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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 12–13 March [1874]

 loc.01644.001.jpg Dear boy Pete,

I have been in all day—I don't think I ever knew such long continued gales of wind—this is now the fourth or fifth day—night & day—& as I write it is howling & whirling just as bad as ever—I havn't been out any to speak of for three days—the gales are too much for me. My spell of let up & feeling somewhat more comfortable continues, with some interruptions—night before last, & for some time yesterday I was in a bad way again—but had a good night's rest last night, & am comfortable to-day—I think I am decidedly more improving, than going behindhand—

I have thought frequently of Parker Milburn—all his ways, & his good points, come up in my mind—& now the news comes of the sudden death of Mr. Sumner1—Your letter came Monday, & the Herald


Friday, March 13—12 M

Not very well to-day—To add to my troubles, a very bad cold in the head & all over me, again—this is the third attack this winter—but enough of grunting—The papers are filled with Sumner's death, funeral, life, &c. The cold, dry gale continues here. I get letters from Mrs O'Connor. Don't fail to go up & make her a call, when convenient.

You remember Arnold Johnson2 that used to live over on the hill by the Insane Asylum—well he has come back to Washington, & is Chief Clerk again Light House Board, & Wm O'Connor has changed to a clerkship in the Library, Treasury.3 I am sitting here alone in the same old seat in the parlor writing.

Good bye for this time dear boy— 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. Charles Sumner died of a heart attack on March 11. [back]
  • 2. See the letter from Whitman to Charles Eldridge of June 28, 1864. [back]
  • 3. See the letter from Whitman to Charles Eldridge of July 7, 1873. [back]
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