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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 21 November [1873]

 loc.01623.001.jpg 1873 Dear Son Pete,

Nothing very new with me—I continue about the same—my general strength the best it has been yet—I go out a little most every day, but it is very cold weather here—I was quite non-plus'd​ at that affair in Bergazzi's with Frank Rives1—who is he? Is he some one I know? Was he drunk or loony? tell me more of it—what he said—the exact words—It seems unaccountable to me—from what I gather from your letter you did exactly right. If I hadn't met with some queer characters myself—& been the subject of such strange & unaccountable remarks—I should hardly think any thing of the sort possible—

I have occupied myself lately writing—have sent a letter to the Graphic, describing the Capitol, which they have accepted, and may publish Saturday or Monday.2 Have also written a poem which I have sold3—will send you one when it appears.—As I write this holding the paper on my lap I am sitting here in the parlor, by the heater—have had my dinner—drank quite a goblet of wine, which I believe has flown into my head. (My brother west, & another friend here, have both sent me presents of good wine—& I drink it occasionally, half water—but this time I have taken a little extra)—

—Pete, I thought I would send you a couple of shirts—so I have ordered them made here, got as near  loc.01623.002.jpgthe measure as I could—they will be done in some ten days, perhaps less, & then I will send them. I like mine so well, I have had yours made like them, with collars on. I have had no new togs made this winter. I wear my old gray suit, & the old black overcoat,—& when very cold, or stormy my gray shawl—If you should see me now leaning against Milburn's counter, you wouldn't see any difference from last winter—(but my heart tells a different story)

I have been in all day, & must get out a little—the evenings are the most tedious with me—I can manage to put in the days, but these long cold evenings, I think if I only had the right quarters in Washington, my own quarters & a good wood fire, & you with me as often as possible, I should be comparatively happy


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. Probably Franklin Rives, of F. & J. Rives and George A. Bailey, publishers in Washington. The nature of the barroom brawl (see the letter from Whitman to Doyle of November 28, 1873) is not ascertainable. [back]
  • 2. "Halls of Gold and Lilac" appeared in the New York Daily Graphic on November 24; reprinted in The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman, ed. Emory Holloway (1921), 2 vols., 2:42–49. Editorially the newspaper commented: "Walt Whitman's prose is as remarkable in its way, as is his poetry, and is characterized by the same curious rhythm and same wealth of color. . . . The public will be glad to learn that Mr. Whitman has in a great degree recovered from his recent illness—an illness which had its origin in the exposures undergone by Mr. Whitman in the army, and which at one time threatened his life. Though not yet as strong as he hitherto has been, he is still well enough to resume in a measure his duties at Washington and to wield his pen with as much effectiveness as ever." [back]
  • 3. "Song of the Redwood-Tree"; see the letter from Whitman to Henry M. Alden of November 2, 1873. [back]
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