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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 3 December [1874]

 loc.01671.001.jpg Dear Pete, Dear son,

I am getting over my late bad spell—I have been very sick indeed, the feeling of death & dizziness, my head swimming a great deal of the time—turning like a wheel—with much distress in left side, keeps me awake some nights all night—the doctor says, however, these troubles, in his opinion, are from a very serious & obstinate liver affectionnot from head, lungs, heart,—he still thinks there is nothing but what I will get the better of—(& we will trust he is a true prophet)—

I wrote about like the foregoing to Mrs. O'Connor,2 but  loc.01671.002.jpgwas too sick to repeat it to you—& that was one reason I asked you to go up there,—I havn't been out for three weeks, but ventured out yesterday for an hour, & got along better than I expected—& shall go out, or try to, to-day, as it is very pleasant—You must not be needlessly alarmed, my darling boy, for I still think I shall get, at any rate partially well & strong enough—The doctor is quite encouraging—comes every day—& I feel a good heart yet—My young fireman friend Alcott3 (I think I mentioned his sickness,) is dead & buried, poor fellow—I send you a bit of piece of mine about him from the paper—I have some spurts of visits, & company—but very little that goes to the right spot, with me—my brother George has got a horse & light wagon, & takes me out now & then—I enjoy it much—but I have been too feeble lately—altogether pretty lonesome here, but might be much worse—Love to Mrs. & Mr. Nash, & to all inquiring friends

Your old 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. The year assigned by the executors, 1875, is erroneous, as the notes below confirm. [back]
  • 2. Whitman wrote to Ellen O'Connor on November 23, 1874, with instructions to "read [Doyle] this letter—also give him the printed slip to read." [back]
  • 3. William Alcott; see the letter from Whitman to Ellen O'Connor of November 23. [back]
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