hear him nestle & see that his eyes are open. So I must stop.

Guernsey3 had a pleasant paragraph about you & your Tribune letter in the Boston Herald. 'Sula sends love, so does the baby.4

John Burroughs


1. 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). [back]

2. Burroughs is presumably referring to the article by Whitman entitled "A Poet's Recreation," which appeared in the New York Tribune on July 4, 1878 and most of which was reprinted in Specimen Days (see Prose Works, 1:329-330). The article was based on Whitman's observations of the New York surroundings in his trip of June–July 1878. [back]

3. As is clear from the letter, Fred R. Guernsey was associated with the Boston Herald. In 1882 the newspaper supported Whitman against the Boston censors, and quoted Oscar Wilde's defense (Edwin Haviland Miller, Walt Whitman: The Correspondence, [New York: New York University Press], 3:283 n73). [back]

4. Ursula North Burroughs (1836–1917) was John Burroughs's wife. Ursula and John were married on September 12, 1857. The couple maintained a small farm overlooking the Hudson River in West Park, Ulster County. They adopted a son, Julian, at two months of age. It was only later revealed that John himself was the biological father of Julian. [back]


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