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Peter Doyle to Walt Whitman, [5–6 October 1868]

Dear Walt,

I should have wrote to you saturday or yesterday, but i lost the Two last [Washington] Stars1 paper. i had them on the car & somebody took them out  However, i will get them today & send them to you  you will find them interesting as Fridays paper contains a piece about you  the same i think that was in the NY Times & saturdays paper has got a letter from Mr. Noyes2  by the way, Mr. Noyes is in town  he was on my car yesterday (sunday) & he looks first rate  i told him i sent you the star containing his letter3 and it seemed to please him very much. I have seen Pittsburg4 & showed him the letter you wrote to him  it pleased him firstrate to mention them N.Y. Drivers5  he told Me to send his love & also to state that Wm Sydnor6 is well and allright again & is at work Jim Sorrill7 sends his love & says Charley's8 baby is well & doing first rate  Dave9is well & sends you his love & says he wont go to the Springs again for a long time yet & told me to ask you if you wont take a trip with us tonight  Richings Opera troupe10 is drawing good houses  they bring out two new operas this week, one is your favortie, Travi[a]ta  they are also sweeping the Dust & Cobwebs out of the Walls Opera House11  the[y] open tonight with Uncle Toms Cabin.

I would like to send you a Picture of Dave  as i write this, he is about two thirds asleep in one end of the car while i sit in the other end writing this letter  I received your letter of the 2nd12 all right on Saturday, also the N.Y. Times  I sent you a letter on Friday13 which will explain how i am getting along  i am doing tip top at present

Yours as Ever, Pete

P.S. as i was sealing this up to send away Mr. Hart14 of the Cronicle​ 15 stepped on the car & asked me if i sent him the NY Times  i told him i expected it was you & he seemed Very much pleased with it  it came too late for the sunday cronicle, so he will put it in some of the Daily

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 Washington Star was a daily newspaper established in 1852 by Joseph Borrows Tate. In 1867, Crosby Stuart Noyes, Samuel H. Kauffmann, and George Adams purchased the paper, and Noyes then served as editor from 1867 until his death in 1908. [back]
  • 2. Crosby Stuart Noyes (1825–1908) was editor of the Washington Star from 1867 until his death. [back]
  • 3. In his letter of October 6, 1868, Whitman acknowledged a letter from Doyle sent October 1, 1868, and mentioned Mr. Noyes' letters in the Washington Star, writing "I read Mr. Noyes' western letters with pleasure" (Richard Maurice Bucke, ed., Calamus: A Series of Letters Written During the years 1868–1880 by Walt Whitman to a Young Friend (Peter Doyle) [Norwood, Pa.: Norwood Editions, 1977], 40). [back]
  • 4. Lewis Wraymond (or Raymond), also called "Pittsburgh," worked for one of the Washington railroads. See Peter Doyle's letter to Whitman from September 27, 1868. [back]
  • 5. In his letter to Lewis Wraymond (Pittsburgh) of October 2, 1868, Whitman mentions the Washington railroad man: "Tell Johnny Miller there is still a sprinkling of the old Broadway drivers left. Balky Bill, Fred Kelly, Charley McLaughlin, Tom Riley, Prodigal, Sandy, &c. &c. are still here. Frank McKinney & several other old drivers are with Adams Express." [back]
  • 6. Whitman described William Snydor as a "driver car boy on Pittsburgh's car 7th st" (Whitman's Commonplace Book, Charles E. Feinberg Collection of the Papers of Walt Whitman, 1839–1919, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.). Whitman inquired about Sydnor's health in his October 2, 1868, letter to Lewis Wraymond. [back]
  • 7. Jim Sorrell (sometimes spelled Sorrill) was a driver, along with his brother Charley. Peter Doyle wrote on September 27, 1868: "Jim Sorrill Sends his love & best respects & says he is alive & kicking but the most thing that he dont understand is that young Lady that said you make such a good bed fellow." [back]
  • 8. Charley Sorrell and his brother, Jim, were drivers. [back]
  • 9. David Stevens was a driver or conductor. On September 7, 1874, Whitman recorded a visit from Stevens, who was at that time a driver in Philadelphia (Whitman's Commonplace Book). [back]
  • 10. The Richings Opera Company, formed in 1859 by American actor Peter Richings (1797–1871), toured the United States. Richings's adopted daughter Caroline Richings (1827–1882) directed the troupe after her father retired in 1867. In 1870, the company was renamed the Caroline Richings Bernard Grand Opera Combination. She later married tenor Peter Bernard. [back]
  • 11. The Walls Opera House was located on 9th Street in Washington, D. C., between Constitution Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue. In 1931, the federal government purchased the property in order to demolish it to make way for the Federal Triangle office buildings. [back]
  • 12. In his letter to Doyle on October 2, 1868, Whitman begins: "You say it is a pleasure to get my letters—well boy, it is a real pleasure to me to write to you" (Richard Maurice Bucke, ed., Calamus: A Series of Letters Written During the years 1868–1880 by Walt Whitman to a Young Friend (Peter Doyle) [Norwood, Pa.: Norwood Editions, 1977], 38). [back]
  • 13. This letter has not been located. [back]
  • 14. Michael C. Hart was listed as a printer in the Washington Directory of 1869. Whitman sent Hart publicity puffs for insertion in the Washington Daily Morning Chronicle. [back]
  • 15. The Washington Daily Morning Chronicle was a District of Columbia newspaper published from 1862 to 1874. [back]
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