Life & Letters

Correspondence

About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to John Burroughs, 10 May 1889

Date: May 10, 1889

Whitman Archive ID: med.00871

Source: The location of this manuscript is unknown. Edward Haviland Miller derives his transcription from a transcription printed in Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs–Comrades (1931), 288. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 4:335. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Blake Bronson-Bartlett, Breanna Himschoot, Alex Ashland, and Stephanie Blalock




May 10, 1889

Our dear friend O'Connor1 died peacefully at 2 a m yesterday.2


Correspondent:
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).

Notes:

1. William Douglas O'Connor (1832–1889) was the author of the grand and grandiloquent Whitman pamphlet "The Good Gray Poet," published in 1866 (a digital version of the pamphlet is available at "The Good Gray Poet: A Vindication"). For more on Whitman's relationship with O'Connor, see Deshae E. Lott, "O'Connor, William Douglas (1832–1889)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

2. Burroughs, on May 11, 1889, expressed the sentiments of many of O'Connor's friends: "And it is sad to me to think that he has left behind him no work or book that at all expresses the measure of his great powers." [back]


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