Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 12 December [1873]

Date: December 12, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01626

Source: The Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. Transcribed from digital images or a microfilm reproduction of the original item. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Notes for this letter were created by Whitman Archive staff and/or were derived from Walt Whitman, The Correspondence, ed. Edwin Haviland Miller, 6 vols. (New York: New York University Press, 1961–1977), and supplemented or updated by Whitman Archive staff.

Editorial note: The annotation, "1873," is in an unknown hand.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Zachary King, Eric Conrad, Alex Kinnaman, and Nicole Gray

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431 Stevens st.
cor West.
Camden, N.J.
Dec. 12.

Dear boy Pete,

I felt bad enough to hear of the death of Bill Barnes1—& in such a sudden, cruel way—poor young man—he has had a reckless unsatisfactory life—many deficiencies & very shiftless—all of which I understood perfectly well—but I had an affection for him after all—Have I not heard that he had a wife & child? which, (if so,) he has left—but was parted from quite a while ago—

—Pete, so your shirts came all safe, & they fit you, do they?—good—The blue shirt (did I write?) is to wear over, loose—it is made large for that purpose—I like the looks of them, the blue shirt collar turned down low with a nice black silk neck handkerchief, tied loose—over a clean white shirt without necktie—I think they are very becoming to young working-men—I sent 3 Graphics to Mr. & Mrs. Nash—when you hear, tell me if they came safe.—I send you some papers to-day—

—There is nothing new with me, or my condition—My principal malady is about the same, (no worse)—but I have had for three or four days a wretched cold in the head, sore throat, most lost my voice for two days—every thing bad enough—am better rather to-day, begin to speak so I can be understood—shall be all right soon—

—As I write, it is now between 11 and 12 a.m. Friday—it is very mild, sunshiny forenoon—I am sitting here in the parlor,—looks south, looks down a pleasant street, West street, full view, makes quite a nice view for me to sit & look out—the letter carrier comes around in about an hour from now, & takes my letters to P.O.—I have become sort of acquainted with most of the carriers, ferry men, car conductors & drivers, &c. &c.—they are very good indeed—help me on & off the cars, here & in Philadelphia—they are nearly all young fellows—it all help along—Well Pete, dear loving boy, I will bid you good bye for this week.


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. On December 8 the Washington Daily Morning Chronicle reported the death of Barnes in an accident on the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad four days earlier. [back]


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