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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 30 April [1875]

 loc.01655.001.jpg Dearest Son,

I saw the RR. smash the first thing in the paper in the morning, & run my eyes over the account with fear & trembling—& only on reading it over a second time, was I satisfied that you were not in it—poor souls! for I suppose every one that was in it, had some who heard or read the news with pain & terror—some parent, wife, friend, or child—poor Buchanan—but I hope, from accounts, that he will get up again, before long, without serious damage—The papers here publish full, & I guess very good accounts of the whole affair—I liked what the Star said so plainly—that the cause below all others, of such accidents, is because they run such a route, over a single track—you may remember my warning on the same point three years ago, in a talk with you


Pete, this spring finds me pretty much in the same tedious & half-way condition I have been lingering in now over two years—up & around every day, look not much different, & eat pretty well—but not a day passes without some bad spells, sometimes very bad—& never a real good night's sleep—yet still I have a sort of feeling not to give it up yet—keep real good spirits—don't get blue, even at my worst spells—I am sitting here to-day as usual alone in the front room, by the window—feel pretty comfortable—the weather is bright & pleasant here to-day, but cool for the season, & the most backward I have ever known—My sister is going away for some 10 days to-morrow or next day, & I shall be quite alone in the house—wish you could come on & pay me a visit—Would you like to have me direct any letters or papers to the American Hotel, Balt.​ or shall I just direct to you at Wash.​ as usual?

—love to my darling son— 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. This letter is addressed: Pete Doyle, | M street South, | bet. 4½ & 6th | Washington, D.C. It is postmarked: Camden | Apr | 30(?) | N.J. [back]
  • 2. The railroad accident described in the opening paragraph establishes the year. Two trains of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad collided in a tunnel outside of Washington on April 26. Captain "Tim" Buchanan, a conductor on one of the trains, was hospitalized. [back]
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