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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 25 September 1868

Dear Boy,2

I rec'd your second letter yesterday—it is a real comfort to me to get such letters from you, dear friend. Every word does me good. The Star came all right, & was quite interesting. I suppose you got my second letter last Wednesday. There is nothing new or special to write about to-day—still I thought I would send you a few lines, for Sunday. I put down off hand, & write all about myself & my doings, &c. because I suppose that will be really what my dear comrade wants most to hear, while we are separated.

I am doing a little literary work, according as I feel in the mood—composing on my books. I am having a small edition of the Leaves of Grass for 1867, fixed up & printed. This & some other things give me a little occupation. Upon the whole though I don't do much, but go around a great deal—eat my rations every time, sleep at night like a top, & am having good times so far, in a quiet way, enjoying New York, the society of my mother, & lots of friends. Among other things I spend a portion of the day, with the pilots of the ferry boats, sailing on the river. The river & bay of New York & Brooklyn are always a great attraction to me. It is a lively scene. At either tide, flood or ebb, the water is always rushing along as if in haste, & the river is often crowded with steamers, ships & small craft, moving in different directions, some coming in from sea, others going out. Among the pilots are some of my particular friends—when I see them up in the pilot house on my way to Brooklyn, I go up & sail to & fro several trips. I enjoy an hour or two's sail of this kind very much indeed.3 My mother & folks are well, & are engaged just these times in the delightful business of moving. I should assist, but have hired a substitute in the shape of a stout young laboring man.

I send you, by mail, a copy of the Broadway, with the piece in4 the same as I had in the car one day. It will not interest you much, only as something coming from me.

I think of you very often, dearest comrade, & with more calmness than when I was there—I find it first rate to think of you, Pete, & to know that you are there, all right, & that I shall return, & we will be together again. I don't know what I should do if I hadn't you to think of & look forward to.5

Tell Tom Hasset,6 on No. 7, that I wish to be remembered to him particular. Pete, I hope this will find you entirely well of your cold. I am glad to hear that your mother is all right of her cold. This is the time of year when they are apt to be pretty troublesome. I should like to have seen that match played between the Nat. & Olympics.7


  • 1.

    This draft letter is endorsed, "3d letter | Sept 25 | letters sent | 1st 18th Sept. | 2d—22 | 3d—25th | 4th—29 | 5th Oct 2 | 6th—Oct 6 | 7th Oct 9. | Oct 9—sent papers to | P. D. Harper's & Star | Charley Sorrell—Clipper | Wm Sydnor—Sporting Life | Jas Sorrell—Sporting Life."

    These "papers" probably included the September 26, 1868, issue of Harper's Weekly, which contained some of Thomas Nast's brutal cartoons aimed at the Democratic party. The New York Clipper excerpt, "The Oldest American Sporting and Theatrical Journal." The Sorrells were evidently brothers and drivers. William Sydnor was described in an address book as "driver car boy on Pittsburgh's car 7th st" (Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman, The Library of Congress, Notebook #108); Walt Whitman inquired about Sydnor's health in his October 2 (?), 1868 letter to Lewis Wraymond. Sporting Life was a weekly sports magazine.

  • 2. Since Walt Whitman's first two letters to Peter Doyle are not extant, this is the beginning of an extensive correspondence. Doyle, however, had written on the day Walt Whitman had sent his first letter. Doyle's letter of September 18, 1868 is characteristic. [back]
  • 3. At this point Walt Whitman inserted a direction to himself: "Mention the two letters I have sent." [back]
  • 4. "Whispers of Heavenly Death." [back]
  • 5. Walt Whitman crossed out the following: "I have been with M. (the lady that was there [in] W[ashington] . . ." [back]
  • 6. Perhaps Thomas Hassett, listed in the Washington Directory as a laborer. The name is spelled Hassett in Whitman's October 9, 1868 letter to Doyle. [back]
  • 7. The Washington Nationals defeated the Olympics 21 to 15 on September 21, 1868. [back]
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