Infomotions, Inc.Our Friend John Burroughs / Barrus, Clara



Author: Barrus, Clara
Title: Our Friend John Burroughs
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): burroughs; john burroughs; woodchuck lodge
Contributor(s): Marsh, Edward Howard, Sir, 1872-1953 [Editor]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 67,217 words (short) Grade range: 11-13 (high school) Readability score: 58 (average)
Identifier: etext6561
Delicious Bookmark this on Delicious

Discover what books you consider "great". Take the Great Books Survey.

The Project Gutenberg EBook of Our Friend John Burroughs, by Clara Barrus

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing
this or any other Project Gutenberg eBook.

This header should be the first thing seen when viewing this Project
Gutenberg file.  Please do not remove it.  Do not change or edit the
header without written permission.

Please read the "legal small print," and other information about the
eBook and Project Gutenberg at the bottom of this file.  Included is
important information about your specific rights and restrictions in
how the file may be used.  You can also find out about how to make a
donation to Project Gutenberg, and how to get involved.


**Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts**

**eBooks Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971**

*****These eBooks Were Prepared By Thousands of Volunteers!*****


Title: Our Friend John Burroughs

Author: Clara Barrus

Release Date: September, 2004 [EBook #6561]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on December 28, 2002]

Edition: 10

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK OUR FRIEND JOHN BURROUGHS ***




This etext was produced by Joyce M. Noverr (JMNoverr@att.net).





OUR FRIEND JOHN BURROUGHS

by: Clara Barrus

[Illustration: John Burroughs.  From a photograph
by Theona Peck Harris]

CONTENTS

OUR FRIEND JOHN BURROUGHS

THE RETREAT OF A POET-NATURALIST

AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES
     ANCESTRY AND FAMILY LIFE
     CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH
     SELF-ANALYSIS

THE EARLY WRITINGS OF JOHN BURROUGHS

A WINTER DAY AT SLABSIDES

BACK TO PEPACTON

CAMPINGING WITH BURROUGHS AND MUIR

JOHN BURROUGHS: AN APPRECIATION




OUR FRIEND JOHN BURROUGHS


We all claim John Burroughs as our friend. He is inextricably
blended with our love for the birds and the flowers, and for all
out of doors; but he is much more to us than a charming writer of
books about nature, and we welcome familiar glimpses of him as one
welcomes anything which brings him in closer touch with a friend.

A clever essayist, in speaking of the "obituary method of
appreciation," says that we feel a slight sense of impropriety
and insecurity in contemporary plaudits.  "Wait till he is well
dead, and four or five decades of daisies have bloomed over him,
says the world; then, if there is any virtue in his works, we will
tag and label them and confer immortality upon him."  But Mr.
Burroughs has not had to wait till the  daisies cover him to be
appreciated.  A multitude of his readers has sought him out and
walked amid the daisies with him, listened with him to the birds,
and gained countless delightful associations with all these things
through this personal relation with the author; and these friends
in particular will, I trust, welcome some "contemporary plaudits."

As a man, and as a writer, Mr. Burroughs has been in the public
eye for many years.  At the age of twenty-three he had an article
printed in the "Atlantic Monthly," and in 1910 that journal
celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his contributions to its
columns.  Early in his career he received marked recognition from
able critics, and gratifying responses from readers.  It is rare in
the history of an author that his books after fifty years of writing
have the freshness, lucidity, and charm that Mr. Burroughs's later
books have.  A critic in 1876 speaks of his "quiet, believing style,
free from passion or the glitter of rhetoric, and giving one the
sense of simple eyesight"; and now, concerning one of his later
books, "Time and Change," Mr. Brander Matthews writes: "In these
pellucid pages--so easy to read because they are the result of hard
thinking--he brings home to us what is the real meaning of the
discoveries and the theories of the scientists. . . . He brings
to bear his searching scientific curiosity and his sympathetic
interpreting imagination. . . . All of them models of the essay
at its best--easy, unpedantic, and unfailingly interesting."

From school-children all over the United States, from nearly every
civilized country on the globe, from homes of the humble and of the
wealthy, from the scholar in his study, from the clergyman, the
lawyer, the physician, the business man, the farmer, the raftsman,
the sportsman, from the invalid shut in from the great outdoors
(but, thanks to our friend, not shut /out/ from outdoor blessings),
have come for many years heartfelt letters attesting the wholesome
and widespread influence of his works.

President Roosevelt a few years ago, in dedicating one of his books
to "Dear Oom John," voiced the popular feeling:  "It is a good thing
for our people that you have lived, and surely no man can wish to
have more said of him."

Some years ago, the New York "Globe," on announcing a new book
by Mr. Burroughs, said, "It has been the lot of few writers of
this country or of any country to gain such good will and personal
esteem as for many years have been freely given to John Burroughs."
If we ask why this is so, we find it answered by Whitman, who,
in conversation with a friend, said, "John is one of the true
hearts--one of the true hearts--warm, sure, firm."

Mr. Burroughs has been much visited, much "appreciated," much
rhymed about, much painted, modeled, and photographed, and--much
loved. Because he has been so much loved, and because his influence
has been so far-reaching, it has seemed to me that a book which
gives familiar and intimate glimpses of him will be welcomed by
the legion who call him friend.  The exceptional opportunities I
have enjoyed for many years past of observing him encourage me
in the undertaking.

The readers of Mr. Burroughs crave the personal relation with him.
Just as they want to own his books, instead of merely taking them
from the public libraries, so they want to meet the man, take him
by the hand, look into his eyes, hear his voice, and learn, if
possible, what it is that has given him his unfailing joy in life,
his serenity, his comprehensive and loving insight into the life of
the universe. They feel, too, a sense of deep gratitude to one who
has shown them how divine is the soil under foot--veritable star-dust
from the gardens of the Eternal.  He has made us feel at one with
the whole cosmos, not only with bird and tree, and rock and flower,
but also with the elemental forces, the powers which are friendly or
unfriendly according as we put ourselves in right or wrong relations
with them. He has shown us the divine in the common and the near at
hand; that heaven lies about us here in this world; that the
glorious and the miraculous are not to be sought afar off, but are
here and now; and that love of the earth-mother is, in the truest
sense, love of the divine:  "The babe in the womb is not nearer its
mother than are we to the invisible, sustaining, mothering powers of
the universe, and to its spiritual entities, every moment of our
lives." One who speaks thus of the things of such import to every
human soul is bound to win responses; he deals with things that come
home to us all. We want to know him.

Although retiring in habit, naturally seeking seclusion, Mr.
Burroughs is not allowed overindulgence in this tendency.  One
may with truth describe him as a contemporary described Edward
FitzGerald--"an eccentric man of genius who took more pains to
avoid fame than others do to seek it." And yet he is no recluse.
When disciples seek out the hermit in hiding behind the vines at
Slabsides, they find a genial welcome, a simple, homely hospitality;
find that the author merits the Indian name given him by a clever
friend--"Man-not-afraid-of-company."

The simplicity and gentleness of this author and his strong interest
in people endear him to the reader; we feel these qualities in his
writings long before meeting him--a certain urbanity, a tolerant
insight and sympathy, and a quiet humor.  These draw us to him.
Perhaps after cherishing his writings for years, cherishing also
a confident feeling that we shall know him some day, we obey a
sudden impulse, write to him about a bird or a flower, ask help
concerning a puzzling natural-history question, tell him what a
solace "Waiting" is, what a joy his books have been; possibly we
write some verses to him, or express appreciation for an essay
that has enlarged our vision and opened up a new world of thought.
Perhaps we go to see him at Slabsides, or in the Catskills, as the
case may be; perhaps in some unexpected way he comes to us--stops
in the same town where we live, visits the college where we are
studying, or we encounter him in our travels.  In whatever way
the personal relation comes about, we, one and all, share this
feeling: he is no longer merely the favorite author, he is /our
friend/ John Burroughs.

I question whether there is any other modern writer so approachable,
or one we so desire to approach.  He has so written himself into his
books that we know him before meeting him; we are charmed with his
directness and genuineness, and eager to claim the companionship his
pages seem to offer.  Because of his own unaffected self, our
artificialities drop away when we are with him; we want to be and
say and do the genuine, simple thing; to be our best selves; and one
who brings out this in us is sure to win our love.

[Illustration: Slabsides.  From a photograph by Charles S. Olcott]

Mr. Burroughs seems to have much in common with Edward FitzGerald;
we may say of him as has been said of the translator of the
"Rubaiyat":  "Perhaps some worship is given him . . . on account
of his own refusal of worship for things unworthy, or even for things
merely conventional."  Like FitzGerald, too, our friend is a lover
of solitude; like him he shuns cities, gets his exhilaration from
the common life about him; is inactive, easy-going, a loiterer
and saunterer through life; and could say of himself as FitzGerald
said, on describing his own uneventful days in the country: "Such
is life, and I believe I have got hold of a good end of it." Another
point of resemblance:  the American dreamer is like his English
brother in his extreme sensitiveness--he cannot bear to inflict or
experience pain.  "I lack the heroic fibre," he is wont to say.
FitzGerald acknowledged this also, and, commenting on his own
over-sensitiveness and tendency to melancholy, said, "It is well
if the sensibility that makes us fearful of ourselves is diverted
to become a case of sympathy and interest with nature and mankind."
That this sensibility in Mr. Burroughs has been so diverted, all who
are familiar with his widespread influence on our national life and
literature will agree.

In a bright descriptive article written a few years ago, Miss Isabel
Moore dispels some preconceived and erroneous notions about Mr.
Burroughs, and shows him as he is--a man keenly alive to the human
nature and life around him.  "The boys and girls buzzed about him,"
she says, "as bees about some peculiarly delectable blossom.  He
walked with them, talked with them, entranced them . . . the most
absolutely human person I have ever met--a born comrade, if there
ever was one; in daily life a delightful acquaintance as well as a
philosopher and poet and naturalist, and a few other things."  She
describes him riding with a lot of young people on a billowy load of
hay; going to a ball-game, at which no boy there enjoyed the contest
more, or was better informed as to the points of the game. "Verily,"
she says, "he has what Bjornson called 'the child in the heart.'"

It is the "child in the heart," and, in a way, the "child" in his
books, that accounts for his wide appeal.  He often says he can
never think of his books as /works/, because so much play went into
the making of them. He has gone out of doors in a holiday spirit,
has had a good time, has never lost the boy's relish for his
outings, and has been so blessed with the gift of expression that
his own delight is communicated to his reader.

And always it is the man behind the book that makes the widest
appeal.  In 1912, a Western architect, in correspondence with the
writer concerning recent essays of Mr. Burroughs, said:--


I have had much pleasure and soul-help in reading and re-reading
"The Summit of the Years."  In this, and in "All's Well with
the World," is mirrored the very soul of the gentlest, the most
lovable man-character I have ever come across in literature or
life. . . .To me all his books, from "Wake-Robin" to "Time and
Change," radiate the most joyous optimism. . . . During the past
month I have devoted my evenings to re-reading [them]. . . . He
has always meant a great deal more to me than merely intellectual
pleasure, and, next to Walt Whitman, has helped me to keep my life
as nearly open to the influences of outdoors and the stars as may
be in a dweller in a large town.


As I write, a letter comes from a Kansas youth, now a graduate
student at Yale, expressing the hope that he can see Mr. Burroughs
at Slabsides in April: "There is nothing I want to say--but for a
while I would like to be near him. He is my great good teacher
and friend. . . . As you know, he is more to me than Harvard or
Yale.  He is the biggest, simplest, and serenest man I have met
in all the East."

I suppose there is no literary landmark in America that has had a
more far-reaching influence than Slabsides.  Flocks of youths and
maidens from many schools and colleges have, for the past fifteen
years, climbed the hill to the rustic cabin in all the gayety and
enthusiasm of their young lives.  But they have seen more than
the picturesque retreat of a living author; they have received a
salutary impression made by the unostentatious life of a man who
has made a profound impression on his day who has made a profound
impression on his day and age; they have gone their separate ways
with an awakened sense of the comradeship it is possible to have
with nature, and with an ennobling affection for the one who has
made them aware of it. And this affection goes with them to whatever
place on the globe their destinies carry them.  It is transmitted to
their children; it becomes a very real part of their lives.

"My dear John Burroughs--Everybody's dear John Burroughs," a friend
writes him from London, recounting her amusing experiences in the
study of English birds. And it is "Everybody's dear John Burroughs"
who stands in the wide doorway at Slabsides and gives his callers
a quiet, cordial welcome. And when the day is ended, and the
visitor goes his way down the hill, he carries in his heart a
new treasure--the surety that he has found a comrade.

Having had the privilege for the past twelve years of helping
Mr. Burroughs with his correspondence, I have been particularly
interested in the spontaneous responses which have come to him
from his young readers, not only in America, but from Europe,
New Zealand, Australia.  Confident of his interest, they are boon
companions from the start.  They describe their own environment,
give glimpses of the wild life about them, come to him with their
natural-history difficulties; in short, write as to a friend of
whose tolerant sympathy they feel assured.  In fact, this is true
of all his correspondents.  They get on easy footing at once. They
send him birds, flowers, and insects to identify; sometimes live
animals and birds--skylarks have been sent from England, which he
liberated on the Hudson, hoping to persuade them to become
acclimated; "St. John's Bread," or locust pods, have come to him
from the Holy. Land; pressed flowers and ferns from the Himalayas,
from Africa, from Haleakala.

Many correspondents are considerate enough not to ask for an answer,
realizing the countless demands of this nature made upon a man like
Mr. Burroughs; others boldly ask, not only for a reply, but for
a photograph, an autograph, his favorite poem written in his own
hand, a list of favorite books, his views on capital punishment,
on universal peace, on immortality; some naively ask for a sketch
of his life, or a character sketch of his wife with details of their
home life, and how they spend their time; a few modestly hope he
will write a poem to them personally, all for their very own.  A
man of forty-five is tired of the hardware business, lives in the
country, sees Mr. Burroughs's essays in the "Country Calendar,"
and asks him to "learn" him to "rite for the press."

Some readers take him to task for his opinions, some point out
errors, or too sweeping statements (for he does sometimes make
them); occasionally one suggests other topics for him to write
about; others labor to bring him back into orthodox paths; hundreds
write of what a comfort "Waiting" has been; and there are countless
requests for permission to visit Slabsides, as well as invitations
to the homes of his readers.

Many send him verses, a few the manuscripts of entire books, asking
for criticism. (And when he does give criticism, he gives it
"unsweetened," being too honest to praise a thing unless in his
eyes it merits praise.)  Numerous are the requests that he write
introductions to books; that he address certain women's clubs;
that he visit a school, or a nature-study club, or go from Dan to
Beersheba to hold Burroughs Days--each writer, as a rule, urging his
claim as something very special, to which a deaf ear should not be
turned. Not all his correspondents are as considerate as the little
girl who was especially eager to learn his attitude toward snakes,
and who, after writing a pretty letter, ended thus: "Inclosed you
will find a stamp, for I know it must be fearfully expensive and
inconvenient to be a celebrity."

Occasionally he is a little severe with a correspondent, especially
if one makes a preposterous statement, or draws absurd conclusions
from faulty observations. But he is always fair.  The following
letter explains itself:--


Your first note concerning my cat and hog story made me as mad as a
hornet, which my reply showed.  Your second note has changed me into
a lamb, as nearly as a fellow of seventy-five can become one. . . .

I have read, I think, every book you ever wrote, and do not let any
production of yours escape me; and I have a little pile of framed
copies of your inimitable "My Own" to diffuse among people at
Christmas; and all these your writings make me wonder and shed
metaphorical tears to think that you are such a heretic about
reason in animals.  But even Homer nods; and it is said
Roosevelt has moments of silence.         S. C. B.


The questions his readers propound are sometimes very amusing. A
physician of thirty years' practice asks in all seriousness how
often the lions bring forth their young, and whether it is true
that there is a relation between the years in which they breed
and the increased productivity of human beings.  One correspondent
begs Mr. Burroughs to tell him how he and his wife and Theodore
Roosevelt fold their hands (as though the last-named ever folded
his), declaring he can read their characters with surprising
accuracy if this information is forthcoming.  In this instance,
I think, Mr. Burroughs folded his hands serenely, leaving his
correspondent waiting for the valued data.

The reader will doubtless be interested to see the kind of letter
the children sometimes get from their friend.  I am fortunate in
having one written in 1887 to a rhetoric class in Fulton, New York,
and one in 1911, written to children in the New York City schools,
both of which I will quote:--


West Park, N. Y., February 21, 1887

My Dear Young Friends,--

Your teacher Miss Lawrence has presumed that I might have something
to say to a class of boys and girls studying rhetoric, and, what is
more, that I might be disposed to say it.  What she tells me about
your interest in my own writings certainly interests me and makes me
wish I might speak a helpful word to you. But let me tell you that
very little conscious rhetoric has gone into the composition of those
same writings.

Valuable as the study of rhetoric undoubtedly is, it can go but a
little way in making you successful writers.  I think I have got
more help as an author from going a-fishing than from any textbook
or classbook I ever looked into.  Miss Lawrence will not thank me for
encouraging you to play truant, but if you take Bacon's or Emerson's
or Arnold's or Cowley's essays with you and dip into them now and
then while you are waiting for the fish to bite, she will detect
some fresh gleam in your composition when next you hand one in.

There is no way to learn style so sure as by familiarity with nature,
and by study of the great authors.  Shakespeare can teach you all
there is to be learned of the art of expression, and the rhetoric
of a live trout leaping and darting with such ease and sureness
cannot well be beaten.

What you really have in your heart, what you are in earnest about,
how easy it is to say that!

Miss Lawrence says you admire my essay on the strawberry.  Ah! but
I loved the  strawberry--I loved the fields where it grew, I loved
the birds that sang there, and the flowers that bloomed there, and
I loved my mother who sent me forth to gather the berries; I loved
all the rural sights and sounds, I felt near them, so that when, in
after years, I came to write my essay I had only to obey the old
adage which sums up all of the advice which can be given in these
matters, "Look in thy heart and write."

The same when I wrote about the apple.  I had apples in my blood and
bones.  I had not ripened them in the haymow and bitten them under
the seat and behind my slate so many times in school for nothing.
Every apple tree I had ever shinned up and dreamed under of a long
summer day, while a boy, helped me to write that paper.  The whole
life on the farm, and love of home and of father and mother, helped
me to write it.  In writing your compositions, put your rhetoric
behind you and tell what you feel and know, and describe what
you have seen.

All writers come sooner or later to see that the great thing is
to be simple and direct; only thus can you give a vivid sense of
reality, and without a sense of reality the finest writing is
mere froth.

Strive to write sincerely, as you speak when mad, or when in
love; not with the tips of the fingers of your mind, but with
the whole hand.

A noted English historian [Freeman] while visiting Vassar College
went in to hear the rhetoric class.  After the exercises were over
he said to the professor, "Why don't you teach your girls to spin a
plain yarn?" I hope Miss Lawrence teaches you to spin a plain yarn.
There is nothing like it.  The figures of rhetoric are not paper
flowers to be sewed upon the texture of your composition; they have
no value unless they are real flowers which sprout naturally from
your heart.

What force in the reply of that little Parisian girl I knew of!  She
offered some trinkets for sale to a lady on the street.  "How much
is this?" asked the lady, taking up some article from the little
girl's basket.  "Judge for yourself. Madam, I have tasted no food
since yesterday morning."  Under the pressure of any real feeling,
even of hunger, our composition will not lack point.

I might run on in this way another sheet, but I will stop.  I have
been firing at you in the dark,--a boy or a girl at hand is worth
several in the bush, off there in Fulton,--but if any of my words
tingle in your ears and set you to thinking, why you have your
teacher to thank for it.

Very truly yours,
John Burroughs.


La Manda Park, Cal., February 24, 1911

My Dear Young Friends,--

A hint has come to me here in southern California, where I have
been spending the winter, that you are planning to celebrate my
birthday--my seventy-fourth this time, and would like a word from
me.  Let me begin by saying that I hope that each one of you will
at least reach my age, and be able to spend a winter, or several of
them, in southern California, and get as much pleasure out of it
as I have.  It is a beautiful land, with its leagues of orange
groves, its stately plains, its park-like expanses, its bright,
clean cities, its picturesque hamlets, and country homes, and all
looked down upon by the high, deeply sculptured mountains and
snow-capped peaks.

Let me hope also that when you have reached my age you will be as
well and as young as I am.  I am still a boy at heart, and enjoy
almost everything that boys do, except making a racket.

Youth and age have not much to do with years.  You are young so
long as you keep your interest in things and relish your daily
bread.  The world is "full of a number of things," and they are
all very interesting.

As the years pass I think my interest in this huge globe upon which
we live, and in the life which it holds, deepens.  An active interest
in life keeps the currents going and keeps them clear.  Mountain
streams are young streams; they sing and sparkle as they go, and our
lives may be the same.  With me, the secret of my youth in age is the
simple life--simple food, sound sleep, the open air, daily work, kind
thoughts, love of nature, and joy and contentment in the world in
which I live. No excesses, no alcoholic drinks, no tobacco, no tea
or coffee, no stimulants stronger than water and food.

I have had a happy life. I have gathered my grapes with the bloom
upon them.  May you all do the same.

With all good wishes,
John Burroughs


"I have no genius for making gifts," Mr. Burroughs once said to
me, but how his works belie his words!  In these letters, and in
many others which his unknown friends have received from him, are
gifts of rare worth, while his life itself has been a benefaction
to us all.

One day in recounting some of the propitious things which have
come to him all unsought, he said:  "How fortunate I have always
been!  My name should have been 'Felix.'" But since "John" means
"the gracious gift of God," we are content that he was named
John Burroughs,



THE RETREAT OF A POET-NATURALIST


We are coming more and more to like the savor of the wild and the
unconventional.  Perhaps it is just this savor or suggestion of
free fields and woods, both in his life and in his books, that
causes so many persons to seek out John Burroughs in his retreat
among the trees and rocks on the hills that skirt the western bank
of the Hudson.  To Mr. Burroughs more perhaps than to any other
living American might be applied these words in Genesis: "See, the
smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath
blessed"--so redolent of the soil and of the hardiness and plenitude
of rural things is the influence that emanates from him.  His works
are as the raiment of the man, and to them adheres something as racy
and wholesome as is yielded by the fertile soil.

We are prone to associate the names of our three most prominent
literary naturalists,--Gilbert White, of England, and Thoreau and
John Burroughs, of America,--men who have been so /en rapport/ with
nature that, while ostensibly only disclosing the charms of their
mistress, they have at the same time subtly communicated much of
their own wide knowledge of nature, and permanently enriched our
literature as well.

In thinking of Gilbert White one invariably thinks also of Selborne,
his open-air parish; in thinking of Thoreau one as naturally recalls
his humble shelter on the banks of Walden Pond; and it is coming to
pass that in thinking of John Burroughs one thinks likewise of his
hidden farm high on the wooded hills that overlook the Hudson,
nearly opposite Poughkeepsie.  It is there that he has built himself
a picturesque retreat, a rustic house named Slabsides.  I find that,
to many, the word "Slabsides" gives the impression of a dilapidated,
ramshackle kind of place.  This impression is an incorrect one.
The cabin is a well-built two-story structure, its uneuphonious but
fitting name having been given it because its outer walls are formed
of bark-covered slabs.  "My friends frequently complain," said Mr.
Burroughs, "because I have not given my house a prettier name, but
this name just expresses the place, and the place just meets the
want that I felt for something simple, homely, secluded--something
with the bark on."

Both Gilbert White and Thoreau became identified with their
respective environments almost to the exclusion of other fields.
The minute observations of White, and his records of them, extending
over forty years, were almost entirely confined to the district of
Selborne.  He says that he finds that "that district produces the
greatest variety which is the most examined."  The thoroughness
with which he examined his own locality is attested by his "Natural
History of Selborne." Thoreau was such a stay-at-home that he
refused to go to Paris lest he miss something of interest in
Concord.  "I have traveled a good deal in Concord," he says in his
droll way.  And one of the most delicious instances of provinciality
that I ever came across is Thoreau's remark on returning Dr. Kane's
"Arctic Explorations" to a friend who had lent him the book--"Most of
the phenomena therein recorded are to be observed about Concord."
In thinking of John Burroughs, however, the thought of the author's
mountain home as the material and heart of his books does not come
so readily to consciousness. For most of us who have felt the
charm, of his lyrical prose, both in his outdoor books and in his
"Indoor Studies," were familiar with him as an author long before we
knew there was a Slabsides--long before there was one, in fact, since
he has been leading his readers to nature for fifty years, while the
picturesque refuge we are now coming to associate with him has been
in existence only about fifteen years.

Our poet-naturalist seems to have appropriated all outdoors for
his stamping-ground.  He has given us in his limpid prose intimate
glimpses of the hills and streams and pastoral farms of his native
country; has taken us down the Pepacton, the stream of his boyhood;
we have traversed with him the "Heart of the Southern Catskills,"
and the valleys of the Neversink and the Beaverkill; we have sat
upon the banks of the Potomac, and sailed down the Saguenay; we
have had a glimpse of the Blue Grass region, and "A Taste of Maine
Birch" (true, Thoreau gave us this, also, and other "Excursions"
as well); we have walked with him the lanes of "Mellow England";
journeyed "In the Carlyle Country"; marveled at the azure glaciers
of Alaska; wandered in the perpetual summerland of Jamaica; camped
with him and the Strenuous One in the Yellowstone; looked in awe and
wonder at that "Divine Abyss," the Grand Canon of the Colorado; felt
the "Spell of Yosemite," and idled with him under the sun-steeped
skies of Hawaii and by her morning-glory seas.

Our essayist is thus seen not to be untraveled, yet he is no
wanderer.  No man ever had the home feeling stronger than has
he; none is more completely under the spell of a dear and familiar
locality.  Somewhere he has said: "Let a man stick his staff into
the ground anywhere and say, 'This is home,' and describe things
from that point of view, or as they stand related to that spot,--the
weather, the fauna, the flora,--and his account shall have an
interest to us it could not have if not thus located and defined."

[Illustration: Riverby from the Orchard.  From a photograph
by Charles S. Olcott]

Before hunting out Mr. Burroughs in his mountain hermitage, let
us glance at his conventional abode, Riverby, at West Park, Ulster
County, New York.  This has been his home since 1874.  Having chosen
this place by the river, he built his house of stone quarried from
the neighboring hills, and finished it with the native woods; he
planted a vineyard on the sloping hillside, and there he has
successfully combined the business of grape-culture with his
pursuits and achievements as a literary naturalist.  More than
half his books have been written since he has dwelt at Riverby,
the earlier ones having appeared when he was a clerk in the Treasury
Department in Washington, an atmosphere supposedly unfriendly to
literary work.  It was not until he gave up his work in Washington,
and his later position as bank examiner in the eastern part of New
York State, that he seemed to come into his own.  Business life, he
had long known, could never be congenial to him; literary pursuits
alone were insufficient; the long line of yeoman ancestry back of
him cried out for recognition; he felt the need of closer contact
with the soil; of having land to till and cultivate.  This need, an
ancestral one, was as imperative as his need of literary expression,
an individual one.  Hear what he says after having ploughed in his
new vineyard for the first time: "How I soaked up the sunshine
to-day!  At night I glowed all over; my whole being had had an
earth bath; such a feeling of freshly ploughed land in every
cell of my brain.  The furrow had struck in; the sunshine had
photographed it upon my soul."  Later he built him a little study
somewhat apart from his dwelling, to which he could retire and muse
and write whenever the mood impelled him.  This little one-room
study, covered with chestnut bark, is on the brow of a hill which
slopes toward the river; it commands an extended view of the Hudson.
But even this did not meet his requirements.  The formality and
routine of conventional life palled upon him; the expanse of the
Hudson, the noise of railway and steamboat wearied him; he craved
something more retired, more primitive, more homely. "You cannot
have the same kind of attachment and sympathy for a great river;
it does not flow through your affections like a lesser stream," he
says, thinking, no doubt, of the trout-brooks that thread his
father's farm, of Montgomery Hollow Stream, of the Red Kill, and
of others that his boyhood knew.  Accordingly he cast about for
some sequestered spot in which to make himself a hermitage.

[Illustration: The Study, Riverby.  From a photograph
by Charles S. Olcott]

During his excursions in the vicinity of West Park, Mr. Burroughs
had lingered oftenest in the hills back of, and parallel with,
the Hudson, and here he finally chose the site for his rustic
cabin.  He had fished and rowed in Black Pond, sat by its falls
in the primitive forest, sometimes with a book, sometimes with
his son, or with some other hunter or fisher of congenial tastes;
and on one memorable day in April, years agone, he had tarried
there with Walt Whitman. There, seated on a fallen tree, Whitman
wrote this description of the place which was later printed in
"Specimen Days":--


I jot this memorandum in a wild scene of woods and hills where
we have come to visit a waterfall.  I never saw finer or more
copious hemlocks, many of them large, some old and hoary.  Such
a sentiment to them, secretive, shaggy, what I call weather-beaten,
and let-alone--a rich underlay of ferns, yew sprouts and mosses,
beginning to be spotted with the early summer wild flowers.
Enveloping all, the monotone and liquid gurgle from the hoarse,
impetuous, copious fall--the greenish-tawny, darkly transparent
waters plunging with velocity down the rocks, with patches of
milk-white foam--a stream of hurrying amber, thirty feet wide,
risen far back in the hills and woods, now rushing with volume--every
hundred rods a fall, and sometimes three or four in that distance.
A primitive forest, druidical, solitary, and savage--not ten visitors
a year--broken rocks everywhere, shade overhead, thick underfoot with
leaves--a just palpable wild and delicate aroma.


"Not ten visitors a year" may have been true when Whitman described
the place, but we know it is different now.  Troops of Vassar girls
come to visit the hermit of Slabsides, and are taken to these falls;
nature-lovers, and those who only think themselves nature-lovers,
come from far and near; Burroughs clubs, boys' schools, girls'
schools, pedestrians, cyclists, artists, authors, reporters,
poets,--young and old, renowned and obscure,--from April till November
seek out this lover of nature, who is a lover of human nature as
well, who gives himself and his time generously to those who find
him. When the friends of Socrates asked him where they should bury
him, he said: "You may bury me if you can /find/ me."  Not all who
seek John Burroughs really find him; he does not mix well with every
newcomer; one must either have something of Mr. Burroughs's own
cast of mind, or else be of a temperament capable of genuine sympathy
with him, in order to find the real man.  He withdraws into his
shell before persons of uncongenial temperament; to such he can
never really speak--they see Slabsides, but they don't see Burroughs.
He is, however, never curt or discourteous to any one.  Unlike
Thoreau, who "put the whole of nature between himself and his
fellows," Mr. Burroughs leads his fellows to nature, although it
is sometimes, doubtless, with the feeling that one can lead a horse
to water, but can't make him drink; for of all the sightseers that
journey to Slabsides there must of necessity be many that "Oh!" and
"Ah!" a good deal, but never really get further in their study of
nature than that.  Still, it can scarcely fail to be salutary even
to these to get away from the noise and the strife in city and town,
and see how sane, simple, and wholesome life is when lived in a sane
and simple and wholesome way. Somehow it helps one to get a clearer
sense of the relative value of things, it makes one ashamed of his
petty pottering over trifles, to witness this exemplification of
the plain living and high thinking which so many preach about, and
so few practice.

"The thing which a man's nature calls him to do--what else so well
worth doing?" asks this writer.  One's first impression after
glancing about this well-built cabin, with the necessities of body
and soul close at hand, is a vicarious satisfaction that here, at
least, is one who has known what he wanted to do and has done it.
We are glad that Gilbert White made pastoral calls on his outdoor
parishioners,--the birds, the toads, the turtles, the snails, and
the earthworms,--although we often wonder if he evinced a like
conscientiousness toward his human parishioners; we are glad that
Thoreau left the manufacture of lead pencils to become, as Emerson
jocosely complained, "the leader of a huckleberry party",--glad
because these were the things their natures called them to do,
and in so doing they best enriched their fellows. They literally
went away that they might come to us in a closer, truer way than
had they tarried in our midst.  It must have been in answer to a
similar imperative need of his own that John Burroughs chose to
hie himself to the secluded yet accessible spot where his mountain
cabin is built.

"As the bird feathers her nest with down plucked from her own
breast," says Mr. Burroughs in one of his early essays, "so one's
spirit must shed itself upon its environment before it can brood
and be at all content."  Here at Slabsides one feels that its master
does brood and is content.  It is an ideal location for a man of his
temperament; it affords him the peace and seclusion he desires, yet
is not so remote that he is shut off from human fellowship.  For he
is no recluse; his sympathies are broad and deep.  Unlike Thoreau,
who asserts that "you cannot have a deep sympathy with both man and
nature," and that "those qualities that bring you near to the one
estrange you from the other," Mr. Burroughs likes his kind; he is
doubtless the most accessible of all notable American writers,--a
fact which is perhaps a drawback to him in his literary work, his
submission to being hunted out often being taken advantage of, no
doubt, by persons who are in no real sense nature-lovers, but who
go to his retreat merely to see the hermit in hiding there.

After twelve years' acquaintance with his books I yielded to the
impulse, often felt before, to tell Mr. Burroughs what a joy his
writings had been to me.  In answering my letter he said: "The
genuine responses that come to an author from his unknown readers,
judging from my own experience, are always very welcome.  It is no
intrusion but rather an inspiration."  A gracious invitation to make
him a visit came later.

The visit was made in the "month of tall weeds," in September,
1901. Arriving at West Park, the little station on the West Shore
Railway, I found Mr. Burroughs in waiting.  The day was gray and
somewhat forbidding; not so the author's greeting; his almost
instant recognition and his quiet welcome made me feel that I had
always known him.  It was like going home to hear him say quietly,
"So you are here--really here," as he took my hand.  The feeling of
comradeship that I had experienced in reading his books was realized
in his presence.  With market-basket on arm, he started off at a
brisk pace along the country road, first looking to see if I was
well shod, as he warned me that it was quite a climb to Slabsides.

His kindly face was framed with snowy hair.  He was dressed in
olive-brown clothes, and "his old experienced coat" blended in color
with the tree-trunks and the soil with which one felt sure it had
often been in close communion.

We soon left the country road and struck into a woodland path, going
up through quiet, cathedral-like woods till we came to an abrupt
rocky stairway which my companion climbed with ease and agility
despite his five-and-sixty years.

I paused to examine some mushrooms, and, finding a species that I
knew to be edible, began nibbling it.  "Don't taste that," he said
imperatively; but I laughed and nibbled away.  With a mingling of
anxiety and curiosity he inquired: "Are you sure it's all right?
Do you really like them?  I never could; they are so uncanny--the
gnomes or evil genii or hobgoblins of the vegetable world--give
them a wide berth."

He pointed to a rock in the distance where he said he sometimes sat
and sulked. "/You/ sulk, and own up to it, too?" I asked.  "Yes, and
own up to it, too.  Why not?  Don't you?"

"Are there any bee-trees around here?" I questioned, remembering
that in one of his essays he has said: "If you would know the
delight of bee-hunting, and how many sweets such a trip yields
besides honey, come with me some bright, warm, late September or
early October day. It is the golden season of the year, and any
errand or pursuit that takes us abroad upon the hills, or by the
painted woods and along the amber-colored streams at such a time
is enough."  Here was a September day if not a bright one, and here
were the painted woods, and somehow I felt half aggrieved that he
did not immediately propose going in quest of wild honey.  Instead
he only replied: "I don't know whether there are bee-trees around
here now or not.  I used to find a good deal of wild honey over at
a place that I spoke of casually as Mount Hymettus, and was much
surprised later to find they had so put it down on the maps of this
region.  Wild honey is delectable, but I pursued that subject till
I sucked it dry.  I haven't done much about it these later years."
So we are not to gather wild honey, I find; but what of that?--am I
not actually walking in the woods with John Burroughs?

Up, up we climb, an ascent of about a mile and a quarter from the
railway station.  Emerging from the woods, we come rather suddenly
upon a reclaimed rock-girt swamp, the most of which is marked off in
long green lines of celery. This swamp was formerly a lake-bottom;
its rich black soil and three perennial springs near by decided Mr.
Burroughs to drain and reclaim the soil and compel it to yield
celery and other garden produce.

Nestling under gray rocks, on the edge of the celery garden,
embowered in forest trees, is the vine-covered cabin, Slabsides.
What a feeling of peace and aloofness comes over one in looking up
at the encircling hills!  The few houses scattered about on other
rocks are at a just comfortable distance to be neighborly, but not
too neighborly.  Would one be lonesome here?  Aye, lonesome, but--

          "Not melancholy,--no, for it is green
          And bright and fertile, furnished in itself
          With the few needful things that life requires;
          In rugged arms how soft it seems to lie,
          How tenderly protected!"

Mr. Burroughs has given to those who contemplate building a house
some sound advice in his essay "Roof-Tree."  There he has said that
a man makes public proclamation of what are his tastes and his
manners, or his want of them, when he builds his house; that if
we can only keep our pride and vanity in abeyance and forget that
all the world is looking on, we may be reasonably sure of having
beautiful houses.  Tried by his own test, he has no reason to be
ashamed of his taste or his manners when Slabsides is critically
examined.  Blending with its surroundings, it is coarse, strong,
and substantial without; within it is snug and comfortable; its
wide door bespeaks hospitality; its low, broad roof, protection
and shelter; its capacious hearth, cheer; all its appointments
for the bodily needs express simplicity and frugality; and its
books and magazines, and the conversation of the host--are they
not there for the needs that bread alone will not supply?

"Mr. Burroughs, why don't you PAINT things?" asked a little boy of
four, who had been spending a happy day at Slabsides, but who, at
nightfall, while nestling in the author's arms, seemed suddenly to
realize that this rustic house was very different from anything he
had seen before. "I don't like things painted, my little man; that
is just why I came up here--to get away from paint and polish--just
as you liked to wear your overalls to-day and play on the grass,
instead of keeping on that pretty dress your mother wanted you to
keep clean." "Oh!" said the child in such a knowing tone that one
felt he understood.  But that is another story.

The time of which I am speaking--that gray September day--what a
memorable day it was!  How cheery the large, low room looked when
the host replenished the smouldering fire!  "I sometimes come up
here even in winter, build a fire, and stay for an hour or more,
with long, sad, sweet thoughts and musings," he said. He is justly
proud of the huge stone fireplace and chimney which he himself
helped to construct; he also helped to hew the trees and build the
house.  "What joy went into the building of this retreat!  I never
expect to be so well content again."  Then, musing, he added: "It
is a comfortable, indolent life I lead here; I read a little, write
a little, and dream a good deal.  Here the sun does not rise so
early as it does down at Riverby.  'Tired nature's sweet restorer'
is not put to rout so soon by the screaming whistles, the thundering
trains, and the necessary rules and regulations of well-ordered
domestic machinery.  Here I really 'loaf and invite my soul.'  Yes,
I am often melancholy, and hungry for companionship--not in the
summer months, no, but in the quiet evenings before the fire, with
only Silly Sally to share my long, long thoughts; she is very
attentive, but I doubt if she notices when I sigh.  She doesn't even
heed me when I tell her that ornithology is a first-rate pursuit for
men, but a bad one for cats.  I suspect that she studies the birds
with greater care than I do; for now I can get all I want of a bird
and let him remain in the bush, but Silly Sally is a thorough-going
ornithologist; she must engage in all the feather-splittings that
the ornithologists do, and she isn't satisfied until she has
thoroughly dissected and digested her material, and has all the
dry bones of the subject laid bare."

We sat before the fire while Mr. Burroughs talked of nature, of
books, of men and women whose lives or books, or both, have closely
touched his own.  He talked chiefly of Emerson and Whitman, the
men to whom he seems to owe the most, the two whom most his soul
has loved.

"I remember the first time I saw Emerson," he said musingly; "it
was at West Point during the June examinations of the cadets. Emerson
had been appointed by President Lincoln as one of the board of
visitors.  I had been around there in the afternoon, and had been
peculiarly interested in a man whose striking face and manner
challenged my attention.  I did not hear him speak, but watched
him going about with a silk hat, much too large, pushed back on
his head; his sharp eyes peering into everything, curious about
everything.  'Here,' said I to myself, 'is a countryman who has
got away from home, and intends to see all that is going on'--such
an alert, interested air!  That evening a friend came to me and in
a voice full of awe and enthusiasm said, 'Emerson is in town!' Then
I knew who the alert, sharp-eyed stranger was.  We went to the
meeting and met our hero, and the next day walked and talked with
him.  He seemed glad to get away from those old fogies and talk with
us young men.  I carried his valise to the boat-landing--I was in the
seventh heaven of delight."

"I saw him several years later," he continued, "soon after
'Wake-Robin' was published; he mentioned it and said: 'Capital
title, capital!'  I don't suppose he had read much besides
the title."

"The last time I saw him," he said with a sigh, "was at Holmes's
seventieth-birthday breakfast, in Boston.  But then his mind was
like a splendid bridge with one span missing; he had--what is it you
doctors call it?--/aphasia/, yes, that is it--he had to grope for his
words.  But what a serene, godlike air! He was like a plucked eagle
tarrying in the midst of a group of lesser birds.  He would sweep
the assembly with that searching glance, as much as to say, 'What
is all this buzzing and chirping about?'  Holmes was as brilliant
and scintillating as ever; sparks of wit would greet every newcomer,
flying out as the sparks fly from that log.  Whittier was there,
too, looking nervous and uneasy and very much out of his element.
But he stood next to Emerson, prompting his memory and supplying the
words his voice refused to utter.  When I was presented, Emerson
said in a slow, questioning way, 'Burroughs--Burroughs?' 'Why, thee
knows /him/,' said Whittier, jogging his memory with some further
explanation; but I doubt if he then remembered anything about me."

It was not such a leap from the New England writers to Whitman as
one might imagine.  Mr. Burroughs spoke of Emerson's prompt and
generous indorsement of the first edition of "Leaves of Grass": "I
give you joy of your free, brave thought.  I have great joy in it."
This and much else Emerson had written in a letter to Whitman.  "It
is the charter of an emperor!"  Dana had said when Whitman showed
him the letter.  The poet's head was undoubtedly a little turned
by praise from such a source, and much to Emerson's annoyance, the
letter was published in the next edition of the "Leaves."  Still
Emerson and Whitman remained friends to the last.

"Whitman was a child of the sea," said Mr. Burroughs; "nurtured
by the sea, cradled by the sea; he gave one the same sense of
invigoration and of illimitableness that we get from the sea. He
never looked so much at home as when on the shore--his gray clothes,
gray hair, and far-seeing blue-gray eyes blending with the
surroundings.  And his thoughts--the same broad sweep, the elemental
force and grandeur and all-embracingness of the impartial sea!"

"Whitman never hurried," Mr. Burroughs continued; "he always seemed
to have infinite time at his disposal."  It brought Whitman very
near to hear Mr. Burroughs say, "He used to take Sunday breakfasts
with us in Washington.  Mrs. Burroughs makes capital pancakes, and
Walt was very fond of them; but he was always late to breakfast.
The coffee would boil over, the griddle would smoke, car after car
would go jingling by, and no Walt.  Sometimes it got to be a little
trying to have domestic arrangements so interfered with; but a car
would stop at last, Walt would roll off it, and saunter up to the
door--cheery, vigorous, serene, putting every one in good humor. And
how he ate! He radiated health and hopefulness.  This is what made
his work among the sick soldiers in Washington of such inestimable
value.  Every one that came into personal relations with him felt
his rare compelling charm."

It was all very well, this talk about the poets, but climbing
"break-neck stairs" on our way thither had given the guest an
appetite, and the host as well; and these appetites had to be
appeased by something less transcendental than a feast of reason.
Scarcely interrupting his engaging monologue, Mr. Burroughs went
about his preparations for dinner, doing things deftly and quietly,
all unconscious that there was anything peculiar in this sight to
the spectator.  Potatoes and onions were brought in with the earth
still on them, their bed was made under the ashes, and we sat
down to more talk.  After a while he took a chicken from the
market-basket, spread it on a toaster, and broiled it over the
coals; he put the dishes on the hearth to warm, washed the celery,
parched some grated corn over the coals while the chicken was
broiling, talking the while of Tolstoy and of Maeterlinck, of
orioles and vireos, of whatever we happened to touch upon. He
avowed that he was envious of Maeterlinck on account of his poetic
"Life of the Bee."  "I ought to have written that," he said; "I know
the bee well enough, but I could never do anything so exquisite."

Parts of Maeterlinck's "Treasures of the Humble," and "Wisdom and
Destiny," he "couldn't stand."  I timorously mentioned his chapter
on "Silence."

"'Silence'? Oh, yes; silence is very well--some kinds of it; but
/why make such a noise about silence/?" he asked with a twinkle in
his eyes.

When the chicken was nearly ready, I moved toward the dining-table,
on which some dishes were piled. As though in answer to my thought,
he said:

"Yes, if there's anything you can do there, you may." So I began
arranging the table.

"Where are /my/ knife and fork?" "In the cupboard," he answered
without ceremony.

We brought the good things from the hearth, hot and delicious, and
sat down to a dinner that would have done credit to an Adirondack
guide,--and when one has said this, what more need one say?

In helping myself to the celery I took an outside piece.  Mine host
reached over and, putting a big white centre of celery on my plate,
said: "What's the use taking the outside of things when one can
have the heart?"  This is typical of John Burroughs's life as well
as his art--he has let extraneous things, conventionalities, and
non-essentials go; has gone to the heart of things. It is this that
has made his work so vital.

As we arose from the table, I began picking up the dishes.

"You are going to help, are you?"

"Of course," I replied; "where is your dish-cloth? "--a natural
question, as any woman will agree, but what a consternation it
evoked!  A just perceptible delay, a fumbling among pots and pans,
and he came toward me with a most apologetic air, and with the
sorriest-looking rag I had ever seen--its narrow circumference
encircling a very big hole.

"Is /that/ the best dish-cloth you have?" I asked.

For answer he held it up in front of his face, but the most of it
being hole, it did not hide the eyes that twinkled so merrily that
my housewifely reproof was effectually silenced. I took the sorry
remnant and began washing the dishes, mentally resolving, and
carrying out my resolution the next day, to send him a respectable
dish-cloth.  Prosaic, if you will, but does not his own Emerson
say something about giving--

          "to barrows, trays, and pans,
          Grace and glimmer of romance"?

And what graces a dish-pan better than a clean, whole,
self-respecting dish-cloth?

So there we stood, John Burroughs and his humble reader, washing and
wiping dishes, and weighing Amiel and Schopenhauer in the balance at
the same time; and a very novel and amusing experience it was.  Yet
it did not seem so strange after all, but almost as though it had
happened before.  Silly Sally purred beseechingly as she followed
her master about the room and out to the wood-pile, reminding him
that she liked chicken bones.

While putting the bread in the large tin box that stood on the
stair-landing, I had some difficulty with the clasp.  "Never mind
that," said Mr. Burroughs, as he scraped the potato skins into the
fire; "a Vassar girl sat down on that box last summer, and it's
never been the same since."

The work finished, there was more talk before the fire.  It was here
that the author told his guest about Anne Gilchrist, the talented,
noble-hearted Englishwoman, whose ready acceptance of Whitman's
message bore fruit in her penetrating criticism of Whitman, a
criticism which stands to-day unrivaled by anything that has been
written concerning the Good Gray Poet.

Like most of Mr. Burroughs' readers, I cherish his poem "Waiting,"
and, like most of them, I told him so on seeing him seated before
the fire with folded hands and face serene, a living embodiment of
the faith and trust expressed in those familiar lines.  It would
seem natural that he should write such a poem after the heat of the
day, after his ripe experience, after success had come to him; it is
the lesson we expect one to learn on reaching his age, and learning
how futile is the fret and urge of life, how infinitely better is
the attitude of trust that what is our own will gravitate to us in
obedience to eternal laws. But I there learned that he had written
the poem when a young man, life all before him, his prospects in a
dubious and chaotic condition, his aspirations seeming likely to
come to naught.

"I have lived to prove it true," he said,--"that which I but vaguely
divined when I wrote the lines.  Our lives are all so fearfully
and wonderfully shot through with the very warp and woof of the
universe, past, present, and to come!  No doubt at all that our
own--that which our souls crave and need--does gravitate toward us,
or we toward it.  'Waiting' has been successful," he added, "not
on account of its poetic merit, but for some other merit or quality.
It puts in simple and happy form some common religious aspirations,
without using the religious jargon.  People write me from all
parts of the country that they treasure it in their hearts; that
it steadies their hand at the helm; that it is full of consolation
for them.  It is because it is poetry allied with religion that
it has this effect; poetry alone would not do this; neither would
a prose expression of the same religious aspirations do it, for
we often outgrow the religious views and feelings of the past.
The religious thrill, the sense of the Infinite, the awe and
majesty of the universe, are no doubt permanent in the race, but
the expression of these feelings in creeds and forms addressed to
the understanding, or exposed to the analysis of the understanding,
is as transient and flitting as the leaves of the trees.  My little
poem is vague enough to escape the reason, sincere enough to go to
the heart, and poetic enough to stir the imagination."

The power of accurate observation, of dispassionate analysis, of
keen discrimination and insight that we his readers are familiar
with in his writings about nature, books, men, and life in general,
is here seen to extend to self-analysis as well,--a rare gift; a
power that makes his opinions carry conviction.  We feel he is not
intent on upholding any theory, but only on seeing things as they
are, and reporting them as they are.

A steady rain had set in early in the afternoon, effectually
drowning my hopes of a longer wood-land walk that day, but I
was then, and many a time since then have been, well content
that it was so.  I learned less of woodland lore, but more of
the woodland philosopher.

In quiet converse passed the hours of that memorable day in
the humble retreat on the wooded hills,--

          "Far from the clank of the world,"--

and in the company of the poet-naturalist.  So cordial had my host
been, so gracious the admission to his home and hospitality, that I
left the little refuge with a feeling of enrichment I shall cherish
while life lasts.  I had sought out a favorite author; I had gained
a friend.



AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES


[In response to my request, Mr. Burroughs began in 1903 to write
for me a series of letters, autobiographical in character.  It
is from them, for the most part, helped out by interviews to
fill in the gaps, that I have compiled this part of the book.
The letters were not written continuously; begun in 1903, they
suffered a long interruption, were resumed in 1906, again in 1907,
and lastly in 1912.  The reader will, I trust, pardon any repetition
noted, an occasional return to a subject previously touched upon
being unavoidable because of the long intervals between some of
the letters.

It seems to me that these letters picture our author more faithfully
than could any portrait drawn by another.  Thomas Bailey Aldrich
has said that no man has ever yet succeeded in painting an honest
portrait of himself in an autobiography, however sedulously he may
have set about it; that in spite of his candid purpose he omits
necessary touches and adds superfluous ones; that at times he cannot
help draping his thought, and that, of course, the least shred
of drapery is a disguise.  But, Aldrich to the contrary
notwithstanding, I believe Mr. Burroughs has pictured himself
and his environment in these pages with the same fidelity with
which he has interpreted nature.  He is so used to "straight seeing
and straight thinking" that these gifts do not desert him when his
observation is turned upon himself.  He seems to be a shining
example of the exception that proves the rule.  Besides, when
Aldrich pronounced that dictum, Mr. Burroughs had not produced
these sketches.

This record was not written with the intention of its being
published as it stood, but merely to acquaint me with the facts
and with the author's feelings concerning them, in case I should
some day undertake his biography.  But it seems to me that just
because it was so written, it has a value which would be considerably
lessened were it to be worked over into a more finished form.  I have
been willing to sacrifice the more purely literary value which would
undoubtedly grace the record, were the author to revise it, that I
may retain its homely, unstudied human value.

I have arranged the autobiographical material under three
headings:  Ancestry and Family Life, Childhood and Youth, and
Self-Analysis.--C. B.]



ANCESTRY AND FAMILY LIFE


I am, as you know, the son of a farmer.  My father was the son of
a farmer, as was his father, and his.  There is no break, so far
as I know, in the line of farmers back into the seventeenth century.
There was a Rev. George Burroughs who was hanged (in 1692) for a
witch in Salem.  He was a Harvard graduate.  I know of no other
Harvard graduate by our name until Julian [Mr. Burroughs's son]
graduated in 1901 from Harvard.  My father's cousin, the Rev.
John C. Burroughs, the first president of Chicago University,
was graduated from Yale sometime in the early forties.

The first John Burroughs of whom I have any trace came from the West
Indies, and settled in Stratford, Connecticut, where he married
in 1694.  He had ten children, of whom the seventh was John, born
in August, 1705.  My descent does not come from this John, but from
his eldest brother, Stephen, who was born at Stratford in February,
1695.  Stephen had eight children, and here another John turns
up--his last child, born in 1745.  His third child, Stephen Burroughs
(born in 1729), was a shipbuilder and became a noted mathematician
and astronomer, and lived at Bridgeport, Connecticut.  My descent
is through Stephen's seventh child, Ephraim, born in 1740.

Ephraim, my great-grandfather, also had a large family, six sons
and several daughters, of which my grandfather Eden was one.  He
was born in Stratford, about 1770.  My great-grandfather Ephraim
left Stratford near the beginning of the Revolution and came into
New York State, first into Dutchess County, when Grandfather was a
small boy, and finally settled in what is now the town of Stamford,
Delaware County, where he died in 1818.  He is buried in a field
between Hobart and Stamford.

My grandfather Eden married Rachael Avery, and shortly afterward
moved over the mountain to the town of Roxbury, cutting a road
through the woods and bringing his wife and all their goods and
chattels on a sled drawn by a yoke of oxen. This must have been
not far from the year 1795. He cleared the land and built a log
house with a black-ash bark roof, and a great stone chimney, and
a floor of hewn logs.  Grandmother said it was the happiest day of
her life when she found herself the mistress of this little house
in the woods.  Great-grandmother Avery lived with them later.  She
had a petulant disposition. One day when reproved for something,
she went off and hid herself in the bushes and sulked--a family
trait; I'm a little that way, I guess.

Grandfather Burroughs was religious,--an Old-School Baptist,--a
thoughtful, quiet, exemplary man who read his Bible much.  He was of
spare build, serious, thrifty after the manner of pioneers, and a
kind husband and father.  He died, probably of apoplexy, when I was
four years old. I can dimly remember him.  He was about seventy-two.

Grandmother Burroughs had sandy hair and a freckled face, and from
her my father and his sister Abby got their red hair.  From this
source I doubtless get some of my Celtic blood.  Grand-mother
Burroughs had nine children; the earliest ones died in infancy;
their graves are on the hill in the old burying-ground.  Two boys
and five girls survived--Phoebe, Betsy, Mary, Abby, Olly, Chauncey
(my father), and Hiram.

I do not remember Grandmother at all.  She died, I think, in
1838, of consumption; she was in the seventies.  Father said her
last words were, "Chauncey, I have but a little while to live."
Her daughter Oily and also my sister Oily died of consumption.
Grandmother used to work with Grandfather in the fields, and help
make sugar.  I have heard them tell how in 1812 they raised wheat
which sold for $2.50 a bushel--a great thing.

Father told me of his uncle, Chauncey Avery, brother of Grandmother
Burroughs, who, with his wife and seven children, was drowned near
Shandaken, by a flood in the Esopus Creek, in April, 1814, or 1816.
The creek rose rapidly in the night; retreat was cut off in the
morning.  They got on the roof and held family prayers.  Uncle
Chauncey tried to fell a tree and make a bridge, but the water
drove him away.  The house was finally carried away with most of
the family in it.  The father swam to a stump with one boy on his
back and stood there till the water carried away the stump, then
tried to swim with the boy for shore, but the driftwood soon
engulfed him and all was over.  Two of the bodies were never
found.  Their bones doubtless rest somewhere in the still waters
of the lower Esopus.


[Here follow details concerning one paternal and one maternal aunt,
which, though picturesque, would better be omitted.  It is to be
noted, however, that in this simple homely narrative of his
ancestors (which, by the way, gives a vivid picture of the early
pioneer days) and later in his own personal history, there is no
attempt to conceal or gloss over weaknesses or shortcomings; all
is set down with engaging candor.--C. B.]


Father's sister Abby married a maternal cousin, John Kelly.  He was
of a scholarly turn.  He worked for Father the year I was born, and
I was named after him.  I visited him in Pennsylvania in 1873, and
while there, when he was talking with me about the men of our family
named John Burroughs, he said, "One was a minister in the West, one
was Uncle Hiram's son, you are the third, and there is still another
I have heard of,--a writer."  And I was silly enough not to tell him
that I was that one.  After I reached home, some of my people sent
him "Winter Sunshine," and when he found that I was its author, he
wrote that he "set great store by it."  I don't know why I should
have been so reticent about my books--they were a foreign thing, I
suppose; it was not natural to speak of them among my kinsfolk.


[In this connection let me quote from an early letter of Mr.
Burroughs to me.  It was written in 1901 after the death of
his favorite sister: "She was very dear to me, and I had no
better friend.  More than the rest of my people she aspired
to understand and appreciate me, and with a measure of success.
My family are plain, unlettered farmer folk, and the world in
which you and I live iss a sealed book to them.  The have never
read my books.  What they value in me is what I have in common
with them, which is, no doubt, the larger part of me.  But I
love them all just the same.  They are a part of father and
mother, of the old home, and of my youthful days."--C. B.]


Mother's father. Grandfather Kelly, was a soldier of 1776, of
Irish descent, born in Connecticut, I think.  His name was Edmund
Kelly.  He went into the war as a boy and saw Washington and
La Fayette.  He was at Valley Forge during that terrible winter
the army spent there.  One day Washington gave the order to the
soldiers to dress-parade for inspection; some had good clothes,
some scarcely any, and no shoes.  He made all the well-dressed
men go and cut wood for the rest, and excused the others.

Grandfather was a small man with a big head and quite pronounced
Irish features.  He was a dreamer.  He was not a good provider;
Grandmother did most of the providing.  He wore a military coat
with brass buttons, and red-top boots.  He believed in spooks and
witches, and used to tell us spook stories till our hair would
stand on end.

He was an expert trout fisherman.  Early in the morning I would dig
worms for bait, and we would go fishing over in West Settlement,
or in Montgomery Hollow.  I went fishing with him when he was past
eighty.  He would steal along the streams and "snake" out the
trout, walking as briskly as I do now. From him I get my dreamy,
lazy, shirking ways.

In 1848 he and Grandmother came to live near us.  He had a severe
fit of illness that year.  I remember we caught a fat coon for him.
He was fond of game.  I was there one morning when they entertained
a colored minister overnight, probably a fugitive slave.  He
prayed--how lustily he prayed!

I have heard Grandfather tell how, when he was a boy in Connecticut,
he once put his hand in a bluebird's nest and felt, as he said,
"something comical"; he drew out his hand, which was followed by the
head and neck of a black snake; he took to his heels, and the black
snake after him. (I rather think that's a myth.)  He said his uncle,
who was ploughing, came after the black snake with a whip, and the
snake slunk away.  He thought he remembered that.  It may be a black
snake might pursue one, but I doubt it.


[Mr. Burroughs's ingrained tendency to question reports of improbable
things in nature shows even in these reminiscences of his grandfather.
His instinct for the truth is always on the qui vive.--C. B.]


Grandmother Kelly lived to be past eighty.  She was a big woman--
thrifty and domestic--big enough to take "Granther" up in her arms
and walk off with him.  She did more to bring up her family than he
did; was a practical housewife, and prolific.  She had ten children
and made every one of them toe the mark.  I don't know whether she
ever took "Granther" across her knee or not, but he probably deserved
it.  She was quite uneducated.  Her maiden name was Lavinia Minot.
I don't know where her people came from, or whether she had any
brothers and sisters.  They lived in Red Kill mostly, in the eastern
part of the town of Roxbury, and also over on the edge of Greene
County.  I remember, when Grandfather used to tell stories of cruelty
in the army, and of the hardships of the soldiers, she would wriggle
and get very angry.  All her children were large.  They were as
follows:  Sukie, Ezekiel, Charles, Martin, Edmund, William, Thomas,
Hannah, Abby, and Amy (my mother).  Aunt Sukie was a short, chubby
woman, always laughing.  Uncle Charles was a man of strong Irish
features, like Grandfather.  He was a farmer who lived in Genesee
County.  Uncle Martin was a farmer of fair intelligence; Ezekiel was
lower in the scale than the others; was intemperate, and after losing
his farm became a day-laborer.  He would carry a gin-bottle into the
fields, and would mow the stones as readily as he would the grass--
and I had to turn the grindstone to sharpen his scythe.  Uncle Edmund
was a farmer and a pettifogger.  Uncle William died comparatively
young; he had nurseries near Rochester.  Uncle Thomas was a farmer,
slow and canny, with a quiet, dry humor.  Aunt Hannah married Robert
Avery, who drank a good deal; I can't remember anything about her.
Aunt Abby was large and thrifty; she married John Jenkins, and had a
large family. . . . Amy, my mother, was her mother's tenth child.

Mother was born in Rensselaer County near Albany, in 1808.  Her
father moved to Delaware County when she was a child, driving there
with an ox-team.  Mother "worked out" in her early teens.  She was
seventeen or eighteen when she married, February, 1827.

Father and Mother first went to keeping house on Grandfather
Burroughs's old place--not in the log house, but in the frame house
of which you saw the foundations. Brother Hiram was born there.


[Mr. Burroughs's last walk with his father was to the crumbling
foundations of this house.  I have heard him tell how his father
stood and pointed out the location of the various rooms--the room
where they slept the first night they went there; the one where
the eldest child was born; that in which his mother died.  I stood
(one August day in 1902) with Mr. Burroughs on the still  remaining
joists of his grandfather's house--grass-grown, and with the debris
of stones and beams mingling with weeds and bushes.  He pointed out
to me, as his father had done for him, the location of the various
rooms, and mused upon the scenes enacted there; he showed where
the paths led to the barn and to the spring, and seemed to take
a melancholy interest in picturing the lives of his parents and
grandparents.  A sudden burst of gladness from a song sparrow, and
his musings gave way to attentive pleasure, and the sunlit Present
claimed him instead of the shadowy Past.  He was soon rejoicing
in the discovery of a junco's nest near the foundations of the
old house.--C.B.]


My father, Chauncey Burroughs, was born December 20, 1803.  He
received a fair schooling for those times--the three R's--and
taught school one or two winters.  His reading was the Bible and
hymn-book, his weekly secular paper, and a monthly religious paper.

He used to say that as a boy he was a very mean one, saucy,
quarrelsome, and wicked, liked horse-racing and card-playing--both
alike disreputable in those times.  In early manhood he "experienced
religion" and joined the Old-School Baptist Church, of which his
parents were members, and then all his bad habits seem to have
been discarded.  He stopped swearing and Sabbath-breaking, and
other forms of wickedness, and became an exemplary member of the
community.  He was a man of unimpeachable veracity; bigoted and
intolerant in his religious and political views, but a good
neighbor, a kind father, a worthy citizen, a fond husband, and
a consistent member of his church.  He improved his farm, paid
his debts, and kept his faith.  He had no sentiment about things
and was quite unconscious of the beauties of nature over which we
make such an ado.  "The primrose by the river's brim" would not
have been seen by him at all.  This is true of most farmers; the
plough and the hoe and the scythe do not develop their aesthetic
sensibilities; then, too, in the old religious view the beauties
of this world were vain and foolish.

I have said that my father had strong religious feeling.  He took
"The Signs of the Times" for over forty years, reading all those
experiences with the deepest emotion.  I remember when a mere lad
hearing him pray in the hog-pen.  It was a time of unusual religious
excitement with him, no doubt; I heard, and ran away, knowing it was
not for me to hear.

Father had red hair, and a ruddy, freckled face.  He was
tender-hearted and tearful, but with blustering ways and a harsh,
strident voice.  Easily moved to emotion, he was as transparent as a
child, with a child's lack of self-consciousness.  Unsophisticated,
he had no art to conceal anything, no guile, and, as Mother used to
say, no manners.  "All I ever had," Father would rejoin, "for I've
never used any of them."  I doubt if he ever said "Thank you" in his
life; I certainly never heard him.  He had nothing to conceal, and
could not understand that others might have.   I have heard him ask
people what certain things cost, men their politics, women their ages,
with the utmost ingenuousness.  One day when he and I were in
Poughkeepsie, we met a strange lad on the street with very red hair,
and Father said to him, "I can remember when my hair was as red as
yours."  The boy stared at him and passed on.

Although Father lacked delicacy, he did not lack candor or
directness. He would tell a joke on himself with the same glee
that he would on any one else. . . . I have heard him tell how,
in 1844, at the time of the "anti-renters," when he saw the posse
coming, he ran over the hill to Uncle Daniel's and crawled under
the bed, but left his feet sticking out, and there they found him.
He had not offended, or dressed as an Indian, but had sympathized
with the offenders.

He made a great deal of noise about the farm, sending his voice
over the hills (we could hear him calling us to dinner when we
were working on the "Rundle Place," half a mile away), shouting at
the cows, the pigs, the sheep, or calling the dog, with needless
expenditure of vocal power at all times and seasons.  The neighbors
knew when Father was at home; so did the cattle in the remotest
field.  His bark was always to be dreaded more than his bite.
His threats of punishment were loud and severe, but the punishment
rarely came.  Never but once did he take a gad to me, and then the
sound was more than the substance.  I deserved more than I got:  I
had let a cow run through the tall grass in the meadow when I might
easily have "headed her off," as I was told to do.  Father used to
say "No," to our requests for favors (such as a day off to go
fishing or hunting) with strong emphasis, and then yield to our
persistent coaxing.

One day I was going to town and asked him for money to buy an
algebra.  "What is an algebra?"  He had never heard of an algebra,
and couldn't see why I needed one; he refused the money, though I
coaxed and Mother pleaded with him.  I had left the house and had
got as far as the big hill up there by the pennyroyal rock, when he
halloed to me that I might get the algebra--Mother had evidently
been instrumental in bringing him to terms.  But my blood was up by
this time, and as I trudged along to the village I determined to
wait until I could earn the money myself for the algebra, and some
other books I coveted.  I boiled sap and made maple-sugar, and the
books were all the sweeter by reason of the maple-sugar money.

When I wanted help, as I did two or three times later, on a pinch.
Father refused me; and, as it turned out, I was the only one of his
children that could or would help him when the pinch came--a curious
retribution, but one that gave me pleasure and him no pain.  I was
better unhelped, as it proved, and better for all I could help him.
But he was a loving father all the same. He couldn't understand my
needs, but love outweighs understanding.

He did not like my tendency to books; he was afraid, as I learned
later, that I would become a Methodist minister--his pet aversion.
He never had much faith in me--less than in any of his children; he
doubted if I would ever amount to anything.  He saw that I was an
odd one, and had tendencies and tastes that he did not sympathize
with.  He never alluded to my literary work; apparently left it out
of his estimate of me.  My aims and aspirations were a sealed book
to him, as his peculiar religious experiences were to me, yet I
reckon it was the same leaven working in us both.

I remember, on my return from Dr. Holmes's seventieth birthday
breakfast, in 1879, a remark of father's.  He had overheard me
telling sister Abigail about the breakfast, and he declared: "I
had rather go to hear old Elder Jim Mead preach two hours, if he
was living, than attend all the fancy parties in the world."  He
said he had heard him preach when he did not know whether he was
in the body or out of the body.  The elder undoubtedly had a strong
natural eloquence.

Although Father never spoke to me of my writings, Abigail once told
me that when she showed him a magazine with some article of mine in,
and accompanied by a photograph of me, he looked at it a long time;
he said nothing, but his eyes filled with tears.

He went to school to the father of Jay Gould, John Gould--the first
child born in the town of Roxbury (about 1780 or 1790).

He married Amy Kelly, my mother, in 1827.  He was six years her
senior.  She lived over in Red Kill where he had taught school,
and was one of his pupils.  I have often heard him say: "I rode
your Uncle Martin's old sorrel mare over to her folks' when I went
courting her."  When he would be affectionate toward her before
others, Mother would say, "Now, Chauncey, don't be foolish."

Father bought the farm of 'Riah Bartram's mother, and moved on it
in 1827.  In a house that stood where the Old Home does now, I was
born, April 3, 1837.  It was a frame house with three or four rooms
below and one room "done off" above, and a big chamber.  I was the
fifth son and the seventh child of my parents.

[Illustration: Birthplace of John Burroughs, Roxbury, New York.
From a photograph by Charles S. Olcott]

Mother was in her twenty-ninth year when she was carrying me.
She had already borne four boys and two girls; her health was
good and her life, like that of all farmers' wives in that section,
was a laborious one.  I can see her going about her work--milking,
butter-making, washing, cooking, berry-picking, sugar-making,
sewing, knitting, mending, and the thousand duties that fell to her
lot and filled her days.  Both she and Father were up at daylight in
summer, and before daylight in winter.  Sometimes she had help in
the kitchen, but oftener she did not.  The work that housewives did
in those times seems incredible.  They made their own soap, sugar,
cheese, dipped or moulded their candles, spun the flax and wool and
wove it into cloth, made carpets, knit the socks and mittens and
"comforts" for the family, dried apples, pumpkins, and berries,
and made the preserves and pickles for home use.

Mother went about all these duties with cheerfulness and alacrity.
She more than kept up her end of the farm work.  She was more
strenuous than father.  How many hours she sat up mending and
patching our clothes, while we were sleeping!  Rainy days meant
no let-up in her work, as they did in Father's.

The first suit of clothes I remember having, she cut and made.
Then the quilts and coverlids she pieced and quilted!  We used, too,
in my boyhood to make over two tons of butter annually, the care of
which devolved mainly upon her, from the skimming of the pans to the
packing of the butter in the tubs and firkins, though the churning
was commonly done by a sheep or a dog.  We made our own cheese,
also.  As a boy I used to help do the wheying, and I took toll out
of the sweet curd.  One morning I ate so much of the curd that I
was completely cloyed, and could eat none after that.

I can remember Mother's loom pounding away hour after hour in the
chamber of an outbuilding where she was weaving a carpet, or cloth.
I used to help do some of the quilling--running the yarn or linen
thread upon spools to be used in the shuttles.  The distaff, the
quill-wheel, the spinning-wheel, the reel, were very familiar to me
as a boy; so was the crackle, the swingle, the hetchel, for Father
grew flax which Mother spun into thread and wove into cloth for our
shirts and summer trousers, and for towels and sheets.  Wearing
those shirts, when new, made a boy's skin pretty red.  I dare say
they were quite equal to a hair shirt to do penance in; and wiping
on a new home-made linen towel suggested wiping on a brier bush.
Dear me! how long it has been since I have seen any tow, or heard
a loom or a spinning-wheel, or seen a boy breaking in his new
flax-made shirt!  No one sees these things any more.

Mother had but little schooling; she learned to read, but not to
write or cipher; hence, books and such interests took none of her
time.  She was one of those uneducated countrywomen of strong
natural traits and wholesome instincts, devoted to her children; she
bore ten, and nursed them all--an heroic worker, a helpful neighbor,
and a provident housewife, with the virtues that belonged to so many
farmers' wives in those days, and which we are all glad to be able
to enumerate in our mothers.

She had not a large frame, but was stout; had brown hair and blue
eyes, a fine strong brow, and a straight nose with a strong bridge
to it.  She was a woman of great emotional capacity, who felt more
than she thought.  She scolded a good deal, but was not especially
quick-tempered.  She was an Old-School Baptist, as was Father.

She was not of a vivacious or sunny disposition--always a little
in shadow, as it seems to me now, given to brooding and to dwelling
upon the more serious aspects of life.  How little she knew of
all that has been done and thought in the world! and yet the
burden of it all was, in a way, laid upon her.  The seriousness
of Revolutionary times, out of which came her father and mother,
was no doubt reflected in her own serious disposition.  As I have
said, her happiness was always shaded, never in a strong light; and
the sadness which motherhood, and the care of a large family, and a
yearning heart beget was upon her.  I see myself in her perpetually.
A longing which nothing can satisfy I share with her.  Whatever is
most valuable in my books comes from her--the background of feeling,
of pity, of love comes from her.

She was of a very different temperament from Father--much more
self-conscious, of a more breeding, inarticulate nature.  She was
richly endowed with all the womanly instincts and affections. She
had a decided preference for Abigail and me among her children,
wanted me to go to school, and was always interceding with Father
to get me books.  She never read one of my books.  She died in 1880,
at the age of seventy-three.  I had published four of my books then.

She had had a stroke of apoplexy in the fall of 1879, but lived till
December of the following year, dying on father's seventy-seventh
birthday.  (He lived four years more.)  We could understand but
little of what she said after she was taken ill.  She used to repeat
a line from an old hymn--"Only a veil between."

She thought a good deal of some verses I wrote--"My Brother's
Farm"--and had them framed.  (You have seen them in the parlor at
the Old Home.  I wrote them in Washington the fall that you were
born.  I was sick and forlorn at the time.)

I owe to Mother my temperament, my love of nature, my brooding,
introspective habit of mind--all those things which in a literary
man help to give atmosphere to his work.  In her line were dreamers
and fishermen and hunters.  One of her uncles lived alone in a little
house in the woods.  His hut was doubtless the original Slabsides.
Grandfather Kelly was a lover of solitude, as all dreamers are, and
Mother's happiest days, I think, were those spent in the fields after
berries.  The Celtic element, which I get mostly from her side, has
no doubt played an important part in my life. My idealism, my romantic
tendencies, are largely her gift.

On my father's side I find no fishermen or hermits or dreamers.  I
find a marked religious strain, more active and outspoken than on
Mother's.  The religion of the Kellys was, for the most part, of the
silent, meditative kind, but there are preachers and teachers and
scholars on Father's side--one of them, Stephen Burroughs (b. 1765),
a renegade preacher.  Doubtless most of my own intellectual impetus
comes from this side of the family.  There are also cousins and
second cousins on this side who became preachers, and some who
became physicians, but I recall none on the Kelly side.

In size and physical make-up I am much like my father.  I have my
father's foot, and I detect many of his ways in my own.  My loud and
harmless barking, when I am angered, I get from him.  The Kellys are
more apt to bite.  I see myself, too, in my brothers, in their looks
and especially in their weaknesses.  Take from me my special
intellectual equipment, and I am in all else one of them.


[Speaking of their characteristics as a family, Mr. Burroughs says
that they have absolute inability to harbor resentment (a Celtic
trait); that they never have "cheek" to ask enough for what they
have to sell, lack decision, and are easily turned from their
purpose.  Commenting on this, he has often said: "We are weak as
men--do not make ourselves felt in the community. But this very
weakness is a help to me as a writer upon Nature.  I don't stand in
my own light.  I get very close to bird and beast.  My thin skin
lets the shy and delicate influences pass.  I can surrender myself
to Nature without effort.  I am like her. . . . That which hinders
me with men, makes me strong with impersonal Nature, and admits me
to her influences. . . . I am lacking in moral fibre, but am tender
and sympathetic."]


To see Mr. Burroughs stand and fondly gaze upon the fruitful,
well-cultivated fields that his father had cared for so many years,
to hear him say that the hills are like father and mother to him,
was to realize how strong is the filial instinct in him--that and
the home feeling.  As he stood on the crest of the big hill by the
pennyroyal rock, looking down on the peaceful homestead in the
soft light of a midsummer afternoon, his eye roamed fondly over
the scene:--

"How fertile and fruitful it is now, but how lonely and bleak the
old place looked in that winter landscape the night I drove up from
the station in the moonlight after hearing of Father's death!  There
was a light in the window, but I knew Father would not meet me at
the door this time--beleaguering winter without, and Death within!

"Father and Mother!  I think of them with inexpressible love and
yearning, wrapped in their last eternal sleep.  They had, for them,
the true religion, the religion of serious, simple, hard-working.
God-fearing lives.  To believe as they did, to sit in their pews, is
impossible to me--the Time-Spirit has decreed otherwise; but all I
am or can be or achieve is to emulate their virtues--my soul can be
saved only by a like truthfulness and sincerity."


The following data concerning his brothers and sisters were given
me by Mr. Burroughs in conversation:--

Hiram, born in 1827, was an unpractical man and a dreamer; he was
a bee-keeper.  He showed great aptitude in the use of tools, could
make axe-handles, neck-yokes, and the various things used about
the farm, and was especially skilled in building stone walls.
But he could not elbow his way in a crowd, could not make farming
pay, and was always pushed to the wall.  He cared nothing for
books, and although he studied grammar when a boy, and could
parse, he never could write a grammatical sentence.  He died at
the age of seventy-five.

Olly Ann was about two years younger than Hiram.  Mr. Burroughs
remembers her as a frail, pretty girl, with dark-brown eyes, a high
forehead, and a wasp-like waist.  She had a fair education for her
time, married and had two children, and died in early womanhood of
phthisis.

Wilson was a farmer, thrifty and economical.  He married but had no
children.  He was evidently somewhat neurotic; as a child, even when
well, he would groan and moan in his sleep, and he died, at the age
of twenty-eight, after a short illness, of a delirious fever.

Curtis also was a farmer, but lacked judgment; could not look ahead;
thought if he gave his note a debt was canceled, and went on piling
up other indebtedness.  He had a very meagre schooling, but was apt
at witty remarks.  He was temperate; was much given to reading "The
Signs of the Times," like his father before him.  He married and had
five children.  For many years previous to his death he lived at the
homestead, dying there in his eightieth year, in the summer of 1912.
Two of his unmarried children still live at the Old Home,--of all
places on the earth the one toward which Mr. Burroughs turns with
the most yearning fondness.

Edmund died in infancy.

Jane, a tender-hearted, old-fashioned woman, who cried and fretted
easily, and worried over trifles, was a good housekeeper, and a
fond mother--a fat, dumpy little woman with a doleful voice.  She
was always urging her brother not to puzzle his head about writing;
writing and thinking, she said, were "bad for the head."  When
he would go away on a journey of only a hundred miles, she would
worry incessantly lest something happen to him.  She married and
had five daughters.  Her death occurred in May, 1912, at the age
of seventy-seven.  "Poor Jane!" said Mr. Burroughs one day, when
referring to her protests against his writing; "I fear she never
read a dozen printed words of mine--or shall I say 'lucky Jane'?"

John, born in 1837, was always "an odd one."  (One is reminded
of what William R. Thayer said of the Franklin family:  "Among
the seventeen Franklin children one was a Benjamin, and the
rest nobodies.")

Eden was born in 1839.  Frail most of his life, in later years he
has become robust, and now (1913) is the only surviving member of
the family besides Mr. Burroughs.  He is cheery and loquacious,
methodical and orderly, and very punctilious in dress.  (One day, in
the summer of 1912, when he was calling at "Woodchuck Lodge,"--the
summer home where Mr. Burroughs has lived of late years, near the
old place where he was born,--this brother recounted some of their
youthful exploits, especially the one which yielded the material for
the essay "A White Day and a Red Fox."  "I shot the fox and got five
dollars for it," said Mr. Eden Burroughs, "and John wrote a piece
about it, and got seventy-five.")

Abigail, the favorite sister of our author, appreciated her
brother's books and his ideals more than any other member of the
family.  She married and had two children.  At the time of her
death, in 1901, of typhoid fever (at the age of fifty-eight) the
band of brothers and sisters had been unbroken by death for more
than thirty-seven years.  Her loss was a severe blow to her brother.
He had always shared his windfalls with her; she had read some of
his essays, and used to talk with him about his aspirations,
encouraging him timidly, before he had gained recognition.

Eveline died at the age of five years.


The death of his brother Hiram, in 1904, made the past bleed
afresh for Mr. Burroughs.  "He was next to Father and Mother in my
affections," he wrote. "Oh! if I had only done more for him--this
is my constant thought.  If I could only have another chance!  How
generous death makes us!  Go, then, and make up by doing more for
the living."

As I walked with him about the Old Home, he said, "I can see Hiram
in everything here; in the trees he planted and grafted, in these
stone walls he built, in this land he so industriously cultivated
during the years he had the farm."

So large a place in his affections did this brother hold, and yet
how wide apart were these two in their real lives!  I know of no
one who has pictured the pathos of lives so near and yet so far
apart as has George Eliot when she says:  "Family likeness has
often a deep sadness in it.  Nature, that great tragic dramatist,
knits us together by bone and muscle, and divides us by the subtler
web of our brains; blends yearning and repulsion, and ties us by our
heart-strings to the beings that jar us at every moment.  We hear
a voice with the very cadence of our own uttering the thoughts we
despise; we see eyes--ah! so like our mother's--averted from us in
cold alienation."

We cannot tell why one boy in a family turns out a genius, while
the others stay in the ancestral ruts and lead humdrum, placid
lives, any more than we can tell why one group of the hepaticas we
gather in the April woods has the gift of fragrance, while those
of a sister group in the same vicinity are scentless.  A caprice of
fate, surely, that "mate and mate beget such different issues."

"Hiram was with me at Slabsides," said Mr. Burroughs, "much of the
time when I was writing the Whitman book, but never referred to it
in any way.  When it came from the press, I said to him, 'Hiram,
here is the book you have heard me speak about as having cost me
nearly four years' work, and which I rewrote four times.'"

"'That's the book, is it?' he replied, showing no curiosity about it,
or desire to look into it, but kept drumming on the table--a habit
of his that was very annoying to me at times, but of which he was
not aware.  When 'A Year in the Fields' came out, he looked at some
of the pictures, but that was all."

There is something very pathetic in all this--these two brothers
living in that isolated cabin in the woods, knit together by the
ties of kinship, having in common a deep and yearning love for
each other, and for the Old Home in the Catskills,--their daily
down-sittings and up-risings outwardly the same, yet so alienated
in what makes up one's real existence.  The one, the elder, intent
on his bees, his thoughts by day revolving about his hives, or
concerned with the weather and the daily happenings; at night, as
he idly drums with his fingers, dreaming of the old days on the
farm--of how he used to dig out rocks to build the fences, of the
sugar-making, of cradling the oats in July; while the other--ah!
the other, of what was he not thinking!--of the little world of the
hives (his thoughts yielding the exquisite "Idyl of the Honey-Bee"),
of boyhood days upon the farm, of the wild life around his cabin, of
the universe, and of the soul of the poet Whitman, that then much
misunderstood man, than whom no one so much as he has helped us to
appreciate.  Going out and in, attending to his homely tasks (for
these brothers did their own housework), the younger brother was
all the time thinking of that great soul, of all that association
with him had meant to him, and of all that Whitman would mean to
America, to the world, as poet, prophet, seer--thinking how out of
his knowledge of Whitman as poet and person he could cull and sift
and gather together an adequate and worthy estimate of one whom his
soul loved as Jonathan loved David!

The mystery of personality--how shall one fathom it?  I asked myself
this one rainy afternoon, as I sat in the Burroughs homestead and
looked from one brother to another, the two so alike and yet so
unlike.  The one a simple farmer whose interests are circumscribed
by the hills which surround the farm on which as children they were
reared; the other, whose interests in the early years were seemingly
just as circumscribed, but who felt that nameless something--that
push from within--which first found its outlet in a deeper interest
in the life about him than his brothers ever knew; and who later
felt the magic of the world of books; and, still later, the need of
expression, an expression which finally showed itself in a masterly
interpretation of country life and experiences.  The same heredity
here, the same environment, the same opportunities--yet how different
the result!  The farmer has tended and gathered many a crop from the
old place since they were boys, but has been blind and deaf to all
that has there yielded such a harvest to the other.  That other,
a plain, unassuming man, "standing at ease in nature," has become
a household word because of all that he has contributed to our
intellectual and emotional life.

A man who as a lad had roamed the Roxbury hills with John Burroughs
and his brothers, and had known the boy John as something of a
dreamer, and thought of him in later years as perhaps of less account
than his brothers (since they had settled down, owned land, and were
leading industrious lives), was traveling in Europe in the eighties.
On the top of a stage-coach in the Scottish Highlands he sat next a
scholarly-looking man whose garb, he thought, betokened a priest.
From some question which the traveler put, the Englishman learned
that the stranger was from America.  Immediately he showed a lively
interest. "From America! Do you, then, know John Burroughs?"

Imagine the surprise of the Delaware County farmer at being
questioned about his schoolmate, the dreamer, who, to be sure,
"took to books"; but what was he that this Englishman should
inquire about him as the one man in America he was eager to learn
about!  Doubtless Mr. Burroughs was the one literary man the
Delaware County farmer did know, though his knowledge was on the
personal and not on the literary side. And imagine the surprise of
the priest (if priest it was) to find that he had actually lighted
upon a schoolmate of the author!--C. B.]



CHILDHOOD AND YOUTH


I seem to have been a healthy, active child, very impressionable,
and with more interests and a keener enjoyment of things than most
farm boys have.  I was fond of the girls back as early as I can
remember, and had my sweethearts at a very early age. . . .

I learned my letters at school, when I was five or six, in the
old-fashioned way by being called up to the teacher several times
a day and naming the letters as he pointed at them where they stood
in a perpendicular column in Cobb's Spelling-Book.  The vowels and
consonants stood in separate columns, and had to be learned one by
one, by continued repetition.  It took me a long time, I remember,
to distinguish /b/ from /d/, and /c/ from /e/.  When and how I learned to
read I do not remember.  I recall Cobb's Second Reader, and later
Olney's Geography, and then Dayballs Arithmetic.

I went to school summers till I was old enough to help on the farm,
say at the age of eleven or twelve, when my schooling was confined
to the winters.

[Illustration: The Old Schoolhouse, Roxbury, New York.  From a
photograph by M.H. Fanning]

As a boy, the only farm work that appealed to me was sugar-making in
the maple woods in spring.  This I thoroughly enjoyed.  It brought
me near to wild nature and was freer from routine than other farm
work.  Then I soon managed to gather a little harvest of my own from
the sugar bush.  I used to anticipate the general tapping by a
few days or a week, and tap a few trees on my own account along
the sunny border of the Woods, and boil the sap down on the kitchen
stove (to the disgust of the womenfolks), selling the sugar in the
village.  I think the first money  I ever earned came to me in this
way.  My first algebra and first grammar I bought with some of this
precious money.  When I appeared in the village with my basket of
small cakes of early sugar, how my customers would hail me and call
after me!  No one else made such white sugar, or got it to market so
early.  One season, I remember, I got twelve silver quarters for
sugar, and I carried them in my pockets for weeks, jingling them in
the face of my envious schoolmates, and at intervals feasting my own
eyes upon them.  I fear if I could ever again get hold of such money
as that was I should become a miser.

Hoeing corn, weeding the garden, and picking stone was drudgery,
and haying and harvesting I liked best when they were a good way
off; picking up potatoes worried me, but gathering apples suited
my hands and my fancy better, and knocking "Juno's cushions" in
the spring meadows with my long-handled knocker, about the time
the first swallow was heard laughing overhead, was real fun.  I
always wanted some element of play in my work; buckling down to
any sort of routine always galled me, and does yet.  The work must
be a kind of adventure, and permit of sallies into free fields.
Hence the most acceptable work for me was to be sent strawberrying
or raspberrying by Mother; but the real fun was to go fishing up
Montgomery Hollow, or over on Rose's Brook, this necessitating a
long tramp, and begetting a hunger in a few hours that made a piece
of rye bread the most delectable thing in the world; yet a pure
delight that never sated.

Mother used to bake her bread in the large old-fashioned brick oven,
and once or twice a week we boys had to procure oven wood.

"You must get me oven wood this morning," she would say; "I am going
to bake today."  Then we would scurry around for dry, light, quick
wood--pieces of old boxes and boards, and dry limbs.  "One more
armful," she would often say, when we were inclined to quit too
soon.  In a half-hour or so, the wood would be reduced to ashes,
and the oven properly heated.  I can see Mother yet as she would
open the oven door and feel the air inside with her hand.  "Run,
quick, and get me a few more sticks--it is not quite hot enough."
When it was ready, the coals and ashes were raked out, and in went
the bread, six or seven big loaves of rye, with usually two of
wheat.  The wheat was for company.

When we would come in at dinner- or supper-time and see wheat bread
on the table we would ask: "Who's in the other room?"  Maybe the
answer would be, "Your Uncle Martin and Aunt Virey."  How glad I
would be!  I always liked to see company.  Well, the living was
better, and then, company brought a new element into the day; it
gave a little tinge of romance to things.  To wake up in the morning
and think that Uncle Martin and Aunt Virey were there, or Uncle
Edmund and Aunt Saliny, quickened the pulse a little.  Or, when
any of my cousins came,--boys near my own age,--what joy filled
the days!  And when they went, how lonesome I would be! how forlorn
all things looked till the second or third day!  I early developed
a love of comrades, and was always fond of company--and am yet, as
the records of Slabsides show.


I was quite a hunter in my youth, as most farm boys are, but I
never brought home much game--a gray squirrel, a partridge, or a
wild pigeon occasionally.  I think with longing and delight of
the myriads of wild pigeons that used to come every two or three
years--covering the sky for a day or two, and making the naked
spring woods gay and festive with their soft voices and fluttering
blue wings.  I have seen thousands of them go through a beech wood,
like a blue wave, picking up the sprouting beechnuts.  Those in the
rear would be constantly flying over those in front, so that the
effect was that of a vast billow of mingled white and blue and
brown, rustling and murmuring as it went.  One spring afternoon vast
flocks of them were passing south over our farm for hours, when some
of them began to pour down in the beech woods on the hill by the
roadside.  A part of nearly every flock that streamed by would split
off and, with a downward wheel and rush, join those in the wood.
Presently I seized the old musket and ran out in the road, and then
crept up behind the wall, till only the width of the road separated
me from the swarms of fluttering pigeons.  The air and the woods
were literally blue with them, and the ground seemed a yard deep
with them.  I pointed my gun across the wall at the surging masses,
and then sat there spellbound.  The sound of their wings and voices
filled my ears, and their numbers more than filled my eyes.  Why
I did not shoot was never very clear to me.  Maybe I thought the
world was all turning to pigeons, as they still came pouring down
from the heavens, and I did not want to break the spell.  There I
sat waiting, waiting, with my eye looking along the gun-barrel,
till, suddenly, the mass rose like an explosion, and with a rush
and a roar they were gone.  Then I came to my senses and with keen
mortification realized what an opportunity I had let slip.  Such a
chance never came again, though the last great flight of pigeons did
not take place till 1875.

When I was about ten or twelve, a spell was put upon me by a red fox
in a similar way.  The baying of a hound upon the mountain had drawn
me there, armed with the same old musket.  It was a chilly day in
early December.  I took up my stand in the woods near what I thought
might be the runway, and waited.  After a while I stood the butt of
my gun upon the ground, and held the barrel with my hand.  Presently
I heard a rustle in the leaves, and there came a superb fox loping
along past me, not fifty feet away.  He was evidently not aware of
my presence, and, as for me, I was aware of his presence alone.  I
forgot that I had a gun, that here was the game I was in quest of,
and that now was my chance to add to my store of silver quarters.
As the unsuspecting fox disappeared over a knoll, again I came to
my senses, and brought my gun to my shoulder; but it was too late,
the game had gone.  I returned home full of excitement at what I
had seen, and gave as the excuse why I did not shoot, that I had my
mitten on, and could not reach the trigger of my gun.  It is true I
had my mitten on, but there was a mitten, or something, on my wits
also.  It was years before I heard the last of that mitten; when I
failed at anything they said, "John had his mitten on, I guess."

I remember that I had a sort of cosmogony of my own when I was a
mere boy.  I used to speculate as to what the world was made of.
Partly closing my eyes, I could see what appeared to be little
crooked chains of fine bubbles floating in the air, and I concluded
that that was the stuff the world was made of.  And the philosophers
have not yet arrived at a much more satisfactory explanation.

In thinking of my childhood and youth I try to define to myself
wherein I differed from my brothers and from other boys in the
neighborhood, or wherein I showed any indication of the future
bent of my mind.  I see that I was more curious and alert than most
boys, and had more interests outside my special duties as a farm
boy.  I knew pretty well the ways of the wild bees and hornets when
I was only a small lad.  I knew the different bumblebees, and had
made a collection of their combs and honey before I had entered my
teens.  I had watched the little frogs, the hylas, and had captured
them and held them till they piped sitting in my hand.  I had
watched the leaf-cutters and followed them to their nests in an old
rail, or under a stone.  I see that I early had an interest in the
wild life about me that my brothers did not have.  I was a natural
observer from childhood, had a quick, sure eye and ear, and an
eager curiosity.  I loved to roam the hills and woods and prowl
along the streams, just to come in contact with the wild and the
adventurous.  I was not sent to Sunday-school, but was allowed
to spend the day as I saw fit, provided I did not carry a gun or
a fishing-rod.  Indeed, the foundation of my knowledge of the
ways of the wild creatures was laid when I was a farm boy, quite
unconscious of the natural-history value of my observations.

What, or who, as I grew up, gave my mind its final push in this
direction would not be easy to name.  It is quite certain that I
got it through literature, and more especially through the works
of Audubon, when I was twenty-five or twenty-six years of age.

The sentiment of nature is so full and winsome in the best modern
literature that I was no doubt greatly influenced by it.  I was
early drawn to Wordsworth and to our own Emerson and Thoreau,
and to the nature articles in the "Atlantic Monthly," and my
natural-history tastes were stimulated by them.

I have a suspicion that "nature-study" as now followed in the
schools--or shall I say in the colleges?--this classroom peeping
and prying into the mechanism of life, dissecting, probing,
tabulating, void of free observation, and shut away from the open
air--would have cured me of my love of nature.  For love is the main
thing, the prime thing, and to train the eye and ear and acquaint
one with the spirit of the great-out-of-doors, rather than a lot
of minute facts about nature, is, or should be, the object of
nature-study.  Who cares about the anatomy of the frog?  But to
know the live frog--his place in the season and the landscape,
and his life-history--is something.  If I wanted to instill the love
of nature into a child's heart, I should do it, in the first place,
through country life, and, in the next place, through the best
literature, rather than through classroom investigations, or through
books of facts about the mere mechanics of nature.  Biology is all
right for the few who wish to specialize in that branch, but for the
mass of pupils, it is a waste of time.  Love of nature cannot be
commanded or taught, but in some minds it can be stimulated.


Sweet were the days of my youth!  How I love to recall them and
dwell upon them!--a world apart, separated from the present by a
gulf like that of sidereal space.  The old farm bending over the
hills and dipping down into the valleys, the woods, the streams,
the springs, the mountains, and Father and Mother under whose wings
I was so protected, and all my brothers and sisters-how precious
the thought of them all!  Can the old farm ever mean to future boys
what it meant to me, and enter so deeply into their lives?  No doubt
it can, hard as it is to believe it.  The "Bundle place," the "barn
on the hill," the "Deacon woods," the clover meadow, the "turn in
the road," the burying-ground, the sheep-lot, the bush-lot, the
sumac-lot, the "new-barn meadow," the "old-barn meadow," and so on
through the list--each field and section of the farm had to me an
atmosphere and association of its own.  The long, smooth, broad
hill--a sort of thigh of the mountain (Old Clump) upon the lower
edge of which the house is planted--shut off the west and southwest
winds; its fields were all amenable to the plough, yielding good
crops of oats, rye, buckwheat, potatoes, or, when in grass, yielding
good pasture, divided east and west by parallel stone walls; this
hill, or lower slope of the mountain, was one of the principal
features of the farm.  It was steep, but it was smooth; it was
broad-backed and fertile; its soil was made up mainly of decomposed
old red sandstone.  How many times have I seen its different
sections grow ruddy under the side-hill plough! One of my earliest
recollections of my father is seeing him, when I was a child of
three or four, striding across the middle side-hill lot with a bag
slung across his breast, scattering the seed-grain.

How often at early nightfall, while the west was yet glowing, have I
seen the grazing cattle silhouetted against the sky.  In the winter
the northwest winds would sweep the snow clean from the other side,
and bring it over to our side and leave it in a long, huge drift
that buried the fences and gave the hill an extra full-breasted
appearance.  The breast of the old hill would be padded with ten or
fifteen feet of snow.  This drift would often last till May.  I have
seen it stop the plough.  I remember once carrying a jug of water up
to Brother Curtis when his plough was within a few feet of the snow.
Woodchucks would sometimes feel the spring through this thick
coverlid of snow and bore up through it to the sunlight.  I think
the woodchuck's alarm clock always goes off before April is done,
and he comes forth, apparently not to break his long fast, but to
find his mate.

I remember working in oats in the middle side-hill lot one September
during the early years of the Civil War, when Hiram was talking
of enlisting as a drummer, and when Father and Mother were much
worried about it.  I carried together the sheaves, putting fifteen
in a "shock."

I have heard my father tell of a curious incident that once befell
his hired man and himself when they were drawing in oats on a sled
from the first side-hill lot.  They had on a load, and the hired man
had thrust his fork into the upper sides of it and was bringing his
weight to bear against its tendency to capsize.  But gravity got the
better of them and over went the load; the hired man (Rueb Dart)
clung to his fork, and swung over the load through the air,
alighting on his feet none the worse for the adventure.

The spring that supplies the house and the dairy with water comes
from the middle side-hill lot, some forty or fifty rods from the
house, and is now brought down in pipes; in my time, in pump-logs.
It was always an event when the old logs had to be taken up and new
ones put down.  I saw the logs renewed twice in my time; once poplar
logs were used, and once hemlock, both rather short-lived.  A man
from a neighboring town used to come with his long auger and bore
the logs--a spectacle I was never tired of looking at.

Then the sap bush in the groin of the hill, and but a few minutes'
walk from the house, what a feature that was!  In winter and in
summer, what delightful associations I have with it!  I know each
of its great sugar maples as I know my friends or the members of
the family.  Each has a character of its own, and in sap-producing
capacity they differ greatly.  A fringe of the great trees stood out
in the open fields; these were the earliest to run.

In early March we used to begin to make ready for sugar-making
by overhauling the sap "spiles," resharpening the old ones, and
making new ones.  The old-fashioned awkward sap-gouge was used in
tapping in those days, and the "spiles" or spouts were split out
of basswood blocks with this gouge, and then sharpened so as to
fit the half-round gash which the gouge made in the tree.  The
dairy milk-pans were used to catch the sap, and huge iron kettles
to boil it down in.

When the day came to tap the bush, the caldrons, the hogsheads,
and the two hundred or more pans with the bundles of spiles were
put upon the sled and drawn by the oxen up to the boiling-place in
the sap bush.  Father and Brother Hiram did the tapping, using an
axe to cut the gash in the tree, and to drive in the gouge below it
to make a place for the spile, while one of my younger brothers and
I carried the pans and placed them in position.

It was always a glad time with me; the early birds were singing and
calling, the snowbanks were melting, the fields were getting bare,
the roads drying, and spring tokens were on every hand.  We gathered
the sap by hand in those days, two pails and a neck-yoke.  It was
sturdy work.  We would usually begin about three or four o'clock,
and by five have the one hundred and fifty pailfuls of sap in the
hogsheads.  When the sap ran all night, we would begin the gathering
in the morning.  The syruping-off usually took place at the end of
the second day's boiling, when two or three hundred pailfuls of sap
had been reduced to four or five of syrup.  In the March or April
twilight, or maybe after dark, we would carry those heavy pails of
syrup down to the house, where the liquid was strained while still
hot.  The reduction of it to sugar was done upon the kitchen stove,
from three hundred to five hundred pounds being about the average
annual yield.

The bright warm days at the boiling-place I love best to remember;
the robins running about over the bare ground or caroling from the
treetops, the nuthatches calling, the crows walking about the brown
fields, the bluebirds flitting here and there, the cows lowing or
restless in the barnyard.


When I think of the storied lands across the Atlantic,--England,
France, Germany, Italy, so rich in historical associations, steeped
in legend and poetry, the very look of the fields redolent of the
past,--and then turn to my own native hills, how poor and barren
they seem!--not one touch anywhere of that which makes the charm
of the Old World--no architecture, no great names; in fact, no
past.  They look naked and prosy, yet how I love them and cling
to them!  They are written over with the lives of the first
settlers that cleared the fields and built the stone walls--simple,
common-place lives, worthy and interesting, but without the appeal
of heroism or adventure.

The land here is old, geologically, dating back to the Devonian Age,
the soil in many places of decomposed old red sandstone; but it is
new in human history, having been settled only about one hundred
and fifty years.

Time has worn down the hills and mountains so that all the outlines
of the country are gentle and flowing.  The valleys are long, open,
and wide; the hills broad and smooth, no angles or abruptness, or
sharp contrasts anywhere.  Hence it is not what is called a
picturesque land--full of bits of scenery that make the artist's
fingers itch.  The landscape has great repose and gentleness, so
far as long, sweeping lines and broad, smooth slopes can give this
impression.  It is a land which has never suffered violence at
the hands of the interior terrestrial forces; nothing is broken
or twisted or contorted or thrust out or up abruptly.  The strata
are all horizontal, and the steepest mountain-slopes clothed with
soil that nourishes large forest growths.


I stayed at home, working on the farm in summer and going to school
in winter, till I was seventeen.  From the time I was fourteen I
had had a desire to go away to school.  I had a craving for knowledge
which my brothers did not share.  One fall when I was about fifteen I
had the promise from Father that I might go to school at the Academy
in the village that winter.  But I did not go.  Then the next fall
I had the promise of going to the Academy at Harpersfield, where
one of the neighbor's boys, Dick Van Dyke, went.  How I dreamed of
Harpersfield!  That fall I did my first ploughing, stimulated to
it by the promise of Harpersfield.  It was in September, in the lot
above the sugar  bush--cross-ploughing, to prepare the ground for
rye.  How many days I ploughed, I do not remember; but Harpersfield
was the lure at the end of each furrow, I remember that.  To this day
I cannot hear the name without seeing a momentary glow upon my mental
horizon--a finger of enchantment is for an instant laid upon me.

But I did not go to Harpersfield.  When the time drew near for
me to go, Father found himself too poor, or the expense looked
too big--none of the other boys had had such privileges, and why
should I?  So I swallowed my disappointment and attended the home
district school for another winter.  Yet I am not sure but I went
to Harpersfield after all.  The desire, the yearning to go, the
effort to make myself worthy to go, the mental awakening, and the
high dreams, were the main matter.  I doubt if the reality would
have given me anything more valuable than these things.  The
aspiration for knowledge opens the doors of the mind and makes
ready for her coming.

These were my first and last days at the plough, and they made
that field memorable to me.  I never cross it now but I see myself
there--a callow youth being jerked by the plough-handles but with my
head in a cloud of alluring day-dreams.  This, I think, was in the
fall of 1853.  I went to school that winter with a view to leaving
home in the spring to try my luck at school-teaching in an adjoining
county.  Many Roxbury boys had made their first start in the world
by going to Ulster County to teach a country school.  I would do the
same.  So, late in March, 1854, about the end of the sugar season, I
set out for Olive, Ulster County.  An old neighbor, Dr. Hull, lived
there, and I would seek him.

There was only a stage-line at that time connecting the two counties,
and that passed twelve miles from my home.  My plan was to cross the
mountain into Red Kill to Uncle Martin Kelly's, pass the night there,
and in the morning go to Clovesville, three miles distant, and take
the stage.  How well I remember that walk across the mountain in
a snow-squall through which the sun shone dimly, a black oilcloth
satchel in my hand, and in my heart vague yearnings and forebodings!
I had but a few dollars in my pocket, probably six or seven, most of
which I had earned by selling maple sugar.  Father was willing I
should go, though my help was needed on the farm.

Well, I traversed the eight miles to my uncle's in good time, and
in the morning he drove me down to the turnpike to take the stage.
I remember well my anxious and agitated state of mind while waiting
at the hotel for the arrival of the stage.  I had never ridden in
one, I am not sure that I had even seen one, and I did not know just
what was expected of me, or just how I should deport myself.  An
untraveled farm boy at seventeen is such a vague creature anyway,
and I was, in addition, such a bundle of sensibilities, timidities,
and embarrassments as few farm boys are.  I paid my fare at the
hotel at the rate of a sixpence a mile for about thirty-two miles,
and when the stage came, saw my name entered upon the "waybill,"
and got aboard with a beating heart.

Of that first ride of my life in a public conveyance, I remember
little.  The stage was one of those old-fashioned rocking Concord
coaches, drawn by four horses.  We soon left the snow-clad hills of
Delaware County behind, and dropped down into the milder climate of
Ulster, where no snow was to be seen.  About three in the afternoon
the stage put me down at Terry's Tavern on the "plank-road" in
Olive.  I inquired the way to Dr. Hull's and found the walk of about
a mile an agreeable change.  The doctor and his wife welcomed me
cordially.  They were old friends of my family.  I spent a day with
them, riding about with the doctor on his visits to patients, and
making inquiries for a school in want of a teacher.  On the third
day we heard of a vacancy in a district in the west end of the town,
seven or eight miles distant, called Tongore.  Hither I walked one
day, saw the trustees, and made my application.  I suspect my youth
and general greenness caused them to hesitate; they would consider
and let me know inside of a week.  So, in a day or two, hearing of
no other vacancies, I returned home the same way I had come.  It was
the first day of April when I made the return trip.  I remember this
because at one of the hotels where we changed horses I saw a copper
cent lying upon the floor, and, stooping to pick it up, found it
nailed fast.  The bartender and two or three other spectators had a
quiet chuckle at my expense.  Before the week was out a letter came
from the Tongore trustees saying I could have the school; wages, ten
dollars the first month, and, if I proved satisfactory, eleven for
the other five months, and "board around."

I remember the handwriting of that letter as if I had received it
but yesterday. "Come at your earliest opportunity."  How vividly I
recall the round hand in which those words were written!  I replied
that I would be on hand the next week, ready to open school on
Monday, the 11th.

Again I took the stage, my father driving me twelve miles to
Dimmock's Corners to meet it, a trip which he made with me many
times in after years.  Mother always getting up and preparing our
breakfast long before daylight.  We were always in a more or less
anxious frame of mind upon the road lest we be too late for the
stage, but only once during the many trips did we miss it.  On that
occasion it had passed a few minutes before we arrived, but, knowing
it stopped for breakfast at Griffin's Corners, four or five miles
beyond, I hastened on afoot, running most of the way, and arrived
in sight of it just as the driver had let off the first crack from
his whip to start his reluctant horses.  My shouting was quickly
passed to him by the onlookers, he pulled up, and I won the race
quite out of breath.

On the present occasion we were in ample time, and my journey ended
at Shokan, from which place I walked the few miles to Tongore, in
the late April afternoon.  The little frogs were piping, and I
remember how homesick the familiar spring sound made me.  As I
walked along the road near sundown with this sound in my ears, I
saw coming toward me a man with a gait as familiar as was the piping
of the frogs.  He turned out to be our neighbor Warren Scudder, and
how delighted I was to see him in that lonesome land!  He had sold
a yoke of oxen down there and had been down to deliver them.  The
home ties pulled very strongly at sight of him.  Warren's three
boys, Reub and Jack and Smith, were our nearest boy neighbors.  His
father, old Deacon Scudder, was one of the notable characters of the
town.  Warren himself had had some varied experiences.  He was one
of the leaders in the anti-rent war of ten years before.  Indeed,
he was chief of the band of "Indians" that shot Steel, the sheriff,
at Andes, and it was charged that the bullet from his pistol was
the one that did the fatal work.  At any rate, he had had to flee
the country, escaping concealed in a peddler's cart, while close
pressed by the posse.  He went South and was absent several years.
After the excitement of the murder and the struggle between the two
factions had died down, he returned and was not molested.  And here
he was in the April twilight, on my path to Tongore, and the sight
of him cheered my heart.


I began my school Monday morning, April the 11th, 1854, and continued
it for six months, teaching the common branches to twenty or thirty
pupils from the ages of six to twelve or thirteen.  I can distinctly
recall the faces of many of those boys and girls to this day--Jane
North, a slender, clean-cut girl of ten or eleven; Elizabeth
McClelland, a fat, freckled girl of twelve; Alice Twilliger, a
thin, talkative girl with a bulging forehead.  Two or three of
the boys became soldiers in the Civil War, and fell in the battle
of Gettysburg.

[In April, 1912, Mr. Burroughs received the following:  "Hearty
congratulations upon your seventy-fifth birthday, from your old
Tongore pupil of many years ago.
                                                      R--B--."]

I "boarded round," going home with the children as they invited
me.  I was always put in the spare room, and usually treated to
warm biscuit and pie for supper.  A few families were very poor,
and there I was lucky to get bread and potatoes.  In one house I
remember the bedstead was very shaky, and in the middle of the
night, as I turned over, it began to sway and lurch, and presently
all went down in a heap.  But I clung to the wreck till morning,
and said nothing about it then.

I remember that a notable eclipse of the sun occurred that spring
on the 26th of May, when the farmers were planting their corn.

What books I read that summer I cannot recall.  Yes, I recall
one--"The Complete Letter-Writer," which I bought of a peddler,
and upon which I modeled many of my letters to various persons,
among others to a Roxbury girl for whom I had a mild fancy.  My
first letter to a girl I wrote to her, and a ridiculously stiff,
formal, and awkward letter it was, I assure you.  I am positive
I addressed her as "Dear Madam," and started off with some sentence
from "The Complete Letter-Writer," so impressed was I that there
was a best way to do this thing, and that the book pointed it out.
Mary's reply was, "To my absent, but not forgotten friend," and was
simple and natural as girls' letters usually are.  My Grandfather
Kelly died that season, and I recall that I wrote a letter of
condolence to my people, modeled upon one in the book. How absurd
and stilted and unreal it must have sounded to them!


Oh, how crude and callow and obtuse I was at that time, full of
vague and tremulous aspirations and awakenings, but undisciplined,
uninformed, with many inherited incapacities and obstacles to weigh
me down.  I was extremely bashful, had no social aptitude, and was
likely to stutter when anxious or embarrassed, yet I seem to have
made a good impression.  I was much liked in school and out, and
was fairly happy.  I seem to see sunshine over all when I look back
there.  But it was a long summer to me.  I had never been from home
more than a day or two at a time before, and I became very homesick.
Oh, to walk in the orchard back of the house, or along the road, or
to see the old hills again--what a Joy it would have been!  But I
stuck it out till my term ended in October, and then went home,
taking a young fellow from the district (a brother of some girls
I fancied) with me.  I took back nearly all my wages, over fifty
dollars, and with this I planned to pay my way at Hedding Literary
Institute, in the adjoining county of Greene, during the coming
winter term.

I left home for the school late in November, riding the thirty miles
with Father, atop a load of butter.  It was the time of year when
the farmers took their butter to Catskill.  Father usually made two
trips.  This was the first one of the season, and I accompanied him
as far as Ashland, where the Institute was located.

I remained at school there three months, the length of the winter
term, and studied fairly hard.  I had a room by myself and enjoyed
the life with the two hundred or more boys and girls of my own age.
I studied algebra, geometry, chemistry, French, and logic, wrote
compositions, and declaimed in the chapel, as the rules required.
It was at this time that I first read Milton.  We had to parse in
"Paradise Lost," and I recall how I was shocked and astonished by
that celestial warfare.  I told one of my classmates that I did not
believe a word of it.  Among my teachers was a young, delicate,
wide-eyed man who in later life became well known as Bishop Hurst,
of the Methodist Church.  He heard our small class in logic at seven
o'clock in the morning, in a room that was never quite warmed by
the newly kindled fire.  I don't know how I came to study logic
(Whately's).  I had never heard of such a study before; maybe that
is why I chose it.  I got little out of it.  What an absurd study,
taught, as it was, as an aid to argumentation!--like teaching a man
to walk by explaining to him the mechanism of walking.  The analysis
of one sound argument, or of one weak one, in terms of common sense,
is worth any amount of such stuff.  But it was of a piece with
grammar and rhetoric as then taught--all preposterous studies viewed
as helps toward correct writing and speaking.  Think of our parsing
Milton as an aid to mastering the English language!

I remember I stood fairly high in composition--only one boy in the
school ahead of me, and that was Herman Coons, to whom I became much
attached, and who became a Methodist minister.  He went home with me
during the holiday vacation.  After leaving school we corresponded
for several years, and then lost track of each other.  I do not know
that there is one of my school-mates of that time now living.  I
know of none that became eminent in any field.  One of the boys was
fatally injured that winter while coasting.  I remember sitting up
with him many nights and ministering to him.  He died in a few weeks.

It was an event when Father and Mother came to visit me for a few
hours, and Mother brought me some mince pies.  What feasts two or
three other boys and I had in my room over those home-made pies!

Toward spring we had a public debate in the chapel, and I was chosen
as one of the disputants.  We debated the question of the Crimean
War, which was on then.  I was on the side of England and France
against Russia.  Our side won.  I think I spoke very well.  I
remember that I got much of my ammunition from a paper in "Harper's
Magazine," probably by Dr. Osgood.  It seems my fellow on the
affirmative had got much of his ammunition from the same source,
and, as I spoke first, there was not much powder left for him, and
he was greatly embarrassed.

What insignificant things one remembers in a world of small events!
I recall how one morning when we had all gathered in chapel for
prayers, none of the professors appeared on the platform but our
French teacher, and, as praying for us was not one of his duties,
he hurried off to find some one to perform that function, while we
all sat and giggled.


In the spring of 1855, with eight or ten dollars in my pocket which
Father had advanced me, I made my first visit to New York by steamer
from Catskill, on my way to New Jersey in quest of a position as
school-teacher.  Three of our neighborhood boys were then teaching
in or near Plainfield, and I sought them out, having my first ride
on the cars on that trip from Jersey City.  As I sat there in my
seat waiting for the train to start, I remember I actually wondered
if the starting would be so sudden as to jerk my hat off!

I was too late to find a vacancy in any of the schools in the districts
I visited.  On one occasion I walked from Somerville twelve miles to a
village where there was a vacancy, but the trustees, after looking me
over, concluded I was too young and inexperienced for their large
school.  That night the occultation of Venus by the moon took place.
I remember gazing at it long and long.

On my return in May I stopped in New York and spent a day prowling
about the second-hand bookstalls, and spent so much of my money
for books that I had only enough left to carry me to Griffin's
Corners, twelve miles from home.  I bought Locke's "Essay on the
Human Understanding," Dr. Johnson's works, Saint-Pierre's "Studies
of Nature," and Dick's works and others.  Dick was a Scottish
philosopher whose two big fat volumes held something that caught
my mind as I dipped into them.  But I got little from him and soon
laid him aside.  On this and other trips to New York I was always
drawn by the second-hand bookstalls.  How I hovered about them,
how good the books looked, how I wanted them all!  To this day,
when I am passing them, the spirit of those days lays its hand
upon me, and I have to pause a few moments and, half-dreaming,
half-longing, run over the titles.  Nearly all my copies of the
English classics I have picked up at these curbstone stalls.  How
much more they mean to me than new books of later years!  Here,
for instance, are two volumes of Dr. Johnson's works in good leather
binding, library style, which I have carried with me from one place
to another for over fifty years, and which in my youth I read and
reread, and the style of which I tried to imitate before I was
twenty.  When I dip into "The Rambler" and "The Idler" now how dry
and stilted and artificial their balanced sentences seem! yet I
treasure them for what they once were to me.  In my first essay
in the "Atlantic," forty-six years ago [in 1860], I said that
Johnson's periods acted like a lever of the third kind, and that
the power applied always exceeded the weight raised; and this
comparison seems to hit the mark very well.  I did not read
Boswell's Life of him till much later.  In his conversation
Johnson got the fulcrum in the right place.


I reached home on the twentieth of May with an empty pocket and
an empty stomach, but with a bagful of books.  I remember the day
because the grass was green, but the air was full of those great
"goose-feather" flakes of snow which sometimes fall in late May.

I stayed home that summer of '55 and worked on the farm, and
pored over my books when I had a chance.  I must have found
Locke's "Essay" pretty tough reading, but I remember buckling
to it, getting right down on "all fours," as one has to, to
follow Locke.

I think it was that summer that I read my first novel, "Charlotte
Temple," and was fairly intoxicated with it.  It let loose a flood
of emotion in me.  I remember finishing it one morning and then
going out to work in the hay-field, and how the homely and familiar
scenes fairly revolted me.  I dare say the story took away my taste
for Locke and Johnson for a while.

In early September I again turned my face Jerseyward in quest of a
school, but stopped on my way in Olive to visit friends in Tongore.
The school there, since I had left it, had fared badly.  One of
the teachers the boys had turned out of doors, and the others had
"failed to give satisfaction"; so I was urged to take the school
again.  The trustees offered to double my wages--twenty-two dollars
a month. After some hesitation I gave up the Jersey scheme and
accepted the trustees' offer.


It was during that second term of teaching at Tongore that I first
met Ursula North, who later became my wife.  Her uncle was one of
the trustees of the school, and I presume it was this connection
that brought her to the place and led to our meeting.

If I had gone on to Jersey in that fall of '55, my life might have
been very different in many ways.  I might have married some other
girl, might have had a large family of children, and the whole
course of my life might have been greatly changed.  It frightens
me now to think that I might have missed the Washington life, and
Whitman, . . . and much else that has counted for so much with me.
What I might have gained is, in the scale, like imponderable air.

I read my Johnson and Locke that winter and tried to write a little
in the Johnsonese buckram style.  The young man to-day, under the
same conditions, would probably spend his evenings reading novels
or the magazines.  I spent mine poring over "The Rambler."


In April I closed the school and went home, again taking a young
fellow with me.  I was then practically engaged to Ursula North,
and I wrote her a poem on reaching home.  About the middle of
April I left home for Cooperstown Seminary.  I rode to Moresville
with Jim Bouton, and as the road between there and Stamford was
so blocked with snowdrifts that the stage could not run, I was
compelled to walk the eight miles, leaving my trunk behind.  From
Stamford I reached Cooperstown after an all-night ride by stage.

My summer at Cooperstown was an enjoyable and a profitable one.
I studied Latin, French, English literature, algebra, and geometry.
If I remember correctly, I stood first in composition over the
whole school.  I joined the Websterian Society and frequently
debated, and was one of the three or four orators chosen by the
school to "orate" in a grove on the shore of the lake, on the
Fourth of July.  I held forth in the true spread-eagle style.

I entered into the sports of the school, ball-playing and rowing
on the lake, with the zest of youth.

One significant thing I remember: I was always on the lookout for
books of essays.  It was at this time that I took my first bite
into Emerson, and it was like tasting a green apple--not that he
was unripe, but I wasn't ripe for him.  But a year later I tasted
him again, and said, "Why, this tastes good"; and took a bigger
bite; then soon devoured everything of his I could find.

I say I was early on the lockout for books of essays, and I wanted
the essay to begin, not in a casual way by some remark in the first
person, but by the annunciation of some general truth, as most of
Dr. Johnson's did.  I think I bought Dick's works on the strength
of his opening sentence--"Man is a compound being."

As one's mind develops, how many changes in taste he passes
through!  About the time of which I am now writing, Pope was my
favorite poet.  His wit and common sense appealed to me.  Young's
"Night Thoughts" also struck me as very grand.  Whipple seemed to
me a much greater writer than Emerson.  Shakespeare I did not come
to appreciate till years later, and Chaucer and Spenser I have
never learned to care for.

I am sure the growth of my literary taste has been along the right
lines--from the formal and the complex, to the simple and direct.
Now, the less the page seems written, that is, the more natural and
instinctive it is, other things being equal, the more it pleases
me.  I would have the author take no thought of his style, as such;
yet if his sentences are clothed like the lilies of the field, so
much the better.  Unconscious beauty that flows inevitably and
spontaneously out of the subject, or out of the writer's mind,
how it takes us!

My own first attempts at writing were, of course, crude enough. It
took me a long time to put aside all affectation and make-believe,
if I have ever quite succeeded in doing it, and get down to what I
really saw and felt.  But I think now I can tell dead wood in my
writing when I see it--tell when I fumble in my mind, or when my
sentences glance off and fail to reach the quick.


[In August, 1902, Mr. Burroughs wrote me of a visit to Cooperstown,
after all these years: "I found Cooperstown not much changed.  The
lake and the hills were, of course, the same as I had known them
forty-six years ago, and the main street seemed but little altered.
Of the old seminary only the foundations were standing, and the
trees had so grown about it that I hardly knew the place.  I again
dipped my oar in the lake, again stood beside Cooper's grave, and
threaded some of the streets I had known so well.  I wished I could
have been alone there. . . . I wanted to muse and dream, and invoke
the spirit of other days, but the spirits would not rise in the
presence of strangers.  I could not quite get a glimpse of the
world as it appeared to me in those callow days.  It was here that
I saw my first live author (spoken of in my 'Egotistical Chapter')
and first dipped into Emerson."

After leaving the Seminary at Cooperstown in July of 1856, the
young student worked on the home farm in the Catskills until fall,
when he began teaching school at Buffalo Grove, Illinois, where he
taught until the following spring, returning East to marry, as he
says, "the girl I left behind me."

He then taught in various schools in New York and New Jersey, until
the fall of 1863.  As a rule, in the summer he worked on the home
farm.

During this period he was reading much, and trying his hand at
writing.  There was a short intermission in his teaching, when he
invested his earnings in a patent buckle, and for a brief period he
had dreams of wealth.  But the buckle project failed, the dreams
vanished, and he began to read medicine, and resumed his teaching.

From 1859 to 1862 he was writing much, on philosophical subjects
mainly.  It was in 1863 that he first became interested in the
birds.--C. B.]


Ever since the time when in my boyhood I saw the strange bird
in the woods of which I have told you, the thought had frequently
occurred to me, "I shall know the birds some day." But nothing came
of the thought and wish till the spring of '63, when I was teaching
school near West Point.  In the library of the Military Academy,
which I frequently visited of a Saturday, I chanced upon the works
of Audubon.  I took fire at once.  It was like bringing together
fire and powder!  I was ripe for the adventure; I had leisure, I
was in a good bird country, and I had Audubon to stimulate me, as
well as a collection of mounted birds belonging to the Academy
for reference.  How eagerly and joyously I took up the study! It
fitted in so well with my country tastes and breeding; it turned my
enthusiasm as a sportsman into a new channel; it gave to my walks a
new delight; it made me look upon every grove and wood as a new
storehouse of possible treasures.  I could go fishing or camping
or picknicking now with my resources for enjoyment doubled.  That
first hooded warbler that I discovered and identified in a near-by
bushy field one Sunday morning--shall I ever forget the thrill of
delight it gave me?  And when in August I went with three friends
into the Adirondacks, no day or place or detention came amiss to
me; new birds were calling and flitting on every hand; a new world
was opened to me in the midst of the old.

At once I was moved to write about the birds, and I began my first
paper, "The Return of the Birds," that fall, and finished it in
Washington, whither I went in October, and where I lived for ten
years.  Writing about the birds and always treating them in
connection with the season and their environment, was, while I was
a government clerk, a kind of vacation.  It enabled me to live over
again my days amid the sweet rural things and influences.  The
paper just referred to is, as you may see, mainly written out of my
memories as a farm boy.  The enthusiasm which Audubon had begotten
in me quickened and gave value to all my youthful experiences and
observations of the birds.


[This brings us to the time when our subject is fairly launched on
early manhood. He has regular employment--a clerkship in the office
of the Comptroller of the Currency, which, if not especially
congenial in itself, affords him leisure to do the things he most
wishes to do.  He is even now growing in strength and efficiency
as an essayist.--C. B.]



SELF-ANALYSIS


March, 1909

My Dear Friend,--

You once asked me how, considering my antecedents and youthful
environment, I accounted for myself; what sent me to Nature, and
to writing about her, and to literature generally.  I wish I could
answer you satisfactorily, but I fear I cannot. I do not know,
myself; I can only guess at it.

I have always looked upon myself as a kind of sport; I came out
of the air quite as much as out of my family.  All my weaknesses
and insufficiencies--and there are a lot of them--are inherited,
but of my intellectual qualities, there is not much trace in my
immediate forbears.  No scholars or thinkers or lovers of books,
or men of intellectual pursuits for several generations back of
me--all obscure farmers or laborers in humble fields, rather
grave, religiously inclined men, I gather, sober, industrious, good
citizens, good neighbors, correct livers, but with no very shining
qualities.  My four brothers were of this stamp--home-bodies,
rather timid, non-aggressive men, somewhat below the average in
those qualities and powers that insure worldly success--the kind
of men that are so often crowded to the wall. I can see myself
in some of them, especially in Hiram, who had daydreams, who
was always going West, but never went; who always wanted some
plaything--fancy sheep or pigs or poultry; who was a great lover
of bees and always kept them; who was curious about strange lands,
but who lost heart and hope as soon as he got beyond the sight of
his native hills; and who usually got cheated in every bargain he
made.  Perhaps it is because I see myself in him that Hiram always
seemed nearer to me than any of the rest.  I have at times his
vagueness, his indefiniteness, his irresolution, and his want of
spirit when imposed upon.

Poor Hiram! One fall in his simplicity he took his fancy Cotswold
sheep to the State Fair at Syracuse, never dreaming but that a
farmer entirely outside of all the rings and cliques, and quite
unknown, could get the prize if his stock was the best.  I can
see him now, hanging about the sheep-pens, homesick, insignificant,
unnoticed, living on cake and pie, and wondering why a prize label
was not put upon his sheep.  Poor Hiram! Well, he marched up the
hill with his sheep, and then he marched down again, a sadder and,
I hope, a wiser man.

Once he ordered a fancy rifle, costing upwards of a hundred
dollars, of a gunsmith in Utica.  When the rifle came, it did
not suit him, was not according to specifications; so he sent it
back. Not long after that the man failed and no rifle came, and
the money was not returned.  Then Hiram concluded to make a journey
out there.  I was at home at the time, and can see him yet as he
started off along the road that June day, off for Utica on foot.
Again he marched up the hill, and then marched down, and no rifle
or money ever came.

For years he had the Western fever, and kept his valise under his
bed packed ready for the trip.  Once he actually started and got
as far as White Pigeon, Michigan.  There his courage gave out, and
he came back.  Still he kept his valise packed, but the end of his
life's journey came before he was ready to go West again.

Hiram, as you know, came to live with me at Slabsides during
the last years of his life.  He had made a failure of it on the
old farm, after I had helped him purchase it; nearly everything
had gone wrong, indoors and out; and he was compelled to give it
up.  So he brought his forty or more skips of bees to West Park
and lived with me, devoting himself, not very successfully, to
bee-culture.  He loved to "fuss" with bees.  I think the money he
got for his honey looked a little more precious to him than other
money, just as the silver quarters I used to get when a boy for the
maple sugar I made had a charm and a value no quarters have ever
had in my eyes since.

That thing in Hiram that was so appealed to by his bee-culture, and
by any fancy strain of sheep or poultry, is strong in me, too, and
has played an important part in my life.  If I had not taken it out
in running after wild nature and writing about it I should probably
have been a bee-man, or a fancy-stock farmer.  As it is, I have
always been a bee-lover, and have usually kept several swarms.
Ordinary farming is prosy and tiresome compared with bee-farming.
Combined with poultry-raising, it always had special attractions
for me.  When I was a farm boy of twelve or thirteen years, one
of our neighbors had a breed of chickens with large topknots that
filled my eye completely.  My brother and I used to hang around the
Chase henyard for hours, admiring and longing for those chickens.
The impression those fowls made upon me seems as vivid to-day as it
was when first made.  The topknot was the extra touch--the touch of
poetry that I have always looked for in things, and that Hiram, in
his way, craved and sought for, too.

There was something, too, in my maternal grandfather that probably
foreshadowed the nature-lover and nature-writer.  In him it took
the form of a love of angling, and a love for the Bible.  He went
from the Book to the stream, and from the stream to the Book,
with great regularity.  I do not remember that he ever read the
newspapers, or any other books than the Bible and the hymn-book.
When he was over eighty years, old he would woo the trout-streams
with great success, and between times would pore over the Book
till his eyes were dim.  I do not think he ever joined the church,
or ever made an open profession of religion, as was the wont in
those days; but he had the religious nature which he nursed upon
the Bible.  When a mere boy, as I have before told you, he was a
soldier under Washington, and when the War of 1812 broke out, and
one of his sons was drafted, he was accepted and went in his stead.
The half-wild, adventurous life of the soldier suited him better
than the humdrum of the farm.  From him, as I have said, I get the
dash of Celtic blood in my veins--that almost feminine sensibility
and tinge of melancholy that, I think, shows in all my books.
That emotional Celt, ineffectual in some ways, full of longings
and impossible dreams, of quick and noisy anger, temporizing,
revolutionary, mystical, bold in words, timid in action--surely
that man is in me, and surely he comes from my revolutionary
ancestor, Grandfather Kelly.

I think of the Burroughs branch of my ancestry as rather retiring,
peace-loving, solitude-loving men--men not strongly sketched in
on the canvas of life, not self-assertive, never roistering or
uproarious--law-abiding, and church-going.  I gather this
impression from many sources, and think it is a correct one.


Oh, the old farm days! how the fragrance of them still lingers
in my heart! the spring with its farm, the returning birds, and
the full, lucid trout-streams; the summer with its wild berries,
its haying, its cool, fragrant woods; the fall with its nuts, its
game, its apple-gathering, its holidays; the winter with its
school, its sport on ice and snow, its apple-bins in the cellar,
its long nights by the fireside, its voice of fox-bounds on the
mountains, its sound of flails in the barn--how much I still dream
about these things!

But I am slow in keeping my promise to try to account for myself.
Yet all these things are a part of my antecedents; they entered
into my very blood--father and mother and brothers and sisters,
and the homely life of the farm, all entered into and became a
part of that which I am.

I am certain, as I have told you before, that I derived more from
my mother than from my father.  I have more of her disposition--her
yearning, breeding nature, her subdued and neutral tones, her
curiosity, her love of animals, and of wild nature generally.
Father was neither a hunter nor a fisherman, and, I think, was
rarely conscious of the beauty of nature around him.  The texture
of his nature was much less fine than that of Mother's, and he was
a much easier problem to read; he was as transparent as glass.
Mother had more of the stuff of poetry in her soul, and a deeper,
if more obscure, background to her nature.  That which makes a
man a hunter or a fisherman simply sent her forth in quest of
wild berries.  What a berry-picker she was!  How she would work
to get the churning out of the way so she could go out to the
berry lot!  It seemed to heal and refresh her to go forth in the
hill meadows for strawberries, or in the old bushy bark-peelings
for raspberries.  The last work she did in the world was to gather
a pail of blackberries as she returned one September afternoon from
a visit to my sister's, less than a mile away.

I am as fond of going forth for berries as my mother was, even to
this day.  Every June I must still make one or two excursions to
distant fields for wild strawberries, or along the borders of the
woods for black raspberries, and I never go without thinking of
Mother.  You could not see all that I bring home with me in my
pail on such occasions; if you could, you would see the traces
of daisies and buttercups and bobolinks, and the blue skies, with
thoughts of Mother and the Old Home, that date from my youth.  I
usually eat some of the berries in bread and milk, as I was wont to
do in the old days, and am, for the moment, as near a boy again as
it is possible for me to be.

[Illustration: One of Mr. Burroughs's Favorite Seats, Roxbury,
New York.  From a photograph by Clifton Johnson]

No doubt my life as a farm boy has had much to do with my
subsequent love of nature, and my feeling of kinship with all
rural things.  I feel at home with them; they are bone of my bone
and flesh of my flesh.  It seems to me a man who was not born and
reared in the country can hardly get Nature into his blood, and
establish such intimate and affectionate relations with her, as
can the born countryman.  We are so susceptible and so plastic in
youth; we take things so seriously; they enter into and color and
feed the very currents of our being.  As a child I think I must
have been more than usually fluid and impressionable, and that my
affiliations with open-air life and objects were very hearty and
thorough.  As I grow old I am experiencing what, I suppose, all
men experience, more or less; my subsequent days slough off, or
fade away, more and more, leaving only the days of my youth as a
real and lasting possession.


When I began, in my twenty-fifth or twenty-sixth year, to write
about the birds, I found that I had only to unpack the memories of
the farm boy within me to get at the main things about the common
ones.  I had unconsciously absorbed the knowledge that gave the life
and warmth to my page.  Take that farm boy out of my books, out of
all the pages in which he is latent as well as visibly active, and
you have robbed them of something vital and fundamental, you have
taken from the soil much of its fertility.  At least, so it seems
to me, though in this business of self-analysis I know one may easily
go far astray.  It is probably quite impossible correctly to weigh
and appraise the many and complex influences and elements that have
entered into one's life.

When I look back to that twilight of early youth, to that half-mythical
borderland of the age of six or seven years, or even earlier, I can
see but few things that, in the light of my subsequent life, have
much significance.  One is the impression made upon me by a redbird
which the "hired girl" brought in from the woodpile, one day with a
pail of chips.  She had found the bird lying dead upon the ground.
That vivid bit of color in the form of a bird has never faded from my
mind, though I could not have been more than three or four years old.

Another bird incident, equally vivid, I have related in "Wake-Robin,"
in the chapter called "The Invitation,"--the vision of the small
bluish bird with a white spot on its wing, one Sunday when I was
six or seven years old, while roaming with my brothers in the
"Deacon woods" near home.  The memory of that bird stuck to me
as a glimpse of a world of birds that I knew not of.

Still another bird incident that is stamped upon my memory must
have occurred about the same time.  Some of my brothers and an
older boy neighbor and I were walking along a road in the woods
when a brown bird flew down from a bush upon the ground in front
of us.  "A brown thrasher," the older boy said. It was doubtless
either the veery, or the hermit thrush, and this was my first clear
view of it.  Thus it appears that birds stuck to me, impressed me
from the first.  Very early in my life the coming of the bluebird,
the phoebe, the song sparrow, and the robin, in the spring, were
events that stirred my emotions, and gave a new color to the day.
When I had found a bluebird's nest in the cavity of a stump or a
tree, I used to try to capture the mother bird by approaching
silently and clapping my hand over the hole; in this I sometimes
succeeded, though, of course, I never harmed the bird.  I used to
capture song sparrows in a similar way, by clapping my hat over
the nest in the side of the bank along the road.

I can see that I was early drawn to other forms of wild life, for
I distinctly remember when a small urchin prying into the private
affairs of the "peepers" in the marshes in early spring, sitting
still a long time on a log in their midst, trying to spy out and
catch them in the act of peeping.  And this I succeeded in doing,
discovering one piping from the top of a bulrush, to which he clung
like a sailor to a mast; I finally allayed the fears of one I had
captured till he sat in the palm of my hand and piped--a feat I
have never been able to repeat since.

I studied the ways of the bumblebees also, and had names of my
own for all the different kinds.  One summer I made it a point
to collect bumblebee honey, and I must have gathered a couple of
pounds.  I found it very palatable, though the combs were often
infested with parasites.  The small red-banded bumblebees that
lived in large colonies in holes in the ground afforded me the
largest yields.  A large bee, with a broad light-yellow band,
was the ugliest customer to deal with.  It was a fighter and
would stick to its enemy like grim death, following me across
the meadow and often getting in my hair, and a few times up my
trousers leg, where I had it at as great a disadvantage as it
had me.  It could stab, and I could pinch, and one blow followed
the other pretty rapidly.


As a child I was always looked upon and spoken of as an "odd one"
in the family, even by my parents.  Strangers, and relatives from
a distance, visiting at the house, would say, after looking us all
over, "That is not your boy," referring to me, "who is he?"  And I
am sure I used to look the embarrassment I felt at not being as the
others were.  I did not want to be set apart from them or regarded
as an outsider.  As this was before the days of photography, there
are no pictures of us as children, so I can form no opinion of how
I differed in my looks from the others.  I remember hearing my
parents say that I showed more of the Kelly--Mother's family.

I early "took to larnin'," as Father used to say, differing from
my brothers and sisters in this respect. I quickly and easily
distanced them all in the ordinary studies.  I had gone through
Dayball's Arithmetic while two of my older brothers were yet in
addition.  "Larnin'" came very hard to all of them except to Hiram
and me, and Hiram did not have an easy time of it, though he got
through his Dayball, and studied Greenleaf's Grammar.

There was a library of a couple of dozen of volumes in the district,
and I used to take home books from it.  They were usually books
of travel or of adventure.  I remember one, especially, a great
favorite, "Murphy, the Indian Killer."  I must have read this book
several times.  Novels, or nature books, or natural-history books,
were unknown in that library.  I remember the "Life of Washington,"
and I am quite certain that it was a passage in this book that made
a lasting impression upon me when I was not more than six or seven
years old.  I remember the impression, though I do not recall the
substance of the passage.  The incident occurred one Sunday in
summer when Hiram and a cousin of ours and I were playing through
the house, I carrying this book in my hand.  From time to time I
would stop and read this passage aloud, and I can remember, as if
it were but yesterday, that I was so moved by it, so swept away by
its eloquence, that, for a moment, I was utterly oblivious to
everything around me.  I was lifted out of myself, caught up in
a cloud of feeling, and wafted I know not whither.  My companions,
being much older than I was, regarded not my reading.

These exalted emotional states, similar to that just described,
used occasionally to come to me under other conditions about this
time, or later.  I recall one such, one summer morning when I was
walking on the top of a stone wall that ran across the summit of
one of those broad-backed hills which you yourself know.  I had in
my hand a bit of a root of a tree that was shaped much like a
pistol.  As I walked along the toppling stones, I flourished this,
and called and shouted and exulted and let my enthusiasm have free
swing.  It was a moment of supreme happiness. I was literally
intoxicated; with what I do not know.  I only remember that life
seemed amazingly beautiful--I was on the crest of some curious
wave of emotion, and my soul sparkled and flashed in the sunlight.
I have haunted that old stone wall many times since that day, but
I have never been able again to experience that thrill of joy and
triumph.  The cup of life does not spontaneously bead and sparkle
in this way except in youth, and probably with many people it does
not even then.  But I know from what you have told me that you have
had the experience.  When one is trying to cipher out his past, and
separate the factors that have played an important part in his
life, such incidents, slight though they are, are significant.

The day-dreams I used to indulge in when twelve or thirteen, while
at work about the farm, boiling sap in the spring woods, driving
the cows to pasture, or hoeing corn,--dreams of great wealth and
splendor, of dress and equipage,--were also significant, but not
prophetic.  Probably what started these golden dreams was an
itinerant quack phrenologist who passed the night at our house when
I was a lad of eight or nine.  He examined the heads of all of us;
when he struck mine, he grew enthusiastic.  "This is the head for
you," he said; "this boy is going to be rich, very rich"; and much
more to that effect.  Riches was the one thing that appealed to
country people in those times; it was what all were after, and what
few had.  Hence the confident prophesy of the old quack made an
impression, and when I began to indulge in day-dreams I was, no
doubt, influenced by it.  But, as you know, it did not come true,
except in a very limited sense.  Instead of returning to the Old
Home in a fine equipage, and shining with gold,--the observed of
all observers, and the envy of all enviers,--as I had dreamed, and
as had been foretold, I came back heavy-hearted, not indeed poor,
but far from rich, walked up from the station through the mud and
snow unnoticed, and took upon myself the debts against the old
farm, and so provided that it be kept in the family.  It was not
an impressive home-coming; it was to assume burdens rather than
to receive congratulations; it was to bow my head rather than to
lift it up.  Out of the golden dreams of youth had come cares and
responsibilities.  But doubtless it was best so.  The love that
brought me back to the old home year after year, that made me
willing to serve my family, and that invested my native hills
with such a charm, was the best kind of riches after all.


As a youth I never went to Sunday-school, and I was not often
seen inside the church.  My Sundays were spent rather roaming
in the woods and fields, or climbing to "Old Clump," or, in summer,
following the streams and swimming in the pools.  Occasionally I
went fishing, though this was to incur parental displeasure--unless
I brought home some fine trout, in which case the displeasure was
much tempered.  I think this Sunday-school in the woods and fields
was, in my case, best.  It has always seemed, and still seems, as
if I could be a little more intimate with Nature on Sunday than
on a week-day; our relations were and are more ideal, a different
spirit is abroad, the spirit of holiday and not of work, and I
could in youth, and can now, abandon myself to the wild life about
me more fully and more joyously on that day than on any other.

The memory of my youthful Sundays is fragrant with wintergreens,
black birch, and crinkle-root, to say nothing of the harvest apples
that grew in our neighbor's orchard; and the memory of my Sundays
in later years is fragrant with arbutus, and the showy orchid, and
wild strawberries, and touched with the sanctity of woodland walks
and hilltops.  What day can compare with a Sunday to go to the
waterfalls, or to "Piney Ridge," or to "Columbine Ledge," or to
stroll along "Snake Lane"?  What sweet peace and repose is over
all!  The snakes in Snake Lane are as free from venom as are
grasshoppers, and the grasshoppers themselves fiddle and dance as
at no other time.  Cherish your Sundays.  I think you will read a
little deeper in "Nature's infinite book of secrecy" on Sunday than
on Monday.  I once began an essay the subject of which was Sunday,
but never finished it.  I must send you the fragment.


But I have not yet solved my equation--what sent me to nature?
What made me take an intellectual interest in outdoor things?
The precise value of the /x/ is hard to find.  My reading, no doubt,
had much to do with it.  This intellectual and emotional interest
in nature is in the air in our time, and has been more or less for
the past fifty years.  I early read Wordsworth, and Emerson and
Tennyson and Whitman, and Saint-Pierre's "Studies of Nature," as
I have before told you.  But the previous question is, why the
nature poets and nature books appealed to me.  One cannot corner
this unknown quantity.  I suppose I was simply made that way--the
love of nature was born in me.  I suppose Emerson influenced me
most, beginning when I was about nineteen; I had read Pope and
Thomson and Young and parts of Shakespeare before that, but they
did not kindle this love of nature in me.  Emerson did.  Though
he did not directly treat of outdoor themes, yet his spirit seemed
to blend with Nature, and to reveal the ideal and spiritual values
in her works.  I think it was this, or something like it, that
stimulated me and made bird and tree and sky and flower full of
a new interest.  It is not nature for its own sake that has mainly
drawn me; had it been so, I should have turned out a strict man of
science; but nature for the soul's sake--the inward world of ideals
and emotions. It is this that allies me to the poets; while it is
my interest in the mere fact that allies me to the men of science.

I do not read Emerson much now, except to try to get myself
back into the atmosphere of that foreworld when a paradox, or a
startling affirmation, dissolved or put to flight a vast array of
commonplace facts.  What a bold front he did put on in the presence
of the tyrannies of life!  He stimulated us by a kind of heavenly
bragging and saintly flouting of humdrum that ceases to impress us
as we grow old.  Do we outgrow him?--or do we fall away from him?
I cannot bear to hear Emerson spoken of as a back-number, and I
should like to believe that the young men of to-day find in him
what I found in him fifty years ago, when he seemed to whet my
appetite for high ideals by referring to that hunger that could
"eat the solar system like gingercake."  But I suspect they do not.
The world is too much with us. We are prone to hitch our wagon to
a star in a way, or in a spirit, that does not sanctify the wagon,
but debases the star.  Emerson is perhaps too exceptional to take
his place among the small band of the really first-class writers of
the world.  Shear him of his paradoxes, of his surprises, of his
sudden inversions, of his taking sallies in the face of the common
reason, and appraise him for his real mastery over the elements of
life and of the mind, as we do Bacon, or Shakespeare, or Carlyle,
and he will be found wanting.  And yet, let me quickly add, there
is something more precious and divine about him than about any
or all the others.  He prepares the way for a greater than he,
prepares the mind to accept the new man, the new thought, as none
other does.


But how slow I am in getting at my point!  Emerson took me captive.
For a time I lived and moved and had my intellectual being in him.
I think I have always had a pretty soft shell, so to speak, hardly
enough lime and grit in it, and at times I am aware that such is
the fact to this day.  Well, Emerson found my intellectual shell
very plastic; I took the form of his mould at once, and could not
get away from him; and, what is more, did not want to get away
from him, did not see the need of getting away from him.  Nature
herself seemed to speak through him.  An intense individuality that
possesses the quality of lovableness is apt to impose itself upon
us in this way.  It was under this spell, as you know, that I wrote
"Expression," of which I have told you.  The "Atlantic," by the
way, had from the first number been a sort of university to me.
It had done much to stimulate and to shape my literary tastes and
ambitions.  I was so eager for it that when I expected it in the
mail I used to run on my way to the post office for it.  So, with
fear and trembling, I sent that essay to its editor.  Lowell told
a Harvard student who was an old schoolmate of mine that when he
read the paper he thought some young fellow was trying to palm off
an early essay of Emerson's upon him as his own, and that he looked
through the "Dial" and other publications in the expectation of
finding it.  Not succeeding in doing so, he concluded the young
man had written it himself.  It was published in November, 1860,
and as the contributors' names were not given at that time, it was
ascribed to Emerson by the newspaper reviewers of that number.  It
went into Poole's Index as by Emerson, and later. Professor Hill


[Some years ago I took it upon myself to let Professor Hill know
the real author of "Expression." He appeared grateful, though some
what chagrined, and said the error should be corrected in the next
edition.  Mr. Burroughs smiled indulgently when he learned of my
zeal in the matter: "Emerson's back is broad; he could have afforded
to continue to shoulder my early blunders," he said.  C. B.]


of Harvard, quoted a line from it in a footnote in his "Rhetoric,"
and credited it to Emerson. So I had deceived the very elect.
The essay had some merit, but it reeked with the Emersonian spirit
and manner.  When I came to view it through the perspective of
print, I quickly saw that this kind of thing would not do for me.
I must get on ground of my own.  I must get this Emersonian musk
out of my garments at all hazards.  I concluded to bury my garments
in the earth, as it were, and see what my native soil would do
toward drawing it out. So I took to writing on all manner of rural
themes--sugar-making, cows, haying, stone walls.  These, no doubt,
helped to draw out the rank suggestion of Emerson.  I wrote about
things of which I knew, and was, therefore, bound to be more
sincere with myself than in writing upon the Emersonian themes.
When a man tells what he knows, what he has seen or felt, he
is pretty sure to be himself.  When I wrote upon more purely
intellectual themes, as I did about this time for the "Leader,"
the Emersonian influence was more potent, though less so than
in the first "Atlantic" essay.

Any man progresses in the formation of a style of his own in
proportion as he gets down to his own real thoughts and feelings,
and ceases to echo the thoughts and moods of another.  Only thus
can he be sincere; and sincerity is the main secret of style.
What I wrote from "the push of reading," as Whitman calls it, was
largely an artificial product; I had not made it my own; but when
I wrote of country scenes and experiences, I touched the quick of
my mind, and it was more easy to be real and natural.

I also wrote in 1860 or 1861 a number of things for the "Saturday
Press" which exhaled the Emersonian perfume.  If you will look them
over, you will see how my mind was working in the leading-strings
of Analogy--often a forced and unreal Analogy.


December, 1907

My Dear Friend,--

You ask me to tell you more about myself, my life, how it has been
with me, etc.  It is an inviting subject.  How an old man likes to
run on about himself!

I see that my life has been more of a holiday than most persons',
much more than was my father's or his father's.  I have picnicked
all along the way.  I have on the whole been gay and satisfied.  I
have had no great crosses or burdens to bear; no great afflictions,
except such as must come to all who live; neither poverty, nor
riches.  I have had uniform good health, true friends, and some
congenial companions.  I have done, for the most part, what I
wanted to do.  Some drudgery I have had, that is, in uncongenial
work on the farm, in teaching, in clerking, and in bank-examining;
but amid all these things I have kept an outlook, an open door, as
it were, out into the free fields of nature, and a buoyant feeling
that I would soon be there.

My farm life as a boy was at least a half-holiday.  The fishing,
the hunting, the berrying, the Sundays on the hills or in the
woods, the sugar-making, the apple-gathering--all had a holiday
character.  But the hoeing corn, and picking up potatoes, and
cleaning the cow stables, had little of this character.  I have
never been a cog in the wheel of any great concern.  I have never
had to sink or lose my individuality.  I have been under no exacting
master or tyrant. . . . I have never been a slave to any bad
habit, as smoking, drinking, over-feeding.  I have had no social
or political ambitions; society has not curtailed my freedom or
dictated my dress or habits.  Neither has any religious order or
any clique.  I have had no axe to grind.  I have gone with such
men and women as I liked, irrespective of any badge of wealth or
reputation or social prestige that they might wear.  I have looked
for simple pleasures everywhere, and have found them.  I have not
sought for costly pleasures, and do not want them--pleasures that
cost money, or health, or time. The great things, the precious
things of my life, have been without money and without price,
as common as the air.

Life has laid no urgent mission upon me.  My gait has been a
leisurely one.  I am not bragging of it; I am only stating a
fact. I have never felt called upon to reform the world.  I
have doubtless been culpably indifferent to its troubles and
perplexities, and sins and sufferings.  I lend a hand occasionally
here and there in my own neighborhood, but I trouble myself very
little about my neighbors--their salvation or their damnation.
I go my own way and do my own work.

I have loved nature, I have loved the animals, I have loved my
fellow-men.  I have made my own whatever was fair and of good
report.  I have loved the thoughts of the great thinkers and
the poems of the great poets, and the devout lines of the great
religious souls.  I have not looked afar off for my joy and
entertainment, but in things near at hand, that all may have
on equal terms.  I have been a loving and dutiful son, and a
loving and dutiful father, and a good neighbor.  I have got much
satisfaction out of life; it has been worth while.

I have not been a burden-bearer; for shame be it said, perhaps,
when there are so many burdens to be borne by some one.  I have
borne those that came in my way, or that circumstances put upon
me, and have at least pulled my own weight.  I have had my share
of the holiday spirit; I have had a social holiday, a moral
holiday, a business holiday.  I have gone a-fishing while others
were struggling and groaning and losing their souls in the great
social or political or business maelstrom.  I know, too, I have
gone a-fishing while others have labored in the slums and given
their lives to the betterment of their fellows.  But I have been
a good fisherman, and I should have made a poor missionary, or
reformer, or leader of any crusade against sin and crime.  I am
not a fighter, I dislike any sort of contest, or squabble, or
competition, or storm.  My strength is in my calm, my serenity,
my sunshine.  In excitement I lose my head, and my heels, too. I
cannot carry any citadel by storm.  I lack the audacity and spirit
of the stormer.  I must reduce it slowly or steal it quietly.
I lack moral courage, though I have plenty of physical and
intellectual courage.  I could champion Walt Whitman when nearly
every contemporaneous critic and poet were crying him down, but
I utterly lack the moral courage to put in print what he dared to.
I have wielded the "big stick" against the nature-fakers, but I am
very uncomfortable under any sort of blame or accusation.  It is
so much easier for me to say yes than no.  My moral fibre is soft
compared to my intellectual.  I am a poor preacher, an awkward
moralizer.  A moral statement does not interest me unless it can
be backed up by natural truth; it must have intellectual value.
The religious dogmas interest me if I can find a scientific basis
for them, otherwise not at all.

I shall shock you by telling you I am not much of a patriot.  I
have but little national pride.  If we went to war with a foreign
power to-morrow, my sympathies would be with the foreigner if
I thought him in the right.  I could gladly see our navy knocked
to pieces by Japan, for instance, if we were in the wrong.  I
have absolutely no state pride, any more than I have county or
town pride, or neighborhood pride.  But I make it up in family
or tribal affection.

I am too much preoccupied, too much at home with myself, to feel
any interest in many things that interest my fellows.  I have
aimed to live a sane, normal, healthy life; or, rather, I have an
instinct for such a life.  I love life, as such, and I am quickly
conscious of anything that threatens to check its even flow.  I
want a full measure of it, and I want it as I do my spring water,
clear and sweet and from the original sources.  Hence I have always
chafed in cities, I must live in the country.  Life in the cities
is like the water there--a long way from the original sources, and
more or less tainted by artificial conditions.

The current of the lives of many persons, I think, is like a muddy
stream.  They lack the instinct for health, and hence do not know
when the vital current is foul.  They are never really well.  They
do not look out for personal inward sanitation.  Smokers, drinkers,
coffee-tipplers, gluttonous eaters, diners-out, are likely to lose
the sense of perfect health, of a clear, pure life-current, of
which I am thinking.  The dew on the grass, the bloom on the grape,
the sheen on the plumage, are suggestions of the health that is
within the reach of most of us.

The least cloud or film in my mental skies mars or stops my work.
I write with my body quite as much as with my mind.  How persons
whose bread of life is heavy, so to speak,--no lightness or buoyancy
or airiness at all,--can make good literature is a mystery to me;
or those who stimulate themselves with drugs or alcohol or coffee.
I would live so that I could get tipsy on a glass of water, or find
a spur in a whiff of morning air.

Such as my books are, the bloom of my life is in them; no morbidity,
or discontent, or ill health, or angry passion, has gone to their
making.  The iridescence of a bird's plumage, we are told, is not
something extraneous; it is a prismatic effect.  So the color in my
books is not paint; it is health.  It is probably nothing to brag
of; much greater books have been the work of confirmed invalids.
All I can say is that the minds of these inspired invalids have
not seemed to sustain so close a relation to their bodies as my
mind does to my body.  Their powers seem to have been more purely
psychic.  Look at Stevenson--almost bedridden all his life, yet
behold the felicity of his work!  How completely his mind must have
been emancipated from the infirmities of his body!  It is clearly
not thus with me.  My mind is like a flame that depends entirely
upon the good combustion going on in the body. Hence, I can never
write in the afternoon, because this combustion is poorest then.

Life has been to me simply an opportunity to learn and enjoy, and,
through my books, to share my enjoyment with others.  I have had no
other ambition.  I have thirsted to know things, and to make the
most of them.  The universe is to me a grand spectacle that fills me
with awe and wonder and joy, and with intense curiosity.  I have had
no such religious burden to bear as my fathers did--the conviction
of sin, the struggle, the agony, the despair of a soul that fears
it is lost.  The fear of hell has never troubled me.  Of sin in the
theological sense, the imputed sin of Adam's transgression, which so
worried the old people, I have not had a moment's concern.  That I
have given my heart to Nature instead of to God, as these same old
people would have said, has never cast a shadow over my mind or
conscience--as if God would not get all that belonged to Him, and
as if love of his works were not love of Him! I have acquiesced in
things as they are, and have got all the satisfaction out of them
that I could.

Over my personal sins and shortcomings, I have not been as much
troubled as I should; none of us are.  We do not see them in relief
as others do; they are like the color of our eyes, or our hair, or
the shapes of our noses.

I do not know that it is true that my moral fibre is actually weak.
If I may draw a figure from geology, it is probably true that my
moral qualities are the softer rock in the strata that make up my
being--the easiest worn away.  I see that I carry the instinct of
the naturalist into all my activities.  If a thing is natural,
sane, wholesome, that is enough. Whether or not it is conventionally
correct, or square with the popular conception of morality, does not
matter to me.

I undoubtedly lack the heroic fibre.  My edge is much easier turned
than was that, say, of Thoreau.  Austerity would ill become me.  You
would see through the disguise. Yes, there is much soft rock in my
make-up.  Is that why I shrink from the wear and tear of the world?

The religious storm and upheaval that I used to hear so much of
in my youth is impossible with me.  I am liable to deep-seated
enthusiasms; but to nothing like a revolution in my inward life,
nothing sudden, nothing violent.  I can't say that there has been
any abandonment of my opinions on important subjects; there has
been new growth and evolution, I hope.  The emphasis of life shifts,
now here, now there; it is up hill and down dale, but there is
no change of direction. . . . Certain deep-seated tendencies and
instincts have borne me on.  I have gravitated naturally to the
things that were mine.

I could not make anything I chose of myself; I could only be what I
am.  In my youth I once "went forward" at a "protracted meeting,"
but nothing came of it.  The change in me that I was told would
happen did not happen, and I never went again.  My nature was too
equable, too self-poised, to be suddenly overturned and broken up.

I am not a bit gregarious.  I cannot herd with other men and be
"Hail, fellow, well met!" with them as I wish I could.  I am much
more at home with women; we seem to understand one another better.
Put me with a lot of men, and we naturally separate as oil and water
separate.  On shipboard it is rarely that any of the men take to
me, or I to them--I do not smoke or drink or tell stories, or talk
business or politics, and the men have little use for me.  On my
last voyage across the Atlantic, the only man who seemed to notice
me, or to whom I felt drawn at all, was a Catholic priest.  Real
countrymen, trappers, hunters, and farmers, I seem to draw near to.
On the Harriman Alaskan Expedition the two men I felt most at home
with were Fred Dellenbaugh, the artist and explorer, and Captain
Kelly, the guide.  Can you understand this?  Do you see why men
do not, as a rule, care for me, and why women do?

I accuse myself of want of sociability.  Probably I am too
thin-skinned.  A little more of the pachyderm would help me in
this respect.

Some day I will give you more self-analysis and self-criticism.


I am what you might call an extemporaneous writer--I write without
any previous study or preparation, save in so far as my actual
life from day to day has prepared me for it.  I do not work up
my subject, or outline it, or sketch it in the rough.  When I
sit down to write upon any theme, like that of my "Cosmopolitan"
article last April ["What Life Means to Me," 1906], or of my
various papers on animal intelligence, I do not know what I have
to say on the subject till I delve into my mind and see what I
find there.  The writing is like fishing or hunting, or sifting
the sand for gold--I am never sure of what I shall find.  All I
want is a certain feeling, a bit of leaven, which I seem to refer
to some place in my chest--not my heart, but to a point above that
and nearer the centre of the chest--the place that always glows or
suffuses when one thinks of any joy or good tidings that is coming
his way.  It is a kind of hunger for that subject; it warms me a
little to think of it, a pleasant thrill runs through me; or it
is something like a lover's feeling for his sweetheart--I long to
be alone with it, and to give myself to it.  I am sure I shall
have a good time.  Hence, my writing is the measure of my life.
I can write only about what I have previously felt and lived.  I
have no legerdemain to invoke things out of the air, or to make a
dry branch bud and blossom before the eyes.  I must look into my
heart and write, or remain dumb.  Robert Louis Stevenson said one
should be able to write eloquently on a broomstick, and so he could.
Stevenson had the true literary legerdemain; he was master of the
art of writing; he could invest a broomstick with charm; if it
remained a broomstick, it was one on which the witches might carry
you through the air at night.  Stevenson had no burden of meaning
to deliver to the world; his subject never compelled him to write;
but he certainly could invest common things and thoughts with rare
grace and charm.  I wish I had more of this gift, this facility
of pen, apart from any personal interest in the subject.  I could
not grow eloquent over a broomstick, unless it was the stick of
the broom that used to stand in the corner behind the door in the
old kitchen at home--the broom with which Mother used to sweep the
floor, and sweep off the doorstones, glancing up to the fields and
hills as she finished and turned to go in; the broom with which we
used to sweep the snow from our boots and trouser-legs when we came
from school or from doing the chores in winter.  Here would be a
personal appeal that would probably find me more inevitably than
it would Stevenson.

I have never been in the habit of doing a thing, of taking a walk,
or making an excursion, for the purpose of writing it up.  Hence,
when magazine editors have asked me to go South or to California,
or here or there, to write the text to go with the pictures their
artist would make, I have felt constrained to refuse.  The thought
that I was expected to write something would have burdened me and
stood in the way of my enjoyment, and unless there is enjoyment,
there is no writing with me.

I was once tempted into making an excursion for one of the magazines
to a delightful place along the Jersey coast in company with an
artist, and a memorable day it was, too, with plenty of natural and
of human interest, but nothing came of it--my perverse pen would not
do what it was expected to do; it was no longer a free pen.

When I began observing the birds, nothing was further from my
thoughts than writing them up.  I watched them and ran after them
because I loved them and was happy with them in the fields and
woods; the writing came as an afterthought, and as a desire to share
my enjoyment with others.  Hence, I have never carried a notebook,
or collected data about nature in my rambles and excursions.  What
was mine, what I saw with love and emotion, has always fused with
my mind, so that in the heat of writing it came back to me
spontaneously.  What I have lived, I never lose.

My trip to Alaska came near being spoiled because I was expected
to write it up, and actually did so from day to day, before fusion
and absorption had really taken place.   Hence my readers complain
that they do not find me in that narrative, do not find my stamp
or quality as in my other writings.  And well they may say it.
I am conscious that I am not there as in the others; the fruit
was plucked before it had ripened; or, to use my favorite analogy,
the bee did not carry the nectar long enough to transform it into
honey. Had I experienced a more free and disinterested intercourse
with Alaskan nature, with all the pores of my mind open, the result
would certainly have been different.  I might then, after the
experience had lain and ripened in my mind for a year or two, and
become my own, have got myself into it.

When I went to the Yellowstone National Park with President
Roosevelt, I waited over three years before writing up the trip.
I recall the President's asking me at the time if I took notes.
I said, "No; everything that interests me will stick to me like
a burr."  And I may say here that I have put nothing in my writings
at any time that did not interest me.  I have aimed in this to
please myself alone.  I believe it to be true at all times that
what does not interest the writer will not interest his reader.

From the impromptu character of my writings come both their merits
and their defects--their fresh, unstudied character, and their want
of thoroughness and reference-book authority.  I cannot, either in
my writing or in my reading, tolerate any delay, any flagging of
the interest, any beating about the bush, even if there is a bird
in it. The thought, the description, must move right along, and I
am impatient of all footnotes and quotations and asides.

A writer may easily take too much thought about his style, until
it obtrudes itself upon the reader's attention.  I would have my
sentences appear as if they had never taken a moment's thought of
themselves, nor stood before the study looking-glass an instant. In
fact, the less a book appears written, the more like a spontaneous
product it is, the better I like it.  This is not a justification of
carelessness or haste; it is a plea for directness, vitality,
motion.  Those writers who are like still-water fishermen, whose
great virtues are patience and a tireless arm, never appealed to
me any more than such fishing ever did.  I want something more like
a mountain brook--motion, variety, and the furthest possible remove
from stagnation.

Indeed, where can you find a better symbol of good style in
literature than a mountain brook after it is well launched towards
the lowlands--not too hurried, and not too loitering--limpid,
musical, but not noisy, full but not turbid, sparkling but not
frothy, every shallow quickly compensated for by a deep reach
of thought; the calm, lucid pools of meaning alternating with
the passages of rapid description, of moving eloquence or gay
comment--flowing, caressing, battling, as the need may be,
loitering at this point, hurrying at that, drawing together
here, opening out there--freshness, variety, lucidity, power.


[We wish that, like the brook, our self-analyst would "go on
forever"; but his stream of thought met some obstacle when he
had written thus far, and I have never been able to induce it
to resume its flow.  I have, there-fore, selected a bit of
self-analysis from Mr. Burroughs's diary of December, 1884,
with which to close this subject.  C.B.]


I have had to accomplish in myself the work of several generations.
None of my ancestors were men or women of culture; they knew
nothing of books.  I have had to begin at the stump, and to rise
from crude things.  I have felt the disadvantages which I have
labored under, as well as the advantages.  The advantages are, that
things were not hackneyed with me, curiosity was not blunted, my
faculties were fresh and eager--a kind of virgin soil that gives
whatever charm and spontaneity my books possess, also whatever of
seriousness and religiousness. The disadvantages are an inaptitude
for scholarly things, a want of the steadiness and clearness of
the tone of letters, the need of a great deal of experimenting, a
certain thickness and indistinctness of accent.  The farmer and
laborer in me, many generations old, is a little embarrassed in the
company of scholars; has to make a great effort to remember his
learned manners and terms.

The unliterary basis is the best to start from; it is the virgin
soil of the wilderness; but it is a good way to the college and
the library, and much work must be done. I am near to nature and
can write upon these themes with ease and success; this is my
proper field, as I well know.  But bookish themes--how I flounder
about amid them, and have to work and delve long to get down to
the real truth about them in my mind!

In writing upon Emerson, or Arnold, or Carlyle, I have to begin, as
it were, and clear the soil, build a log hut, and so work up to the
point of view that is not provincial, but more or less metropolitan.

My best gift as a writer is my gift for truth; I have a thoroughly
honest mind, and know the truth when I see it. My humility, or
modesty, or want of self-assertion, call it what you please, is
also a help in bringing me to the truth.  I am not likely to stand
in my own light; nor to mistake my own wants and whims for the
decrees of the Eternal.  At least, if I make the mistake to-day,
I shall see my error to-morrow.


[The discerning reader can hardly fail to trace in the foregoing
unvarnished account of our subject's ancestry and environment many
of the factors which have contributed to the unique success he has
attained as a writer.  Nor can he fail to trace a certain likeness,
of which our author seems unconscious, to his father.  To his mother
he has credited most of his gifts as a writer, but to that childlike
unselfconsciousness which he describes in his father, we are
doubtless largely indebted for the candid self-analysis here given.

But few writers could compass such a thing, yet he has done it
simply and naturally, as he would write on any other topic in
which he was genuinely interested.  To be naked and unashamed is
a condition lost by most of us long ago, but retained by a few who
still have many of the traits of the natural man.  C.B.]



THE EARLY WRITINGS OF JOHN BURROUGHS


I once asked Mr. Burroughs about his early writings, his beginnings.
He replied, "They were small potatoes and few in a hill, although
at the time I evidently thought I was growing some big ones.  I had
yet to learn, as every young writer has to learn, that big words do
not necessarily mean big thoughts."  Later he sent me these maiden
efforts, with an account of when and where they appeared.

These early articles show that Mr. Burroughs was a born essayist.
They all took the essay form.  In his reading, as he has said,
any book of essays was pretty sure to arrest his attention. He
seems early to have developed a hunger for the pure stuff of
literature--something that would feed his intellect at the same
time that it appealed to his aesthetic sense.  Concerning his first
essays, he wrote me:--


The only significant thing about my first essays, written between
the ages of eighteen and twenty-three, is their serious trend of
thought; but the character of my early reading was serious and
philosophical.  Locke and Johnson and Saint-Pierre and the others
no doubt left their marks upon me.  I diligently held my mind down
to the grindstone of Locke's philosophy, and no doubt my mind was
made brighter and sharper by the process.  Out of Saint-Pierre's
"Studies of Nature," a work I had never before heard of, I got
something, though it would be hard for me to say just what.  The
work is a curious blending of such science as there was in his
time, with sentiment and fancy, and enlivened by a bright French
mind.  I still look through it with interest, and find that it has
a certain power of suggestion for me yet.


He confessed that he was somewhat imposed upon by Dr. Johnson's
high-sounding platitudes. "A beginner," he said, "is very apt to
feel that if he is going to write, the thing to do is to write,
and get as far from the easy conversational manner as possible.
Let your utterances be measured and stately."  At first he tried
to imitate Johnson, but soon gave that up.  He was less drawn to
Addison and Lamb at the time, because they were less formal, and
seemingly less profound; and was slow in perceiving that the art
of good writing is the art of bringing one's mind and soul face
to face with that of the reader.  How different that early attitude
from the penetrating criticism running through his "Literary
Values"; how different his stilted beginnings from his own limpid
prose as we know it, to read which is to forget that one is reading!


Mr. Burroughs's very first appearance in print was in a paper in
Delaware County, New York,--the Bloomfield "Mirror,"--on May 18,
1856.  The article--"Vagaries vs. Spiritualism"--purports to be
written by "Philomath," of Roxbury, New York, who is none other
than John Burroughs, at the age of nineteen.  It starts out showing
impatience at the unreasoning credulity of the superstitious
mind, and continues in a mildly derisive strain for about a column,
foreshadowing the controversial spirit which Mr. Burroughs displayed
many years later in taking to task the natural-history romancers.
The production was evidently provoked by a too credulous writer
on spiritualism in a previous issue of the "Mirror."  I will quote
its first paragraph:--


Mr. Mirror,--Notwithstanding the general diffusion of knowledge
in the nineteenth century, it is a lamentable fact that some minds
are so obscured by ignorance, or so blinded by superstition, as to
rely with implicit confidence upon the validity of opinions which
have no foundation in nature, or no support by the deductions of
reason.  But truth and error have always been at variance, and the
audacity of the contest has kept pace with the growing vigor of the
contending parties.  Some straightforward, conscientious persons,
whose intentions are undoubtedly commendable, are so infatuated by
the sophistical theories of the spiritualist, or so tossed about on
the waves of public opinion, that they lose sight of truth and good
sense, and, like the philosopher who looked higher than was wise in
his stargazing, tumble into a ditch.


In 1859 or 1860, Mr. Burroughs began to contribute to the columns
of the "Saturday Press," an organ of the literary bohemians in
New York, edited by Henry Clapp.  These were fragmentary things
of a philosophical cast, and were grouped under the absurd title
"Fragments from the Table of an Intellectual Epicure," by "All
Souls."  There were about sixty of these fragments.  I have
examined most of them; some are fanciful and far-fetched; some are
apt and felicitous; but all foreshadow the independent thinker and
observer, and show that this "Intellectual Epicure" was feeding on
strong meat and assimilating it.

I assume that it will interest the reader who knows Mr. Burroughs
only as the practiced writer of the past fifty years to see some of
his first sallies into literature, to trace the unlikeness to his
present style, and the resemblances here and there.  Accordingly I
subjoin some extracts by "All Souls" from the time-stained pages of
the New York "Saturday Press" of 1859 and 1860:--


A principle of absolute truth, pointed with fact and feathered with
fancy, and shot from the bow-string of a master intellect, is one
of the most potent things under the sun.  It sings like a bird of
peace to those who are not the object of its aim, but woe, woe to
him who is the butt of such terrible archery!


For a thing to appear heavy to us, it is necessary that we have
heft to balance against it; to appear strong, it is necessary that
we have strength; to appear great, it is necessary that we have
an idea of greatness.  We must have a standard to measure by, and
that standard must be in ourselves.  An ignorant peasant cannot
know that Bacon is so wise.  To duly appreciate genius, you must
have genius; a pigmy cannot measure the strength of a giant.  The
faculty that reads and admires, is the green undeveloped state of
the faculty that writes and creates.

A book, a principle, an individual, a landscape, or any object in
nature, to be understood and appreciated, must answer to something
within us; appreciation is the first step toward interpreting a
revelation.

To feel terribly beaten is a good sign; the more resources a man
is conscious of, the deeper he will feel his defeat.  But to feel
unusually elated at a victory indicates that our strength did not
warrant it, that we had gone beyond our resources.  The boy who
went crowing all day through the streets, on having killed a
squirrel with a stone, showed plainly enough that it was not
a general average of his throwing, and that he was not in the
habit of doing so well; while the rifleman picks the hawk from the
distant tree without remark or comment, and feels vexed if he miss.

The style of some authors, like the manners of some men, is so
naked, so artificial, has so little character at the bottom of it,
that it is constantly intruding itself upon your notice, and seems
to lie there like a huge marble counter from behind which they vend
only pins and needles; whereas the true function of style is as
a means and not as an end--to concentrate the attention upon the
thought which it bears, and not upon itself--to be so apt, natural,
and easy, and so in keeping with the character of the author, that,
like the comb in the hive, it shall seem the result of that which
it contains, and to exist for /its/ sake alone.


It is interesting to note, in these and other extracts, how the
young writer is constantly tracing the analogy between the facts
of everyday life about him, and moral and intellectual truths.
A little later he began to knit these fragments together into
essays, and to send the essays to the "Saturday Press" under
such titles as "Deep," and "A Thought on Culture."  There is a
good deal of stating the same thing in diverse ways.  The writer
seems to be led on and on to seek analogies which, for the most
part, are felicitous; occasionally crudities and unnecessarily
homely comparisons betray his unformed taste.  The first three
paragraphs of "Deep" give a fair sample of the essay:--


Deep authors? Yes, reader, I like deep authors, that is, authors
of great penetration, reach, and compass of thought; but I must not
be bored with a sense of depth--must not be required to strain my
mental vision to see into the bottom of a well; the fountain must
flow out at the surface, though it come from the centre of the
globe.  Then I can fill my cup without any artificial aid, or
any painful effort.

What we call depth in a book is often obscurity; and an author
whose meaning is got at only by severe mental exertion, and a
straining of the mind's eye, is generally weak in the backbone
of him.  Occasionally it is the dullness of the reader, but oftener
the obtuseness of the writer.

A strong vigorous writer is not obscure--at any rate, not habitually
so; never leaves his reader in doubt, or compels him to mount the
lever and help to raise his burden; but clutches it in his mighty
grasp and hurls it into the air, so that it is not only unencumbered
by the soil that gave it birth, but is wholly detached and relieved,
and set off against the clear blue of his imagination.  His thought
is not like a rock propped up but still sod-bound, but is like a
rock held aloft, or built into a buttress, with definite shape and
outline.


Let me next quote from "A Thought on Culture," which appeared in
the same publication a little later, and which is the first to
bear his signature:--


In the conduct of life a man should not show his knowledge, but his
wisdom; not his money--that were vulgar and foolish--but the result
of it--independence, courage, culture, generosity, manliness, and
that noble, humane, courteous air which wealth always brings to the
right sort of a man.

A display of mere knowledge, under most circumstances, is pedantry;
an exercise of wisdom is always godlike.  We cannot pardon the absence
of knowledge, but itself must be hid. We can use a thing without
absolutely showing it, we can be reasonable without boring people
with our logic, and speak correctly without parsing our sentences.

The end of knowledge is not that a man may appear learned, any
more than the end of eating is that a man may seem to have a full
stomach; but the end of it is that a man may be wise, see and
understand things as they are; be able to adjust himself to the
universe in which he is placed, and judge and reason with the
celerity of instinct, and that without any conscious exercise of
his knowledge.  When we feel the food we have eaten, something is
wrong; so when a man is forever conscious of his learning, he has
not digested it, and it is an encumbrance. . . .


The evolution of this author in his use of titles is interesting.
Compare the crudity of "Vagaries vs. Spiritualism," and "Deep," for
example, with those he selects when he begins to publish his books.
"Wake-Robin," "Winter Sunshine," "Locusts and Wild Honey," "Leaf
and Tendril,"--how much they connote!  Then how felicitous are the
titles of most of his essays! "Birch Browsings," "The Snow-Walkers,"
"Mellow England," "Our Rural Divinity" (the cow), "The Flight of
the Eagle" (for one of his early essays on Whitman), "A Bunch of
Herbs," "A Pinch of Salt," "The Divine Soil," "The Long Road" (on
evolution)--these and many others will occur to the reader.

Following "A Thought on Culture" was a short essay on poetry, the
drift of which is that poetry as contrasted with science must give
us things, not as they are in themselves, but as they stand related
to our experience. Our young writer is more at his ease now:--


Science, of course, is literal, as it ought to be, but science is
not life; science takes no note of this finer self, this duplicate
on a higher scale.  Science never laughs or cries, or whistles or
sings, or falls in love, or sees aught but the coherent reality.
It says a soap bubble is a soap bubble--a drop of water impregnated
with oleate of potash or soda, and inflated with common air; but
life says it is a crystal sphere, dipped in the rainbow, buoyant as
hope, sensitive as the eye, with a power to make children dance for
joy, and to bring youth into the look of the old. . . .

Who in his youth ever saw the swallow of natural history to be the
twittering, joyous bird that built mud nests beneath his father's
shed, and in the empty odorous barn?--that snapped the insects that
flew up in his way when returning at twilight from the upland farm;
and that filled his memory with such visions of summer when he
first caught its note on some bright May morning, flying up the
southern valley?  Describe water, or a tree, in the language of
exact science, or as they really are in and of themselves, and
what person, schooled only in nature, would recognize them?  Things
must be given as they seem, as they stand represented in the mind.
Objects arrange themselves in our memory, not according to the
will, or any real quality in themselves, but as they affect our
lives and stand to us in our unconscious moments.  The hills we
have dwelt among, the rocks and trees we have looked upon in all
moods and feelings, that stood to us as the shore to the sea, and
received a thousand impresses of what we lived and suffered, have
significance to us that is not accounted for by anything we can
see or feel in them.


Here we see the youth of twenty-three setting forth a truth which
he has sedulously followed in his own writing about nature, the
following of which accounts so largely for the wide appeal his
works have made.

Some time in 1860, Mr. Burroughs began to send essays to the New
York "Leader," a weekly paper, the organ of Tammany Hall at that
time.  His first article was made up of three short essays--"World
Growth," "New Ideas," and "Theory and Practice."  Here beyond
question is the writer we know:


The ideas that indicate the approach of a new era in history come
like bluebirds in the spring, if you have ever noticed how that is.
The bird at first seems a mere wandering voice in the air; you hear
its carol on some bright morning in March, but are uncertain of
its course or origin; it seems to come from some source you cannot
divine; it falls like a drop of rain when no cloud is visible; you
look and listen, but to no purpose.  The weather changes, and it is
not till a number of days that you hear the note again, or, maybe,
see the bird darting from a stake in the fence, or flitting from one
mullein-stalk to another.  Its notes now become daily more frequent;
the birds multiply; they sing less in the air and more when at rest;
and their music is louder and more continuous, but less sweet and
plaintive.  Their boldness increases and soon you see them flitting
with a saucy and inquiring air about barns and outbuildings,
peeping into dove-cota and stable windows, and prospecting for a
place to nest.  They wage war against robins, pick quarrels with
swallows, and would forcibly appropriate their mud houses, seeming
to doubt the right of every other bird to exist but themselves.
But soon, as the season advances, domestic instincts predominate;
they subside quietly into their natural places, and become peaceful
members of the family of birds.

So the thoughts that indicate the approach of a new era in history
at first seem to be mere disembodied, impersonal voices somewhere
in the air; sweet and plaintive, half-sung and half-cried by some
obscure and unknown poet. We know not whence they come, nor whither
they tend.  It is not a matter of sight or experience. They do
not attach themselves to any person or place, and their longitude
and latitude cannot be computed.  But presently they become
individualized and centre in some Erasmus, or obscure thinker,
and from a voice in the air, become a living force on the earth.
They multiply and seem contagious, and assume a thousand new forms.
They grow quarrelsome and demonstrative, impudent and conceited,
crowd themselves in where they have no right, and would fain
demolish or appropriate every institution and appointment of
society.  But after a time they settle into their proper relations,
incorporate themselves in the world, and become new sources of power
and progress in history.


This quotation is especially significant, as it shows the writer's
already keen observation of the birds, and his cleverness in
appropriating these facts of nature to his philosophical purpose.
How neatly it is done!  Readers of "Wake-Robin" will recognize a
part of it in the matchless description of the bluebird which is
found in the initial essay of that book.

In 1860, in the "Leader," there also appeared a long essay by Mr.
Burroughs, "On Indirections." This has the most unity and flow of
thought of any thus far.  It is so good I should like to quote it
all.  Here are the opening paragraphs:--


The South American Indian who discovered the silver mines of Potosi
by the turning up of a bush at the roots, which he had caught hold
of to aid his ascent while pursuing a deer up a steep hill,
represents very well how far intention and will are concerned in
the grand results that flow from men's lives.  Every schoolboy
knows that many of the most valuable discoveries in science and art
were accidental, or a kind of necessity, and sprang from causes that
had no place in the forethought of the discoverer.  The ostrich lays
its eggs in the sand, and the sun hatches them; so man puts forth an
effort and higher powers second him, and he finds himself the source
of events that he had never conceived or meditated.  Things are
so intimately connected and so interdependent, the near and the
remote are so closely related, and all parts of the universe are so
mutually sympathetic, that it is impossible to tell what momentous
secrets may lurk under the most trifling facts, or what grand and
beautiful results may be attained through low and unimportant means.
It seems that Nature delights in surprise, and in underlying our
careless existences with plans that are evermore to disclose
themselves to us and stimulate us to new enterprise and research.
The simplest act of life may discover a chain of cause and effect
that binds together the most remote parts of the system.  We are
often nearest to truth in some unexpected moment, and may stumble
upon that while in a careless mood which has eluded our most
vigilant and untiring efforts.  Men have seen deepest and farthest
when they opened their eyes without any special aim, and a word or
two carelessly dropped by a companion has revealed to me a truth
that weeks of study had failed to compass. . . .

Nature will not be come at directly, but indirectly; all her ways
are retiring and elusive, and she is more apt to reveal herself
to her quiet, unobtrusive lover, than to her formal, ceremonious
suitor.  A man who goes out to admire the sunset, or to catch the
spirit of field and grove, will very likely come back disappointed.
A bird seldom sings when watched, and Nature is no coquette, and
will not ogle and attitudinize when stared at.  The farmer and
traveler drink deepest of this cup, because it is always a surprise
and comes without forethought or preparation.  No insulation or
entanglement takes place, and the soothing, medicinal influence
of the fields and the wood takes possession of us as quietly as a
dream, and before we know it we are living the life of the grass
and the trees.


How unconsciously here he describes his own intercourse with
Nature!  And what an unusual production for a youth of twenty-three
of such meagre educational advantages!

In 1862, in an essay on "Some of the Ways of Power," which appeared
in the "Leader," he celebrated the beauty and completeness of
nature's inexorable laws:--


There is an evident earnestness and seriousness in the meaning of
things, and the laws that traverse nature and our own being are
as fixed and inexorable, though, maybe, less instantaneous and
immediate in their operation, as the principle of gravitation,
and are as little disposed to pardon the violator or adjourn the
day of adjudication.

There seems to be this terrible alternative put to every man on
entering the world, /conquer or be conquered/.  It is what the waves
say to the swimmer, "Use me or drown"; what gravity says to the
babe, "Use me or fall"; what the winds say to the sailor, "Use me
or be wrecked"; what the passions say to every one of us, "Drive
or be driven."  Time in its dealings with us says plainly enough,
"Here I am, your master or your servant."  If we fail to make a
good use of time, time will not fail to make a bad use of us. The
miser does not use his money, so his money uses him; men do not
govern their ambition, and so are governed by it. . . .

These considerations are valuable chiefly for their analogical
import.  They indicate a larger truth.  Man grows by conquering
his limitations--by subduing new territory and occupying it.  He
commences life on a very small capital; his force yet lies outside
of him, scattered up and down in the world like his wealth--in
rocks, in trees, in storms and flood, in dangers, in difficulties,
in hardships,--in short, in whatever opposes his progress and puts
on a threatening front.  The first difficulty overcome, the first
victory gained, is so much added to his side of the scale--so much
reinforcement of pure power.


I have said elsewhere that Mr. Burroughs has written himself into
his books.  We see him doing this in these early years; he was an
earnest student of life at an age when most young men would have
been far less seriously occupied.  Difficulties and hardships were
roundabout him, his force was, indeed, "scattered up and down in
the world, in rocks and trees," in birds and flowers, and from
these sources he was even then wresting the beginnings of his
successful career.

It was in November, 1860, when twenty-three years of age, that he
made his first appearance in the pages of the "Atlantic Monthly,"
in the essay "Expression," comments upon which by its author I have
already quoted.  At that time he was under the Emersonian spell
of which he speaks in his autobiographical sketch.  Other readers
and lovers of Emerson had had similar experiences.  Brownlee Brown,
an "Atlantic" contributor (of "Genius" and "The Ideal Tendency,"
especially), was a "sort of refined and spiritualized Emerson,
without the grip and gristle of the master, but very pleasing
and suggestive," Mr. Burroughs says.  The younger writer made
a pilgrimage to the home of Brownlee Brown in the fall of 1862,
having been much attracted to him by the above-named essays.  He
found him in a field gathering turnips.  They had much interesting
talk, and some correspondence thereafter.  Mr. Brown admitted that
his mind had been fertilized by the Emersonian pollen, and declared
he could write in no other way.

Concerning his own imitation of Emerson, Mr. Burroughs says:--


It was by no means a conscious imitation. Had I tried to imitate
him, probably the spurious character of my essay would have
deceived no one.  It was one of those unconscious imitations that
so often give an impression of genuineness. . . . When I began to
realize how deeply Emerson had set his stamp upon me, I said to
myself: "This will never do. I must resist this influence.  If
I would be a true disciple of Emerson, I must be myself and not
another.  I must brace myself by his spirit, and not go tricked
out in his manner, and his spirit was /'Never imitate.'/"


It was this resolution, as he has before told us, that turned
him to writing on outdoor subjects.

In rereading "Expression" recently, I was struck, not so much by
its Emersonian manner, as by its Bergsonian ideas.  I had heard Mr.
Burroughs, when he came under the spell of Bergson in the summer of
1911, say that the reason he was so moved by the French philosopher
was doubtless because he found in him so many of his own ideas; and
it was with keen pleasure that I came upon these forerunners of
Bergson written before Bergson was born.

At the time when Mr. Burroughs was dropping the Emersonian manner,
and while his style was in the transition stage, he wrote an essay
on "Analogy," and sent it also to the "Atlantic," receiving quite a
damper on his enthusiasm when Lowell, the editor, returned it.  But
he sent it to the old "Knickerbocker Magazine," where it appeared in
1862.  Many years later he rewrote it, and it was accepted by Horace
Scudder, then the "Atlantic's" editor; in 1902, after rewriting it
the second time, he published it in "Literary Values."


Because of the deep significance of them at this time in the career
of Mr. Burroughs, I shall quote the following letters received by
him from David A. Wasson, a Unitarian clergyman of Massachusetts,
and a contributor to the early numbers of the "Atlantic."  Their
encouragement, their candor, their penetration, and their prescience
entitle them to a high place in an attempt to trace the evolution
of our author.  One readily divines how much such appreciation and
criticism meant to the youthful essayist.


Groveland, Mass., May 21, 1860

Mr. Burroughs,--

My Dear Sir,--Let me tell you at the outset that I have for five
years suffered from a spinal hurt, from which I am now slowly
recovering, but am still unable to walk more than a quarter of
a mile or to write without much pain.  I have all the will in
the world to serve you, but, as you will perceive, must use much
brevity in writing.

"Expression" I do not remember,--probably did not read,--for I
read no periodical literature--not even the "Atlantic," which is
the best periodical I know--unless my attention is very especially
called to it, and often, to tell the truth, do not heed the call
when it is given.  Where I am at present I have not access to back
numbers of the "Atlantic," but shall have soon.  The essay that
you sent me I read carefully twice, but unfortunately left it in
Boston, where it reached me.  I can therefore only speak of it
generally.  It certainly shows in you, if my judgment may be
trusted, unusual gifts of pure intellect--unusual, I mean,
among scholars and literary men; and the literary execution is
creditable, though by no means of the same grade with the mental
power evinced.  You must become a fine literary worker to be equal
to the demands of such an intellect as yours.  For the deeper the
thought, the more difficult to give it a clear and attractive
expression.  You can write so as to command attention.  I am sure
you can.  Will you?  that is the only question.  Can you work and
wait long enough?  Have you the requisite patience and persistency?
If you have, there is undoubtedly an honorable future before you.

But I will not conceal from you that I think you too young to have
written "numerous essays" of the class you attempt, or to publish
a book consisting of such.  No other kind of writing requires such
mental maturity; stories may be written at any age, though good
ones are seldom written early.  Even poems and works of art have
been produced by some Raphael or Milton at a comparatively early
season of life, and have not given shame to the author at a later
age; though this is the exception, not the rule.  But the purely
reflective essay belongs emphatically to maturer life.  Your
twenty-four years have evidently been worth more to you than the
longest life to most men; but my judgment is that you should give
your genius more time yet, and should wait upon it with more labor.
This is my frank counsel.  I will respect you so much as to offer
it without disguise.  Let me fortify it by an example or two.  Mr.
Emerson published nothing, I think, until he was past thirty, and
his brother Charles, now dead, who was considered almost superior
to him, maintained that it is almost a sin to go into print sooner.
Yet both these had all possible educational advantages, and were
familiar with the best books and the best results of American
culture from infancy almost.  I myself printed nothing--saving some
poetical indiscretions--until I was twenty-seven, and this was only
a criticism on Dr. Isaac Barrow--not a subject, you see, that made
great demands upon me.  Two years later an article on Lord Bacon,
for which I had been indirectly preparing more than two years, and
directly at least one; and even then I would say little respecting
his philosophy, and confined myself chiefly to a portraiture of his
character as a man.  At thirty-two years of age I sent to press an
essay similar in character to those I write now--and am at present
a little ashamed of it.  I am now thirty-nine years old, and all
that I have ever put in print would not make more than one hundred
and thirty or one hundred and forty pages in the "Atlantic."
Upon reflection, however, I will say two hundred pages, including
pamphlet publications.  I would have it less rather than more. But
for this illness it would have been even less, for this has led me
to postpone larger enterprises, which would have gone to press much
later, and prepare shorter articles for the "Atlantic."  Yet my
literary interest began at a very early age.

In writing essays such as it seems to me you have a genius for,
I require:--

1. That one should get the range--the largest /range/--of the laws
he sets forth.  This is the /sine qua num/.  Every primary law goes
through heaven and earth.  Go with it. This is the business and
privilege of intellect.

2. When one comes to writing, let his discourse have a beginning
and an end.  Do not let the end of his essay be merely the end of
his sheet, or the place where he took a notion to stop writing,
but let it be necessary.  Each paragraph, too, should represent
a distinct advance, a clear step, in the exposition of his thought.
I spare no labor in securing this, and reckon no labor lost that
brings me toward this mark.  I reckon my work ill done if a single
paragraph, yes, or a single sentence, can be transposed without
injuring the whole.

3. Vivid expression must be sought, must be labored for unsparingly.
This you, from your position, will find it somewhat hard to attain,
unless you have peculiar aptitude for it.  Expression in the country
is far less vivacious than in cities.

I have spoken frankly; now you must decide for yourself.  You have
mental power enough; if you have accessory qualities (which I think
you must possess), you cannot fail to make your mark.

The brevity that I promised you will not find in this letter, but
you will find haste enough to make up for the lack of it.

If now, after the foregoing, you feel any inclination to send me
the essay on "Analogy" (capital subject), pray do so. I will read
it, and if I have anything to say about it, will speak as frankly
as above.

I shall be in this place--Groveland, Mass.--about three weeks;
after that in Worcester a short while.

Very truly yours,

DAVID A. WASSON.


Groveland, Mass., June 18, 1862.

Mr. Burroughs,--

My Dear Sir,--
I am sorry to have detained your MS. so long, but part of the time
I have been away, and during the other portion of it, the fatigue
that I must undergo was all that my strength would bear.

I read your essay carefully in a few days after receiving it and
laid it aside for a second perusal.  Now I despair of finding time
for such a second reading as I designed, and so must write you at
once my impressions after a single reading.

The inference concerning your mind that I draw from your essay
enhances the interest I previously felt in you.  All that you tell
me of yourself has the same effect.  You certainly have high, very
high, mental power; and the patience and persistency that you must
have shown hitherto assures me that you will in future be equal to
the demands of your intellect.  As to publishing what you have now
written, you must judge.  The main question, is whether you will
be discouraged by failure of your book.  If not, publish, if you
like; and then, if the public ignores your thought, gather up your
strength again and write so that they cannot ignore you.  For, in
truth, the public does not like to think; it likes to be amused;
and conceives a sort of hatred against the writer who would force
it to the use of its intellect.  This is invariably the case; it
will be so with you.  If the public finds anything in your work
that can be condemned, it will be but too happy to pass sentence;
if it can make out to think that you are a pretender, it will
gladly do so; if it can turn its back upon you and ignore you, its
back, and nothing else, you will surely see.  And this on account
of your merits.  You really have thoughts. You make combinations
of your own.  You have freighted your words out of your own mental
experience.  You do not flatter any of the sects by using their
cant.  Now, then, be sure that you have got to do finished work,
finished in every minutest particular, for years, before your
claims will be allowed.

If you /were/ a pretender, your success in immediate prospect would
be more promising; the very difficulty is that you are not--that
you think--that the public must read you /humbly/, confessing that
you have intelligence beyond its own.  I said that the general
public wants to be amused: I now add that it dearly desires to be
flattered, or at least allowed to flatter itself.  Those people who
have no thoughts of their own are the very ones who hate mortally
to admit to themselves that any intelligence in the world is superior
to their own.  A noble nature is indeed never so delighted as when
it finds something that may be lawfully reverenced; but all the
ignoble keep up their self-complacence by shutting their eyes to
all superiority.

I state the case strongly, as you will feel it bye and bye.  Mind,
I am not a disappointed man; and have met as generous appreciation
as I ought to wish.  I am not misanthropic, nor in the least
soured.  I say all this, not /against/ the public, but /for/ you.

Now, then, as to the essay.  It is rich in thought.  Everywhere
are the traces of a penetrating and sincere intellect.  Much of
the expression is also good.  The faults of it, /me judice/, are
as follows:  The introduction I think too long.  I should nearly
throw away the first five pages.  Your true beginning I think to
be near the bottom of the sixth page, though the /island/ in the
middle paragraph of that page is too fine to be lost.  From the
sixth to about the twentieth I read with hearty pleasure.  Then
begin subordinate essays in illustration of your main theme.
These are good in themselves, but their subordination is a little
obscured.  I think careless readers--and most of your readers,
be sure, will be careless--will fail to perceive the connection.
You are younger than I, and will hope more from your readers; but
I find even superior men slow, /slow/, SLOW to understand--missing
your point so often!  I think the relationship must be brought
out more strongly, and some very good sentences must be thrown
out because they are more related to the subordinate than the
commanding subject.  This is about all that I have to say.  Sometimes
your sentences are a little heavy, but you will find, little by
little, happier terms of expression.  I do not in the least believe
that you cannot in time write as well as I.  What I have done to
earn expression I know better than you  The crudities that I have
outgrown or outlabored, I also know.

You must be a little less careless about your spelling, simply
because these slips will discredit your thought in the eyes
of superficial critics.

You understand, of course, that I speak above of the general
public--not of the finer natures, who will welcome you with
warm hands.

I fear that the results of my reading will not correspond to
your wishes, and that it was hardly worth your while to send me
your MS.  But I am obliged to you for informing me of your
existence, for I augur good for my country from the discovery
of every such intelligence as yours, and I pledge to you my
warm interest and regard.

Very cordially yours,

David A. Wasson


Worcester, Sept. 29, 1862,

My Dear Mr. Burroughs,--

To the medicine proposition I say.  Yes. A man of your tastes
and mental vigor should be able to do some clean work in that
profession.  I know not of any other established profession that
allows a larger scope of mind than this.  There is some danger of
materialism, but this you have already weaponed yourself against,
and the scientific studies that come in the line of the profession
will furnish material for thought and expression which I am sure
you will know well how to use.

I am glad if my suggestions about your essay proved of some service
to you.  There is thought and statement in it which will certainly
one day come to a market. The book, too, all in good season.  Life
for you is very long, and you can take your time.  Take it by
all means.  Give yourself large leisure to do your best.  I am
about setting up my household gods in Worcester.  This makes me
in much haste, and therefore without another word I must say that
I shall always be glad to hear from you, and that I am always truly
your friend.

D. A. Wasson


Of the early nature papers which Mr. Burroughs wrote for the New
York "Leader," and which were grouped under the general title,
"From the Back Country," there were five or six in number, of
two or three columns each.  One on "Butter-Making," of which I
will quote the opening passage, fairly makes the mouth water:--


With green grass comes golden butter.  With the bobolinks and the
swallows, with singing groves, and musical winds, with June,--ah,
yes! with tender, succulent, gorgeous June,--all things are blessed.
The dairyman's heart rejoices, and the butter tray with its virgin
treasure becomes a sight to behold.  There lie the rich masses, fold
upon fold, leaf upon leaf, fresh, sweet, and odorous, just as the
ladle of the dairymaid dipped it from the churn, sweating great
drops of buttermilk, and looking like some rare and precious ore.
The cool spring water is the only clarifier needed to remove all
dross and impurities and bring out all the virtues and beauties of
this cream-evolved element.  How firm and bright it becomes, how
delicious the odor it emits! what vegetarian ever found it in his
heart, or his palate either, to repudiate butter?  The essence of
clover and grass and dandelions and beechen woods is here.  How
wonderful the chemistry that from elements so common and near at
hand produces a result so beautiful and useful!  Eureka!  Is not
this the alchemy that turns into gold the commonest substances?
How can transformation be more perfect?


During the years of this early essay-writing, Mr. Burroughs was
teaching country schools in the fall and winter, and working on
the home farm in summer; at the same time he was reading serious
books and preparing himself for whatever was in store for him.
He read medicine for only three months, in the fall of 1862, and
then resumed teaching.  His first magazine article about the birds
was written in the summer or fall of 1863, and appeared in the
"Atlantic" in the spring of 1885.  He learned from a friend to
whom Mr. Sanborn had written that the article had pleased Emerson.

It was in 1864, while in the Currency Bureau in Washington, that he
wrote the essays which make up his first nature book, "Wake-Robin."
His first book, however, was not a nature book, but was "Walt
Whitman as Poet and Person." It was published in 1867, preceding
"Wake-Robin" by four years.  It has long been out of print, and
is less known than his extended, riper work, "Whitman, A. Study,"
written in 1896.

A record of the early writings of Mr. Burroughs would not be
complete without considering also his ventures into the field
of poetry.  In the summer of 1860 he wrote and printed his first
verses (with the exception of some still earlier ones written in
1856 to the sweetheart who became his wife), which were addressed
to his friend and comrade E. M. Allen, subsequently the husband of
Elizabeth Akers, the author of "Backward, turn backward, O Time, in
your flight."  The lines to E. M. A. were printed in the "Saturday
Press." Because they are the first of our author's verses to appear
in print, I quote them here:--


             TO E. M. A.

    A change has come over nature
       Since you and June were here;
    The sun has turned to the southward
       Adown the steps of the year.

    The grass is ripe in the meadow,
       And the mowers swing in rhyme;
    The grain so green on the hillside
       Is in its golden prime.

    No more the breath of the clover
       Is borne on every breeze,
    No more the eye of the daisy
       Is bright on meadow leas.

    The bobolink and the swallow
       Have left for other clime--
    They mind the sun when he beckons
       And go with summer's prime.

    Buttercups that shone in the meadow
       Like rifts of golden snow,
    They, too, have melted and vanished
       Beneath the summer's glow.

    Still at evenfall in the upland
       The vesper sparrow sings,
    And the brooklet in the pasture
       Still waves its glassy rings.

    And the lake of fog to the southward
       With surges white as snow--
    Still at morn away in the distance
       I see it ebb and flow.

    But a change has come over nature,
       The youth of the year has gone;
    A grace from the wood has departed,
       And a freshness from the dawn.


Another poem, "Loss and Gain," was printed in the New York
"Independent" about the same time.


             LOSS AND GAIN

    The ship that drops behind the rim
    Of sea and sky, so pale and dim,
        Still sails the seas
        With favored breeze,
    Where other waves chant ocean's hymn.

    The wave that left this shore so wide,
    And led away the ebbing tide,
        Is with its host
        On fairer coast,
    Bedecked and plumed in all its pride.

    The grub I found encased in clay
    When next I came had slipped away
        On golden wing,
        With birds that sing,
    To mount and soar in sunny day.

    No thought or hope can e'er be lost--
    The spring will come in spite of frost.
        Go crop the branch
        Of maple stanch,
    The root will gain what you exhaust.

    The man is formed as ground he tills--
    Decay and death lie 'neath his sills.
        The storm that beats,
        And solar heats,
    Have helped to form whereon he builds.

    Successive crops that lived and grew,
    And drank the air, the light, the dew,
        And then deceased,
        His soil increased
    In strength, and depth, and richness, too.

    From slow decay the ages grow,
    From blood and crime the centuries blow,
        What disappears
        Beneath the years,
    Will mount again as grain we sow.


These rather commonplace verses, the first showing his love for
comrades, the others his philosophical bent, were the forerunners
of that poem of Mr. Burroughs's--"Waiting"--which has become a
household treasure, often without the ones who cherish it knowing
its source. "Waiting" was Written in the fall of 1862.  In response
to my inquiry as to its genesis, its author said:--


I was reading medicine in the office of a country doctor at the
time and was in a rather gloomy and discouraged state of mind.  My
outlook upon life was anything but encouraging.  I was poor.  I had
no certain means of livelihood.  I had married five years before,
and, at a venture, I had turned to medicine as a likely solution
of my life's problems.  The Civil War was raging and that, too,
disturbed me.  It sounded a call of duty which increased my
perturbations; yet something must have said to me, "Courage!
all will yet be well.  You are bound to have your own, whatever
happens."  Doubtless this feeling had been nurtured in me by the
brave words of Emerson.  At any rate, there in a little dingy back
room of Dr. Hull's office, I paused in my study of anatomy and wrote
"Waiting." I had at that time had some literary correspondence with
David A. Wasson whose essays in the "Atlantic" I had read with
deep interest.  I sent him a copy of the poem. He spoke of it as
a vigorous piece of work, but seemed to see no special merit in it.
I then sent it to "Knickerbocker's Magazine," where it was printed,
in December, I think, in 1862.  It attracted no attention, and was
almost forgotten by me till many years afterwards when it appeared
in Whittier's "Songs of Three Centuries."  This indorsement by
Whittier gave it vogue.  It began to be copied by newspapers and
religious Journals, and it has been traveling on the wings of public
print ever since.  I do not think it has any great poetic merit.
The secret of its success is its serious religious strain, or what
people interpret as such.  It embodies a very comfortable optimistic
philosophy which it chants in a solemn, psalm-like voice.  Its
sincerity carries conviction.  It voices absolute faith and trust
in what, in the language of our fathers, would be called the ways of
God with man.  I have often told persons, when they have questioned
me about the poem, that I came of the Old School Baptist stock,
and that these verses show what form the old Calvinistic doctrine
took in me.


Let me quote here the letter which Mr. Wasson wrote to the author of
"Waiting," on receiving the first autograph copy of it ever written:--


Worcester, Dec. 22,1862.

Mr. Burroughs,--

My Dear Sir,--I beg your pardon a thousand times for having neglected
so long to acknowledge the letter containing your vigorous verses.
Excess of work, and then a dash of illness consequent upon this excess,
must be my excuse--by your kind allowance.

The verses are vigorous and flowing, good in sentiment, and
certainly worthy of being sent to "some paper," if you like to
print them.  On the other hand, they do not indicate to me that
you have any special call to write verse.  A man of your ability
and fineness of structure must necessarily be enough of a poet not
to fail altogether in use of the poetical form.  But all that I
know of you indicates a predominance of reflective intellect--a
habit of mind quite foreign from the lyrical.  I think it may be
very good practice to compose in verse, as it exercises you in
terse and rhythmical expression; but I question whether your
vocation lies in that direction.

After all, you must not let anything which I, or any one, may say
stand in your way, if you feel any clear leading of your genius
in a given direction.  What I have said is designed to guard you
against an expenditure of power and hope in directions that may
yield you but a partial harvest, when the same ought to be sown on
more fruitful fields.  I think you have unusual reflective power;
and I am sure that in time you will find time and occasion for its
exercise, and will accomplish some honorable tasks.

Very truly yours,

D. A. Wasson


It maybe fancy on my part, but I have a feeling that, all
unconsciously to Mr. Burroughs, a sentence or two in Mr. Wasson's
letter of September 29, 1862, had something to do with inspiring
the mood of trustfulness and the attitude of waiting in serenity,
which gave birth to this poem:--


. . . The book, too, all in good season.  Life for you is very
long, and you can take your time.  Take it by all means.  Give
yourself large leisure to do your best.


Whether or not this is so, I am sure the sympathy and understanding
of such a man as Mr. Wasson was a godsend to our struggling writer,
and was one of the most beautiful instances in his life of "his
own" coming to him.

"Waiting" seems to have gone all over the world.  It has been
several times set to music, and its authorship has even been
claimed by others.  It has been parodied, more's the pity; and
spurious stanzas have occasionally been appended to it; while
an inferior stanza, which the author dropped years ago, is from
time to time resurrected by certain insistent ones.  Originally,
it had seven stanzas; the sixth, discarded by its author, ran
as follows:--


    You flowret, nodding in the wind,
       Is ready plighted to the bee;
    And, maiden, why that look unkind?
       For, lo! thy lover seeketh thee.


This stanza is a detraction from the poem as we know it, and
assuredly its author has a right to drop it.  Concerning the
fifth stanza, Mr. Burroughs says he has never liked it, and has
often substituted one which he wrote a few years ago.  The stanza
he would reject is--


    The waters know their own and draw
       The brook that springs in yonder heights;
    So flows the good with equal law
       Unto the soul of pure delights.


    The one he would offer instead--


    The law of love binds every heart,
       And knits it to its utmost kin,
    Nor can our lives flow long apart
       From souls our secret souls would win.


And yet he is not satisfied with this; he says it is too subtle and
lacks the large, simple imagery of the original lines.

The legion who cherish this poem in their hearts are justly incensed
whenever they come across a copy of it to which some one, a few
years ago, had the effrontery to add this inane stanza:--


    Serene I fold my hands and wait,
       Whate'er the storms of life may be,
    Faith guides me up to heaven's gate,
       And love will bring my own to me.


One of Mr. Burroughs's friends (Joel Benton), himself a poet, in
an article tracing the vicissitudes of this poem, shows pardonable
indignation at the "impudence and hardihood of the unmannered
meddler" who tacked on the "heaven's gate" stanza, and adds:--


The lyric as Burroughs wrote it embodies a motive, or concept, that
has scarcely been surpassed for amenability to poetic treatment, and
for touching and impressive point.  Its partly elusive outlines add
to its charm.  Its balance between hint and affirmation; its faith
in universal forces, and its tender yet virile expression, are all
shining qualities, apparent to the critical, and hypnotic to the
general, reader.  There is nothing in it that need even stop at
"heaven's gate."  It permits the deserving reader by happy instinct
to go through that portal--without waiting outside to parade his
sect mark. But the force of the poem and catholicity of its
sanctions are either utterly destroyed or ridiculously enfeebled,
by capping it with a sectarian and narrowly interpreted climax.


Although the poem is so well known, I shall quote it here in the
form preferred by its author;--


                WAITING

    Serene, I fold my hands and wait,
       Nor care for wind, nor tide, nor sea;
    I rave no more 'gainst time or fate,
       For lo! my own shall come to me.

    I stay my haste, I make delays,
       For what avails this eager pace?
    I stand amid th' eternal ways,
       And what is mine shall know my face.

    Asleep, awake, by night or day,
       The friends I seek are seeking me;
    No wind can drive my bark astray,
       Nor change the tide of destiny.

    What matter if I stand alone?
       I wait with joy the coming years;
    My heart shall reap where it hath sown,
       And garner up its fruit of tears.

    The waters know their own and draw
       The brook that springs in yonder heights;
    So flows the good with equal law
       Unto the soul of pure delights.

    The stars come nightly to the sky,
       The tidal wave comes to the sea;
    Nor time, nor space, nor deep, nor high,
       Can keep my own away from me.



A Winter Day At Slabsides


"Come and go to Slabsides for over Sunday--I think we can keep warm.
We will have an old-fashioned time; I will roast a duck in the pot;
it will be great fun."

This invitation came from Mr. Burroughs in 1911 to friends who
proposed to call on him early in December.  Riverby was closed for
the season, its occupants tarrying in Poughkeepsie, but, ever ready
for an adventure, the Sage of Slabsides proposed a winter picnic at
his cabin in the hills.

A ride of some two hours from New York brings us to West Park,
where our host awaits us.  A stranger, glancing at his white
hair and beard, might credit his seventy-five years, but not
when looking at his ruddy face with the keen, bright eyes, or
at his alert, vigorous movements.

Together with blankets and a market-basket of provisions we are
stowed away in a wagon and driven up the steep, winding way; at
first along a country road, then into a wood's road with huge
Silurian rocks cropping out everywhere, showing here and there
seams of quartz and patches of moss and ferns.

"In there," said Mr. Burroughs, pointing to an obscure path, "I had
a partridge for a neighbor.  She had a nest there.  I went to see
her every day till she became uneasy about it, and let me know I
was no longer welcome."

"Yonder," he continued, indicating a range of wooded hills against
the wintry sky, "is the classic region of 'Popple Town Hill,' and
over there is 'Pang Yang.'"

Some friendly spirit has preceded us to the cabin; a fire is
burning in the great stone fireplace, and mattresses and bedding
are exposed to the heat.  Moving these away, the host makes room
for us near the hearth.  He piles on the wood, and we are soon
permeated by the warmth of the fire and of the unostentatious
hospitality of Slabsides.

How good it is to be here!  The city, with its rush and roar and
complexities, seems far away.  How satisfying it is to strip off
the husks and get at the kernel of things!  There is more chance
for high thinking when one is big enough to have plain living.
How we surround ourselves with non-essentials, how we are dominated
with the "mania of owning things"--one feels all this afresh in
looking around at this simple, well-built cabin with its few
needful things close at hand, and with life reduced to the simplest
terms.  One sees here exemplified the creed Mr. Burroughs outlined
several years ago in his essay "An Outlook upon Life":--


I am bound to praise the simple life, because I have lived it and
found it good. . . . I love a small house, plain clothes, simple
living.  Many persons know the luxury of a skin bath--a plunge in
the pool or the wave unhampered by clothing.  That is the simple
life--direct and immediate contact with things, life with the
false wrappings torn away--the fine house, the fine equipage,
the expensive habits, all cut off.  How free one feels, how good
the elements taste, how close one gets to them, how they fit
one's body and one's soul!  To see the fire that warms you, or
better yet, to cut the wood that feeds the fire that warms you;
to see the spring where the water bubbles up that slakes your
thirst, and to dip your pail into it; to see the beams that are
the stay of your four walls, and the timbers that uphold the roof
that shelters you; to be in direct and personal contact with the
sources of your material life; to want no extras, no shields; to
find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water
exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening
saunter; to find a quest of wild berries more satisfying than a gift
of tropic fruit; to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated
over a bird's nest, or over a wild flower in spring--these are some
of the rewards of the simple life.

[Illustration: The Living-Room.  From a photograph
by M. H. Fanning]

The two men were soon talking companionably.  When persons of wide
reading and reflection, and of philosophic bent, who have lived
long and been mellowed by life, come together, the interchange
of thought is bound to be valuable; things are so well said, so
inevitably said, that the listener thinks he cannot forget the
manner of saying; but thoughts crowd thick and fast, comments on
men and measures, on books and events, are numerous and varied,
but hard to recapture.  The logs ignite, sending out their cheering
heat, the coals glow, the sparks fly upward, warmth and radiance
envelop us; but an attempt to warm the reader by the glow of that
fireside talk is almost as futile as an effort to dispel to-day's
cold by the fire of yesterday.

A few deserted cottages perched on the rocks near by show us where
the summer neighbors of our host live, but at all seasons his wild
neighbors are the ones he hobnobs with the most; while his indoor
companions are Montaigne, Sainte-Beuve, Carlyle, Arnold, Wordsworth,
Darwin, Huxley, Emerson, Whitman, Bergson, and many others, ancient
and modern.

"I've been rereading Emerson's essay on 'Immortality' lately,
evenings in my study down there by the river," said Mr. Burroughs.
"I had forgotten it was so noble and fine--he makes much of the
idea of permanence."

In this connection he spoke of John Fiske and his contributions
to literature, telling of the surprise he felt on first meeting
Fiske at Harvard, to see the look of the /bon vivant/ in one in
whom the intellectual and the spiritual were so prominent.
Laughing, he recalled the amusement of the college boys at Fiske's
comical efforts to discover a piece of chalk dropped during his
lecture on "Immortality."  Standing on the hearth, a merry twinkle
in his eyes, he recited some humorous lines which he had written
concerning the episode.

Reverting to the question of immortality in a serious vein, he
summed up the debated question much as he has done in one of his
essays,--that it has been good to be here, and will be good to go
hence; that we know not whence we come, nor whither we go; were not
consulted as to our coming, and shall not be as to our going; but
that it is all good; all for "the glory of God;" though we must use
this phrase in a larger sense than the cramped interpretation of
the theologian.  All the teeming life of the globe, the millions
on millions in the microscopic world, and the millions on millions
of creatures that can be seen by the naked eye--those who have
been swept away, those here now, those who will come after--all
appearing in their appointed time and place, playing their parts
and vanishing, and to the old question "Why?" we may as well answer,
"For the glory of God"; if we will only conceive a big enough glory,
and a big enough God.  His utter trust in things as they are seemed
a living embodiment of that sublime line in "Waiting"--


    "I stand amid the Eternal ways";


and, thus standing, he is content to let the powers that be have
their way with him.

"To all these mysteries I fall back upon the last words I heard
Whitman say, shortly before the end--commonplace words, but they
sum it up: 'It's all right, John, it's all right'; but Whitman
had the active, sustaining faith in immortality--


   'I laugh at what you call dissolution,
    And I know the amplitude of time.'"


As the afternoon wanes, Mr. Burroughs hangs the kettle on the
crane, broils the chops, and with a little help from one of the
guests, soon has supper on the table, a discussion of Bergson's
philosophy suffering only occasional interruptions; such as, "Where
/have/ those women [summer occupants of Slabsides] put my holder?"
or, "See if there isn't some salt in the cupboard."

"There! I forgot to bring up eggs for breakfast, but here are other
things," he mutters as he rummages in his market-basket.  "That
memory of mine is pretty tricky; sometimes I can't remember things
any better than I can find them when they are right under my nose.
I've just found a line from Emerson that I've been hunting for two
days--'The worm striving to be man.'  I looked my Emerson through
and through, and no worm; then I found in Joel Benton's Concordance
of Emerson that the line was in 'May-Day'; he even cited the page,
but my Emerson had no printing on that page.  I searched all
through 'May-Day,' and still no worm;  I looked again with no
better success, and was on the point of giving up when I spied
the worm--it almost escaped me--"

"It must have turned, didn't it?"

"Yes, the worm surely turned, or I never should have seen it," he
confessed.

The feminine member of the trio wields the dish-mop while the host
dries the dishes, and the Dreamer before the fire luxuriates in the
thought that his help is not needed.

The talk on philosophy and religion does not make the host forget
to warm sheets and blankets and put hot bricks in the beds to
insure against the fast-gathering cold.

The firelight flickers on the bark-covered rafters, lighting up the
yellow-birch partition between living-room and bedroom downstairs,
and plays upon the rustic stairway that leads to the two rooms
overhead, as we sit before the hearth in quiet talk.  Outside the
moonlight floods the great open space around the cabin, revealing
outlines of the rocky inclosure.  No sounds in all that stillness
without, and within only the low voices of the friends, and the
singing logs.

Mr. Burroughs tells of his visit, in October, to the graves of his
maternal grandparents:--

"They died in 1854, my first season away from home, and there
they have lain for fifty-seven years, and I had never been to
their graves!  I'm glad I went; it made them live again for me.
How plainly I could see the little man in his blue coat with
brass buttons, with his decidedly Irish features!  And Grandmother,
a stout woman, with quaint, homely ways.  The moss is on their
gravestones now, and two evergreen trees wax strong above them.
I found an indigo-bird had built her nest above their graves.
I broke off the branch and brought it home."


"There! get up and use that water before it freezes over," the host
calls out the next morning, as, mounting the stairs, he places a
pitcher of hot water by the door.  It is bitter cold, one's fingers
ache, and one wonders if, after all, it is so much fun to live in
a cabin in the woods in the dead of winter.  But a crackling fire
below and savory smells of bacon and coffee reconcile one, and the
day begins right merrily.

And what a dinner the author sets before us! what fun to see him
prepare it, discussing meanwhile the glory that was Greece and the
grandeur that was Rome, recounting anecdotes of boyhood, touching
on politics and religion, on current events, on conflicting views
of the vitalists and the chemico-physicists, on this and on that,
but never to the detriment of his duck.  It is true he did serenely
fold his hands and wait, between times.  Then what an event to see
him lift the smoking cover and try the bird with a fork--" to see
if the duck is relenting," he explains.  At a certain time he
arises from a grave psychological discussion to rake out hollow
places in the coals where he buries potatoes and onions.

"The baking of an onion," he declares, "takes all the conceit out
of him.  He is sweet and humble after his baptism of fire."  Then
the talk soars above ducks and onions, until he gives one of the
idlers permission to prepare the salad and lay the table.

For a dinner to remember all one's days, commend me to a thoroughly
relented duck; a mealy, ash-baked potato; an onion (yea, several of
them) devoid of conceit, and well buttered and salted; and a salad
of Slabsides celery and lettuce; with Riverby apples and pears, and
beechnuts to complete the feast--beechnuts gathered in October up
in the Catskills, gathered one by one as the chipmunk gathers them,
by the "Laird of Woodchuck Lodge," as he is called on his native
heath, though he is one and the same with the master of Slabsides.

We hear no sounds all the day outside the cabin but the merry calls
of chickadees, until in mid-afternoon an unwelcome "Halloa!" tells
us the wagon is come to take us down to Riverby. Reluctantly the
fire is extinguished, and the wide, hospitable door of Slabsides
closes behind us.

Riverby, "the house that Jack built," as the builder boasted, is
a house interesting and individual, though conforming somewhat to
the conventions of the time when it was built (1874).  It is as
immaculate within as its presiding genius can make it, presenting a
sharp contrast to the easy-going housekeeping of the mountain cabin.

We tarry a few minutes in the little bark-covered study, detached from
the house and overlooking the Hudson, where Mr. Burroughs does his
writing when at home; we see the rustic summer-house near by, and the
Riverby vineyards, formerly husbanded by "the Vine-Dresser of Esopus,"
as his friends used to call him; now by his son Julian, who combines,
like his father before him, grape-growing with essay-writing.

A pleasant hour is spent in the artistic little cottage, planned and
built by the author and his son, where live Mr. Julian Burroughs and
his family.  Here the grandfather has many a frolic with his three
grandchildren, who know him as "Baba."  John Burroughs the younger
is his special pride.  Who knows but the naturalist stands somewhat
in awe of his grandson?--for as the youngster reaches for his
"Teddy," and says sententiously, "Bear!" the elder never ventures
a word about the dangers of "sham natural history."

Boarding the West Shore train, laden with fruit and beechnuts and
pleasant memories, we return to the city's roar and whirl, dreaming
still of the calls of chickadees in the bare woods and of quiet
hours before the fire at Slabsides.



BACK TO PEPACTON


There has always been a haunting suggestiveness to me about the
expression /Rue du Temps Perdu/--the Street of Lost Time.  Down this
shadowy vista we all come to peer with tear-dimmed eyes sooner or
later.  Usually this pensive retrospection is the premonitory sign
that one is nearing the last milestone before the downhill side
of life begins.  But to some this yearning backward glance comes
early; they feel its compelling power while still in the vigor
of middle life.  Why this is so it is not easy to say, but
imaginative, brooding natures who live much in their emotions
are prone to this chronic homesickness for the Past, this
ever-recurring, mournful retrospect, this tender, wistful gaze
into the years that are no more.

It is this tendency in us all as we grow older that makes us drift
back to the scenes of our youth; it satisfies a deep-seated want to
look again upon the once familiar places.  We seek them out with an
eagerness wholly wanting in ordinary pursuits.  The face of the
fields, the hills, the streams, the house where one was born--how
they are invested with something that exists nowhere else, wander
where we will!  In their midst memories come crowding thick and
fast; things of moment, critical episodes, are mingled with the
most trivial happenings; smiles and tears and sighs are curiously
blended as we stroll down the Street of Lost Time.

While we are all more or less under this spell of the Past, some
natures are more particularly enthralled by it, even in the very
zenith of life, showing it to be of temperamental origin rather
than the outcome of the passing years.  Of such a temperament is
John Burroughs.  Now, when the snows of five-and-seventy winters
have whitened his head, we do not wonder when we hear him say, "Ah!
the Past! the Past has such a hold on me!"  But even before middle
life he experienced this yearning, even then confessed that he had
for many years viewed everything in the light of the afternoon's
sun--"a little faded and diluted, and with a pensive tinge."  "It
almost amounts to a disease," he reflects, "this homesickness which
home cannot cure--a strange complaint.  Sometimes when away from
the old scenes it seems as if I must go back to them, as if I
should find the old contentment and satisfaction there in the
circle of the hills.  But I know I should not--the soul's thirst
can never be slaked.  My hunger is the hunger of the imagination.
Bring all my dead back again, and place me amid them in the old
home, and a vague longing and regret would still possess me."

As early as his forty-fifth birthday he wrote in his Journal:
"Indeed, the Past begins to grow at my back like a great pack,
and it seems as if it would overwhelm me quite before I get to
be really an old man.  As time passes, the world becomes more and
more a Golgotha,--a place of graves,--even if one does not actually
lose by death his friends and kindred.  The days do not  merely
pass, we bury them; they are of us, like us, and in them we bury
our own image, a real part of ourselves."  Perhaps, among the poems
of Mr. Burroughs, next to "Waiting" the verses that have the most
universal appeal are those of--


                  THE RETURN

    He sought the old scenes with eager feet--
       The scenes he had known as a boy;
    "Oh, for a draught of those fountains sweet,
       And a taste of that vanished joy!"

    He roamed the fields, he wooed the streams,
       His school-boy paths essayed to trace;
    The orchard ways recalled his dreams,
       The hills were like his mother's face.

    Oh, sad, sad hills! Oh, cold, cold hearth!
       In sorrow he learned this truth--
    One may return to the place of his birth,
       He cannot go back to his youth.


But a half-loaf is better than no bread, and Mr. Burroughs has now
yielded to this deep-seated longing for his boyhood scenes, and has
gone back to the place of his birth amid the Catskills; and one who
sees him there during the midsummer days--alert, energetic, curious
concerning the life about him--is almost inclined to think he has
literally gone back to his youth as well, for the boy in him is
always coming to the surface.


It was on the watershed of the Pepacton (the East Branch of the
Delaware), in the town of Roxbury, Delaware County, New York, that
John Burroughs was born, and there that he gathered much of the
harvest of his earlier books; it was there also that most of his
more recent books were written.  Although he left the old scenes
in his youth, his heart has always been there.  He went back many
years ago and named one of his books ("Pepacton") from the old
stream, and he has now gone back and arranged for himself a simple
summer home on the farm where he first saw the light.

Most of his readers have heard much of Slabsides, the cabin in
the wooded hills back of the Hudson, and of his conventional home,
Riverby, at West Park, New York; but as yet the public has heard
little of his more remote retreat on his native heath.

[Illustration: Woodchuck Lodge and Barn.  From a photograph
by Charles S. Olcott]

For several years it has been his custom to slip away to the old
home in Delaware County on one pretext or another--to boil sap
in the old sugar bush and rejoice in the April frolic of the
robins; to meander up Montgomery Hollow for trout; to gather wild
strawberries in the June meadows and hobnob with the bobolinks; to
saunter in the hemlocks in quest of old friends in the tree-tops;
and--yes, truth compels me to confess--to sit in the fields with
rifle in hand and wage war against the burrowing woodchuck which
is such a menace to the clover and vegetables of the farmer.

In the summer of 1908, Mr. Burroughs rescued an old dwelling
fast going to decay which stood on the farm a half-mile from
the Burroughs homestead, and there, with friends, camped out
for a few weeks, calling the place, because of the neighbors
who most frequented it, "Camp Monax," or, in homelier language,
"Woodchuck Lodge."  In the succeeding summers he has spent most
of his time there.  Though repairing and adding many improvements,
he has preserved the simple, primitive character of the old house,
has built a roomy veranda across its front, made tables, bookcases,
and other furniture of simple rustic character, and there in summer
he dwells with a few friends, as contented and serene a man as
can be found in this complicated world of to-day.  There his old
friends seek him out, and new ones come to greet him.  Artists and
sculptors paint and model him, and photographers carry away
souvenirs of their pilgrimages.

In order to withdraw himself completely during his working hours
from the domestic life, Mr. Burroughs instituted a study in the
hay-barn, a few rods up the hill from the house.  A rough box,
the top of which is covered with manilla paper, an old hickory
chair, and a hammock constitute his furnishings.  The hay carpet
and overflowing haymows yield a fragrance most acceptable to him,
and through the great doorway he looks out upon the unfrequented
road and up to Old Clump, the mountain in the lap of which his
father's farm is cradled, the mountain which he used to climb to
salt the sheep, the mountain which is the haunt of the hermit
thrush. (His nieces and nephews at the old home always speak of
this songster as "Uncle John's bird.")

[Illustration: Mr. Burroughs in the Hay-Barn Study, Woodchuck Lodge.
From a photograph by R. J. H. DeLoach]

As I watched Mr. Burroughs start out morning after morning with
his market-basket of manuscripts on his arm, and briskly walk
to his rude study, I asked myself,  "Is there another literary
man anywhere, now that Tolstoy has gone, who is so absolutely
simple and unostentatious in tastes and practice as is John
Burroughs?" How he has learned to strip away the husks and get
at the kernels!  How superbly he ignores non-essentials! how free
he is from the tyranny of things!  There in the comfort of the
hills among which his life began, with his friends around him, he
rejoices in the ever-changing face of Nature, enjoys the fruits of
his garden, his forenoons of work, and the afternoons when friends
from near and far walk across the fields, or drive, or motor up to
Woodchuck Lodge; and best of all, he enjoys the peace that evening
brings--those late afternoon hours when the shadow of Old Clump is
thrown on the broad mountain-slope across the valley, and when the
long, silvery notes of the vesper sparrow chant "Peace, goodwill,
and then good-night."  As the shadows deepen, he is wont to carry
his Victor out to the stone wall and let the music from Brahms's
"Cradle Song" or Schubert's "Serenade" float to us as we sit on
the veranda, hushed into humble gratitude for our share in this
quiet life.

To see Mr. Burroughs daily amid these scenes; to realize how they
are a part of him, and how inimitably he has transferred them to
his books; to roam over the pastures, follow the spring paths,
linger by the stone walls he helped to build, sit with him on the
big rock in the meadow where as a boy he sat and dreamed; to see
him in the everyday life--hoeing in the garden, tiptoeing about
the house preparing breakfast while his guests are lazily dozing
on the veranda; to eat his corn-cakes, or the rice-flour pudding
with its wild strawberry accompaniment; to see him rocking his
grandson in the old blue cradle in which he himself was rocked;
to picnic in the beech woods with him, climb toward Old Clump at
sunset and catch the far-away notes of the hermit; to loll in the
hammocks under the apple trees, or to sit in the glow of the
Franklin stove of a cool September evening while he and other
philosophic or scientific friends discuss weighty themes; to hear
his sane, wise, and often humorous comments on the daily papers,
and his absolutely independent criticism of books and magazines--to
witness and experience all this, and more, is to enjoy a privilege
so rare that I feel selfish unless I try to share it, in a measure,
with less fortunate friends of Our Friend.

[Illustration: Cradle in which John Burroughs was rocked.
From a photograph by Dr. John D. Johnson]

It has been my good fortune to spend many delightful summers with
Mr. Burroughs at his old home, and also at Woodchuck Lodge.  On my
first visit he led me to a hilltop and pointed off toward a deep
gorge where the Pepacton, although it is a placid stream near
Roxbury, rises amid scenery wild and rugged.  It drains this high
pastoral country, where the farms hang upon the mountainsides
or lie across the long, sloping hills.  The look of those farms
impressed me as the fields of England impressed Mr. Burroughs--"as
though upon them had settled an atmosphere of ripe and loving
husbandry."  I was often reminded in looking upon them of that
line of Emerson's: "The day, immeasurably long, sleeps over the
wide, warm fields."  There is a fresh, blue, cleansed appearance
to the hills, "like a newly-washed lamp chimney," as Mr. Burroughs
sometimes said.

Our writer's overmastering attachment to his birthplace seems due
largely to the fact that the springs, the hills, and the wooded
mountains are inextricably blended with his parents and his youth.
As he has somewhere said, "One's own landscape comes in time to be
a sort of outlying part of him; he has sown himself broadcast upon
it . .. planted himself in the fields, builded himself in the stone
walls, and evoked the sympathy of the hills in his struggle."

From a hilltop he pointed off to the west and said, "Yonder is the
direction that my grandparents came, in the 1790's, from Stamford,
cutting a road through the woods, and there, over Batavia Hill,
Father rode when he went courting Mother."

Then we went up the tansy-bordered road, past the little graveyard,
and over to the site where his grandfather's first house stood.
As we wandered about the old stone foundations, his reminiscences
were interrupted by the discovery of a junco's nest.  On the way
back he pointed across the wide valley to the West Settlement
schoolhouse where he and his brothers used to go, although his
first school was in a little stone building which is still standing
on the outskirts of Roxbury, and known thereabouts as "the old stone
jug."  Mr. Burroughs remembers his first day in this school, and the
little suit he wore, of bluish striped cotton, with epaulets on
the shoulders which flopped when he ran.  He fell asleep one day
and tumbled off the seat, cutting his head; he was carried to a
neighboring farmhouse, and he still vividly recalls the smell of
camphor which pervaded the room when he regained consciousness.  He
was about four years of age.  He remembers learning his "A-b ab's,"
as they were called, and just how the column of letters looked in
the old spelling-book; remembers sitting on the floor under the
desks and being called out once in a while to say his letters:
"Hen Meeker, a boy bigger than I was, stuck on /e/. I can remember
the teacher saying to him; 'And you can't tell that?  Why, little
Johnny Burroughs can tell you what it is. Come, Johnny.' And I
crawled out and went up and said it was e, like a little man."

Up the hill a short distance from the old homestead he indicated
the "turn 'n the road," as it passes by the "Deacon Woods"; this,
he said, was his first journey into the world.  He was about four
years old when, running away, he got as far as this turn; then,
looking back and seeing how far he was from the house, he became
frightened and ran back crying.  "I have seen a young robin," he
added, "do the very same thing on its first journey from the nest."

"One of my earliest recollections," he said, "is that of lying on
the hearth one evening to catch crickets that Mother said ate holes
in our stockings--big, light-colored, long-legged house crickets,
with long horns; one would jump a long way.

"Another early recollection comes to me: one summer day, when I
was three or four years old, on looking skyward, I saw a great hawk
sailing round in big circles.  I was suddenly seized with a panic
of fear and hid behind the stone wall.

"The very earliest recollection of my life is that of the 'hired
girl' throwing my cap down the steps, and as I stood there crying,
I looked up on the sidehill and saw Father with a bag slung across
his shoulders, striding across the furrows sowing grain.  It was
a warm spring day, and as I looked hillward wistfully, I wished
Father would come down and punish the girl for throwing my cap
down the stairs--little insignificant things, but how they stick
in the memory!"

"I see myself as a little boy rocking this cradle," said Mr.
Burroughs, as he indicated the quaint blue wooden cradle (which I
had found in rummaging through the attic at the old home, and had
installed in Woodchuck Lodge), "or minding the baby while Mother
bakes or mends or spins.  I hear her singing; I see Father pushing
on the work of the farm."

Most of the soil in Delaware County is decomposed old red sandstone.
Speaking of this soil Mr. Burroughs said, "In the spring when the
plough has turned the turf, I have seen the breasts of these broad
hills glow like the breasts of robins."  He is fond of studying the
geology of the region now.  I have seen him dig away the earth the
better to expose the old glacier tracings, and then explain to his
grandchildren how the glaciers ages ago made the marks on the rocks.
To me one of the finest passages in his recent book "Time and Change
" is one wherein he describes the look of repose and serenity of
his native hills, "as if the fret and fever of life were long since
passed with them."  It is a passage in which he looks at his home
hills through the eye of the geologist, but with the vision of
the poet--the inner eye which assuredly yields him "the bliss
of solitude."

One evening as we sat in the kitchen at the old home, he described
the corn-shelling of the olden days: "I see the great splint basket
with the long frying-pan handle thrust through its ears across the
top, held down by two chairs on either end, and two of my brothers
sitting in the chairs and scraping the ears of corn against the
iron.  I hear the kernels rattle, a shower of them falling in the
basket, with now and then one flying out in the room.  With the
cobs that lie in a pile beside the basket I build houses, carrying
them up till they topple, or till one of the shelters knocks them
over.  Mother is sitting by, sewing, her tallow dip hung on the
back of a chair.  Winter reigns without.  How it all comes up
before me!"

He remembers when four or five years old crying over a thing which
had caused him deep chagrin: A larger boy--"the meanest boy I ever
knew, and he became the meanest man," he said with spirit--"found
me sulking under a tree in the corner of the school-yard; he bribed
me with a slate pencil into confessing what I was crying about, but
as soon as I had told him, he ran away with the pencil, shouting my
secret to the other boys."

One day we went 'cross lots after spearmint for jelly for the table
at Woodchuck Lodge, and an abandoned house near the mint-patches
recalled to Mr. Burroughs the first time he had heard the word
"taste" used, except in reference to food.  The woman who had lived
in this house, while calling at his home and seeing his attempt at
drawing something, had said, "What taste that boy has!" "It made me
open my eyes--'taste'!--then there was another kind of taste than
the one I knew about--the taste of things I ate!"

At a place in the road near the old stone schoolhouse, he showed me
where, as a lad of thirteen, perhaps, he had stopped to watch some
men working the road, and had first heard the word "antiquities"
used.  "They had uncovered and removed a large flat stone, and under
it were other stones, probably arranged by the hands of earlier
roadmakers.  David Corbin, a man who had had some schooling, said,
as they exposed the earlier layers, 'Ah! here are antiquities!'
The word made a lasting impression on me."

[Illustration: View of the Catskills from Woodchuck Lodge.
From a photograph by Charles S. Olcott]

One of our favorite walks at sunset was up the hill beyond the old
home where the road winds around a neglected graveyard.  From this
high vantage-ground one can see two of the Catskill giants--Double
Top and Mount Graham.  It was not a favorite walk of the boy John
Burroughs.  He told how, even in his early teens, at dusk, he would
tiptoe around the corner past the graveyard, afraid to run for fear
a gang of ghosts would be at his heels.  "When I got down the road
a ways, though, how I would run!"  He was always "scairy" if he had
to come along the edge of the woods alone at nightfall, and was
even afraid of the big black hole under the barn in the daytime:
"I was tortured with the thought of what might lurk there in that
great black abyss, and would hustle through my work of cleaning
the stable, working like Hercules, and often sending in 'Cuff,'
the dog, to scare 'em out."

Fed on stories of ghosts and hobgoblins in childhood, his active,
sensitive imagination became an easy prey to these fears.  But
we do outgrow some things.  In the summer of 1911 this grown-up
boy waxed so bold that he sat in the barn with its black hole
underneath and wrote of "The Phantoms Behind Us."  There was still
something Herculean in his task; he looked boldly down into the
black abysms of Time, not without some shrinking, it is true,
saw the "huge first Nothing," faced the spectres as they rose
before him, wrestled with them, and triumphantly conquered by
acknowledging each phantom as a friendly power--a creature on
whose shoulders he had raised himself to higher and higher levels;
he saw that though the blackness was peopled with uncouth and
gigantic forms, out of all these there at last arose the being
Man, who could put all creatures under his feet.

Along the road between the old home and Woodchuck Lodge are some
rocks which were the "giant stairs" of his childhood.  On these
he played, and he is fond now of pausing and resting there as he
recalls events of those days.

"Are these rocks very old?" some one asked him one day.

"Oh, yes; they've been here since Adam was a kitten."

Whichever way he turns, memories of early days awaken; as he
himself has somewhere said in print, "there is a deposit of him
all over the landscape where he has lived."


As we have learned, Mr. Burroughs seems to have been more alive
than his brothers and playmates, to have had wider interests and
activities.  When, a lad, he saw his first warbler in the "Deacon
Woods," the black-throated blue-back, he was excited and curious as
to what the strange bird could be (so like a visitant from another
clime it seemed); the other boys met his queries with indifference,
but for him it was the event of the day; it was far more, it was
the keynote to all his days; it opened his eyes to the life about
him--here, right in the "Deacon Woods," were such exquisite
creatures!  It fired him with a desire to find out about them.
That tiny flitting warbler!  How far its little wings have carried
it!  What an influence it has had on American literature, and on
the lives of readers for the past fifty years, sending them to
nature, opening their eyes to the beauty that is common and near
at hand! One feels like thanking the Giver of all good that a
little barefoot boy noted the warbler that spring day as it flitted
about in the beeches wood. Life has been sweeter and richer because
of it.

Down the road a piece is the place where this boy made a miniature
sawmill, sawing cucumbers for logs.  On this very rock where we sit
he used to catch the flying grasshoppers early of an August
morning--"the big brown fellows that fly like birds"; they would
congregate here during the night to avail themselves of the warmth
of the rocks, and here he would stop on his way from driving the
cows to pasture, and catch them napping.

Yonder in the field by a stone wall, under a maple which is no longer
standing, in his early twenties he read Schlemiel's "Philosophy of
History," one of the volumes which, when a youth, he had found in an
old bookstall in New York, on the occasion of his first trip there.

"Off there through what we used to call the 'Long Woods' lies the
road along which Father used to travel in the autumn when he took
his butter to Catskill, fifty miles away.  Each boy went in turn.
When it came my turn to go, I was in a great state of excitement
for a week beforehand, for fear my clothes would not be ready, or
else it would be too cold, or that the world would come to an end
before the time of starting.  Perched high on a spring-seat, I made
the journey and saw more sights and wonders than I have ever seen
on a journey since."

On the drive up from the village he showed me the place, a mile
or more from their haunts on the breezy mountain lands, where the
sheep were driven annually to be washed.  It was a deep pool then,
and a gristmill stood near by.  He said he could see now the
huddled sheep, and the overhanging rocks with the phoebes' nests
in the crevices.

"Down in the Hollow," as they call the village of Robbery, he drew
my attention to the building which was once the old academy, and
where he had his dream of going to school.  He remembers as a lad
of thirteen going down to the village one evening to hear a man,
McLaurie, talk up the academy before there was one in Roxbury. "I
remember it as if it were yesterday; a few of the leading men of
the village were there.  I was the only boy. I've wondered since
what possessed me to go.  In his talk the man spoke of what a
blessing it would be to boys of that vicinity, pointing me out and
saying, 'Now, like that boy, there.'  I recall how I dropped my
head and blushed.  He was a small man, very much in earnest.
When I heard of his death a few years ago, it gave me long, long
thoughts.  He finally got the academy going, taught it, and had a
successful school there for several years, but I never got there.
The school in the West Settlement, Father thought, was good enough
for me.  But my desire to go, and dreaming of it, impressed it
and him upon me more, perhaps, than the boys who really went were
impressed.  How outside of it all I felt when I used to go down
there to the school exhibitions!  It was after that that I had
my dream of going to Harpersfield Seminary--the very name had a
romantic sound.  Though Father had promised me I might go, when
the time came he couldn't afford it; he didn't mean to go back
on his word, but there was very little money--I wonder how they
got along so well as they did with so little."

"As a boy it had been instilled into my mind that God would strike
one dead for mocking him.  One day Ras Jenkins and I were crossing
this field when it began to thunder.  Ras turned up his lips to
the clouds contemptuously.  'Oh, don't, you'll be struck,' I cried,
cringing in expectation of the avenging thunderbolt.  What a
revelation it was when he was not struck!  I immediately began to
think, 'Now, maybe God isn't so easily offended as I thought'; but
it seemed to me any God with dignity ought to have been offended
by such an act."

Mr. Burroughs showed me the old rosebush in the pasture, all that
was left to mark the site where a house had once stood; even before
his boyhood days this house had become a thing of the past.  The
roses, though, had always been a joy to him, and had played such a
part in his early days that he had transplanted some of the old bush
to a spot near his doorsteps at Slabsides.  Once when he sent me
some of the roses he wrote of them thus: "The roses of my boyhood!
Take the first barefooted country lad you see with homemade linen
trousers and shirt, and ragged straw hat, and put some of these
roses in his hand, and you see me as I was fifty-five years ago.
They are the identical roses, mind you.  Sometime I will show you
the bush in the old pasture where they grew."

One day we followed the course he and his brothers and sisters used
to take on their way to school.  Leaving the highway near the old
graveyard, we went down across a meadow, then through a beech wood,
and on through the pastures in the valley along which a trout brook
used to flow, on across more meadows and past where a neglected
orchard was, till we came to where the little old schoolhouse
itself stood.

How these trout streams used to lure him to play hookey!  All the
summer noonings, too, were spent there.  He spoke feelingly of the
one that coursed through the hemlocks--"loitering, log-impeded,
losing itself in the dusky, fragrant depths of the hemlocks."  They
used to play hookey down at Stratton Falls, too, and get the green
streaks in the old red sandstone rocks to make slate pencils of,
trying them on their teeth to make sure they were soft enough not
to scratch their slates.  The woods have been greatly mutilated
in which they used to loiter on the way to school and gather
crinkle-root to eat with their lunches,--though they usually ate
it all up before lunch-time came, he said.  In one of his books
Mr. Burroughs speaks of a schoolmate who, when dying, said, "I must
hurry, I have a long way to go over a hill and through a wood, and
it is getting dark."  This was his brother Wilson, and he doubtless
had in mind this very course they used to take in going to school.

This school (where Jay Gould was his playmate) he attended only
until he was twelve years of age.  A rather curious reciprocal help
these two lads gave each other--especially curious in the light of
their subsequent careers as writer and financier.  The boy John
Burroughs was one day feeling very uncomfortable because he could
not furnish a composition required of him.  Eight lines only were
sufficient if the task was completed on time, but the time was up
and no line was written.  This meant being kept after school to
write twelve lines.  In this extremity. Jay Gould came to his
rescue with the following doggerel:--


    "Time is flying past,
    Night is coming fast,
    I, minus two, as you all know,
    But what is more
    I must hand o'er
    Twelve lines by night,
    Or stay and write.
    Just eight I've got
    But you know that's not
    Enough lacking four,
    But to have twelve
    It wants no more."


"I have never been able to make out what the third line meant,"
said Mr. Burroughs.  A few years later, when Jay Gould was hard
up (he had left school and was making a map of Delaware County),
John Burroughs helped him out by buying two old books of him,
paying him eighty cents.  The books were a German grammar and
Gray's "Elements of Geology."  The embryo financier was glad to
get the cash, and the embryo writer unquestionably felt the richer
in possessing the books.

Mr. Burroughs loves to look off toward Montgomery Hollow and talk
of the old haunt.  "I've taken many a fine string of trout from
that stream," he would say.  One day he and his brother Curtis and
I drove over there and fished the stream, and he could hardly stay
in the wagon the last half-mile.  "Isn't it time to get out now,
Curtis?" he fidgeted every little while.  "Not yet, John,--not
yet," said the more phlegmatic brother.  But it was August, and
although the rapid mountain brook seemed just the place for trout,
the trout were not in their places.  I shall long remember the
enticing stream, the pretty cascades, the high shelving rocks
sheltering the mossy nest of the phoebe, and the glowing masses of
bee-balm blooming beside the stream; yes, and the eagerness of one
of the fishermen as he slipped along ahead of me, dropping his hook
into the pools.  Occasionally he would relinquish the rod, putting
it into my hands with a rare self-denial as we came to a promising
pool; but I was more deft at gathering bee-balm than taking trout,
and willingly spared the rod to the eager angler.  And even he
secured only two troutling to carry back in his mint-lined creel.

"Trout streams gurgled about the roots of my family tree," he was
wont to say as he told of his grandfather Kelly's ardor for the
pastime.  One day, in crossing the fields near the old home, he
showed me the stone wall where he and his grandfather tarried the
last time they went fishing together, he a boy of ten and his
grandfather past eighty.  As they rested on the wall, the old man,
without noticing it, sat on the lad's hand as it lay on the wall.
"It hurt," Mr. Burroughs said, "but I didn't move till he got ready
to get up."

It was a great pleasure to go through the old sap bush with Mr.
Burroughs, for there he always lives over again the days in early
spring when sugar-making was in progress.  He showed where some of
the old trees once stood,--the grandmother trees,--and mourned that
they were no more; but some of the mighty maples of his boyhood are
still standing, and each recalls youthful experiences. He sometimes
goes back there now in early spring to re-create the idyllic days.
Their ways of boiling sap are different now, and he finds less
poetry in the process.  But the look of the old trees, the laugh
of the robins, and the soft nasal calls of the nuthatch, he says,
are the same as in the old times.  "How these sounds ignore the
years!" he exclaimed as a nuthatch piped in the near-by trees.

Sometimes he would bring over to Woodchuck Lodge from the homestead
a cake of maple sugar from the veteran trees, and some of the
maple-sugar cookies such as his mother used to make; though he eats
sparingly of sweets nowadays.  Yet, when he and a small boy would
clear the table and take the food down cellar, it was no uncommon
thing to see them emerge from the stairway, each munching one of
those fat cookies, their eyes twinkling at the thought that they
had found the forbidden sweets we had hidden so carefully.

He and this lad of eleven were great chums; they chased wild bees
together, putting honey on the stone wall, getting a line on the
bees; shelled beechnuts and cracked butternuts for the chipmunks;
caught skunks in a trap, just to demonstrate that a skunk can be
carried by the tail with impunity, if you only do it right (and,
though succeeding one day, got the worst of the bargain the next);
and waged war early and late on the flabby woodchucks which one
could see almost any hour in the day undulating across the fields.
We called these boys "John of Woods," and "John of Woodchucks";
and it was sometimes difficult to say which was the veriest boy,
the one of eleven or the one of seventy-four.

One morning I heard them laughing gleefully together as they were
doing up the breakfast work.  Calling out to learn the cause of
their merriment, I found the elder John had forgotten to eat his
egg--he had just found it in his coat-pocket, having put it in
there to carry from the kitchen to the living-room.

He often amused us by his recital of Thackeray's absurd "Little
Billee," and by the application of some of the lines to events
in the life at Woodchuck Lodge.

[Illustration: Living-Room, Woodchuck Lodge, with Rustic Furniture
made by Mr. Burroughs.  From a photograph by M. H. Fanning]

As the evenings grew longer and cooler, we would gather about the
table and Mr. Burroughs would read aloud, sometimes from Bergson's
"Creative Evolution," under the spell of which he was the entire
summer of 1911, sometimes from Wordsworth, sometimes from Whitman.
"No other English poet has touched me quite so closely," he said,
"as Wordsworth. . . . But his poetry has more the character of a
message, and a message special and personal, to a comparatively
small circle of readers."  As he read "The Poet's Epitaph" one
evening, I was impressed with the strong likeness the portrait
there drawn has to Mr. Burroughs:--


    "The outward shows of sky and earth,
       Of hill and valley, he has viewed;
    And impulses of deeper birth
       Have come to him in solitude.

    In common things that round us lie
       Some random truths he can impart,--
    The harvest of a quiet eye
       That broods and sleeps on his own heart."


What are the books, and notably the later philosophical essays,
of Mr. Burroughs but the "harvest of a quiet eye"?  His "Summit of
the Years," his "Gospel of Nature" (which one of his friends calls
"The Gospel according to Saint John"), his "Noon of Science," his
"Long Road"?  And most of this rich harvest he has gathered in his
journeys back to Pepacton, inspired by the scenes amid which he
first felt the desire to write.

Seeing him daily in these scenes, one feels that it may, indeed,
be said of him as Matthew Arnold said of Sophocles, that he sees
life steadily, and sees it whole.  What a masterly handling is
his of the facts of the universe, giving his reader the truths
of the scientist touched with an idealism such as is only known
to the poet's soul!  A friend, writing me of "The Summit of the
Years," spoke of "its splendid ascent by a rapid crescendo from
the personal to the cosmic," and of how gratifying it is to see
our author putting forth such fine work in his advancing years.
Another friend called it "a beautiful record of a beautiful life."
I recall the September morning on which he began that essay.  He
had written the first sentence--"The longer I live, the more I am
impressed with the beauty and the wonder of the world"--when he was
interrupted for a time.  He spoke of what he had written, and said
he hardly knew what he was going to make of it.  Later in the day
he brought me a large part of the essay to copy, and I remember how
moved I was at its beauty, how grateful that I had been present at
its inception and birth.

One afternoon he called us from our separate work, the artist from
her canvas and me from my typewriter, to look at a wonderful rainbow
spanning the wide valley below us.  The next day he brought me a
short manuscript saying, "If that seems worth while to you, you
may copy it--I don't know whether there is anything in it or not."
It was "The Rainbow," which appeared some months later in a popular
magazine--a little gem, and a good illustration of his ability to
throw the witchery of the ideal around the facts of nature.  The
lad with us had been learning Wordsworth's "Rainbow," a favorite
of Mr. Burroughs, and it was no unusual thing of a morning to hear
the rustic philosopher while frying the bacon for breakfast, singing
contentedly in a sort of tune of his own making:--


    "And I could wish my days to be
     Bound each to each by natural piety."


One afternoon a neighbor came and took him in her automobile a
ride of fifty miles or more, the objective point of which was
Ashland, the place where he had attended a seminary in 1854 and
1855.  On his return he said it seemed like wizard's work that
he could be whisked there and back in one afternoon, to that
place which had been the goal of his youthful dreams!  They had
also called on a schoolmate whom he had not seen for forty years.
He told us how a possession of that boy's had been a thing he had
coveted for many months--a slate pencil with a shining copper
gun-cap!  "How I longed for that pencil!  I tried to trade for
buttons (all I had to offer in exchange), but it was too precious
for my small barter, and I coveted it in vain."  The wistful Celt
began early to sigh for the unattainable.

We picked wild strawberries in June from the "clover lot" where
the boy John Burroughs and his mother used to pick them.  "I can
see her now," he said reminiscently, "her bent figure moving slowly
in the summer fields toward home with her basket filled.  She would
also go berrying on Old Clump, in early haying, long after the
berries were gone in the lowlands."

During this summer of which I speak, the fields were a gorgeous mass
of color--buttercups and daisies, and the orange hawkweed--a display
that rivaled the carpet of gold and purple we had seen in the San
Joaquin Valley, in company with John Muir three summers before.  Mr.
Muir was done before starting for South America.  He had promised
to come to the Catskills, but had to keep putting it off to get
copy ready, and the Laird of Woodchuck Lodge was exasperated that
the mountaineer would stay in that hot Babylon,--he, the lover
of the wild,--when we in the Delectable Mountains were calling him
hither.  As we looked upon the riot of color one day, Mr. Burroughs
said, "John Muir, confound him! I wish he was here to see this
at its height!"

Returning to the little gray farmhouse in the gathering dusk one
late September day, Mr. Burroughs paused and turned, looking back
at the old home, and up at the cattle silhouetted against the
horizon.  He gazed upon the landscape long and long.  How fondly
his eye dwells upon these scenes!  So I have seen him look when
about to part from a friend--as if he were trying to fix the
features and expression in his mind forever.

"The older one grows, the more the later years erode away, as do
the secondary rocks, and one gets down to bed-rock,--youth,--and
there he wants to rest.  These scenes make youth and all the early
life real to me, the rest is more like a dream.  How incredible it
is!--all that is gone; but here it lives again."

[Illustration: On the Porch at Woodchuck Lodge.  From a photograph
by Charles S. Olcott]

And yet, though he is face to face with the past at his old home,
his days there are not so sad as some of his reminiscent talk would
seem to indicate.  In truth, he is serenely content, so much so
that he sometimes almost chides himself for living so much in the
present.  "Oh, the power of a living reality to veil or blot out
the Past!" he sighed.  "And yet, is it not best so?  Does not the
grass grow above graves?  Why should these lovely scenes always
be a cemetery to me?  There seems to have been a spell put upon
them that has laid the ghosts, and I am glad."  And to see him
bird-nesting with his grandchildren, hunting in the woods for
crooked sticks for his rustic furniture, waking the echo in the
"new barn" (a barn that was new in 1844), routing out a woodchuck
from a stone wall, blackberrying on the steep hillsides, or going
a half-mile across the fields just to smell the fragrance of the
buckwheat bloom, is to know that, wistful Celt that he is, and
dominated by the spell of the Past, he is yet very much alive to
the Present, out of which he is probably getting as full a measure
of content as any man living to-day.

He looked about him at the close of his first stay at Woodchuck
Lodge after the completion of the repairs which had made the house
so homelike and comfortable, and said contentedly: "A beautiful
dream come true!  And to think I've stayed down there on the Hudson
all these years with never the home feeling, when here were my
native hills waiting to cradle me as they did in my youth, and I so
slow to return to them!  I've been homesick for over forty years: I
was an alien there; I couldn't take root there.  It was a lucky day
when I decided to spend the rest of my summers here"



CAMPING WITH BURROUGHS AND MUIR


In February, 1909, I was one of a small party which set out with
Mr. Burroughs for the Pacific Coast and the Hawaiian Islands.  The
lure held out to him by the friend who arranged his trip was that
John Muir would start from his home at Martinez, California, and
await him at the Petrified Forests in Arizona; conduct him through,
that weirdly picturesque region, and in and around the Grand Canon
of the Colorado; camp and tramp with him in the Mojave Desert;
tarry awhile in Southern California; then visit Yosemite before
embarking on the Pacific preparatory to lotus-eating in Hawaii.
The lure held out to the more obscure members of the party was
all that has been enumerated, plus that of having these two great,
simple men for traveling companions.  To see the wonders of the
Southwest is in itself great good fortune, but to see them in
company with these two students of nature, and to study the
students while the students were studying the wonders, was an
incalculable privilege.

It frightens me now when I think on what a slight chance hung our
opportunity for this unique Journey; for Mr. Burroughs, though at
first deciding to go, had later given it up, declaring himself to
be too much of a tenderfoot to go so far from home alone at his age.

"Why should I go gadding about to see the strange and the
extraordinary?" he wrote me, when trying to argue himself into
abandoning the trip. "The whole gospel of my books (if they have
any gospel) is 'Stay at home; see the wonderful and the beautiful in
the simple things all about you; make the most of the common and the
near at hand.'  When I have gone abroad, I have carried this spirit
with me, and have tested what I have seen by the nature revealed to
me at my own doorstep.  Well, I am glad I have triumphed at last; I
feel much better and like writing again, now that this incubus is
off my shoulders."  But the incubus soon rested on him again, for
the next mail carried a letter begging him to reconsider and let
two of his women friends accompany him.  So it all came about in
a few days, and we were off.

We wondered how Mr. Muir would relish two women being in the party,
but assured Mr. Burroughs we should not hamper them, and should be
ready to do whatever they were.

"Have no fears on that score," he said; "Muir will be friendly
if you are good listeners; and he is well worth listening to.  He
is very entertaining, but he sometimes talks when I want to be let
alone; at least he did up in Alaska."

"But you won't be crusty to him, will you?"

"Oh, no, I shan't dare to be--he is too likely to get the best of
one; he is a born tease."


The long journey across the Western States (by the Santa Fe route)
was full of interest at every point.  Even the monotony of the
Middle West was not wearisome, while the scenery and scenes in
New Mexico and Arizona were fascinating in the extreme.

Mr. Burroughs had been to the Far West by a northern route, but this
was all fresh territory to him, and he brought to it his usual keen
appetite for new phases of nature, made still keener by a recently
awakened interest in geological subjects.  It enhanced the pleasure
and profit of the trip a hundredfold to get his first impressions of
the moving panorama, as I did when he dictated notes to me from his
diary, or descriptive letters to his wife and son.  The impression
one gets out there of earth sculpture in process is one of the chief
attractions of the region, and Mr. Burroughs never tired of studying
the physiognomy of the land, and the overwhelming evidences of time
and change, and of contrasting these with our still older, maturer
landscapes in the East.

In passing through Kansas he commented on the monotonous level
expanse of country as being unbearable from any point of view
except as good farm land.  Used to hills and mountains, inviting
brooks and winding roads, he turned away from this unpicturesque
land, saying if it was a good place to make money, it was also a
place to lose one's own soul--he was already homesick for the
beauty and diversity of our more winsome country.

Two days' journey from Chicago and we reached the desert town of
Adamana.  As the train stopped near the little inn, a voice called
out in the darkness, "Hello, Johnnie, is that you?"

"Yes, John Muir"; and there under the big dipper, on the great
Arizona desert, the two friends met after a lapse of ten years.

"Muir, aren't you surprised to find me with two women in my wake?"
asked Mr. Burroughs, introducing us.

"Yes; surprised that there are only two, Johnnie."  Then to us, "Up
in Alaska there were a dozen or two following him around, tucking
him up in steamer rugs, putting pillows to his head, running to
him with a flower, or a description of a bird--Oh, two is a very
moderate number, Johnnie, but we'll manage to worry through with
them, somehow."  And picking up part of our luggage, the tall,
grizzly Scot led the way to the inn.

The next day we drove nine miles over the rolling desert to
visit one of the petrified forests, of which there are five in
that vicinity.  Blended with the unwonted scenes--the gray sands
dotted with sagebrush and greasewood, the leaping jack rabbits,
the frightened bands of half-wild horses, the distant buttes and
mesas, and the brilliant blue of the Arizona sky--is the memory
of that talk of Mr. Muir's during the long drive, a talk which
for range and raciness I have never heard equaled.  He often uses
the broad dialect of the Scot, translating as he goes along.  His
forte is in monologue.  He is a most engaging talker,--discursive,
grave and gay,--mingling thrilling adventures, side-splitting
anecdotes, choice quotations, apt characterizations, scientific
data, enthusiastic descriptions, sarcastic comments, scornful
denunciations, inimitable mimicry.

Mr. Burroughs, on the contrary, is not a ready talker; he gives
of his best in his books.  He establishes intimate relations with
his reader, Mr. Muir with his listener.  He is more fond of an
interchange of ideas than is Mr. Muir; is not the least inclined
to banter or to get the better of one; is so averse to witnessing
discomfiture that even when forced into an argument, he is loath to
push it to the bitter end.  Yet when he does engage in argument, he
drives things home with very telling force, especially when writing
on debatable points.

As we drove along the desert, Mr. Muir pointed to a lofty plateau
toward which we were tending,--"Robbers' Roost,"--where
sheep-stealers hie themselves, commanding the view for hundreds of
miles in every direction.  I wish I could make vivid the panorama
we saw from this vantage-ground--the desert in the foreground, and
far away against the sky the curiously carved pink and purple and
lilac mountains, while immediately below us lay the dry river-bed
over which a gaunt raven flew and croaked ominously, and a little
beyond rose the various buttes, mauve and terra-cotta colored,
from whose sides and at whose bases projected the petrified trees.
There lay the giant trees, straight and tapering--no branching as
in our trees of to-day.  The trunks are often flattened, as though
they had been under great pressure, often the very bark seemed to
be on them (though it was petrified bark), and on some we saw marks
of insect tracery like those made by the borers of to-day.  Some of
the trunks were more than one hundred and fifty feet long, and five
to seven feet in diameter, prostrate but intact, looking as though
uprooted where they lay.  Others were broken at regular intervals,
as though sawed into stove lengths.  In places the ground looks
like a chip-yard, the chips dry and white as though bleached by
the sun.  The eye is deceived; chips these surely are, you think,
but the ear corrects this impression, for as your feet strike
the fragments, the clinking sound proves that they are stone.
In some of the other forests, visited later, the chips and larger
fragments, and the interior of the trunks, are gorgeously colored,
so that we walked on a natural mosaic of jasper, chalcedony, onyx,
and agate.  In many fragments the cell-structure of the wood is
still visible, but in others nature has carried the process
further, and crystallization has transformed the wood of these
old, old trees into the brilliant fragments we can have for the
carrying--"beautiful wood replaced by beautiful stone," as Mr.
Muir was fond of saying.

With what wonder and incredulity we roamed about witnessing the
strange spectacle!--the prostrate monarchs with hearts of jasper
and chalcedony, now silent and rigid in this desolate region where
they basked in the sunlight and swayed in the winds millions of
years ago.  Only a small part of the old forest is as yet exposed;
these trees, buried for ages beneath the early seas, becoming
petrified as they lay, are, after ages more, gradually being
unearthed as the softer parts of the soil covering them wears away.

The scenic aspects of the place, the powerful appeal it made to
the imagination, the evidences of infinite time, the wonderful
metamorphosis from vegetable life to these petrified remains which
copy so faithfully the form and structure of the living trees,
were powerfully enhanced by the sight of these two men wandering
amid these ruins of Carboniferous time, sometimes in earnest
conversation, oftener in silence; again in serious question from
the one and perhaps bantering answer from the other; for although
Mr. Burroughs was intensely interested in this spectacle, and full
of cogitations and questions as to the cause and explanation of it
all, Mr. Muir was not disposed to treat questions seriously.

"Oh, get a primer of geology, Johnnie," he would say when the
earnest Eastern student would ask for a solution of some of the
puzzles arising in his mind--a perversity that was especially
annoying, since the Scot had carefully explored these regions,
and was doubtless well equipped to adduce reasonable explanations
had he been so minded.  That very forest to which we went on that
first day, and where we ate our luncheon from the trunk of a great
petrified Sigillaria, had been discovered by Mr. Muir and his
daughter a few years before as they were riding over the sandy
plateau.  He told us how excited he was that night--he could not
sleep, but lay awake trying to restore the living forest in
imagination, for, from the petrified remains, he could tell to
what order these giants belonged.

When others congregate to eat, the Scot seems specially impelled
to talk.  With a fine disregard for food, he sat and crumbled dry
bread, occasionally putting a bit in his mouth, talking while
the eating was going on.  He is likewise independent of sleep.
"Sleep!" he would exclaim, when the rest of us, after a long day of
sight-seeing, would have to yield to our sense of fatigue,  "why,
you can sleep when you get back home, or, at least, in the grave."

Mr. Burroughs, on the contrary, is specially dependent upon sleep
and food in order to do his work or to enjoy anything.  On our
arrival at the Grand Canon in the morning, after a night of travel
and fasting, all the rest of us felt the need of refreshing
ourselves and taking breakfast before we would even take a peep at
the great rose-purple abyss out there a few steps from the hotel,
but the teasing Scot jeered at us for thinking of eating when there
was that sublime spectacle to be seen.  When we did go out to the
rim, Mr. Muir preceded us, and, as we approached, waved toward the
great abyss and said: "There! Empty your heads of all vanity, and
look!"  And we did look, overwhelmed by what must be the most truly
sublime spectacle this earth has to offer--a veritable terrestrial
Book of Revelation, as Mr. Burroughs said.

We followed a little path along the rim, led by Mr. Muir, to where
we could escape from the other sight-seers, and there we sat on
the rocks, though the snow lay in patches on the ground that bright
February day.  Mr. Burroughs made a fire of Juniper brush, and as
the fragrant incense rose on the air, with that wondrous spectacle
before our eyes, we listened to Mr. Muir reciting some lines from
Milton--almost the only poet one would think of quoting in the
presence of such solemn, awful beauty.

Mr. Muir tried to dissuade us the next day from going down into
the canon: "Don't straddle a mule and poke your noses down to
the ground, and plunge down that dangerous icy trail, imagining,
because you get a few shivers down your backs, you are seeing the
glories of the canon, or getting any conception of the noble river
that made it.  You must climb, climb, to see the glories, always."
But when Mr. Burroughs would ask him where we could climb to, to
see the canon, since under his guidance we had been brought to the
very edge on the top, he did not deign to explain, but continued to
deride the project of the descent into the depths--a way the dear
man has of meeting an argument that is a bit annoying at times.

We did go down into the canon on mule-back,--down, down, over four
thousand feet,--and the jeering Scot went with us, sitting his
mule uncompromisingly, and indulging in many a jest at the expense
of the terrified women who felt, when too late to retreat, that
it would have been better to heed his advice.  Still, after the
descent, and then the ascent, were safely accomplished, we were
glad we had not let him dissuade us.  None of us can ever forget
that day, with its rich and varied experiences, the mingled fear
and awe and exultation, the overpowering emotions felt at each
new revelation of the stupendous spectacle, often relieved by
the lively sallies of Mr. Muir.  We ate our luncheon on the old
Cambrian plateau, the mighty Colorado, still a thousand feet below
us, looking entirely inadequate to have accomplished the tremendous
results we were witnessing.

One day at the canon, feeling acutely aware of our incalculable
privilege, I said, "To think of having the Grand Canon, and John
Burroughs and John Muir thrown in!"

"I wish Muir /was/ thrown  in, sometimes," retorted Mr. Burroughs,
with a twinkle in his eye, "when he gets between me and the canon."


In contrast to Mr. Muir, the Wanderer, is Mr. Burroughs, the
Home-lover, one who is under the spell of the near and the
familiar.  The scenes of his boyhood in the Catskills, the woods
he wandered in about Washington during the years he dwelt there,
his later tramping-ground along the Hudson--these are the scenes
he has made his readers love because he has loved them so much
himself; and however we may enjoy his journeyings in "Mellow
England," in "Green Alaska," in Jamaica, or his philosophical
or speculative essays, we find his stay-at-home things the best.
And he likes the familiar scenes and things the best, much as he
enjoyed the wonders that the great West offered.  The robins in
Yosemite Valley and the skylarks in the Hawaiian Islands, because
these were a part of his earlier associations, did more to endear
these places to him than did the wonders themselves.  On Hawaii,
where we saw the world's greatest active volcano throwing up
its fountains of molten lava sixty or more feet high, the masses
falling with a roar like that of the "husky-voiced sea," Mr.
Burroughs found it difficult to understand why some of us were so
fascinated that we wanted to stay all night, willing to endure the
discomforts of a resting-place on lava rocks, occasional stifling
gusts of sulphur fumes, dripping rain, and heat that scorched our
veiled faces, so long as we could gaze on that boiling, tumbling,
heaving, ever-changing lake of fire.  Such wild, terrible,
unfamiliar beauty could not long hold him under its spell.

[Illustration: John Muir and John Burroughs, Pasadena, California.
From a photograph by George R. King]

A veritable homesickness came over him amid unfamiliar scenes. One
day in early March, after journeying all day over the strange region
of the California desert, with its giant cacti, its lava-beds, its
volcanic cones, its rugged, barren mountains, its deep gorges and
canons, its snow-capped peaks, on reaching San Bernardino, so green
and fresh and smiling in the late afternoon sun, and riding through
miles and miles of orange groves to Riverside, this return to a
winsome nature (though unlike his own), after so much of the
forbidding aspect had been before us, was to Mr. Burroughs
like water brooks to the thirsty hart.

His abiding love for early friends, too, crops out on all
occasions.  Twice while away on this trip be received the proffer
of honorary degrees from two of our American universities.  Loath
to accept such honors at any time, he was especially so now, and
declined, defending himself by saying that the acceptance would
have necessitated his hurrying straight home across the States to
have the degrees conferred upon him, when he was planning to tarry
in Iowa and see an old schoolmate.

"I didn't want to do it," he said petulantly; "I wanted to stop and
see Sandy Smith"--his tone being not unlike what he would have used
when as a boy he doubtless coaxed to "go out and play with Sandy."

Mr. Burroughs is too much a follower of the genuinely simple life
to be long contented in hotels, however genial the hospitality.
He declared the elegant suite at the Mission Inn at Riverside,
which was tendered to him and his party in the most cordial,
unobtrusive way, was too luxurious for a "Slabsider" like him.
It was positively painful to him to be asked, as he was frequently
on the Western and Hawaiian tour, to address audiences, or "just to
come and meet the students" at various schools and colleges.  Such
meetings usually meant being "roped in" to making a speech, often
in spite of assurances to the contrary.  I have known him to slip
away from a men's club early in the evening, before dinner was
announced, and return to our little cottage in Pasadena, where he
would munch contentedly an uncooked wafer, drink a cup of hot water,
read a little geology, and go to bed at the seasonable hour of nine,
the next morning awakening with a keen appetite for the new day,
for his breakfast, and for his forenoon of work, whereas, had he
stayed out till eleven or twelve, eaten a hearty dinner, and been
stimulated and excited by much talk, he would have awakened without
the joy in the morning which he has managed to carry through his
seventy-six years, and which his readers, who rejoice in the
freshness and tranquillity of his pages, hope he will keep till
he reaches the end of the Long Road.

Mr. Muir is as averse to speaking in public as is Mr. Burroughs,
much as he likes to talk.  They both dislike the noise and
confusion of cities, and what we ordinarily mean by social life.
Mr. Burroughs is less an alien in cities than is Mr. Muir, yet,
on the whole, he is more of a solitaire, more of a recluse.  He
avoids men where the other seeks them.  He cannot deal or dicker
with men, but the canny Scot can do this, if need be, and even
enjoy it.  Circumstances seem to have made Mr. Muir spend most
of his years apart from his fellows, although by nature he is
decidedly gregarious; circumstances seem to have decreed that Mr.
Burroughs spend the greater part of his life among his fellow-men,
though there is much of the hermit in his make-up.

Mr. Muir gets lost in cities--this man who can find his way on the
trackless desert, the untrodden glaciers, and in the most remote
and inaccessible mountain heights.  He will never admit that his
wanderings were lonely: "You can always have the best part of your
friends with you," he said; "it is only when people cease to love
that they are separated."

One Sunday in Pasadena we had planned to have a picnic up one of the
canons, but the rain decreed otherwise.  So, discarding tables and
other appurtenances of life within doors, we picnicked on the floor
of our sitting-room, making merry there with the luncheon we had
prepared for the jaunt.  While passing back and forth through the
room in our preparations, we heard the men of the party talk in
fragments, and amusing fragments they were.  Once when Mr. Browne,
the editor of the "Dial," was discussing some point in connection
with the Spanish-American War, I heard Mr. Muir say, with a sigh of
relief, "I was getting flowers up on the Tuolumne meadows then, and
didn't have to bother about those questions."  When another friend
was criticizing Mr. Roosevelt for the reputed slaughter of so many
animals in Africa, and Mr. Burroughs declared he did not credit half
the things the papers said the hunter was doing, Mr. Muir said, half
chidingly, half tolerantly, "Roosevelt, the muggins, I am afraid he
is having a good time putting bullets through those friends of his."
Now I had heard him call Mr. Burroughs "You muggins" in the same
winning, endearing way he said "Johnnie"; I had heard him speak of
a petrified tree in the Sigillaria forest as a "muggins"; of a bear
that trespassed on his flowery domains in the Sierra meadows as a
"muggins" that he tried to look out of countenance and failed; of
a "comical little muggins of a daisy" that some one had named
after him; and one day he had rejoiced my heart by dubbing me "You
muggins, you"; and behold! here he was now applying the elastic term
to our many-sided (I did not say "strenuous") ex-President!  Later
I heard him apply it to a Yosemite waterfall, and by then should not
have been surprised to hear him speak of a mighty glacier, or a
giant sequoia, as a "muggins."

"Stickeen," Mr. Muir's incomparable dog story, came out in book form
while we were in Pasadena.  I sent a copy to my brother, who wrote
later asking me to inquire of Mr. Muir why he did not keep Stickeen
after their perilous adventures together.  So I put the question to
him one day.  "Keep him!" he ejaculated, as he straightened his
back, and the derisive wrinkles appeared on one side of his nose;
"keep him! he wasn't mine--I'm Scotch, I never steal."  Then he
explained that Stickeen's real master was attached to him; that he
could not take him from him; and besides, the dog was accustomed
to a cold climate, and would have been very unhappy in California.
"Oh, no, I couldn't keep Stickeen," he said wistfully, but one felt
that he /had/ kept Stickeen, the best part of him, by immortalizing
him in that story.

While we were housekeeping in Pasadena, Mr. Burroughs began writing
on the Grand Canon.  One morning, after having disposed of several
untimely callers, he had finally settled down to work.  We sat
around the big table writing or reading.  Mr. Burroughs was there in
the body, but in spirit we could see he was at the "Divine Abyss,"
as he called the Canon.  Once he read us a few sentences which were
so good that I resolved we must try harder to prevent interruptions,
that he might keep all his writing up to that standard.  But while
engaged in letter-writing, some point arose, and, forgetting my
laudable resolution,  I put a question to him.  Answering me
abstractedly, he went on with his writing.  Then I realized how
inexcusable it was to intrude my trivialities at such a time.
Castigating myself and resolving anew, I wrote on in contrite
silence.  After a little Mr. Burroughs paused and lifted his head;
his expression was puzzled, as though wrestling with some profound
thought, or weighing some nicety of expression; I saw he was about
to speak--perhaps to utter his latest impression concerning the
glories of the Canon.  As he opened his lips this is what we heard:
"/Couldn't we warm up those Saratoga chips for luncheon?/" Whereupon
it will be seen that the abyss he was then cogitating about was in
the epigastric region, instead of in Arizona.

Mr. Muir likes a laugh at his own expense.  He told us of a
school-teacher in the vicinity of his home instructing her pupils
about Alaska and the glaciers; and on telling them that the great
Muir Glacier was named after their neighbor, who discovered it,
one little boy piped up with, "What, not that old man that drives
around in a buggy!"

I may as well offset this with one of our Hawaiian experiences.
When we were in Honolulu, we heard that one of the teachers there,
thinking to make a special impression upon her pupils, told them
the main facts about Mr. Burroughs's writings, their scope and
influence, what he stood for as a nature writer, his place in
literature, and then described his appearance, and said, "And
this noted man, this great nature lover, is right here--a guest
in our city!"  A little lad broke in with, "I know--I saw him
yesterday--he was in our yard stealing mangoes."


One day, while still in Pasadena, I told Mr. Muir that on April 3d
a few of us wished to celebrate Mr. Burroughs's birthday, his
seventy-second, by a picnic up one of the Mount Lowe canons.  He
said it would be impossible for him to be with us on that day, as he
had to go up to San Francisco.  On my expressing keen disappointment
he teasingly said:--"Why, you will have Johnnie, and Mr. Browne, and
the mountains--what more do you want?"

"But we want /you/ ," I protested, assuring him that this was not a
case where one could say,--


    "How happy could I be with either,
     Were t'other dear Johnnie away!"


"Well, then, why can't you have it some other day?"

"Because he wasn't born some other day."

"But why must you be tied to the calendar?  Can't you celebrate
Johnnie's birthday a few days later just as well?  Such a stickler
for the exact date as you are, I never saw."

Thus he bantered, but when he had to leave us, we knew he was as
disappointed as we all were that he could not be with us on that
"exact date."

How he did enjoy hectoring us for our absurd mistake in not reading
our long tickets through, consequently getting on the Santa Fe
train to go up to San Francisco when a little coupon stated that
the ticket took us by the Coast line.  We were bound to let the
Scot know of our mistake, and our necessary transfer to the other
road (as we had arranged to meet him at a certain point on the
Santa Fe), else, I suppose, we never should have given him that
chance to jeer at us.  He made us tell him all about it when we
met, and shaking with laughter at all the complications the mistake
entailed, he declared, "Oh, but that's a bully story!"

"It'll put an inch of fat on Muir's ribs," retorted "Oom John,"
who was not without chagrin at the fiasco.

"Johnnie, when you sail for Honolulu, I expect, unless you're
narrowly watched, you'll get on the wrong ship and go off to
Vancouver," teased the fun-loving Scot.


In Yosemite, Mr. Muir told us about the great trees he used to
saw into timber during his early years in the valley, showing us
the site of his old mill, and bragging that he built it and kept
it in repair at a cost of less than twenty-five cents a year.  It
seemed strange that he, a tree-lover, could have cut down those
noble spruces and firs, and I whispered this to Mr. Burroughs.

"Ask him about it," said the latter, "ask him." So I did.

"Bless you, I never cut down the trees--I only sawed those the
Lord had felled."

The storms that swept down the mountains had laid these monarchs
low, and the thrifty Scot had merely taken advantage of the ill
winds, at the same time helping nature to get rid of the debris.

"How does this compare with Esopus Valley, Johnnie?" Mr. Muir was
fond of asking Mr. Burroughs, when he saw the latter gazing in
admiration at mighty El Capitan, or the thundering Yosemite
Falls.  Or he would say, "How is that for a piece of glacial work,
Johnnie?" as he pointed to Half Dome and told how the glacier had
worn off at least half a mile from its top, and then had sawed
right down through the valley.

"O Lord! that's too much, Muir," answered Mr. Burroughs.  He
declared that it stuck in his crop--this theory that ice alone
accounts for this great valley cut out of the solid rocks.  When
the Scot would get to riding his ice-hobby too hard, Mr. Burroughs
would query, "But, Muir, the million years before the ice age--what
was going on here then?'

"Oh, God knows," said Mr. Muir, but vouchsafed no further explanation.

[Illustration: John Burroughs and John Muir in the Yosemite.  From
a photograph by F. P. Clatworthy]


"With my itch for geology," said Mr. Burroughs, "I want it scratched
all the time, and Muir doesn't want to scratch it."  So he dropped
his questions, which elicited only bantering answers from the
mountaineer, and gave himself up to sheer admiration of the glories
and beauties of the region, declaring that of all the elemental
scenes he had beheld, Yosemite beat them all--"The perpetual thunder
peal of the waters dashing like mad over gigantic cliffs, the
elemental granite rocks--it is a veritable 'wreck of matter and
crush of worlds' that we see here."


Mr. Burroughs urged Mr. Muir again and again to reclaim his early
studies in the Sierra which were printed in the "Overland Monthly"
years ago, and give them to the public now with the digested
information which he alone can supply, and which is as yet
inaccessible in his voluminous notes and sketches of the region.
At Mr. Muir's home we saw literally barrels of these notes.  He
admitted that he had always been dilatory about writing, but not
about studying or note-taking; often making notes at night when
fatigued from climbing and from two and three days' fasting; but
the putting of them into literature is irksome to him.  Yet, much
as he dislikes the labor of writing, he will shut himself away from
the air and sunshine for weeks at a time, if need arises, and write
vigorously in behalf of the preservation of our forests.  He did
this back in the late seventies, and in more recent years has been
tireless in his efforts to secure protection to our noble forests
when danger has threatened them.

Mr. Muir's knowledge of the physiognomy and botany of most of the
countries of the globe is extensive, and he has recently added
South America and South Africa to his list; there is probably no
man living, and but few who have lived, so thoroughly conversant
with the effects of glaciation as is he; yet, unless he puts his
observations into writing, much of his intimate knowledge of these
things must be lost when he passes on.  And, as Mr. Burroughs says,
"The world wants this knowledge seasoned with John Muir, not his
mere facts.  He could accumulate enough notes to fill Yosemite,
yet that would be worth little.  He has spent years studying and
sketching the rocks, and noting facts about them, but you can't
reconstruct beauty and sublimity out of mere notes and sketches.
He must work his harvest into bread."  But concerning this writing
Mr. Muir confesses he feels the hopelessness of giving his readers
anything but crumbs from the great table God has spread: "I can
write only hints to incite good wanderers to come to the feast."

Here we see the marked contrast between these two nature students:
Mr. Muir talks because he can't help it, and his talk is good
literature; he writes only because he has to, on occasion; while
Mr. Burroughs writes because he can't help it, and talks when he
can't get out of it.  Mr. Muir, the Wanderer, needs a continent
to roam in; while Mr. Burroughs, the Saunterer, needs only a
neighborhood or a farm.  The Wanderer is content to scale mountains;
the Saunterer really climbs the mountain after he gets home, as he
makes it truly his own only by dreaming over it and writing about it.
The Wanderer finds writing irksome; the Saunterer is never so well
or so happy as when he can write; his food nourishes him better,
the atmosphere is sweeter, the days are brighter.  The Wanderer has
gathered his harvest from wide fields, just for the gathering; he has
not threshed it out and put it into the bread of literature--only
a few loaves; the Saunterer has gathered his harvest from a rather
circumscribed field, but has threshed it out to the last sheaf; has
made many loaves; and it is because he himself so enjoys writing that
his readers find such joy and morning freshness in his books, his own
joy being communicated to his reader, as Mr. Muir's own enthusiasm
is communicated to his hearer.  With Mr. Burroughs, if his field of
observation is closely gleaned, he turns aside into subjective fields
and philosophizes--a thing which Mr. Muir never does.


One of the striking things about Mr. Muir is his generosity; and
though so poor in his youth and early adult life, he has now the
wherewithal to be generous.  His years of frugality have, strange
to say, made him feel a certain contempt for money.  At El Tovar
he asked, "What boy brought up my bags?"  Whereupon a string of
bell-boys promptly appeared for their fees, and Mr. Muir handed
out tips to all the waiting lads, saying in a droll way, "I didn't
know I had so many bags."  When we tried to reimburse him for the
Yosemite trip, he would have none of it, saying, almost peevishly,
"Now don't annoy me about that."  Yet, if he thinks one is trying
to get the best of him, he can look after the shekels as well as
any one.  One day in Yosemite when we were to go for an all day's
tramp and wished a luncheon prepared at the hotel, on learning of
the price they were to charge, he turned his back on the landlord
and dispatched one of us to the little store, where, for little
more than the hotel would have charged for one person, a luncheon
for five was procured, and then he really chuckled that he had been
able to snap his fingers at mine host, who had thought he had us
at his mercy.


I see I have kept Mr. Muir close to the footlights most of the
time, allowing Mr. Burroughs to hover in the background where
he blends with the neutral tones; but so it was in all the
thrilling scenes in the Western drama--Mr. Muir and the desert,
Mr. Muir and the petrified trees, Mr. Muir and the canon, Mr.
Muir and Yosemite; while with "Oom John," it was a blending with
the scene, a quiet, brooding absorption that made him seem a part
of them--the desert, the petrified trees, the Grand Canon, Yosemite,
and Mr. Burroughs inseparably linked with them, but seldom standing
out in sharp contrast to them, as the "Beloved Egotist" stood out
on all occasions.


Perhaps the most idyllic of all our days of camping and tramping
with John of Birds and John of Mountains was the day in Yosemite
when we tramped to Nevada and Vernal Falls, a distance of fourteen
miles, returning to Camp Ahwahnee at night, weary almost to
exhaustion, but strangely uplifted by the beauty and sublimity
n which we had lived and moved and had our being.  Our brown tents
stood hospitably open, and out in the great open space in front we
sat around the campfire under the noble spruces and firs, the Merced
flowing softly on our right, mighty Yosemite Falls thundering away
in the distance, while the moon rose over Sentinel Rock, lending
a touch of ineffable beauty to the scene, and a voice, that is now
forever silenced, lent to the rhymes of the poets its richness of
varied emotion, as it chanted choicest selections from the Golden
Poems of all time.  We lingered long after the other campers had
gone to rest, loath to bring to its close a day so replete with
sublimity and beauty.  Mr. Burroughs summed it up as he said
good-night:  "A day with the gods of eld--a holy day in the
temple of the gods."



JOHN BURROUGHS: AN APPRECIATION


"John is making an impression on his age--has come to stay--has
veritable, indisputable, dynamic gifts," Walt Whitman said
familiarly to a friend in 1888, in commenting on our subject's
place in literature.  And of a letter written to him by Mr.
Burroughs that same year he said: "It is a June letter, worthy
of June; written in John's best outdoor mood.  Why, it gets into
your blood, and makes you feel worth while.  I sit here, helpless
as I am, and breathe it in like fresh air."

Minot Savage once asked in a sermon if it did not occur to his
hearers that John Burroughs gets a little more of June than the
rest of us do, and added that Mr. Burroughs had paid years of
consecration of thought and patient study of the lives of birds
and flowers, and so had bought the right to take June and all that
it means into his brain and heart and life; and that if the rest
of us wish these joys, we must purchase them on the same terms.
We are often led to ask what month he has not taken into his heart
and life, and given out again in his writings.  Perhaps most of all
he has taken April into his heart, as his essay on it in "Birds and
Poets" will show:--


How it [April] touches one and makes him both glad and sad!  The
voices of the arriving birds, the migrating fowls, the clouds of
pigeons sweeping across the sky or filling the woods, the elfin
horn of the first honey-bee venturing abroad in the middle of
the day, the clear piping of the little frogs in the marshes at
sundown, the camp-fire in the sugar-bush, the smoke seen afar
rising over the trees, the tinge of green that comes so suddenly
on the sunny knolls and slopes, the full translucent streams, the
waxing and warming sun,--how these things and others like them are
noted by the eager eye and ear!  April is my natal month, and I am
born again into new delight and new surprises at each return of it.
Its name has an indescribable charm to me.  Its two syllables are
like the calls of the first birds,--like that of the phoebe-bird,
or of the meadowlark.


But why continue? The whole essay breathes of swelling buds,
springing grass, calls of birds, April flowers, April odors,
and April's uncloying freshness and charm.  As we realize what the
returning spring brings to this writer, we say with Bliss Carman:--


    "Make [him] over.  Mother April,
     When the sap begins to stir."


I fancy there are many of his readers who will echo what one of
his friends has said to him: "For me the 3d of April will ever
stand apart in the calendar with a poignant beauty and sweetness
because it is your birthday.  It is the keynote to which the whole
springtime music is set."  Or another: "If April 3d comes in like
any other day, please understand that it will be because she does
not dare to show how glad she is over her own doings."  On another
birthday, the same correspondent says: "I find that you are so
inwoven with the spring-time that I shall never again be able to
resolve the season into its elements.  But I am the richer for it.
I feel a sort of compassion for one who has never seen the spring
through your eyes."

Mr. Burroughs puts his reader into close and sympathetic communion
with the open-air world as no other literary naturalist has done.
Gilbert White reported with painstaking fidelity the natural
history of Selborne; Thoreau gave Thoreau with glimpses of nature
thrown in; Richard Jefferies, in dreamy, introspective descriptions
of rare beauty and delicacy, portrayed his own mystical impressions
of nature; but Mr. Burroughs takes us with him to the homes and
haunts of the wild creatures, sets us down in their midst, and lets
us see and hear and feel just what is going on.  We read his books
and echo Whitman's verdict on them: "They take me outdoors! God
bless outdoors!"  And since God /has/ blessed outdoors, we say, "God
bless John Burroughs for taking us out of doors with him!"

Our writer never prates about nature, telling us to look and
admire.  He loves the common, everyday life about him, sees it
more intimately than you or I see it, and tells about it so simply
and clearly that he begets a like feeling in his reader.  It was
enjoined of the early Puritans "to walke honestlie in the sweete
fields and woodes."  How well our friend has obeyed this injunction!

And what an unobtrusive lover he is!  Although it is through him that
his mistress stands revealed, it is not until we look closely that
we spy her adorer in the background, intent only on unveiling her
charms.  How does he do this?  First by succumbing himself--Nature's
graces, her inconsistencies, even her objectionable traits appeal to
him.  Like the true lover, he is captivated by each of her phases,
and surrenders himself without reserve.  Such homage makes him the
recipient of her choicest treasures, her most adorable revelations.

[Illustration: Mr. Burroughs sitting for a Statuette.  From a
photograph by Charles S. Olcott]

I have mentioned Gilbert White's contributions to the literature
about nature: one must admire the man's untiring enthusiasm, but his
book is mainly a storehouse of facts; how rarely does he invest the
facts with charm!  To pry into nature's secrets and conscientiously
report them seems to be the aim of the English parson; but we get
so little of the parson himself.  What were his feelings about
all these things he has been at such pains to record?  The things
themselves are not enough. It is not alluring to be told soberly:--


Hedge-hogs abound in my garden and fields. The manner in which they
eat the roots of the plaintain in the grass walk is very curious;
with their upper mandible, which is much larger than the lower,
they bore under the plant, and so eat the root off upward, leaving
the tuft of leaves untouched.


And so on.  By way of contrast, see how Mr. Burroughs treats
a similar subject.  After describing the porcupine, mingling
description and human encounter, thereby enlisting the reader's
interest, he says:--


In what a peevish, injured tone the creature did complain of our
unfair tactics!  He protested and protested, and whimpered and
scolded like some infirm old man tormented by boys.  His game
after we led him forth was to keep himself as much as possible
in the shape of a ball, but with two sticks and the cord we
finally threw him over on his back and exposed his quill-less
and vulnerable under side, when he fairly surrendered and seemed
to say, "Now you may do with me as you like."


Here one gets the porcupine and Mr. Burroughs too.

Thoreau keeps his reader at arm's length, invites and repels at
the same time, piques one by his spiciness, and exasperates by
his opinionatedness.  You want to see his bean-field, but know
you would be an intruder.  He might even tell you to your face
that he was happiest the mornings when nobody called.  He likes
to advise and berate, but at long range.  Speaking of these two
writers, Whitman once said, "Outdoors taught Burroughs gentle
things about men--it had no such effect upon Thoreau."

Richard Jefferies appeals to lovers of nature and lovers of
literature as well.  He has the poet's eye and is a sympathetic
spectator, but seldom gives one much to carry away.  His
descriptions, musical as they are, barely escape being wearisome
at times.  In his "Pageant of Summer" he babbles prettily of green
fields, but it is a long, long summer and one is hardly sorry to
see its close.  In some of his writings he affects one unpleasantly,
gives an uncanny feeling; one divines the invalid as well as the
mystic back of them; there is a hectic flush, perhaps a neurotic
taint.  Beautiful, yes, but not the beauty of health and sanity. It
is the same indescribable feeling I get in reading that pathetically
beautiful book, "The Road-Mender," by "Michael Fairless"--the gleam
of the White Gate is seen all along the Road, though the writer
strives so bravely to keep it hidden till it must open to let him
pass.  One of the purest gems of Jefferies--"Hours of Spring"--has
a pathos and haunting melody of compelling poignancy.  It is like
a white violet or a hepatica.

But with Mr. Burroughs we feel how preeminently sane and healthy
he is.  His essays have the perennial charm of the mountain brooks
that flow down the hills and through the fertile valleys of his
Catskill home.  They are redolent of the soil, of leaf mould,
of the good brown earth.  His art pierces through our habitual
indifference to Nature and kindles our interest in, not her beauty
alone, but in her rugged, uncouth, and democratic qualities.

Like the true walker that he describes, he himself "is not merely
a spectator of the panorama of nature, but is a participator in it.
He experiences the country he passes through,--tastes it, feels it,
absorbs it."  Let us try this writer by his own test.  He says:
"When one tries to report nature he has to remember that every
object has a history which involves its surroundings, and that the
depth of the interest which it awakens in us is in the proportion
that its integrity in this respect is preserved."  He must, as we
know Mr. Burroughs does, bring home the river and the sky when he
brings home the sparrow that he finds singing at dawn on the alder
bough; must make us see and hear the bird /on the bough/, and this is
worth a whole museum of stuffed and labeled specimens.  To do this
requires a peculiar gift, one which our essayist has to an unusual
degree--an imagination that goes straight to the heart of whatever
he writes about, combined with a verbal magic that re-creates what
he has seen.  Things are felicitously seen by Mr. Burroughs, and
then felicitously said.  A dainty bit in Sidney's "Apologie for
Poetrie" seems to me aptly to characterize our author's prose: "The
uttering sweetly and properly the conceits of the minde, which is
the end of speech."

One can pick out at random from his books innumerable poetic
conceits; the closed gentian is the "nun among flowers"; a patch
of fringed polygalas resembles a "flock of rose-purple butterflies"
alighted on the ground; the male and female flowers of the early
everlasting are "found separated from each other in well-defined
groups, like men and women in an old-fashioned country church";
"the note of the pewee is a human sigh"; the bloodroot--"a
full-blown flower with a young one folded in a leaf beneath it,
only the bud emerging, like the head of a papoose protruding
from its mother's blanket."  Speaking of the wild orchids known
as "lady's-slippers," see the inimitable way in which he puts
you on the spot where they grow: "Most of the floral ladies
leave their slippers in swampy places in the woods, only the
stemless one (/Cypripedium acaule/) leaves hers on dry ground
before she reaches the swamp, commonly under evergreen trees
where the carpet of pine needles will not hurt her feet."
Almost always he invests his descriptions with  some human
touch that gives them rare charm--nature and human nature
blended--if it is merely the coming upon a red clover
in England--

"The first red clover head just bloomed . . . but like
the people I meet, it has a ruddier cheek than those at home."


When we ask ourselves what it is that makes his essays so engaging,
we conclude it is largely due to their lucidity, spontaneity, and
large simplicity--qualities which make up a style original, fresh,
convincing.  His writing, whether about nature, literature,
science, or philosophy, is always suggestive, potent, pithy; his
humor is delicious; he says things in a crisp, often racy, way.
Yet what a sense of leisureliness one has in reading him, as well
as a sense of companionability!

What distinguishes him most, perhaps, is his vivid and poetic
apprehension of the mere fact.  He never flings dry facts at us,
but facts are always his inspiration.  He never seeks to go behind
them, and seldom to use them as symbols, as does Thoreau.  Thoreau
preaches and teaches always; Mr. Burroughs, never.  The facts
themselves fill him with wonder and delight--a wonder and delight
his reader shares.  The seasons, the life of the birds and the
animals, the face of nature, the ever new, the ever common day--all
kindle his enthusiasm and refresh his soul.  The witchery of the
ideal is upon his page without doubt, but he will not pervert
natural history one jot or tittle for the sake of making a pretty
story.  His whole aim is to invest the fact with living interest
without in the least lessening its value as a fact.  He does not
deceive himself by what he wants to be true; the scientist in him
is always holding the poet in check.  Of all contemporary writers
in this field, he is the one upon whom we can always depend to be
intellectually honest.  He has an abiding hankering after the true,
the genuine, the real; cannot stand, and never could stand, any
tampering with the truth.  Had he been Cromwell's portrait painter,
he would have delighted in his subject's injunction: "Paint me as I
am, mole and all."  And he would have made the mole interesting; he
has done so, but that is a mole of another color.

This instinct for the truth being so strong in him, he knows it
when he sees it in others; he detects its absence, too; and has
no patience and scant mercy for those past-masters in the art of
blinking facts,--those natural-history romancers who, realizing
that "the crowd must have emphatic warrant," are not content with
the infinite Variety of nature, but must needs spend their art in
the wasteful and ridiculous excess of painting the lily, perfuming
the violet, and giving to the rainbow an added hue.  Accordingly,
when one warps the truth to suit his purpose, especially in the
realm of nature, he must expect this hater of shams to raise a
warning voice--"Beware the wolf in sheep's clothing!"  But he never
cries "Wolf!" when there is no wolf, and he gives warm and generous
praise to deserving ones.

It has surprised some of his readers, who know how kindly he is
by nature, and how he shrinks from witnessing pain, in beast or
man, much less inflicting it, to see his severity when nature is
traduced--for he shows all the fight and fury and all the defense of
the mother bird when her young are attacked.  He won't suffer even a
porcupine to be misrepresented without bristling up in its defense.


I have said that he never preaches, never seeks to give a moral
twist to his observations of nature, but I recall a few instances
where he does do a bit of moralizing; for example, when he speaks
of the calmness and dignity of the hawk when attacked by crows
or kingbirds: "He seldom deigns to notice his noisy and furious
antagonist, but deliberately wheels about in that aerial spiral,
and mounts and mounts till his pursuers grow dizzy and return to
earth again.  It is quite original, this mode of getting rid of an
unworthy opponent--rising to heights where the braggart is dazed and
bewildered and loses his reckoning!  I'm not sure but it is worthy
of imitation."  Or, in writing of work on the farm, especially
stone-fence making, he speaks of clearing the fields of the stones
that are built into boundaries: "If there are ever sermons in
stones, it is when they are built into a stone wall--turning your
hindrances into helps, shielding your crops behind the obstacles
to your husbandry, making the enemies of the plough stand guard
over its products."  But do we find such sermonizing irksome?

Just as "all architecture is what you do to it when you look upon
it," so is all nature.  Lovers of Nature muse and dream and invite
their own souls.  They interpret themselves, not Nature. She
reflects their thoughts and minds, gives them, after all, only
what they bring to her.  And the writer who brings much--much of
insight, of devotion, of sympathy--is sure to bring much away for
his reader's delectation.  Does not this account for the sense of
intimacy which his reader has with the man, even before meeting
him?--the feeling that if he ever does meet him, it will be as
a friend, not as a stranger?  And when one does meet him, and
hears him speak, one almost invariably thinks: "He talks just
as he writes."  To read him after that is to hear the very tones
of his voice.


We sometimes hear the expression, "English in shirt-sleeves,"
applied to objectionable English; but the phrase might be applied
in a commendatory way to good English,--to the English of such a
writer as Mr. Burroughs,--simple, forceful language, with homely,
everyday expressions; English that shows the man to have been
country-bred, albeit he has wandered from the home pastures to
distant woods and pastures new, browsing in the fields of literature
and philosophy, or wherever he has found pasturage to his taste.
Or, to use a figure perhaps more in keeping with his main pursuits,
he is one who has flocked with birds not of a like feather with
those that shared with him the parent nest.  Although his kin knew
and cared little for the world's great books, he early learned
to love them when he was roaming his native fields and absorbing
unconsciously that from which he later reaped his harvest.  It is to
writers of /this/ kind of "English in shirt-sleeves" that we return
again and again.  In them we see shirt-sleeves opposed to evening
dress; naturalness, sturdiness, sun-tan, and open sky, opposed to
the artificial, to tameness, constriction, and characterless
conformity to prescribed customs.

Do we not turn to writers of the first class with eagerness, slaking
our thirst, refreshing our minds at perennial springs?  How are
we glad that they lead us into green pastures and beside still
waters, away from the crowded haunts of the conventional, and
the respectably commonplace society garb of speech!  What matter
if occasionally one even gives a wholesome shock by daring to come
into the drawing-room of our minds in his shirt-sleeves, his hands
showing the grime of the soil, and his frame the strength that comes
from battling with wind and weather?  It is the same craving which
makes us say with Richard Hovey:--


"I am sick of four walls and a ceiling;
I have need of the sky,
I have business with the grass."


But it will not do to carry this analogy too far in writing of Mr.
Burroughs lest it be inferred that I regard the author's work as
having in it something of the uncouth, or the ill-timed, or the
uncultured.  His writing is of the earth, but not of the earth
earthy.  He sees divine things underfoot as well as overhead.
His page has the fertility of a well-cultivated pastoral region,
the limpidness of a mountain brook, the music of our unstudied
songsters, the elusive charm of the blue beyond the summer clouds;
it has, at times, the ruggedness of a shelving rock, combined with
the grace of its nodding columbines.

Mr. Burroughs has told us, in that June idyl of his, "Strawberries,"
that he was a famous berry-picker when a boy.  It was with a
peculiar pleasure that I wandered with him one midsummer day over
the same meadows where he used to gather strawberries.  My first
introduction to him as a writer, many years before, had been in
hearing this essay read.  And since then never a year passes that
I do not read it at least three times--once in winter just to bring
June and summer near; once in spring when all outdoors gives promise
of the fullness yet to be; and once in the radiant summer weather
when daisies and clover and bobolinks and strawberries riot in
one's blood, making one fairly mad to bury one's self in the June
meadows and breathe the clover-scented air.  And it always stands
the test--the test of being read out in the daisy-flecked meadows
with rollicking bobolinks overhead.


What quality is it, though, that so moves and stirs us when Mr.
Burroughs recounts some of the simple happenings of his youth?
What is it in his recitals that quickens our senses and perceptions
and makes our own youth alive and real?  It is paradise regained--the
paradise of one's lost youth.  Let this author describe his boyhood
pastures, going 'cross lots to school, or to his favorite spring,
whatsoever it is--is it the path that he took to the little red
schoolhouse in the Catskills?  Is it the spring near his father's
sugar bush that we see?  No.  One is a child again, and in a
different part of the State, with tamer scenery, but scenery
endeared by early associations.  The meadow you see is the one
that lies before the house where you were born; you read of the
boy John Burroughs jumping trout streams on his way to school,
but see yourself and your playmates scrambling up a canal bank,
running along the towpath, careful to keep on the land side of the
towline that stretches from mules to boat, lest you be swept into
the green, uninviting waters of the Erie. On you run with slate and
books; you smell the fresh wood as you go through the lumber yard.
Or, read another of his boyish excursions, and you find yourself
on that first spring outing to a distant, low-lying meadow after
"cowslips"; another, and you are trudging along with your brother
after the cows, stopping to nibble spearmint, or pick buttercups
by the way.  Prosaic recollections, compared to spring paths and
trout brooks in the Catskill valleys, yet this is what our author's
writings do--re-create for each of us our own youth, with our own
childhood scenes and experiences, invested with a glamour for us,
however prosy they seem to others; and why?  Because, though
nature's aspects vary, the human heart is much the same the world
over, and the writer who faithfully adds to his descriptions of
nature his own emotional experiences arouses answering responses in
the soul of his reader.


Perhaps the poet in Mr. Burroughs is nowhere more plainly seen
than in his descriptions of bird life, yet how accurately he
gives their salient points; he represents the bird as an object
in natural history, but ah! how much more he gives!  Imagine our
bird-lover describing a bird as Ellery Channing described one, as
something with "a few feathers, a hole at one end and a point at
the other, and a pair of wings"!  We see the bird Mr. Burroughs
sees; we hear the one he hears.  Long before I had the memorable
experience of standing with him on the banks of the Willowemoc
and listening at twilight to the slow, divine chant of the hermit
thrush, I had heard it in my dreams, because of that inimitable
description of its song in "Wake-Robin."  It does, indeed, seem
to be "the voice of that calm, sweet solemnity one attains to in
his best moments." As one listens to its strain in the hush of
twilight, the pomp of cities and the pride of civilization of a
truth seem trivial and cheap.

What a near, human interest our author makes us feel in the birds,
how we watch their courtships, how we peer into their nests, and
how lively is our solicitude for their helpless young swung in
their "procreant cradles," beset on all sides by foes that fly
and creep and glide!  And not only does he make the bird a visible
living creature; he makes it sing joyously to the ear, while all
nature sings blithely to the eye.  We see the bird, not as a mass
of feathers with "upper parts bright blue, belly white, breast
ruddy brown, mandibles and legs black," as the textbooks have it,
but as a thing of life and beauty: "Yonder bluebird with the earth
tinge on his breast and the sky tinge on his back,--did he come
down out of heaven on that bright March morning when he told us so
softly and plaintively that, if we pleased, spring had come?"  Who
is there in reading this matchless description of the bluebird that
does not feel the retreat of winter, that does not feel his pulse
quicken with the promise of approaching spring, that does not feel
that the bird did, indeed, come down out of heaven, the heaven of
hope and promise, even though the skies are still bleak, and the
winds still cold?  Who, indeed, except those prosaic beings who are
blind and deaf to the most precious things in life?

"I heard a bluebird this morning!" one exclaimed exultantly, so
stirred as to forget momentarily her hearer's incapacity for
enthusiasm.  "Well, and did it sound any different from what it
did last year, and the year before, and the year before that?"
inquired in measured, world-wearied tones the dampener of ardors.
No, my poor friend, it did not.  And just because it sounded the
same as it has in all the succeeding springs since life was young,
it touched a chord in one's heart that must be long since mute in
your own, making you poor, indeed, if this dear familiar bird voice
cannot set it vibrating once more.

THE END









End of Project Gutenberg's Our Friend John Burroughs, by Clara Barrus

*** END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK OUR FRIEND JOHN BURROUGHS ***

This file should be named frjbr10.txt or frjbr10.zip
Corrected EDITIONS of our eBooks get a new NUMBER, frjbr11.txt
VERSIONS based on separate sources get new LETTER, frjbr10a.txt

This etext was produced by Joyce M. Noverr (JMNoverr@att.net).

Project Gutenberg eBooks are often created from several printed
editions, all of which are confirmed as Public Domain in the US
unless a copyright notice is included.  Thus, we usually do not
keep eBooks in compliance with any particular paper edition.

We are now trying to release all our eBooks one year in advance
of the official release dates, leaving time for better editing.
Please be encouraged to tell us about any error or corrections,
even years after the official publication date.

Please note neither this listing nor its contents are final til
midnight of the last day of the month of any such announcement.
The official release date of all Project Gutenberg eBooks is at
Midnight, Central Time, of the last day of the stated month.  A
preliminary version may often be posted for suggestion, comment
and editing by those who wish to do so.

Most people start at our Web sites at:
http://gutenberg.net or
http://promo.net/pg

These Web sites include award-winning information about Project
Gutenberg, including how to donate, how to help produce our new
eBooks, and how to subscribe to our email newsletter (free!).


Those of you who want to download any eBook before announcement
can get to them as follows, and just download by date.  This is
also a good way to get them instantly upon announcement, as the
indexes our cataloguers produce obviously take a while after an
announcement goes out in the Project Gutenberg Newsletter.

http://www.ibiblio.org/gutenberg/etext03 or
ftp://ftp.ibiblio.org/pub/docs/books/gutenberg/etext03

Or /etext02, 01, 00, 99, 98, 97, 96, 95, 94, 93, 92, 92, 91 or 90

Just search by the first five letters of the filename you want,
as it appears in our Newsletters.


Information about Project Gutenberg (one page)

We produce about two million dollars for each hour we work.  The
time it takes us, a rather conservative estimate, is fifty hours
to get any eBook selected, entered, proofread, edited, copyright
searched and analyzed, the copyright letters written, etc.   Our
projected audience is one hundred million readers.  If the value
per text is nominally estimated at one dollar then we produce $2
million dollars per hour in 2002 as we release over 100 new text
files per month:  1240 more eBooks in 2001 for a total of 4000+
We are already on our way to trying for 2000 more eBooks in 2002
If they reach just 1-2% of the world's population then the total
will reach over half a trillion eBooks given away by year's end.

The Goal of Project Gutenberg is to Give Away 1 Trillion eBooks!
This is ten thousand titles each to one hundred million readers,
which is only about 4% of the present number of computer users.

Here is the briefest record of our progress (* means estimated):

eBooks Year Month

    1  1971 July
   10  1991 January
  100  1994 January
 1000  1997 August
 1500  1998 October
 2000  1999 December
 2500  2000 December
 3000  2001 November
 4000  2001 October/November
 6000  2002 December*
 9000  2003 November*
10000  2004 January*


The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation has been created
to secure a future for Project Gutenberg into the next millennium.

We need your donations more than ever!

As of February, 2002, contributions are being solicited from people
and organizations in: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut,
Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois,
Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts,
Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New
Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio,
Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South
Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West
Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

We have filed in all 50 states now, but these are the only ones
that have responded.

As the requirements for other states are met, additions to this list
will be made and fund raising will begin in the additional states.
Please feel free to ask to check the status of your state.

In answer to various questions we have received on this:

We are constantly working on finishing the paperwork to legally
request donations in all 50 states.  If your state is not listed and
you would like to know if we have added it since the list you have,
just ask.

While we cannot solicit donations from people in states where we are
not yet registered, we know of no prohibition against accepting
donations from donors in these states who approach us with an offer to
donate.

International donations are accepted, but we don't know ANYTHING about
how to make them tax-deductible, or even if they CAN be made
deductible, and don't have the staff to handle it even if there are
ways.

Donations by check or money order may be sent to:

Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation
PMB 113
1739 University Ave.
Oxford, MS 38655-4109

Contact us if you want to arrange for a wire transfer or payment
method other than by check or money order.

The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation has been approved by
the US Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) organization with EIN
[Employee Identification Number] 64-622154.  Donations are
tax-deductible to the maximum extent permitted by law.  As fund-raising
requirements for other states are met, additions to this list will be
made and fund-raising will begin in the additional states.

We need your donations more than ever!

You can get up to date donation information online at:

http://www.gutenberg.net/donation.html


***

If you can't reach Project Gutenberg,
you can always email directly to:

Michael S. Hart <hart@pobox.com>

Prof. Hart will answer or forward your message.

We would prefer to send you information by email.


**The Legal Small Print**


(Three Pages)

***START**THE SMALL PRINT!**FOR PUBLIC DOMAIN EBOOKS**START***
Why is this "Small Print!" statement here? You know: lawyers.
They tell us you might sue us if there is something wrong with
your copy of this eBook, even if you got it for free from
someone other than us, and even if what's wrong is not our
fault. So, among other things, this "Small Print!" statement
disclaims most of our liability to you. It also tells you how
you may distribute copies of this eBook if you want to.

*BEFORE!* YOU USE OR READ THIS EBOOK
By using or reading any part of this PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm
eBook, you indicate that you understand, agree to and accept
this "Small Print!" statement. If you do not, you can receive
a refund of the money (if any) you paid for this eBook by
sending a request within 30 days of receiving it to the person
you got it from. If you received this eBook on a physical
medium (such as a disk), you must return it with your request.

ABOUT PROJECT GUTENBERG-TM EBOOKS
This PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm eBook, like most PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm eBooks,
is a "public domain" work distributed by Professor Michael S. Hart
through the Project Gutenberg Association (the "Project").
Among other things, this means that no one owns a United States copyright
on or for this work, so the Project (and you!) can copy and
distribute it in the United States without permission and
without paying copyright royalties. Special rules, set forth
below, apply if you wish to copy and distribute this eBook
under the "PROJECT GUTENBERG" trademark.

Please do not use the "PROJECT GUTENBERG" trademark to market
any commercial products without permission.

To create these eBooks, the Project expends considerable
efforts to identify, transcribe and proofread public domain
works. Despite these efforts, the Project's eBooks and any
medium they may be on may contain "Defects". Among other
things, Defects may take the form of incomplete, inaccurate or
corrupt data, transcription errors, a copyright or other
intellectual property infringement, a defective or damaged
disk or other eBook medium, a computer virus, or computer
codes that damage or cannot be read by your equipment.

LIMITED WARRANTY; DISCLAIMER OF DAMAGES
But for the "Right of Replacement or Refund" described below,
[1] Michael Hart and the Foundation (and any other party you may
receive this eBook from as a PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm eBook) disclaims
all liability to you for damages, costs and expenses, including
legal fees, and [2] YOU HAVE NO REMEDIES FOR NEGLIGENCE OR
UNDER STRICT LIABILITY, OR FOR BREACH OF WARRANTY OR CONTRACT,
INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO INDIRECT, CONSEQUENTIAL, PUNITIVE
OR INCIDENTAL DAMAGES, EVEN IF YOU GIVE NOTICE OF THE
POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES.

If you discover a Defect in this eBook within 90 days of
receiving it, you can receive a refund of the money (if any)
you paid for it by sending an explanatory note within that
time to the person you received it from. If you received it
on a physical medium, you must return it with your note, and
such person may choose to alternatively give you a replacement
copy. If you received it electronically, such person may
choose to alternatively give you a second opportunity to
receive it electronically.

THIS EBOOK IS OTHERWISE PROVIDED TO YOU "AS-IS". NO OTHER
WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, ARE MADE TO YOU AS
TO THE EBOOK OR ANY MEDIUM IT MAY BE ON, INCLUDING BUT NOT
LIMITED TO WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A
PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

Some states do not allow disclaimers of implied warranties or
the exclusion or limitation of consequential damages, so the
above disclaimers and exclusions may not apply to you, and you
may have other legal rights.

INDEMNITY
You will indemnify and hold Michael Hart, the Foundation,
and its trustees and agents, and any volunteers associated
with the production and distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm
texts harmless, from all liability, cost and expense, including
legal fees, that arise directly or indirectly from any of the
following that you do or cause:  [1] distribution of this eBook,
[2] alteration, modification, or addition to the eBook,
or [3] any Defect.

DISTRIBUTION UNDER "PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm"
You may distribute copies of this eBook electronically, or by
disk, book or any other medium if you either delete this
"Small Print!" and all other references to Project Gutenberg,
or:

[1]  Only give exact copies of it.  Among other things, this
     requires that you do not remove, alter or modify the
     eBook or this "small print!" statement.  You may however,
     if you wish, distribute this eBook in machine readable
     binary, compressed, mark-up, or proprietary form,
     including any form resulting from conversion by word
     processing or hypertext software, but only so long as
     *EITHER*:

     [*]  The eBook, when displayed, is clearly readable, and
          does *not* contain characters other than those
          intended by the author of the work, although tilde
          (~), asterisk (*) and underline (_) characters may
          be used to convey punctuation intended by the
          author, and additional characters may be used to
          indicate hypertext links; OR

     [*]  The eBook may be readily converted by the reader at
          no expense into plain ASCII, EBCDIC or equivalent
          form by the program that displays the eBook (as is
          the case, for instance, with most word processors);
          OR

     [*]  You provide, or agree to also provide on request at
          no additional cost, fee or expense, a copy of the
          eBook in its original plain ASCII form (or in EBCDIC
          or other equivalent proprietary form).

[2]  Honor the eBook refund and replacement provisions of this
     "Small Print!" statement.

[3]  Pay a trademark license fee to the Foundation of 20% of the
     gross profits you derive calculated using the method you
     already use to calculate your applicable taxes.  If you
     don't derive profits, no royalty is due.  Royalties are
     payable to "Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation"
     the 60 days following each date you prepare (or were
     legally required to prepare) your annual (or equivalent
     periodic) tax return.  Please contact us beforehand to
     let us know your plans and to work out the details.

WHAT IF YOU *WANT* TO SEND MONEY EVEN IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO?
Project Gutenberg is dedicated to increasing the number of
public domain and licensed works that can be freely distributed
in machine readable form.

The Project gratefully accepts contributions of money, time,
public domain materials, or royalty free copyright licenses.
Money should be paid to the:
"Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation."

If you are interested in contributing scanning equipment or
software or other items, please contact Michael Hart at:
hart@pobox.com

[Portions of this eBook's header and trailer may be reprinted only
when distributed free of all fees.  Copyright (C) 2001, 2002 by
Michael S. Hart.  Project Gutenberg is a TradeMark and may not be
used in any sales of Project Gutenberg eBooks or other materials be
they hardware or software or any other related product without
express permission.]

*END THE SMALL PRINT! FOR PUBLIC DOMAIN EBOOKS*Ver.02/11/02*END*


Colophon

This file was acquired from Project Gutenberg, and it is in the public domain. It is re-distributed here as a part of the Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts (http://infomotions.com/alex/) by Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.) for the purpose of freely sharing, distributing, and making available works of great literature. Its Infomotions unique identifier is etext6561, and it should be available from the following URL:

http://infomotions.com/etexts/id/etext6561



Infomotions, Inc.

Infomotions Man says, "Give back to the 'Net."