Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to John Burroughs, [(?) October(?) 1883]

Date: October 1883

Whitman Archive ID: med.00657

Source: The location of the original manuscript is unknown. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 3:355. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schoeberlein, Nima Najafi Kianfar, Kirsten Clawson, Nicole Gray, and Elizabeth Lorang

[Whitman had enjoyed his stay at Ocean Grove. He referred to the "long & friendly notices" in the September issue of The Scottish Review and in The Academy of September 8, the latter written by Dowden.]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 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: 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 summary of the letter is drawn from Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades (Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1931), 246. The location of this manuscript is presently unknown. The letter must have been written shortly after Whitman left Ocean Grove on October 10 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). The Scottish Review discussed Leaves of Grass, Specimen Days and Collect, Rossetti's 1868 selection Poems of Walt Whitman, Burroughs's Notes on Walt Whitman as Poet and Person, and Bucke's biographical study Walt Whitman. In "A Salt Breeze," in Outing and the Wheelman 3 (January 1884), 275–279, Burroughs referred to Whitman as a poet of the sea. [back]


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