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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 9[–10] October [1873]

Dear son,

Your letter of 8th came this morning—You did perfectly right1—I believe you are the greatest comfort I have & if I get well, our love & attachment will be closer than ever. As I write it is about noon, & I am sitting up in my room, with a window open & the bright sun streaming in. I have confused spells of the head, & have just had one, lasting about 20 minutes—they are not so bad & prostrating as those of last week—I have to just sit still & wait till they pass over. I eat my breakfast with relish this morning, salmon, Graham bread, coffee, &c. But did not rest well last night. John Burroughs has been to see me—staid a day & night—he has settled up & sold out in Washington, & left—He is building a home on the Hudson river, 75 miles from N.Y.—has 10 acres of land on west side of river. I am feeling quite bad to-day about a 13 year old boy[—]Rob Evans[—]I know here, next door but one—he has had his eye very badly hurt, I fear it is put out, the doctor has given it up—by an arrow yesterday, the boys playing—I thought quite a good deal of him, he would do any thing for me—his father was French, & is dead—the boy suffers very much—& the misfortune is a very, very sad one—


It is now ¼ after 12—& every thing looks so sunny & inviting out, I am going to try to get out on the walk for a few minutes—but I don't navigate as well as I did before I left Wn.


Another beautiful day—I enjoy it, but cannot go around in it—I went out yesterday[—]not far[—]but was badly overcome before I got back. At present my head cannot stand any thing. Still, to-day I am feeling rather better than usual. I have eat my dinner—beef steak & potatos​ , with pumpkin pie & a cup of tea—I eat very moderately, but with quite a relish. Dear Pete, serious as these spells are, (& seems as if they will continue to come on,) I still have abiding hopes & trust of my recovery yet—though I don't want to be too confident, & wanted you to be prepared for whatever might happen. I shall write a line to-day to Charles Eldridge—I am glad you have got some acquainted with him—I know him thoroughly—he is a thoroughly good & true man—has some ways & notions of his own, but the main things are as solid as the hills—Hinton too is a real good, kind man—

Now dear son dont worry about me—I think in all probability we shall yet be together—& that I shall come round to be wholly or partially better—but whichever way it goes with me, it will be all right—your latest two letters have been first rate—I read the one before the last, many times,—it is very dear to me.


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. Since Doyle's correspondence during this period is not extant, it is impossible to explain Whitman's comment. [back]
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