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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 9 October [1868]

Dear Pete,

It is splendid here this forenoon—bright and cool. I was out early taking a short walk by the river—only two squares from where I live. I received your letter of last Monday2—also the Star same date—& glad enough to hear from you—the oftener the better. Every word is good—I sent you a letter, on the 6th, which I suppose you rec'd next day. Tell Henry Hurt I received his letter of Oct. 5 all right, & that it was welcome. Political meetings here every night. The coming Pennsylvania & Ohio elections cause much talk & excitement. The fall is upon us. Overcoats are in demand. I already begin to think about my return to Washington. A month has nearly passed away. I have received an invitation from a gentleman & his wife, friends of mine, at Providence, R. I.3 & shall probably go there & spend a few days, latter part of October.

I am grateful to these young men on the RR. for their love & remembrance to me—Dave,4 & Jim & Charley Sorrell, Tom Hassett, Harry on No. 11.

Every day I find I have plenty to do—every hour is occupied with something. Shall I tell you about it, or part of it, just to fill up? I generally spend the forenoon in my room, writing &c., then take a bath, fix up & go out about 12, & loafe somewhere, or call on some one down town, or on business, or perhaps if it is very pleasant & I feel like it, ride a trip with some driver-friend on Broadway from 23d street to Bowling Green, three miles each way. You know it is a never-ending amusement & study & recreation for me to ride a couple of hours, of a pleasant afternoon, on a Broadway stage in this way. You see everything as you pass, a sort of living, endless panorama—shops, & splendid buildings, & great windows, & on the broad sidewalks crowds of women, richly-dressed, continually passing, altogether different, superior in style & looks from any to be seen any where else—in fact a perfect stream of people, men too dressed in high style, & plenty of foreigners—& then in the streets the thick crowd of carriages, stages, carts, hotel & private coaches, & in fact all sorts of vehicles & many first-class teams, mile after mile, & the splendor of such a great street & so many tall, ornamental, noble buildings, many of them of white marble, & the gayety & motion on every side—You will not wonder how much attraction all this is, on a fine day, to a great loafer like me, who enjoys so much seeing the busy world move by him, & exhibiting itself for his amusement, while he takes it easy & just looks on & observes.5 Then about the Broadway drivers, nearly all of them are my personal friends. Some have been much attached to me, for years, & I to them. But I believe I have already mentioned them in a former letter. Yesterday I rode the trip I describe with a friend, on a 5th Avenue stage, No. 26—a sort [of] namesake of yours, Pete Calhoun.6 I have known him 9 or 10 years. The day was fine, & I enjoyed the trip muchly. So I try to put in something in my letters to give you an idea of how I pass part of my time, & what I see here in N. Y. Of course I have quite a variety—some four or five hours every day I most always spend in study, writing, &c. The other serves for a good change. I am writing two or three pieces.

I am having finished about 225 copies of Leaves of Grass bound up, to supply orders. Those copies form all that is left of the old editions. Then there will be no more in the market till I have my new & improved edition set up & stereotyped, which it is my present plan to do the ensuing winter at my leisure in Washington.7

Mother is well, I take either dinner or supper with her every day. Remember me to David Stevens & John Towers.8 Tell Harry on No 11 I will go [to] the Hall again & see if I can find that man in the Sheriff's office.9 I send you my love, & so long for the present. Yours for life, dear Pete, (& death the same).


  • 1. This draft letter is endorsed, "7th letter." [back]
  • 2. Doyle's letter of October 5, 1868 contained gossip about Washington. [back]
  • 3. Whitman refers to William Francis Channing. See Whitman's September 27, 1868 letter to Channing, in which he accepted Channing's invitation to visit Providence. [back]
  • 4. Whitman refers to David Stevens, a driver or a conductor. [back]
  • 5. William James printed this paragraph up to this point, and commented: "Truly a futile way of passing the time, some of you may say, and not altogether creditable to a grown-up man. And yet, from the deepest point of view, who knows the more of truth, and who knows the less,—Whitman on his omnibus-top, full of the inner joy with which the spectacle inspires him, or you, full of the disdain which the futility of his occupation excites?" (Talks to Teachers on Psychology [New York: H. Holt and Company, 1899], 252). [back]
  • 6. Calhoun is cited in two address books (Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman, The Library of Congress, Notebooks #108 and #109); the former is dated September, 1870. Calhoun was involved in a street car altercation reported in Whitman's June 21–23, 1871 letter to Doyle. [back]
  • 7. The next edition of Leaves of Grass appeared in 1871–1872. [back]
  • 8. Towers was, like Stevens, a driver or a conductor. [back]
  • 9. In his October 2, 1868 letter to Doyle, Whitman responded to Henry Hurt's request for information about the New York Fire Department. [back]
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