Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 6 February [1874]

Date: February 6, 1874

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01639

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, "1874," and "1874," 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.
Camden, N. Jersey,
Friday noon—Feb. 6.

Dear boy Pete,

Both your letters came this week—also one from my friend Eldridge, he too speaks of meeting & talking with you.—It is real winter here, the ground all covered with snow, as I look out—not the least thaw to-day, as it is cloudy—I rise pretty late mornings—had my breakfast a little while ago, mutton-chop, coffee, nice brown bread & sweet butter, very nice—eat with very fair appetite—I enjoy my breakfast better than any other meal—(eat a light dinner pretty late, & no supper)—Feel generally about the same as before described—no worse, no better, (nothing to brag of anyhow)

I have mentioned about my crossing the ferry—from our house, the cars run by the next corner, (200 feet, or less,) a half mile or so to the ferry—the Delaware here is full three quarters of a mile wide—it is a noble river, not so wide as the Potomac, nor with the fine banks like Arlington, but grander, & with more style, & with powerful, rushing tides, now great processions of broken ice, many little & some great big cakes—the boats are very fine & strong, go crashing right ahead, with a loud noise, breaking the cakes often a foot thick & more—I enjoy crossing these days—it does me good—the ferrymen are all very kind & respectful—

—I have been reading a book "Merrie England in the Olden Time,"1 a London book, with pictures, full of fun & humor—I have enjoyed it much—There is an awful amount of want & suffering, from no work, hereabout—a young man was here yesterday—had seen me in Wash—wanted help—I gave him a little—I see the cars & locomotive skurrying by as I close.


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. By George Daniel (1789–1864), published in 1842, with illustrations by John Leech and Robert Cruikshank. The book contains familiar lore about old England related with gusto and sentimentality by a Dickensian character named Uncle Timothy. [back]


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