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Walt Whitman to John Burroughs, 9 May 1880

I have just returned from a two weeks' visit down in the Jersey pine woods and had a good time in the simple, savage way I like. Am well for me, sunburnt and fat. (Some twitchings, but I don't dwell on them.) Nothing very new in my affairs, sell a couple of books occasionally.

I suppose you saw my Riddle Song in the first number of Sunnyside Press2—if not, I can send you the "Progress" with it in.

I delivered my Lincoln lecture last April 15 in Philadelphia—the same as the N.Y. version. I took it very coolly and enjoyed it—(No great audience—$90, after paying expenses).

Mr. Abbott of Boston wrote to me for a poem for his May 22d "Emerson Number" of the "Literary World." I could not write him a poem, but I sent him a little prose criticism which I believe he is to print in said number.3

Dr. Bucke is coming here to Philadelphia about May 22.4 Eldridge passed through here day before yesterday, returning to Washington . . . .

I had the May "Scribner" and read it leisurely down in the woods—Stedman's Poe, and your "Notes."5 (Scratched off my Emerson screed down there, as it was there I rec'd​ Abbott's letter.)

I hear from the Gilchrists; they are in London; the daughter Beatrice has suddenly abandoned her medical pursuits and intentions. Herbert thrives6. . . .

I hear at second remove, and vaguely, that Symonds is writing a book, or something, about me.

. . . When you write, send me Smith Caswell's exact post office address, so I can send him papers.7 Don't forget.

Is it you who says so emphatically the blackbirds don't sing? What they call here the Virginia blackbird, with red dabbed shoulders—Harry Stafford says they do, at times, and very finely (and I say so, too)—How are you? How the arm? how the babe? Love to 'Sula—


  • 1. This letter is addressed: John Burroughs | Esopus-on-Hudson | New York. It is postmarked: Camden | May | 9 | N.J.; New York | May 10 | 5 AM | 80(?) | Recd. [back]
  • 2. "A Riddle Song" appeared in the Tarrytown Sunnyside Press on April 3. [back]
  • 3. "Emerson's Books (the Shadows of Them)" appeared in The Literary World on May 22 (11:177–178); it was reprinted in the New York Tribune on May 15, 1882, and later appeared in Specimen Days & Collect (1882; see Whitman's Complete Prose Works, 319–321). Edward Abbott was evidently associated with The Literary World. [back]
  • 4. Richard Maurice Bucke arrived in Camden on May 25 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]
  • 5. Edmund Clarence Stedman's "Edgar Allan Poe" and John Burroughs's "Notes of a Walker" appeared in Scribner's Monthly, 20 (1880), 47–64, 97–102. [back]
  • 6. According to Whitman's Commonplace Book, Whitman sent to Burroughs Herbert Gilchrist's letter of May 9, in which he described a visit to the studio of Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1931], 148–149). [back]
  • 7. Whitman sent Caswell a copy of the Lincoln lecture on May 13, 1880, and other clippings on May 23 (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]
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