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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 9 November [1873]

 loc.01621.001.jpg 1874 or 1873 Dear son Pete,

By accident your usual letter was not sent to P.O. so that you could get it Saturday—which may have made you some uneasy—but you need not be, as I still continue to hold my own, full as good as at previous advices—I still remain clear of any of those real bad spells of the head—I cannot walk any better yet—but otherwise am getting along very favorably—I rec'd your postal card acknowledging the 10. I get out every fair day—shall go out about 4 to visit a family here, Col. Johnston,1 the jolliest man I ever met, an artist, a great talker, but real, natural first-rate, off-hand cheerfulness & comical-sensible talk—a man of good information too, travelled in Europe—an hour or two does me real good—he has a wife, daughter & son, all good—I go Sunday evenings to tea—Pete I send you a paper with a piece in about Richmond affairs, manufactures, &c I thought you might like to look over2—Here there is great talk of the proposed Centennial Exposition3—I will send you pictures of the buildings soon—


I am sitting here in my room, 3d story—We have had quite a storm—but at present the sun shines out, by spells—I am feeling quite comfortable—I would almost think of coming back to Washington—but have learned not to make calculations too soon or too sanguine—so I shall remain here for the present—If you see Col. Hinton tell him I am getting along favorably—tell him Mr. Linton,4 the artist, has lately called upon me—tell Hinton to be sure & come and call on me, should he come to Philadelphia—Tell Wash Milburn, & Parker also, I send them my love, & that I shall be back to Washington this winter—tell Parker I was sorry to hear of his illness—

—As I write, the wind is crooning and whistling around the house at a great rate—it is a music though I like to hear—

—That is a bad business, the shooting of Ryan, and the three good fellows, in Cuba5—the Spaniards will probably just keep on at their bloody tricks till the U.S. (& perhaps England) steps in & kicks them out of Cuba—which in my opinion ought to be done without delay—I suppose you knew Ryan by sight, he was around Washington so much—Well, good bye for this time, dear loving boy—


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. See the letter from Whitman to John R. and Rebecca B. Johnston of February 9, 1875. That evening Whitman gave Mrs. Johnston an inscribed copy of Drum-Taps (Trent Collection, Duke University). [back]
  • 2. An article in the New York Times of this date entitled "Attractions of Virginia" discussed the natural resources and industrial development of Richmond. Doyle came from Virginia. [back]
  • 3. The Exposition was held in 1876. [back]
  • 4. See the letter from Whitman to William James Linton of March 22, 1872. [back]
  • 5. The New York Times on November 9 reported that General Washington Ryan and three Cuban "patriot generals" had been shot by the Spaniards as traitors. An account of Ryan's career with the Cuban insurgents had appeared on the preceding day. [back]
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