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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 26 December [1873]

 loc.01653.001.jpg Dear boy Pete,

I have been looking for you the last two days & nights—but I have about given you up now. I have been kept in pretty close, as we have had real winter here, snow & bad weather, & bad walking—I have been quite alone, as my brother & sister went off to Delaware on Wednesday on a Christmas visit, to return to-morrow, Saturday—I am about the same—My strength still keeps quite  loc.01653.002.jpg encouraging—I think is better than any time yet—my walking no better, & still a good deal of distress in the head—but, as I said in my letter of Monday last,2 (did you get it Tuesday?)—I somehow feel a little more like myself than any time since I was taken down—your last letter was quite a treat—so much about Washington, & folks, one thing & another—As I write I sit here in the parlor—we have had an awful time from the fire going out in the heater, & making it up again—there is so much complicated machinery about one of these heaters with all the late improvements—give me my old stove & wood fire yet—It is snowing by fits here this morning.


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 year is confirmed by the reference to George's visit to Delaware, also mentioned in the letter from Whitman to Charles Eldridge of December 29, 1873. [back]
  • 2. This letter is apparently lost. [back]
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