Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 30 July–2 August [1870]

Date: July 30–August 2, 1870

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01528

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. The transcription presented here is derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), 2:101–102. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Zachary King, and Eric Conrad

Saturday afternoon, July 30.1

Dear Pete,2

Well here I am home again with my mother, writing to you from Brooklyn once more. We parted there, you know, at the corner of 7th st. Tuesday night. Pete, there was something in that hour from 10 to 11 oclock (parting though it was) that has left me pleasure & comfort for good—I never dreamed that you made so much of having me with you, nor that you could feel so downcast at losing me. I foolishly thought it was all on the other side. But all I will say further on the subject is, I now see clearly, that was all wrong.

I started from the depot in the 7:25 train the next morning—it was pretty warm, yet I had a very pleasant journey, & we got in New York by 5 o'clock, afternoon. About half an hour before we arrived, I noticed a very agreeable change in the weather—the heat had moderated—& in fact it has been pleasant enough every day since. I found mother & all as well as usual. It is now Saturday between 4 & 5 in the afternoon—I will write more on the other side—but, Pete, I must now hang up for the present, as there is a young lady down stairs whom I have promised to go with to the ferry, & across to the cars.

Sunday—6 p. m.

Pete, dear boy, I will write you a line to-day before I go. I am going over to New York to visit the lady I went down to the ferry with—so you see I am quite a lady's man again in my old days—There is nothing special to write about—I am feeling in first-rate spirits, & eat my rations every time.

Monday, Aug 1

The carrier brought quite a bunch this forenoon for the Whitman family, but no letter from you. I keep real busy with one thing & another, the whole day is occupied—I am feeling well quite all the time, & go out a great deal, knocking around one place & another. The evenings here are delightful and I am always out in them, sometimes on the river, sometimes in New York—There is a cool breeze & the moon shining. I think every time of you, & wish if we could only be together these evenings at any rate.

Tuesday—Aug 2.

Well, Pete, you will have quite a diary at this rate. Your letter came this morning—& I was glad enough to get word from you. I have been over to New York to-day on business—it is a pleasure even to cross the ferry—the river is splendid to-day—a stiff breeze blowing & the smell of the salt sea blowing up, (sweeter than any perfume to my nose)—It is now 2 o'clock—I have had my dinner & am sitting here alone writing this—Love to you, dear Pete—& I wont be so long again writing to my darling boy.



1. This piece of correspondence is addressed, "Peter Doyle, | conductor, | Office | Wash. & Georgetown City RR. Co. | Washington | D. C." It is postmarked: "New York | Aug | 2 | 10:30 PM." [back]

2. During this extended leave, from July 27 to October 15, 1870, Walt Whitman was to see through the presses three works, the fifth edition of Leaves of Grass, Passage to India, and the much-delayed Democratic Vistas. The electroplates for these works were made by Smith & McDougal, and J. S. Redfield was the publisher, though his name did not appear on the title pages; see Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer (New York: Macmillan, 1955), 583–584.

A few days before Walt Whitman left Washington, he made one of his most enigmatic entries in a notebook on July 15, 1870: "TO GIVE UP ABSOLUTELY & for good, from this present hour, this FEVERISH, FLUCTUATING, useless undignified pursuit of 164—too long, (much too long) persevered in,—so humiliating—It must come at last & had better come now—(It cannot possibly be a success) LET THERE FROM THIS HOUR BE NO FALTERING, NO GETTING [erasure] at all henceforth, (NOT ONCE, under any circumstances)—avoid seeing her, or meeting her, or any talk or explanations—or ANY MEETING WHATEVER, FROM THIS HOUR FORTH, FOR LIFE" (Library of Congress; The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman, ed. Emory Holloway [Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page, and Company, 1921], 2:96). For interpretations, see Gay Wilson Allen, The Solitary Singer (1955), 421–425, and Roger Asselineau, L'évolution de Walt Whitman (1955), 192–193, who concludes that feminine pronouns were substituted for masculine. "164" was undoubtedly intended to conceal Doyle's initials, P (16) D (4). [back]


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