Skip to main content

Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 16 April [1874]

 loc.01647.001.jpg 1874 Dear son,

I send you my letter a day ahead this week2—Nothing new with me—rec'd the letter of last Sunday—also the Capital, and the Herald—I had a day or two's visit[—]very acceptable[—]from John Burroughs3 last Saturday & Sunday—he has built a house on the Hudson river about 80 miles from N.Y.—has a little farm there, 9 or 10 acres, very nice—As I write I am feeling comfortable, (but every day & every night seems to bring its bad spell, or several of them.)—Somehow I still feel that I shall come round, & that we shall be together & have some good times again—but I don't know.

Your Walt  loc.01647.002.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. The date of this letter is confirmed by the account of Burroughs' visit in the letter from Whitman to Rudolf Schmidt of April 25, 1874. [back]
  • 2. Whitman ordinarily wrote on Friday; April 16 was on Thursday in 1874. [back]
  • 3. The naturalist John Burroughs (1837–1921) met Whitman on the streets of Washington, D.C., in 1864. After returning to Brooklyn in 1864, Whitman commenced what was to become a decades-long correspondence with Burroughs. Burroughs was magnetically drawn to Whitman. However, the correspondence between the two men is, as Burroughs acknowledged, curiously "matter-of-fact." Burroughs would write several books involving or devoted to Whitman's work: Notes on Walt Whitman, as Poet and Person (1867), Birds and Poets (1877), Whitman, A Study (1896), and Accepting the Universe (1924). For more on Whitman's relationship with Burroughs, see Carmine Sarracino, "Burroughs, John [1837–1921] and Ursula [1836–1917]," Walt Whitman: An Encyclopedia, ed. J.R. LeMaster and Donald D. Kummings (New York: Garland Publishing, 1998). [back]
Back to top