Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 23 September [1870]

Date: September 23, 1870

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01533

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), 2:112–113. 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

Friday, Sept. 23.

Dear Pete,

Your letter of last Sunday & Monday came safe—was glad to see you so cheerful & feeling well, as seemed plain by the tone of the letter. All goes right with me. I am feeling well, & business matters move along as favorably as could be expected, taking all things in consideration. The weather is elegant—We had rain here too last Saturday & Sunday—& since then it has been clear & bright—I am out dashing around every day—fetch up home every night somewhere between 10 & 1 oclock, quite tired. The river & bay get more & more beautiful, under these splendid September skies, the green waves & white foam relieved by the white sails of the crowds of ships & sail craft—for the shipping interest is brisker this fall than it has been for twelve years.

Say to Harry Hurt,1 Mr Shedd,2 Pensey & George Bell,3 Baley Murdock,4 George Smith,5 Dr. & Wash. Milburn,6 or any of the railroad boys, or other friends that may inquire after me, that I send them my best respects—not forgetting my friends Mr. & Mrs. Nash7—also Father Boyle8—(By the bye, Pete, I have taken a great fearful drink of whiskey, in honor of the news that arrived night before last of Victor Emanuel9 entering Rome10—I couldn't wait.)

Later—afternoon—It is now between 3 and 4—I have been pitching in heavy to a great dish of stewed beef & onions mother cooked for dinner—& shall presently cross over to New York & mail this letter—shall probably go to some amusement with a friend this evening—most likely Buckleys Serenaders11

Pete, dear son, I hope this will find you all right, & every thing lovely—It will not be long now before I shall be back—Till then, take care of yourself, my loving son.



1. Henry Hurt, like Doyle, worked for the Washington and Georgetown Railroad Company. According to the Washington Chronicle of January 15, 1874, at that time he was the treasurer of the company. [back]

2. Henry Shedd, the driver of the streetcar (#14) on which Doyle was the conductor. [back]

3. The 1869 Directory listed at the same address George A. Bell, a conductor, and Horace Bell, a messenger. [back]

4. Baalam Murdock, a conductor, was mentioned in an address book: "went to school several years but with little profit" (Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman, The Library of Congress, Notebook #108). [back]

5. The 1869 Washington Directory listed George S. Smith, a driver. However, in an entry dated October 13, 1868, in an address book (Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman, The Library of Congress, Notebook #108), Walt Whitman referred to Smith as a driver on the Fifth Avenue "stage" in New York. [back]

6. J. P. Milburn & Co., druggists: "Proprietors and Manufacturers of Milburn's Unrivaled Polar Soda Water," and W. C. Milburn, either the son or the brother of Dr. J. P. Milburn, a druggist mentioned in Whitman's August 7–10, 1870 letter to Doyle. [back]

7. Mr. and Mrs. Michael Nash, Washington friends to whom Walt Whitman referred frequently in his letters to Doyle. Mr. Nash was an old resident of the city; Walt Whitman's December 5, 1873 letter to Doyle made mention of a speech Nash gave to the Oldest Inhabitants' Association. [back]

8. Perhaps the Rev. F. E. Boyle. An address book (Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman, The Library of Congress, Notebook #109), however, listed an A. F. Boyle of Washington, a journalist. Whitman mentioned dinner "at a Mr Boyle's" in his September 15, 1863 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. [back]

9. The New York Times of September 15, 1870, reported that the Papal troops were evacuating various towns and Papal states. On September 21, 1870, the forces of Italian King Victor Emanuel II (1820–1878) entered Rome without bloodshed, after "the Pope forbade any resistance." Victor Emanuel, whose reign had been marked by wars of Italian unification, established the capital of the newly unified Italy at Rome on July 2, 1871. [back]

10. The New York Times of September 15, 1870 reported that the Papal troops were evacuating various towns and Papal states. On September 21, 1870, the forces of Victor Emmanuel entered Rome without bloodshed, after "the Pope forbade any resistance." [back]

11. G. Swayne Buckley's minstrel troupe appeared in Brooklyn in August 1870 in travesties of operas; George Clinton Densmore Odell, Annals of the New York Stage (New York: Columbia University Press, 1927–1949), however, does not record performances in September 1870. [back]


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