Original “John Burroughs” Signed Manuscript Poem Fair Copy of Burroughs' Famous Poem WAITING in Six Stanzas
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JOHN BURROUGHS (1837-1921). American naturalist and nature essayist, active in the U.S. conservation movement who lived and wrote after the manner of Henry David Thoreau, studying and celebrating nature.
c. 1880s, Original Manuscript Poem Author Signed, “John Burroughs”, 2 pages, measuring 9.75” x 7.25”, Choice Extremely Fine. A fair copy of one of Burroughs' best known poems, WAITING, in Six Stanzas with his full signature at the conclusion. Handwritten by Burroughs on two sheets of ruled wove period stationery headed, "Department of the Interior, Bureau of Pensions, 188_, hinged together with cloth tape. Staple holes along one edge (no text disturbed), a few light stains, otherwise in nice condition. Burrough’s handwriting is bold; his signature and flousih measures 3.75” across. Two newspaper clippings from 1903 about Buroughs are mounted on the blank reverse of the second sheet (some offsetting not affecting the appearance of the other side). A previous owner has pencilled an erroneous note that this copy was penned while the author still worked for the government (he had left in 1873). There is a printed description included here with an old (1988) price of $250. (2 items) Burroughs had his first break as a writer in the summer of 1860 when the Atlantic Monthly, then a fairly new publication, accepted his essay Expression. Editor James Russell Lowell found the essay so similar to Emerson's work that he initially thought Burroughs had plagiarized his longtime acquaintance. Poole's Index and Hill's Rhetoric, both periodical indexes, even credited Emerson as the author of the essay.
In 1864, Burroughs accepted a position as a clerk at the Treasury; he would eventually become a federal bank examiner, continuing in that profession into the 1880s. All the while, he continued to publish essays, and grew interested in the poetry of Walt Whitman. Burroughs met Whitman in Washington, DC in November 1863, and the two became close friends.
Whitman encouraged Burroughs to develop his nature writing as well as his philosophical and literary essays. In 1867, Burroughs published Notes on Walt Whitman as Poet and Person, the first biography and critical work on the poet, which was extensively (and anonymously) revised and edited by Whitman himself before publication. Four years later, the Boston house of Hurd & Houghton published Burroughs' first collection of nature essays, Wake-Robin.
A 2005 photograph of Slabsides, Burroughs' cabin in West Park, NY; the cabin was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1968.
In January 1873, Burroughs left Washington for New York. The next year he bought a 9-acre (3.6 ha) farm in West Park, NY (now part of the Town of Esopus) where he built his Riverby estate. There he grew various crops before eventually focusing on table grapes. He continued to write, and continued as a federal bank examiner for several more years. In 1895 Burroughs bought additional land near Riverby where he and son Julian constructed an Adirondack-style cabin that he called "Slabsides". At Slabsides he wrote, grew celery, and entertained visitors, including students from local Vassar College.
After the turn of the 20th century, Burroughs renovated an old farmhouse near his birthplace and called it "Woodchuck Lodge." This became his summer residence until his death.
Burroughs accompanied many personalities of the time in his later years, including Theodore Roosevelt, John Muir, Henry Ford (who gave him an automobile, one of the first in the Hudson Valley), Harvey Firestone, and Thomas Edison. In 1899, he participated in E. H. Harriman's expedition to Alaska.
According to Ford, "John Burroughs, Edison, and I with Harvey S. Firestone made several vagabond trips together. We went in motor caravans and slept under canvas." Once we gypsied through the Adirondacks and again through the Alleghenies, heading southward."
In 1901, Burroughs met an admirer, Clara Barrus (1864-1931). She was a physician with the state psychiatric hospital in Middletown, N.Y. Clara was 37 and nearly half his age. She was the great love of his life and ultimately his literary executrix. She moved into his house after Ursula died in 1917.
She published Whitman and Burroughs: Comrades in 1931, relying on firsthand accounts and letters to documents Burroughs' friendship with poet Walt Whitman.