Life & Letters


About this Item

Title: Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 3[–4] October [1873]

Date: October 3–4, 1873

Whitman Archive ID: loc.01753

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 afternoon
Oct. 3.

Dear Pete, Dear son,

I rec'd your letter the first of the week, & was interested in your acc't of your week of laying off, & of the playing of the band under Schneider and Petrola1—also about City RR. men—I send my love & best respects to all of them—

—I have had a bad spell again this week—for three days I have had a succession of those blurs again—only very much worse than ever before—last night I slept pretty well, & havn't had any of them yet to-day, but my head feels sore & ready to have them, almost if I move across the room—I am sitting here, feeling pretty bad, my head unsettled and dizzy—I don't go out any more—but am up & dressed—

—Still Pete I do not get discouraged but think it will pass over, & I shall feel better, & strong enough to come back to Washington—Still I don't know—I think it best to face my situation—it is pretty serious. I send you a card—& if I should get bad, I will certainly send you word, or telegraph—I will write Monday or Tuesday next—We have moved into my brother's new house—I am up in the 3d story room, fronting south—the sun is shining in bright—it is beautiful October weather here—My brother had a large room, very handsome, on 2d floor, with large bay window fronting west built for me, but I moved up here instead, it is much more retired, & has the sun—I am very comfortable here indeed, but my heart is blank & lonesome utterly

11 o'clock a.m.—sitting by the window—1st floor

I have just been talking with a young married RR man Thomas Osler, I fell in with—he has a bad bone-gathering on his left hand, a sort of felon, suffered greatly with it 5 days & nights—had it lanced yesterday, & is better—he stood by the open window, 1st floor, & talked with me, while I sat in an arm-chair inside—he is a regular RR. man—you could tell by the cut of his jib, low collar, cap, clean shirt (for holiday) dark complexion, & hard dark hands. I took quite a fancy to him & of course, I suppose he did to me—I believe he works on the locomotive

—Pete you must tell me how you put in the past week—I like such a letter as your last one—written two or three different times—It gave me a good idea of what you are doing—& also of how things look in Washington.—I have written a line to Col. Hinton & shall write a line to Eldridge—

3 o'clock p.m.—My head is feeling very sore & touchy & sensitive—I dont go out—I have re-written my will2—What little I have to leave I have left mainly to my lame brother Ed, poor man—Pete I have left you $200 & my gold watch—(but it will be much better for us to spend the money together, & I have no doubt we shall do so) This house is quite pleasant—it is on the corner—fronts south—side to west—plenty of light and air—and view—

This afternoon I am quite in hopes I am getting better of my spells to-day—as I have not yet had any actual spells, though I have felt pretty sick all day. But I have been up all day, & eat quite a breakfast, and quite a bite for dinner—

Pete I have written plainly, because I want you to be prepared, if any thing should happen to me—but I tell you honest, I still think I shall pull through—& that I shall be able to write better news early next week—don't you be alarmed yet


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. Whitman was fond of Salvador Petrola, a cornetist in the Marine Band; see Hans Nathan, "Walt Whitman and the Marine Band," The Bulletin of the Boston Public Library 18 (1943), 51, 53. Petrola became the assistant to Louis Schneider, who was appointed conductor in September, 1873. See also The Complete Writings of Walt Whitman, 10 vols. (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1902), 8:9. [back]

2. For a previous will, see the letter from Walt Whitman to George Washington and Louisa Van Velsor Whitman of October 23, 1872. According to Clara Barrus, Whitman also made a will on May 16, in which he bequeathed a silver watch to Doyle (Whitman and Burroughs—Comrades [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1931], 82). [back]


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