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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 6 March [1874]

 loc.01643.001.jpg 1874 or '5 74? Dear boy Pete,

I was quite shocked to hear of Parker Milburn's death2—he was never very rugged, but he kept up so well, & always had some cheerful, lively thought or saying—I was far from anticipating this—I think he had very noble traits, & both you & I liked him thoroughly—Pete, I hope he is better off—I will try to write a few words to Wash3

—Pete I have rec'd both your letters—I go out often in the Market st. cars past the West Philadelphia depot you speak of, but never get out or go in there, as it is a great depot, full of hurrying people, and hacks & drivers, & trains coming & going continually, & people rushing & crowding—too much excitement for me—So you saw Colein, in the Treasury—I saw him only a few minutes in a street car, but he could give you some report of me from his own eyes,4 & that I know satisfied you better—I am feeling quite an improvement, or let up, the last two days & nights on the bad spell I spoke of in my last letters—have slept better the last two nights.


To-day as I write here, it is cloudy, & feels a little like snow coming—it has been very mild here too—Pete, go up some time when you start out early in the afternoon & see Mrs. O'Connor, 1015 O Street near 11th—she will be very glad to see you. I hope you won't fail to go.

I am feeling quite comfortable to-day, as I write. Pete I sometimes think if I was fixed so that I had you with me every day, I should get well—good bye for this week, my loving son—

from your old Walt  loc.01643.003.jpg  loc.01643.004.jpg

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 | Mar | 6 | N.J.; Carrier | 7 | Mar | 8 AM. [back]
  • 2. J. Parker Milburn, age 38, died of pneumonia on March 1. [back]
  • 3. Parker Milburn's brother. [back]
  • 4. See the letter from Whitman to Doyle of February 27, 1874. [back]
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