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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 7 [July 1873]

 loc.01743.001.jpg Monday was 9th June in '73 July 9 Dear son,

I am only able to write the same old story—since I last wrote, I have had some pretty bad spells—suffered at intervals all last week, & yesterday, with the strange & painful distress in the head, I have had so much of—But I feel better to-day—Every time I feel better, I find myself much encouraged—I still stick here, as I dont dare to trust myself in a strange place, if I can help it.


I rec'd your letter telling me you was too late to get any chance for the letter carrier's position—& about Mr. Noyes' friendliness—Are things just the same, as far as you and your crew, are concerned?—I think about you every night—I reproach myself, that I did not fly around when I was well, & in Washington, to find some better employment for you—now I am here, crippled, laid up for God knows how long, unable to help myself, or my dear boy—I do not miss any thing of Washington here, but your visits—if I could only have a daily visit here, such as I had there—


I go out very little here—there is not much convenience here, for me to go out—one car line, passing about two squares off, consists of 4 cars, running semi-occasionally—and another line, about 3½ squares the other way, has I believe 6 or 7 cars—I get out & take a ride in them sometimes—my best jaunt is going in them to the ferry, & crossing on the boat to Philadelphia, to & fro, several times—But a great portion of the time I do not feel able to go out alone—fortunately I do not have any dizzy spells, nor any symptoms of them, so far,—so I am not worried about that, when I am out—As I write this, it is a very pleasant cool afternoon, & I am sitting here by the window in a big easy chair


Pete I hope this will find you feeling well, & in good spirits—Write me a good long letter, & tell me every thing—it will do you good——how does the new time go on the road, since Baltimore tunnel connection?—how about Washington—Tasistro—everybody?—get a good sheet of paper, & sit down in the park, with your lead pencil—I send you an envelope—also some one cent stamps—

—Love to you dear boy—Keep up a good heart—I do yet—though it is a long & hard pull sometimes with me lately.


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. Whitman wrote "June" by mistake. [back]
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