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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 28 July [1871]

 loc.01540.001_large.jpg Dear son,

I shall return on Monday next, in the 12:30 train from Jersey city—(the train I usually come in)

Pete I have rec'd your letter of 26th2—Mother3 seems to-day full as well as usual—


I continue all right—I have been on to New Haven, about 75 miles from here—a former friend of mine4 is in a dying condition there, from consumption & expressed such a strong desire to see me, that I went on—I thought he would die while I was there—he was all wasted to a skeleton, faculties good, but voice only a low  loc.01540.003_large.jpg whisper—I returned last night, after midnight

—Well bub, my time here is short—I have had a good quiet visit—the best in some respects yet—& I feel satisfied

—My darling son we will very soon be together again

Your loving comrade Walt.  loc.01540.004_large.jpg

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 date of this letter is July 28, 1871, which was a Friday. The artist Charles Hine, whom Whitman mentions later in this letter, died in 1871, confirming the date of the letter. [back]
  • 2. This letter has not been located. [back]
  • 3. Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795–1873) married Walter Whitman, Sr., in 1816; together they had nine children, of whom Walt was the second. The close relationship between Louisa and her son Walt contributed to his liberal view of gender representation and his sense of comradeship. For more information on Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, see Sherry Ceniza, "Whitman, Louisa Van Velsor (1795–1873)," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
  • 4. Whitman's is referring to Charles Hine, a painter to whom he wrote on May 9, 1868. On August 4, 1871 Hine's wife informed Whitman of her husband's death: "I think after your visit to him that his hold on life seemed to give way and his yearnings were all accomplished." Mrs. Hine, who visited Louisa Van Velsor Whitman on August 22, 1871, thought it "strange" that Whitman did not write. According to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman's letter of September 30, 1871, Mrs. Hine had received a "donation" from Walt Whitman. See also Whitman's July 26, 1871, letter to William D. O'Connor. [back]
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