Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, [23 January 1874]

Date: January 23, 1874

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01637

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 notes: The annotations, "Jan 23, 74," "Jan 23d 74," and "74," are 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.
N. Jersey,
Friday, 1½ p.m.1

Dear Boy Pete,

Your letter came Wednesday—You must try to cultivate & keep up a gay & cheerful heart, & shed off botherations, & the impositions of employers, &c. as a duck sheds water in a rain storm—that's the best capital a fellow can have through his whole life, I find.

I am only so-so—had a very bad night last night—it's a tough pull Pete—still I think I shall come out of it—We are having it very mild here now—after snow & cold the first of the week—too mild, like April to-day, cloudy & some rain. I keep myself some busy writing—have a piece in Harpers' Monthly just out (February)—shall have another in the March number2—Can't seem to do, without occupying my mind through the day—nights are worst for me—I cant rest well—has been so now for a month—But I must not fill my letter with my complaints—To-day is just a Year, since I was paralyzed, (23d Jan. '73)—What a year it has been to me—Good bye my loving boy—write me all the news & gossip.


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. The date is established by Whitman's allusion in the final paragraph to his paralysis. [back]

2. "Song of the Redwood-Tree" and "Prayer of Columbus." [back]


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