Remembered primarily as a naturalist writer, Burroughs grew up on a dairy farm in rural New York state, the seventh of ten children. Burroughs' reading of Emerson's essays is remarked upon as "the first great galvanizing contact for the young writer" (J. P. Warren). At the start of his literary career, Burroughs published in Henry Clapp's Saturday Press. One of the pieces published under the pseudonym "All Souls" was "Fragments from the Table of an Intellectual Epicure." His essay, "Expression" was so reminiscent of Emerson's style that James Russell Lowell, editor of The Atlantic Monthly to which he had submitted the work, reviewed all of Emerson's published works to ensure that the essay was not plagiarized (Warren). In addition to publishing almost thirty books, Burroughs also wrote essays and sketches for magazines like Appleton's, The Atlantic Monthly, Century, Galaxy, and Scribner's Monthly.
Described by Gay Wilson Allen as a "constant reader" and contributor to the Saturday Press, Burroughs was driven by the purpose of meeting Whitman. When the Saturday Press ceased to print, Burroughs called at the Leader office, where several of the Bohemians, including Clapp and Clare, were working and writing. Clapp told Burroughs that "Whitman was at Pfaff's almost every night" (Allen 273). As a result, Burroughs "started frequenting Pfaff's beerhall in New York in the hope of meeting Whitman, whose work he greatly admired" (Folsom and Price 87). Though he may have encountered Walt Whitman at Pfaff's, the two developed an intimate friendship when Burroughs moved to Washington in the fall of 1863 to work for the Currency Bureau of the Treasury Department (Allen 280). Burroughs accompanied Whitman on walks and on his visits to the army hospitals. This friendship inspired Burroughs to write "Walt Whitman and His 'Drum-Taps,'" published in the December 1866 issue of Galaxy. In 1867 he expanded on this theme, writing Notes on Walt Whitman as Poet and Person, the composition of which, he later stated, was influenced by Whitman himself. Describing the friendship, Burroughs states that "I loved him as I never loved any man. We were companionable without talking. I owe more to him than to any other man in the world. He brooded me; he gave me things to think of; he taught me generousity, breadth, and an all-embracing charity" (Life and Letters 1:113). After serving as a pall bearer at Whitman's funeral in 1892, Burroughs wrote a series of eighteen essays which he collected into a book, Whitman: A Study (1896).
Although Burroughs preferred to remain close to home, he periodically explored other parts of the country and the world. He traveled to Jamaica, Bermuda, Hawaii, Canada, Alaska, and Europe, and also to various parts of the western and southern United States. His European travels are described in Fresh Fields (1885), and details about his camping trip in Yellowstone with President Roosevelt appear in Camping and Tramping with Roosevelt (1907). In his later years, Burroughs became more interested in the world of science. He published four books between 1919-1922 "in which he sought, with an increasing melancholy, to make the best of a dubious universe" (N. Foerster).
Allen writes that Burroughs became an "intimate friend" of Whitman in 1863. Burroughs estimated that the sales of the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass were between 4,000 and 5,000 copies (267). Allen calls Whitman's friendship with Burroughs "one of the truly major friendships in Whitman's life" (299). Burroughs had been reading Leaves of Grass for about two or three years and made at least one unsuccessful attempt to meet Whitman in New York. Burroughs did not meet Whitman until October 1863, in Washington, after Burroughs left his job as a schoolteacher. The two men became friends immediately, and Burroughs began to join the group that gathered at the O'Connor home (299-301).
In the fall of 1862, Burroughs wrote to a friend that Whitman was dining at Pfaff's (273). Clapp also told Burroughs during the fall of 1862 that "Whitman managed to exist on his earnings of six or seven dollar 'per week writing for the papers'" (280).
Clara Barrus claimed that Burroughs attempted to get Juliette Beach to publish the letters she wrote to Whitman (262).
Allen mentions that Burroughs was among some of Whitman's friends who questioned the accuracy of Horace Traubel's records (531).
Extra page #s: 516, 531-532, 537, 541, 571(n63), 576(n48), 594(n153), 584(n147).[pages:262, 267, 273, 280, 299-301, 309, 315, 334-335, 363, 374-375, 384, 388, 391-392, 398, 422, 435, 445, 446, 451, 452, 454, 455, 471, 475, 482, 483, 484-]
Baker notes that Burroughs distrusted Howells' friendliness/relationship to Whitman in 1866.[pages:289]
"John Burroughs tells of the staff of a leading daily paper in New York, assembled on Saturday afternoon to be paid off, greeting the passages that were read aloud to them with 'peals upon peals of ironical laughter.' Whitman's family were indifferent. His brother George said he 'didn't read it at all-didn't think it worth reading- fingered it a little. Mother thought as I did...Mother said that if 'Hiawatha' was poetry, perhaps Walt's was'" (364).
After Swinburne's fiercest attack on Whitman, Burroughs recalls: "I could not discover either in word or look that he [Whitman] was disturbed a particle by it. He spoke as kindly of Swinburne as ever. If he was pained at all it was on Swinburne's account and not on his own. It was a sad spectacle to see a man retreat upon himself as Swinburne had done'" (375).[pages:229, 364, 375]
Mentioned in the 1861 chapter.[pages:54]
Burroughs wrote for The Saturday Press under the pseudonym of "All Souls."
The column reports that Burroughs's "In the Hemlocks" has been published in the most recent edition of the Atlantic Monthly (4).[pages:4]
O'Higgins mentions that Whitman co-authored Burroughs's biography, Notes on Walt Whitman, but says nothing of the time Whitman and Burroughs spent at Pfaff's.[pages:32-33,40-41]
Parry quotes Burroughs's 1862 description of Ada Clare: "She is really beautiful, not a characterless beauty, but a singular, unique beauty" (18). Parry also cites evidence of Burroughs firing back at Clare, "this caustic woman" who "ought to be sentenced to forty years' silence: 'My heart bleeds for Abbey!'" for her reviews of H.A. Abbey's book of poems, May Dreams (29).
Parry uses the example of Burroughs's "Fragments from the Table of an Intellectual Epicure" signed by "All Souls" as an example of the "fancy titles and pen names [that] added to the novel appeal of the sheet [the Saturday Press]" (24). Burroughs met Whitman through Clapp and the Saturday Press; Whitman first caught Burrough's attention when Clapp published "A Child's Reminiscence" in the Saturday Press December 24, 1859. The two men would later be introduced at Pfaff's during a meeting arranged by Clapp; "and Burroughs left completely charmed, to become one of the first apostles of the Great Loafer" (40-41).[pages:18,24,29,40-41]
The letter is addressed to John Burroughs.[pages:285]
Whitman described Burroughs as a young man from Delaware county who has been very hospitable to him.[pages:297]
Burroughs' praise for this letter is mentioned in note 67, at the bottom of the page.[pages:157]
Whitman sends his love to John Burroughs.[pages:285]
Whitman sends his love to Burroughs.[pages:343]
Whitman notes that he has sent Rossetti a copy of Burroughs's Notes[pages:354]
Whitman notes that he will be sending a copy of Burroughs's Notes to Mr. Rossetti.[pages:351]
Omitting his time in New York, Appleton mentions Burroughs' work with the treasury department in 1864 and his position as receiver for Wallkill national bank.[pages:470]
John Burroughs. 1902.
SOURCE: Library of Congress. LC-USZC2-6269.
The Vault at Pfaff's
27 Memorial Drive West, Bethlehem, PA 18015