Selected Criticism

Barrus, Clara (1864–1931)
Kummings, Donald D.
Print source:
J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings, eds., Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998), reproduced by permission.

After earning an M.D. degree from Boston University in 1888, Barrus was a general practitioner of medicine in Utica, New York (1889–1893), and a psychiatrist at the State Hospital in Middletown, New York (1893–1910). However, she is best known today as the companion, assistant, literary executor, and authorized biographer of John Burroughs, naturalist, writer, and devoted friend of Walt Whitman. Of the various books on Burroughs authored or edited by Barrus, the most important are Our Friend John Burroughs (1914), John Burroughs, Boy and Man (1920), The Life and Letters of John Burroughs (2 vols., 1925), The Heart of Burroughs's Journals (1928), and Whitman and Burroughs, Comrades (1931). While all of these books contain references to Whitman, the most complete account of the relationship between poet and naturalist is to be found in Whitman and Burroughs, Comrades. Gay Wilson Allen has described this book as a "record of one of the most important friendships in the poet's life [and] a distinguished contribution to scholarship, containing much new material on Whitman's reputation at home and abroad, and sound, intelligent critical judgments" (16–17). Burroughs used the term "Whitmanesque" to describe Barrus herself (qtd. in Renehan 220).


Allen, Gay Wilson. The New Walt Whitman Handbook. 1975. New York: New York UP, 1986.

Renehan, Edward J., Jr. John Burroughs: An American Naturalist. Post Mills, Vt.: Chelsea Green, 1992.


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