Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 15 March [1872]

 loc.01544.001_large.jpg 1871 '72 Dear son,

I will just write you a line, as you may be looking for word from me Saturday. The weather has let up a little, but it is cold enough yet—I have been to the Italian Opera twice, heard Nilsson both times,—she is very fine—One night Trovatore & one, Robert, with Brignoli—both good2


I expect to return in about two weeks—I am writing this here in the kitchen home,—I have deserted my own room this visit, as it is so cold, even with a fire—Mother had a bad spell three days, commencing Sunday last.—but is about as usual to-day & yesterday—We have splendid buckwheat cakes for breakfast—sometimes  loc.01544.003_large.jpgI fry them myself—I wish you could just be here & eat breakfast—I think my mammy makes the best coffee in the world, & buckwheats ditto—mince-pies ditto—

—My new edition looks the best yet—it is from the same plates as the last, only in One Vol. bound handsomely in green cloth—my books are beginning to do pretty well—I send you the publisher's slip—


Well Pete I believe that is all this time—Remember me to any of the boys on the road that may inquire for me—also to Adrian Jones,3 that works in the theatre—it is now after 10, Friday forenoon, clear, cold, & windy—& I am going over to N.Y. to have a lot of my books sent to England by to-morrow's steamer—Dear son, I send my best love, as always. We will soon be together again dear son.


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. This letter is addressed: Peter Doyle, | Conductor, | Office | Wash. & Georgetown City RR. | Washington | D. C. It is postmarked: New York | Mar | 15 | 1:30 PM. [back]
  • 2. Christine Nilsson (1843–1921), the Swedish soprano, appeared in Il Trovatore during the week of March 4 and in Meyerbeer's Robert le Diable on March 11, with Pasquale Brignoli (see the letter from Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman of April 16, 1867). [back]
  • 3. Listed in the Directory of 1872 as a messenger. [back]
Back to top