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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 4[–5] March [1872]

 loc.01523.001_large.jpg 1872 '72 Dear son,

I am sitting here in my room home, alone—it is snowing hard & heavy outside, & cold & wintry as ever—there has not been one mild day here for the past three weeks—two thirds of the time spiteful and gusty wind & clouds of dust—& this with bitter cold—seems to me I have felt the cold more than for the last three winters—But I reckon I have said enough on this point—Pete I cannot write anything interesting to you  loc.01523.002_large.jpgas I do not go anywhere, nor see anything new.—I have attended to the bringing out the new edition of my book, but as the plates were all ready before, it is not much of a job—I am home every night (& half the days also)

Tuesday noon

I am afraid this letter is not destined to be very cheering—I was attacked last night with sore throat, pretty bad—still I made out this morning to worry down a fair breakfast— loc.01523.003_large.jpgThe weather has been so infernal—last evening toward sundown, begun the spitefulest wind & cold I ever knew,—great clouds suddenly come up, inky black, & all of a sudden snow fell so thick & fast, it was like a dense fog,—so thick the hard wind didn't dissipate it in the least—This lasted about half an hour, & was about the highest old weather exhibition I ever witnessed—snow fell two inches thick in 15 minutes

Dear Pete, how are you getting along—how about Sailer1 and the RR?—I suppose slow & aggravating enough—by what you said in your last.  loc.01523.004_large.jpgDear Pete, I don't think I shall stay here as long as I originally intended—I shall be back by or before the end of this month—I am writing these lines home in the Kitchen—mother is sitting in the rocking chair sewing something—& Eddy is grinding some good coffee in a coffee mill—it smells good—(I have retreated to the Kitchen, for the hot fire—here now I am not like I am in Washington—you would laugh to see me hovering over the fire)—

—My darling son, you must keep a good heart—dont get discouraged—love to you, baby,—I enclose $10—& can send you whatever you want—


A Tremendous Blow.2

A few minutes before 6 o'clock last night, as many were flocking to the ferries on their way home from business, a boisterous southwest wind sprang up, which, veering round toward the north, developed into a hurricane. In a few seconds the sky was hidden by dark clouds, from which a heavy snow fell, and was driven along furiously before the gale. The suddenness and the fury of the storm created the greatest excitement around the ferries, and the fog bells were at once set in motion, but even these only added to the bewilderment, as the wind was so strong and uncertain. The James Rumsey ferry boat, from Hoboken at 5:50 P.M., met the full force of the storm, through which it was steered by means of the compass, and succeeded after the second attempt in entering its slip at Barclay street, having done the trip in twenty-two minutes. The Jersey City and Desbrosses street boat was safely steered through the storm by the compass. Several of the boats waited in their slips fifteen or twenty minutes for the storm to abate. Toward 7 o'clock the snow ceased to fall, and the clouds gradually disappeared, but the wind continued boisterous throughout the night.

N.Y. Sun

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. Charles C. Sailer, superintendent of the Washington & Georgetown Railroad, of which Pete was an employee. [back]
  • 2. Whitman pasted this newspaper clipping onto the third page of his letter to Doyle. [back]
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