John Burroughs (1837–1921)

  • Daniel G. Payne
  • Richard S. Newman

Abstract

The seventh of ten children, John Burroughs was born on a small dairy farm in the foothills of New York’s Catskill Mountains on April 3,1837. Just after his seventeenth birthday he began a career as a country schoolteacher in nearby Ulster County. During the summer months Burroughs would pursue his own education, and he soon came under the influence of Emerson’s writings, which he later said, “were like the sunlight to my pale and tender genius which had fed on Johnson and Addison and poor Whipple.” In October 1863, Burroughs moved to Washington D.C., where he soon obtained an appointment to the Department of the Treasury, and formed a close friendship with Walt Whitman. for the next three decades Burroughs was an important supporter of Whitman and his poetry and his first book (partly ghostwritten by Whitman himself) was about the poet. In 1871 Burroughs published his first book of natural history essays, Wake-Robin, which received laudatory reviews and launched his career as America’s most popular nature writer. Over the next fifty years, Burroughs published thirty books as well as hundreds of essays in many of the country’s leading periodicals. He built a writing cabin that he named Slabsides near his Hudson Valley farm, where he hosted numerous friends and admirers, including Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Ford, and John Muir. In 1903 he was the guest of President Roosevelt on a tour of Yellowstone Park, an experience that Burroughs described in Camping and Tramping with Roosevelt (1907). Roosevelt dedicated his own Outdoor Pastimes of an American Hunter (1905) to Burroughs, writing: “It is a good thing for our people that you have lived, and surely no man can wish to have more said of him.”

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Copyright information

© Daniel G. Payne and Richard S. Newman 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel G. Payne
  • Richard S. Newman

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