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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, [20 February 1874]

 loc.01641.001.jpg 1874 or '5 Dear boy Pete,

Well Pete, dear son, I have just had my dinner (stewed chicken & onions—good,) & here I sit again in the same old chair, in the parlor, writing my weekly screed to you—Nothing to brag of, this week—have passed a disagreeable week—mainly, I suppose, from a bad, bad cold in the head—have suffered badly from it, every way—but keep up and around—& shall get through with it, when the time comes—

Have not written any for publication  loc.01641.002.jpg the past fortnight—have not felt at all like writing—My Weekly Graphic pieces are about concluded—(the next week's, the 6th number, ends them—I am just reading the last proof to-day.)—I have a poem3 in the March Harper—as I believe I mentioned in my last. (I am told that I have colored it with thoughts of myself—very likely)

—Pete, I rec'd your letter last Monday—& Herald

—I have not sent you any papers or books lately—but will, again—As I sit here, concluding this, I am feeling quite comfortable. Take care of yourself my darling boy—

Your old Walt, as always.

Pete as I am a little in extra funds to-day, I enclose you $5—thinking (like Mrs. Toodles' coffin) it "might perhaps come in use, somehow"—

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. This letter is addressed: Pete Doyle, | M street South, | bet 4½ & 6th, | Washington, D. C. It is postmarked: Camden | Feb | 20 | N.J. [back]
  • 2. The allusions to his published works, in addition to the envelope, confirm the date assigned by the executors. [back]
  • 3. "Prayer of Columbus." [back]
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