Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 13 October [1873]

Date: October 13, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01652

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 or '5," and "74?," are in an unknown hand.

Contributors to digital file: Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Zachary King, Eric Conrad, Nicole Gray, Noelle Bates, Amanda J. Axley, and Stephanie Blalock

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431 Stevens st.
cor West.
Camden, N. J.
Oct. 13.

Dear Pete,1

I want some things taken out of my trunk, & put in a bundle & sent here by express. I have written to-day to Mr. Eldridge2 & sent him the key. I have asked him to go into Milburn's3 between 3½ and 4 this afternoon, & meet you—or if not convenient for you this afternoon, to-morrow, or next will do just as well, as I am in no hurry—

—You both go up in my room & get them—I want My old gray suit, coat vest &, (I think there are two pair of pants)

My old black overcoat that is laid away in the trunk

Black felt hat—(the smallest lightest one)

The old buckskin gloves

I think some big sheets of very stout wrapping paper, & plenty of some stout cord will do—the directions must be very plain, & in two places—If not convenient to go to day, go to-morrow afternoon, or next.

I don't want the freight paid, as I will pay it on delivery here. I enclose a dollar, as there may be some expense—(some little fixings.) Pete, I rec'd your letter this morning, & it was very welcome, as always. I rec'd the Sunday Herald too.

I am having a good spell so far to-day—(if it would only continue)—The bundle will come well enough, as it is a short straight route, if you only do it up so they wont get loose, & put on plain directions.


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 and the one from Whitman to Charles W. Eldridge of October 13, 1873, indicate that Whitman had abandoned his plans to return to Washington in the near future. [back]

2. Charles W. Eldridge (1837–1903) was one half of the Boston-based abolitionist publishing firm Thayer and Eldridge, who issued the 1860 edition of Leaves of Grass. In December 1862, on his way to find his injured brother George in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Whitman stopped in Washington and encountered Eldridge, who had become a clerk in the office of the army paymaster, Major Lyman Hapgood. Eldridge helped Whitman gain employment in Hapgood's office. For more on Whitman's relationship with Thayer and Eldridge, see David Breckenridge Donlon, "Thayer, William Wilde (1829–1896) and Charles W. Eldridge (1837–1903)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]

3. J. Parker Milburn (1835–1874) was the proprietor of J. P. Milburn & Co., druggists: "Proprietors and Manufacturers of Milburn's UNRIVALLED POLAR SODA WATER." Milburn's store—opposite the Treasury building—had been frequented by Walt Whitman before his debilitating illness in 1872 (Martin G. Murray, "Pete the Great: A Biography of Peter Doyle"). Milburn died of pneumonia on March 1, 1874, at age thirty-eight. [back]


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