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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 14 October [1868]

 loc.01514.001_large.jpg 8th letter Dear boy Pete,

There is great excitement here over the returns of yesterdays elections, as I suppose there is the same in Washington also—the Democrats look blue enough, & the Republicans are on their high horses.1 I suppose Grants' success is now certain. As I write, the bands are out here, parading the streets, & the drums beating. It is now forenoon. To-night we will hear the big guns, & see the blazing bonfires. It is dark & cloudy weather here to-day. I was glad to get your letter of Friday, 9th which is the last2—also a Star at same time. Also this morning, Star an Express of 12th. I suppose you rec'd mine of the 9th & the papers. I am about as well as usual. Mother is well, & my brothers the same. I am going to-morrow to Providence, R. I. to spend a few days. Should you write any time within four or five days after receiving this, direct to me, care of Hon. Thomas Davis, Providence, R. I.3

My friend O'Connor is quite unwell, and is absent from Washington away down on the New England coast.4 I received a letter from him yesterday. I believe I told you I was finishing up about 230 copies of my book, expecting to sell them. I have had them finished up & bound &c. but there is a hitch about the sale, & I shall not be able to sell them at present. There is a pretty strong enmity here toward me, & L. of G., among certain classes—not only that it is a great mess of crazy talk & hard words, all tangled up, without sense or meaning, (which by the by is, I believe, your judgment about it)—but others sincerely think that it is a bad book, improper, & ought to be denounced & put down, & its author along with it. There are some venemous but laughable squibs occasionally in the papers. One said I had received 25 guineas for a piece in an English magazine, but that it was worth all that for any one to read it. Another, the  loc.01514.002_large.jpg  loc.01514.003_large.jpg World, said "Walt Whitman was in town yesterday, carrying the blue cotton umbrella of the future."5 (It had been a drizzly forenoon)—So they go it. When they get off a good squib, however, I laugh at it, just as much as any one.

Dear Pete I hope this will find you well & in good spirits. Dear boy, I send you my love. I will write you a line from Providence. So long, Pete.


I have been debating whether to get my leave extended, & stay till election day to vote—or whether to pair off with a Democrat, & return, (which will amount to the same thing.) Most likely I shall decide on the latter, but don't know for certain.6


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. After Pennsylvania went Republican in the elections held on October 13, 1868, the New York Times remarked editorially on the following day: "This splendid civil triumph of Gen. Grant is only surpassed by his brilliant military achievements." [back]
  • 2. Doyle's October 9, 1868 letter contained gossip about Washington friends. [back]
  • 3. In his September 27, 1868 letter to William Francis Channing, Whitman accepted Channing's invitation to visit Providence. Whitman's October 17, 1868 letter to Peter Doyle detailed this visit. [back]
  • 4. O'Connor described in his letter of October 9, 1868, the physical and emotional exhaustion which forced him to leave Washington on September 30, 1868, to vacation at Jamestown, R. I.: "My purpose was to kill two birds with one stone—get well and fix up the 'Carpenter,' but I fear neither are likely to be effected. I feel wretchedly unwell, and can't think of composition." [back]
  • 5. The New York World, October 3, 1868; the quotation is accurate except for the insertion of "carrying." On October 8, 1868, the World, probably borrowing from the New York Times of October 1, 1868, announced "Freiligrath's" translation, and two days later the newspaper reported that "Walt. Whitman visited THE WORLD office yesterday." [back]
  • 6. Walt Whitman excised: "Remember me to Coley, John Towers, Jim Sorrell, Dave Stevens, & all the boys." [back]
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