Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 26 September [1873]

Date: September 26, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01752

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, "1873," and "1873," are 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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Friday noon, 26th Sept.

Dear son Pete,

Your letter of yesterday came this forenoon—that was a rather serious runaway of cars in the tunnel a week ago—& mighty lucky to get off as you all did—Pete I got a few lines from Parker Milburn—he told me you had a very bad sore on a finger of right hand—they are plaguey bad things—I am in hopes yours will partly make up in giving you a little resting spell. I sent you "the Children of the Abbey,"1 an old novel that used to be all the rage—did you get it? To-day here is a great turn out & dedication of the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia—it is truly a handsome & noble building. A rain last night here, & to-day is really perfect. The Camden free masons marched by here this morning, about 250, the finest collection of men I thought I ever saw, but poor music, all brass, a lot of fat young Dutchmen, blowing as if they would burst, & making a hell of a hullabaloo—

Pete I am about the same—may be a little improved in general strength—had bad spells a good deal all the earlier part of the week—some very bad—but feel better yesterday & to-day—I am making some calculations of the cool weather—think it may be favorable to me—did not go out any yesterday—shall try to get out this afternoon a couple of hours—I don't know a soul here,—am entirely alone—sometimes sit alone & think, for two hours on a stretch—have not formed a single acquaintance here, any ways intimate—My sister-in-law is very kind in all housekeeping things, cooks what I want, has first-rate coffee for me & something nice in the morning, & keeps me a good bed & room—All of which is very acceptable—(then, for a fellow of my size, the friendly presence & magnetism needed, somehow, is not here—I do not run foul of any)—Still I generally keep up very good heart—still think I shall get well—When I have my bad spells, I wait for them to fade out—I have got a letter from Charley Towner—I am finishing this by the open window—still in the rooms where my mother died, with all the old familiar things—but all drawing to a close, as the new house is done, & I shall move on Monday.


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. The Children of the Abbey, by the Irish novelist Regina Marie Roche (1764?–1845), was published in 1798 in four volumes. [back]


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