Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 1 August [1873]

Date: August 1, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01746

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, "73," and "1873 or '4," are in an unknown hand.

Contributors to digital file: Alex Kinnaman, Elizabeth Lorang, Kathryn Kruger, Zachary King, Eric Conrad, and Nicole Gray

page image
image 1
page image
image 2

Friday afternoon
Aug. 1.

Dear son,

Your letter is rec'd to-day, and enclosed I send you $20—I want you to write soon—as I shall want to know if it reached you safe.

I am feeling relieved of the worst distress in the head, now for the last two days—had it straight along bad enough the first three days in the week—but yesterday & to-day it has mostly let up—have been out to-day, & over to Philadelphia—it is hard work, especially as I have no one to go with me—but I put a bold face on, & my best foot foremost—Is Wash Milburn there in the store? or has he gone on his vacation in the country?—answer me in your next—I think of writing a few lines to him—Hot weather here, but I don't suffer much from it—though I think it is bad for me, & I hope much more from the cool season, if I get through this—

Pete I too see quite a good deal of Railroad, & hear more—some 70 rods off is the great depot of the Camden & Amboy, bells & whistles & trains rumbling continually, night & day, & lots of RR men living near, around here—if I only felt just a little better, I should get acquainted with many of the men, which I could very easily do if I would I should like much to go on the trips so handy & cheap, right as you might say from my door, to Cape May, or to Long Branch, &c. to say nothing of the numerous fine jaunts from Philadelphia by RR. or up or down the Delaware by steamboat—

—If you was only here to convoy me—but I suppose no one is to have every thing wanting—(Pete, dear son, there was $89 coming to you, of the money you put in my charge, & now there will be $69 yet due you from me—your own soap)—As I write, it is 4½ o'clock Friday afternoon—I am sitting here alone, in the 2d story front room—every thing quiet here—I rec'd the other letter, & Sunday Chronicle—when you write, tell me who you see, & every thing,—I like such letters far better than the formal ones some send me—I had a visit from a good, kind-hearted, rather queer old fellow named Ingram,1 from Philadelphia—he said he see in the Phil. paper I was laid up very sick in Camden—so he came over, & hunted for hours through the hot sun, found me at last—he evidently had thought I was keeled up, & hard up, & he came to offer help—he has been a great traveler, is English by birth—I found him good company, & was glad to see him—he has been twice—so you see there are good souls left—

—Pete when you see Judge Fisher2 tell him I shall yet be back all right one of these days, & in the mean time tell him I send him my love—also my love to Mr & Mrs. Nash the next time you go there—so good by for the present my darling son, & you must keep good heart, for I do, though it is pretty glum around & over me sometimes


Pete you must read this over Sunday, as a ten minutes' talk like, about all sorts of odds & ends

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. William Ingram kept a tea store in Philadelphia. To Horace Traubel, Whitman observed: "He is a man of the Thomas Paine stripe—full of benevolent impulses, of radicalism, of the desire to alleviate the sufferings of the world—especially the sufferings of prisoners in jails, who are his protégés" (Horace Traubel, With Walt Whitman in Camden (1906–1996), 9 vols., 1:185). [back]

2. George P. Fisher (1817–1899) served in the House of Representatives from 1860 to 1862, and was appointed by Lincoln in 1863 to the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia. He presided at the trial of John H. Surratt, which Whitman described in a letter to Alfred Pratt of July 25, 1867. Fisher left the bench in 1870 to become District Attorney of the District of Columbia. [back]


Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Matt Cohen, Ed Folsom, & Kenneth M. Price, editors.