Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, [9? June 1873]

Date: June 9, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01739

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: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Zachary King, Eric Conrad, and Nicole Gray

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Dear Pete,1

I have been very unwell—but am better again—at least at the present moment.

I am stopping at Mr. Ashton's, 1202 K st. next door to the southwest cor. of K and 12th—Come up & see me.—I wrote you a line two days ago, to Milburn's2—Did you not get it?3


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. Dated 1873 in The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1902), 10 vols. The executors had trouble dating this note because they were convinced that Whitman did not return to Washington immediately after his mother's death; see The Complete Writings, 8:89n. [back]

2. Milburn's drug store. Doyle was evidently not informed of Whitman's move. [back]

3. Charles W. Eldridge wrote to John Burroughs on June 26 about Whitman's health: "Walt returned here about a week after the funeral in a very depressed condition and complaining more in regard to himself than I have ever heard him do since he got sick. . . . I begin to doubt whether Walt is going to recover, and I am very apprehensive of another attack. . . . He is a mere physical wreck to what he was. . . . His mental powers seem to be as vigorous as ever, which is the brightest part of his case, but to be stricken with such physical weakness that he cannot walk a block without resting—it is very pitiful" (Clara Barrus, Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1931], 83). [back]


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