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Walt Whitman to John Burroughs, 24 May [1885]

Dear J B—

I am ab't in my usual general health, but lameness bad—had a fall a month ago, & turned my ankle in—don't think I will be able to come up to West Park—


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).


  • 1. This letter is addressed: John Burroughs | West Park | Ulster Co: | New York. It is postmarked: Camden | May | 2(?) | 188(?) | N.J.; Philadelphia, Pa. | May | 24 | 7 PM | Transit. [back]
  • 2. The year is established by the reference to the sprained left leg which Whitman complained of from April 28 to June 8 (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.); see also the letter from Whitman to Richard W. Gilder of May 24, 1885. [back]
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