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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 5 December [1873]

 loc.01625.001.jpg 1874 or 5 1873 Dear Pete,

I am still holding on about the same—it is pretty certain I don't get behindhand, & that's about the best I can say—continue to get out a little every day when the weather will permit—but my walking power is still very bad indeed—Pete I sent the shirts1 this morning by Adams express—they are enveloped in a flat paper box about 2 feet long by 1 wide—I hope they will get there Saturday—(but possibly may not reach you till Monday)—(You must pay the freight there)—I hope they will fit—the blue one (it wasn't done till last night) is to wear over—I got the stuff, it is first rate Middlesex flannel, cost $5, (same as my summer suits are made of,)—is not intended to be washed often—but can be when necessary—must then be washed by some one experienced in washing nice flannels—I sent Graphic with my portrait2—(as they sent me some)—also my Capitol letter3—I rec'd your good letter last Tuesday


Dear son, I send you $10 for your Christmas present—perhaps you will need a pair of winter boots, (or some good cotton flannel for underclothes—or something)—I rec'd a good letter from Mr. Eldridge—Mrs. O'Connor was to come home last Tuesday—I sent a paper to Parker Milburn with my portrait—also to Charley Towner—I hope you carried yours up to Mr. Nash, as I know it would interest & amuse him & Mrs. Nash—give them both my love—(I see just a line in the paper that Mr. Nash had given some reminiscences at a meeting of the Oldest Inhabitants.)4—I see the B & P. RR.5 had a bad freight car accident last Wednesday night at Patapsco, but no injury to human life or limb—

—I have not been quite so well in the head yesterday & to-day—but am around as usual, as it is nothing very heavy—We are having a mild spell here, this is the third day, with partial rain & fog—It is now just after 1—I am sitting here writing this in the parlor by the heater—my dinner is about ready, & I am going—Every thing is very complete & correct here—but O I need your dear loving face & hand & voice—

Your old Walt

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 Doyle of November 21, 1873. [back]
  • 2. See the letter from Whitman to Doyle of December 5, 1873. [back]
  • 3. "Silver and Salmon-Tint," like "Halls of Gold and Lilac" a description of the Capitol, was published on November 29; it is reprinted in The Uncollected Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman, ed. Emory Holloway (1921), 2 vols., 2:49–53. [back]
  • 4. On December 4 the Washington Daily Morning Chronicle noted Nash's speech before the Oldest Inhabitants' Association. [back]
  • 5. Baltimore and Potomac Railroad. [back]
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