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Walt Whitman to John Burroughs, 24 January 1877

I think Birds and Poets not only much the best name for the book, but a first-rate good name, appropriate, original & fresh, without being at all affected or strained. The piece you put 4th should then be first—should lead the book, giving it its title, & having the name of the piece changed to "Birds and Poets"—which I think would be an improvement. The whole collection would be sufficiently homogeneous, (and it were a fault to be too much so)—You just want a hint for the name of a book—Only it must be in the spirit of the book—& not too much so either. "Nature and Genius" is too Emersony altogether.2

I will think over the name of the piece devoted to me, & will in a couple of days write you the result. May-be I can think of a better name. I have not rec'd the MS from Church.3 You send on any thing—any MS—which I will cheerfully read & will return with any suggestions that may occur to me—I keep pretty well for me—



  • 1. This letter bears the address: John Burroughs | Esopus-on-Hudson | New York. It is postmarked: Camden | Jan | 24 | N.J.; New York | Jan | 25 | 8 AM. [back]
  • 2. Burroughs accepted Whitman's suggestion, and "Birds and Poets," which had appeared in Scribner's Monthly in 1873 (see Whitman's letter to Peter Doyle on August 14–15, 1873), became the first chapter in the book. For over a month Burroughs sent to Whitman the manuscript of this book for comment and correction; see Whitman's letters to John Burroughs on February 3, 1877, February 13, 1877, and February 27, 1877. Whitman's emendations, particularly in the chapter devoted to himself, "The Flight of the Eagle," are discussed at length by Clara Barrus in Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades (Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1931), 160–163. [back]
  • 3. This is possibly a reference to "Our Rural Divinity," which appeared in The Galaxy, 23 (January 1877) 43–51. [back]
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