Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: John Burroughs to Walt Whitman, 13 January 1879

Date: January 13, 1879

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01132

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

page image
image 1
page image
image 2
page image
image 3
page image
image 4
page image
image 5
page image
image 6

Esopus NY.
Jany 13. 79

Dear Walt Whitman:

We are back only a few days from Delaware C., where we had a good time, tho' the winter was very severe & I was storm bound in the house 4 days.1 I spent all the good days upon the hills & mountains hunting [foxes?] or else upon the ice hooking up suckers; & now I am paying the penalty of the exposure to the severe cold in another attack of neuralgia in my arm & shoulder: it is very severe night & day. Wife2 & baby are pretty well; the baby is a great help, though he makes lots of work & trouble. Smith & family are well; he is working on the ice. He was pleased with his gloves.

I have just sent off my MS. to Briton. At first the publisher liked the title "Locusts & Wild Honey"3 but now they write me they dont like it—think it will mystify people &c.

Tell me what you think. I send you a list of the subjects. They have nearly all been in print in the magazines, but I have been overhauling them very severely this fall. If I can devise a better title I shall do so, but I think my readers will understand this one; the great public does not care for my books anyhow.

When are you coming to N.Y?

With much love
John Burroughs

Locusts & Wild Honey4
Contents                Pages
1 The pastoral Bees 22 ¼
2 Strawberries 12
3 Sharp Eyes 30
4 Is it Going to Rain 30
5 Speckled Trout 30
6 Birds & Birds 16
7 A Bed of Boughs 30
8 Birds nesting 10
9 The Halcyon in Canada 44
10 A White day & a Red Fox 12

Blank leaves 18

               254 ¼


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. 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]

3. Burroughs published Locusts and Wild Honey, a collection of allegorical nature writing, in 1879. The volume contains a meditation on water that praises Whitman's expression "the slumbering and liquid trees" from "Song of Myself." See John Burroughs, Locusts and Wild Honey (1879; Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1895), 71. [back]

4. The published book contains the same chapter titles, except that "Sharp Eyes" precedes "Strawberries" instead of coming after it. See Burroughs, Locusts and Wild Honey[back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.