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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 5 November [1879]

 loc.01628.001_large.jpg Dear Pete

You will be surprised to get a letter from me away off here—I have been taking quite a journey the last two months—have been out to the Rocky Mountains and Colorado (2000 miles)—(Seems to me I sent you a paper six weeks ago from Denver)—I got along very well till about three weeks ago when I was taken sick & disabled, & hauled in here in St Louis for repairs, have been here ever since—am fixed comfortable—Still somewhat under the weather, (but have no doubt I shall be well as usual for me before long)—Shall stay here probably two or three weeks longer, & then back east to Camden—


Pete this is a wonderful country out here, & no one knows how big it is till he launches out in the midst of it—But there are plenty of hard-up fellows in this city & out in the mines, & all over here—you have no idea how many run ashore, get sick from exposure, poor grub &c—many young men, some old chaps, some boys of 15 or 16—I met them every where, especially at the RR stoppings, out of money & trying to get home—But the general run of all these Western places, city & country is very prosperous, on the rush, plenty of people, plenty to eat, & apparently plenty of money—Colorado you know is getting to be the great silver land of the world—In Denver I visited a big smelting establishment, purifying the ore, goes through many processes1—takes a week—well they showed me silver there by the cart load—Then in middle Colorado, in one place, as we stopt in a mining camp I saw rough bullion bars piled up in stacks outdoors five  loc.01628.003_large.jpg or six feet high like hay cocks—

—So it is—a few make great strikes—like the prizes in the lottery—but most are blanks—I was at Pike's Peak—I liked Denver City very much—But the most interesting part of my travel has been the Plains, (the great American Desert the old geographies call it, but it is no desert) largely through Colorado & Western Kansas, all flat, hundreds & even thousands of miles—some real good, nearly all pretty fair soil, all for stock raising, thousands of herds of cattle, some very large—the herdsmen, (the principal common employment) a wild hardy race, always on horseback, they call 'em cow-boys altogether—I used to like to get among them & talk with them—I stopt some days at a town right in the middle of those Plains, in Kansas, on the Santa Fe road—found a soldier2 there who had known me in the war 15 years ago—was married & running the hotel there—I had hard work to get away from him—he wanted me to stay all winter—


The picture at the beginning of this letter is the St Louis bridge over the Mississippi river3—I often go down to the river, or across this bridge—it is one of my favorite sights—but the air of this city don't agree with me—I have not had a well day, (even for me,) since I have been here—

—Well Pete dear boy I guess I have written enough—How are you getting along? I often think of you & no doubt you often do of me—God bless you, my darling friend, & however it goes, you must try to keep up a good heart—for I do—

So long—from your old Walt


  • 1. See also Specimen Days, ed. Floyd Stovall (New York: New York University Press, 1963), 215. [back]
  • 2. E. L. (Ed. Lindsey), who lived in Sterling, Kansas, with whom Whitman stayed on September 24 and 25 (Specimen Days, 219; Walt Whitman Review, 7 [1961], 10). [back]
  • 3. Whitman is referring to the picture of the bridge on the stationery he used. [back]
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