Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 14 July 1871

Date: July 14, 1871

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01537

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), 2:126–127. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Editorial notes: The annotations, "1865 71," and "1867 or '8," are in an unknown hand.

Contributors to digital file: Zachary King, Eric Conrad, Elizabeth Lorang, Nicole Gray, Alex Kinnaman, Amanda J. Axley, Cristin Noonan, Paige Wilkinson, and Stephanie Blalock

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Friday, July 14.1

Dear Pete,

It is pretty much the same with me, as when I wrote my former letters—still home here with my mother,2 not busy at any thing particular but taking a good deal of comfort—It has been very hot here, but one stands it better here than in Washington, on account perhaps of the sea-air—I am still feeling well, & am out around every day.

There was quite a brush in N. Y. on Wednesday3—the Irish lower orders Catholic had determined that the Orange parade protestant should be put down—mob fired & threw stones—military fired on mob— bet. 30 and 40 killed, over a hundred wounded—but you have seen all about it in papers—it was all up in a distant part of the city, 3 miles from Wall street—five-sixths of the city went on with its business just the same as any other day—I saw a big squad of prisoners carried along under guard. —they reminded me of the squads of rebel prisoners brought in Washington, six years ago—

—The N. Y. police looked & behaved splendidly—no fuss, few words, but action—great, brown, bearded, able, American looking fellows, (Irish stock, though, many of them)—I had great pleasure in looking on them—something new, to me, it quite set me up to see such chaps, all dusty & worn, looked like veterans—

Pete, dear son, I rec'd your two letters, & was glad to get them—

—Mother has been quite sick, & I have been sort of nurse, as she is here alone, none of my sisters being home at present—she is much better this morning, under my doctoring—

—Pete I see by your letters that every thing goes on right with you on the road—give my best regards to my friends among the drivers & conductors—Dear son, I shall now soon be coming back, & we will be together again, as my leave is up on the 22d4—I am now going to take a bath & dress myself to go over to New York. Love to you, my dearest boy, & good bye for this time


Peter Doyle (1843–1907) was one of Walt Whitman's closest comrades and lovers, and their friendship spanned nearly thirty years. The two met in 1865 when the twenty-one-year-old Doyle was a conductor in the horsecar where the forty-five-year-old Whitman was a passenger. Despite his status as a veteran of the Confederate Army, Doyle's uneducated, youthful nature appealed to Whitman. Although Whitman's stroke in 1873 and subsequent move from Washington to Camden limited the time the two could spend together, their relationship rekindled in the mid-1880s after Doyle moved to Philadelphia and visited nearby Camden frequently. After Whitman's death, Doyle permitted Richard Maurice Bucke to publish the letters Whitman had sent him. For more on Doyle and his relationship with Whitman, see Martin G. Murray, "Doyle, Peter," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998).


1. This letter is addressed: Peter Doyle | Conductor, | Office Wash. & Geo. City RR. Co. | Washington, | D. C. It is postmarked: New York | Jul(?) | 14 | 1:30. [back]

2. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt was the second. The close relationship between Louisa and her son Walt contributed to his liberal view of gender representation and his sense of comradeship. For more information on Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, see Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. With the headline "War at Our Doors," the New York World reported on the incident: "The ides of March have come and gone. In spite of the efforts of the clergy, the municipal authorities, and all good citizens, New York has been disgraced by a street fight in 1871 over the merits of an Irish battle fought and won in 1690." The journal devoted two full pages (in an eight-page issue) to the incident, and announced that 45 had been killed and 105 wounded. Whitman also wrote of the incident in his July 14, 1871, letter to his friend and defender, the writer William D. O'Connor. [back]

4. Because of his mother's illness, Whitman had his leave extended, and returned to Washington on July 31; see Whitman's July 16–21, 1871 and July 28, 1871, letters to Doyle. [back]


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