Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 13 December [1876]

Date: December 13, 1876

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01672

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, "—(1876)," 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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Camden N J
Dec 131

Dearest Pete,

I ought to have written to you before—but I believe lazy & listless fits grow stronger & frequenter on me as I get older—& then I dont do anything at all, especially just the things I ought to do—But I often, often think of you boy, & let that make it up. I certainly am feeling better this winter,—more strength to hold out,—walking or like, than for nearly now four years—bad enough yet, but still decidedly better—(My loving boy I underscore the words, for I know they will make you feel good, to hear)

I heard about the accident on the road at the time two weeks ago—& was uneasy enough until I heard definite particulars—such things seem the fortune of RR travel, which I sometimes think more risky than the "fortune of war," which the knowing ones know well is more chance & accident (I mean the victory in battles) than it is generalship—

—Pete I am sitting up here alone in my room, 8 o'clock p m, writing this—I am feeling quite comfortable—I stood the cold snap of the last three days very well—to-day has been moderate & nice here—Nothing new or special in my affairs—I am selling a few of my books (the new 2 Vol. 10 dollar edition) from time to time—mostly to English & Irish purchasers—it is quite funny how many of my books are sent for from Ireland2

Love to you dearest son—

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. That this letter was written in 1876 is evidenced by Whitman's references to his paralysis in the first paragraph and to the 1876 edition in the last paragraph and by an entry in his Commonplace Book (Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). [back]

2. A reference to Edward Dowden, who was primarily responsible for Whitman's popularity among students in Dublin. [back]


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