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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 18 October 1868

Dear boy & comrade,

I sent off a letter to you yesterday noon, but towards evening Mr. Davis brought me up from the p. o. yours of the 15th,2 which I was so glad to get that you shall have an answer right off. After the flurry of snow I told you of yesterday morning, we had a pleasant clear afternoon. I took a long walk, partly through the woods, and enjoyed it much. The weather was pretty cold & sharp, & remains so yet. As I left my overcoat in Washington, I have been compelled to get something here—so I have bought me a great iron-grey shawl, which I find very acceptable. I always had doubts about a shawl, but have already got used to mine, & like it first rate. In the evening, I went by invitation to a party of ladies & gentlemen—mostly ladies. We had a warm, animated talk, among other things about Spiritualism. I talked too, indeed went in like a house afire. It was good exercise—for the fun of the thing. I also made love to the women, & flatter myself that I created at least one impression—wretch & gay deceiver that I am. Then away late—lost my way—wandered over the city, & got home after one o'clock.3

The truth is, Peter, that I am here at present times mainly in the midst of female women, some of them young & jolly—& meet them most every evening in company—& the way in which this aged party comes up to the scratch & cuts out the youthful parties & fills their hearts with envy is absolutely a caution. You would be astonished, my son, to see the brass & coolness, & the capacity of flirtation & carrying on with the girls—I would never have believed it of myself. Brought here by destiny, surrounded in this way—& as I in self defence would modestly state—sought for, seized upon & ravingly devoured by these creatures—& so nice & smart some of them are, & handsome too—there is nothing left for me—is there—but to go in. Of course, young man, you understand, it is all on the square. My going in amounts to just talking & joking & having a devil of a jolly time, carrying on—that's all. They are all as good girls as ever lived. I have already had three or four such parties here—which, you will certainly admit, considering my age & heft, to say nothing of my reputation, is doing pretty well.

I go about quite a good deal—this is as handsome a city, as I ever saw. Some of the streets run up steep hills. Except in a few of the business streets, where the buildings are compact—in nine-tenths of the city, every house stands separate, & has a little or quite a deal of ground about it, for flowers, & for shade or fruit trees, or a garden. I never saw such a prosperous looking city—but of course no grand public buildings like Washington.

This forenoon I have been out away down along the banks of the river & cove, & making explorations generally. All is new to me, & I returned quite tired. I have eat a hearty dinner. Then I thought I would come up & sit a while in my room. But as I did not feel like reading, I concluded to write this precious screed. Fortunate young man, to keep getting such instructive letters—aint you? It is now four o'clock & bright & cool, & I have staid in long enough. I will sally forth, on a walk, & drop this in the P. O. before supper. So long, dear Pete—& my love to you as always, always.



  • 1. This draft letter is endorsed, "10th letter." [back]
  • 2. Doyle's October 14, 1868 letter, dated "Oct 14—4," mentioned the death of a cousin and a plot to assassinate the president: "all the boys sends their love— | Pete X X." [back]
  • 3. Walt Whitman's directions for transposing material are confusing at this point. Possibly in the letter he sent he deleted this sentence, which interrupted his gossip about the ladies. [back]
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