Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: John Burroughs to Walt Whitman, 23 May 1881

Date: May 23, 1881

Whitman Archive ID: tex.00465

Source: The Walt Whitman Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin. 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.

Editorial note: The annotation, "15," is in an unknown hand.

Contributors to digital file: Sara Duke and Nicole Gray

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Esopus N.Y.
May 23d 1881

Dear Walt:

I tried to intercept you on your return from Boston in April. I was in N.Y. three or four days from April 18, but found you did not stop. I was greatly pleased over the success of the Boston affair, & over your account of it in the Critic. I am thinking about running down to see you, & would like to know if I will find you at Camden for the next week or two. Ursula came home from the Hospital early in April in a very bad way—worse than when she went there. We went out to Roxbury & stayed there 3 or 4 weeks We are now back home for part of the summer at least. She is much better now—in fact seems better than she has done for a year or two. Julian is well & grows finely. It has been my plan to have you up here for the summer if I could pursuade you to come, But things do not work right. I have saved & partly furnished a large room for you in the other house, but the woman in the other part whom I depended on to look after you has been sick for two months & we begin to fear she will not get well. What are your plans for the summer, & could you come if things take a favorable turn? I receive papers from you frequently. I sent you a copy of "Pepacton" which no doubt you recd R.H. Stoddard in the "Evening Maid" (Myron Benton says it is he) vents his speen upon it—takes nearly a column to condemn it & all that kind of literature. But little do I care. I have always had my opinion of him.

With much love
John Burroughs

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).


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