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Walt Whitman to Peter Doyle, 16[–17] October [1873]

Dear son,

I sent you a postal card yesterday that the bundle had come all right, with the right things I wanted. My condition is still what may be called favorable—that is I still keep up without having any of those decidedly bad spells—blurs as I call them—of a while ago—& in general I feel as well & as strong (such as it all was) as before I was taken with those spells. I go out again a little.

Pete I told you about a young railroad man, Tom Osler, 26 years old, that I met occasionally & talked with, that had a felon on his hand—I took quite a fancy to him, & he to me—Well, he is dead, killed instantly—(I have marked the piece in the paper already sent)—I went around yesterday to where he lived, it is near here, he was married, leaves a young widow, & a nice little 2 year old boy—I saw them—his body, broken & scalded, lay in the front room—Whenever you have the Star or Republican once in a while you can send them (you can send 2 for a 1 ct stamp) I dont mind their being a little old—I see the Chronicle and Capital at the reading room—I am feeling full as well as usual to-day, & think of going out & across the ferry—it is so pleasant this afternoon


—I went out yesterday afternoon—across to Philadelphia, & up to the Mercantile Library Reading Room, I have spoken of. Yesterday, & yesterday evening I felt better than usual—but am not so well to-day—the worst of my case is these fall backs—But I have been out a little to-day. My walking does not improve any at all. (Then to make things more cheerful, there are many deaths hereabout from paralysis)—

I quite miss poor Tom Osler. I am in the habit of sitting of the forenoon by the first-floor window, reading the papers, & Tom would often stop a few minutes & talk to me at the window, on his way to & from the depot—He would never come in the house, but seemed to like to stop & talk that way with me. My boy2 that had his eye hurt is doing rather badly too. About myself, my general strength not only holds out, but I think rather improves, which helps a good deal. Your postal card came—also a letter from Eldridge, enclosing the key.

Good bye for this time, my loving boy. 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: Peter Doyle | M street south | bet 4½ & 6th | Washington | D. C. It is postmarked: Camden | Oct | 17 | (?). [back]
  • 2. Rob Evans; see the letter from Whitman to Doyle of October 9–10, 1873. [back]
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