John Burroughs was born April 3, 1837, near the town of Roxbury in the Catskill Mountains. Growing up on his parents' farm, he absorbed much of the nature and country life that he would later write about in his many volumes. He taught briefly, married, and during the Civil War settled in Washington, D.C. where he obtained a job as a clerk in the Treasury Department. It was during his nine years in Washington that he published his first book, Wake-Robin. In 1873 he returned to New York State and established his home "Riverby" on the west bank of the Hudson River at West Park. He began fruit farming and continued to write, publishing a new books about every two years.
A wheel may have many spokes, but can have but one hub. So I may say of this volume of mine that here are many themes and chapterheading, but there is but one central thought into which they all converge, and that is that the universe is good, and that it is our rare good fortune to form a part of it. As this collection of essays does not aim to be a systematic treatise on any one theme, but rather a series of sallies, excursions, into the world of semi-philosophical speculation, there is inevitably much repetition; there may even be some contradiction. But I have concluded to let them stand, as I find myself an interested spectator of the workings of my own mind when, in following different roads, it arrives at the same truth. As all roads lead to Rome, so in the realm, in which my mind works in this volume, all roads lead to the conclusion that his is the best possible world, and these people in it are the best possible people."