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Peter Doyle to Walt Whitman, [9 October 1868]

Dear Walt,

I received your Welcome letter on the 8 ins​ accompanied With a copy of New York Herald  I am Very thankful for the Paper  but i think your description of the Procession beats theirs all to pieces  I can almost imagine myself Wedged & Blocked in on a 3rd Ave car.1 Nothing of interest here at present every thing looks Very Dull & Miserable  yesterday & today is Very Cold  leaves all falling off the trees strewing the ground in every direction  since i wrote last, i came across Sydnor2 driver of 7th St  he is well & doing first rate3 he sends his love & best respect. Mr. Hart4 got on my car last night on my last trip. We had a long conversation about everything in general  first we commenced on home affairs  he is troubled a good deal about a house he bought & now wants to get rid of it  We next started on Politics  he would Vote for Grant5 but he is no Radical & last we wound up with Newspapers  he wants to start a paper here soon  he is tired of working for others  You may not be interested with his affairs so i will come to close  excuse this short letter as my car is going [to] start & i want [to] put this in the mail

good bye My Dear friend Pete

i will write a long one next Sunday as i am off

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. Doyle may be referring to Whitman's letter of October 9, 1868, in which the poet chronicles his observation of the sights, sounds, and people on Broadway street in New York: "it is a never-ending amusement & study & recreation for me to ride a couple of hours, of a pleasant afternoon, on a Broadway stage in this way. You see everything as you pass, a sort of living, endless panorama—shops, & splendid buildings, & great windows, & on the broad sidewalks crowds of women, richly-dressed, continually passing, altogether different, superior in style & looks from any to be seen any where else—in fact a perfect stream of people, men too dressed in high style, & plenty of foreigners—& then in the streets the thick crowd of carriages, stages, carts, hotel & private coaches, & in fact all sorts of vehicles & many first-class teams, mile after mile, & the splendor of such a great street & so many tall, ornamental, noble buildings, many of them of white marble, & the gayety & motion on every side—You will not wonder how much attraction all this is, on a fine day, to a great loafer like me, who enjoys so much seeing the busy world move by him, & exhibiting itself for his amusement, while he takes it easy & just looks on & observes." [back]
  • 2. 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]
  • 3. In his letter to Lewis Wraymond (sometimes known by the nickname Pittsburgh) of October 2, 1868, Whitman inquires about Sydnor: "I have heard that William Sydnor on 65, was laid up sick. I wish to hear about him, & whether he is well, & again at work. If you see him, tell him I have not forgot him, but send him my love, & will be back in Washington again." [back]
  • 4. 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; see Doyle's letter to Whitman of October 5–6, 1868. [back]
  • 5. Ulysses Simpson Grant (1822–1885), commonly known as U.S. Grant, led the Union army to victory in Civil War. He generally supported Radical Republican efforts while he continued to oversee the army during the Presidency of Andrew Johnson, 1865–1868. Grant usually sided with Radical Republicans during his own two consecutive terms as president, starting in 1868 and 1872. For example, he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1871 into law, and he worked aggressively to beat back the rise of paramilitary groups, including the Ku Klux Klan. [back]
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