Franklin Burroughs

Color photograph of Franklin Burroughs

Franklin Burroughs. Image from Republican Journal.

(1942 - ) Burroughs was born in Conway, South Carolina, to Franklin Gorham Burroughs, Sr. and Geraldine Bryan. He earned his B.A. from the University of the South, his  A. M. at Harvard University in 1965 and his Ph.D. in 1970. In 1968 he began teaching at Bowdoin College in Maine, where he continued until his retirement in the fall of 2000. He was inducted into the South Carolina Academy of Authors in 2012.

Burroughs’s work, often compared to that of New England essayist and poet Henry David Thoreau, was collected in Best American Essays in 1987 and 1989. His collection Billy Watson’s Croker Sack appeared in 1991, followed by a paperback edition in 1992. That same year his book Horry and the Waccamaw was published, and it was later reprinted in 1998 with the title The River Home: A Return to the Carolina Low Country.

The River Home tells the story of Burroughs’s canoe trip down the Waccamaw River, focusing on the South Carolina counties of Horry and Georgetown, the same country landscapes that he remembered from childhood. The River Home is about the intimate relationship between human beings and the land– about how people’s customs and language reflect their environment in complex ways.

In 1999 Burroughs’s “Compression Wood” was collected in Best American Essays. Part literary analysis and part personal narrative of a trip to South Carolina, the piece once again takes up his familiar theme of the relationship between people and place. Driving north through Pennsylvania after visiting his native Conway, Burroughs thinks about the questions “What do you do?” and “Where do you come from?” The essay accomplishes a sketch of a man called McIver, whom Burroughs has grown up with and who embodies his environmental values. 

In 2009, Burroughs won the prestigious John Burroughs Award for natural history writing for his nonfiction volume entitled Confluence: Merrymeeting Bay. With photographs by Hellen Perry, the book focuses on the residents of Maine who live at the junction of two major rivers with two separate watersheds.