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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 7–10 August [1870]

Dear boy Pete,

It is a beautiful quiet Sunday forenoon. I am feeling first rate, & have had quite a good day so far. After breakfast I went out & sat a long while on the porch in front, reading the Sunday paper, enjoying the cool & shade—& besides some real sweet music—A young widow next door, a friend of mother's, has been in her parlor the last three hours, singing and practising—she has a voice not powerful & ornamental as the opera ladies, but with that something, pleasing & tender, that goes to the right spot—sings good old hymns & songs—I have enjoyed it greatly—you would too—

It is now between ½ past 10 & 11—The distant bells are slowly ringing—Otherwise it is pretty quiet—The last two hours I have been up here reading my proof. I have four or five hours of this every day, which gives me something to do—an employment like.

Pete, I have just taken out your last letter, & read it over again—I went out on a kind of little excursion by myself last night—all alone—It was very pleasant, cool enough, & the moon shining—I think of you too, Pete, & a great deal of the time—

Tuesday afternoon 9th

I was out yesterday a great part of the day on the river to see the yacht race1—over a thousand spectator boats, big, little, & middle sized—many of them all drest with flags, bright colored streamers &c. streaming over the green waters, beneath the sunshine & bright blue sky—a grand sight—& the beautiful yachts & pleasure boats, lots & lots of them, with immense white sails, like great wings, tearing along in the breeze—the bay each side alive with people on the boats—150,000 people they say—the shores & hills covered for miles too—I was out again last night. It was fine—

Your welcome letter of the 8th has come this morning, dear loving son, & has pleased me, as always. That accident on the bridge was indeed terrible2—that bridge is a disgrace to Washington, any how—Pete, I wish you to tell Mr. & Mrs. Nash3 & your cousin, & all, I send them my best respects—Also Henry Hurt4—also Andy Woolridge5 on 7th st—

Wednesday afternoon  

Dear son, yours of 9th came this forenoon—I feel quite unhappy about your bad luck again—reported by some damned fool, & taken off by a worse damned fool—But you keep a good heart, Pete—school will keep some how—I have no room to write more at present—Dear loving son, I want to keep writing frequently.


just going out—Bub, just in the nick of time before I sealed this letter, as I had finished dressing to go out, mother sung out to me from the foot of the stairs—& I got your good welcome third letter. Pete, you are doing first-rate. I guess Pleasants6 was after something stronger than Kissengen7—Tell Dr. Milburn8 I dont find any place in N. Y. or Brooklyn to compare with his, for the mineral drinks—But I am living more to suit me in the grub line, this weather—not so much meat—mother's cookery, & quite a good deal of fruit &c.—A lovely broil'd steak & perfect coffee this morning—I wish you had been on hand, young man—


  • 1. The Queen's Cup Race, mentioned in Walt Whitman's August 3–5, 1870 letter to Doyle, was held off Staten Island on August 8, 1870. The Dauntless finished second, the America fourth, and the Cambria eighth. On August 9, 1870, the New York Times observed: "The contest was probably attended by more public and wide-spread enthusiasm than any American sporting event that has ever occurred, either on land or water." [back]
  • 2. The Washington Daily Morning Chronicle of August 7, 1870, noted an accident on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad at White Sulphur Springs, Greenbrier County, West Virginia, in which twelve people were killed. [back]
  • 3. Mr. and Mrs. Michael Nash, Washington friends to whom Walt Whitman referred frequently in his letters to Doyle. Mr. Nash was an old resident of the city; Walt Whitman's December 5, 1873 letter to Doyle made mention of a speech Nash gave to the Oldest Inhabitants' Association. [back]
  • 4. Henry Hurt, like Peter Doyle, worked for the Washington and Georgetown Railroad Company. According to the Washington Chronicle of January 15, 1874, at that time Hurt was the treasurer of the company. [back]
  • 5. Probably Andrew J. Wooldridge (not Woolridge), listed as a druggist in 1873. [back]
  • 6. Chief clerk in Walt Whitman's office (mentioned in Walt Whitman's August 25, 1866 letter to Andrew Kerr). Pleasants resigned as chief clerk in the Pardons Office in 1871; Whitman named him as "late Chief Clerk" in his January 9, 1871 letter to Amos Tappan Akerman. According to Charles W. Eldridge's letter to John Burroughs on June 26, 1902, Pleasants was "now, as he has been for many years," clerk of the United States Circuit Court at Richmond, Virginia (Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, New York Public Library). [back]
  • 7. A mineral water. [back]
  • 8. J. P. Milburn & Co., druggists: "Proprietors and Manufacturers of Milburn's Unrivaled Polar Soda Water." [back]
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