Burroughs, John

Burroughs, John,

1837–1921, American naturalist and author, b. Roxbury, N.Y.; son of a farmer. He was a journalist, a treasury clerk in Washington, and a bank examiner, before settling in 1874 on a farm near Esopus, N.Y. There he studied fruit culture and literature. His first book, Walt Whitman, Poet and Person (1867), was the first to adequately recognize the genius of his poet friend. His prose made widely popular the type of nature essay written by Thoreau. His best-known books are Wake Robin (1871); Locusts and Wild Honey (1879); Fresh Fields, a travel book (1884); Signs and Seasons (1886); and a volume of poems, Bird and Bough (1906). A growing interest in philosophy and in science is evident in Time and Change (1912), The Summit of the Years (1913), The Breath of Life (1915), and Accepting the Universe (1922). "The Sage of Slabsides" became the friend of John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, Edison, Ford, and other important people. He traveled to the Pacific coast, the South, the West Indies, Europe, and (with the Harriman expedition) Alaska, recording natural phenomena in simple, expressive prose.


See his autobiography, My Boyhood (1922); biographies by E. B. Kelley (1959) and P. G. Westbrook (1974).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/

Burroughs, John

(1837–1921) naturalist, author; born near Roxbury, N.Y. Raised on a farm in the lower Catskills, intermittently educated, he taught school in Illinois and New Jersey and published his first nature essay in 1860. He took a job as a treasury department clerk in Washington in 1863 and met Walt Whitman there; Whitman provided the title for his first book, Wake-Robin (1871). On assignment in England for the Treasury Department in 1871, he gathered material later used in essays published as Winter Sunshine (1875); reviewing the book, Henry James called him "a sort of reduced… Thoreau." He returned to the Catskills in 1873, built a house on the west bank of the Hudson near Esopus, N.Y., and turned out a book on the average of one every two years for the rest of his life. Long-bearded and rustic, he became something of a sage, his woodland cabin "Slabsides" the goal of naturalist pilgrims. He traveled widely in later years and formed friendships with Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas A. Edison and Henry Ford. He is credited, more than any other American writer, with establishing the nature essay as an important literary form.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
Mentioned in ?
References in periodicals archive ?
American participants included Judith Clark (a former member of the Weather Underground who is now serving a sentence of seventy-five years to life for her involvement in the Brink's robbery of 1981), Richard Foreman and the Ontological-Hysteric Theater, Burroughs, John Cage, and radical feminist Ti-Grace Atkinson.
Striker Andy Rutter is another addition from Sandwell Borough and will join the battle for places alongside Trevor Burroughs, John Nightingale, Stuart Grosvenor and Neil Hesson.
exp Leonard Mogel p Ivan Reitman supervising d Gerald Potterton sc Dan Goldberg, Len Blum source Heavy Metal comics with original art and stories by Richard Corben, Angus McKie, Dan O'Bannon, Thomas Warkentin and Berni Wrightson ed Janice Brown m Elmer Bernstein, Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, Cheap Trick, Devo, Donald Fagen, Grand Funk Railroad voices Jackie Burroughs, John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Don Francks, Eugene Levy,
In denouncing our computer society, the media, and postmodernism ("a terrifying cultural phenomenon"), the author beats his breast and regrets that he is being carried away "by apocalyptic fancy." Postmodernism has proclaimed "the death of styles" which he claims are "a revolving wheel," one that completes its revolutions so swiftly that "all styles look like one" and history becomes "a rummage sale." He cites William Burroughs, John Barth, Italo Calvino, and Umberto Eco among the most prominent practitioners of postmodern fiction.