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Walt Whitman to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, 1 January 1872

Well, mother dear, New Year has begun—it is the funniest one yet—there is a fog as dark as Egypt here, sometimes you cant see a rod before you—it has been so for two days steady—very muddy, & spells of drizzling rain—I am well & hearty—

I am just informed that I am to be transferred over to the Treasury Building, into the Solicitor of the Treasury's office (it is in the Department of Justice—is a branch of it)1—Mr. Williams,2 the new boss, wishes to bring some friend of his here—I do not know that I shall dislike the change—I can tell better all about it in a week or two—

I have applied for a good long leave of absence, to commence about Feb. 1st—I shall probably get it, but without pay, (or with only a small part pay)—I am willing to take a leave without pay—I want to come home for a while, both to be home, & to see about the new edition of my books—I am real well & fat & hearty this winter—but I believe I have got a little set against one thing & another here, (especially the grub,) & I want a change for a couple of months very much—

Mama dear, I want to hear about your last week—& George & Lou—I sent three letters to you last week, & papers—I knew that policeman Doyle3 that was shot dead here—he was Peter Doyle's brother—I was at the funeral yesterday—it was in the papers I sent you—love to you, dear mama—


I forgot to say Arthur Price4 is here, on the iron-clad Mahopac—the vessel is at the navy-yard—expects to sail soon—I am going down this afternoon to go on board the ship & see him—he is well & hearty.


  • 1. Walt Whitman moved to the new office before January 23, 1872; Whitman wrote of his new office in his January 23–24, 1872 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, saying, "I like this place just as well as the other" but bemoaning the overcrowded nature of the office. The official transfer was not prepared until March 10, 1873 (National Archives). [back]
  • 2. George Henry Williams (1820–1910), U.S. Senator from Oregon, served as Attorney General from 1871 to 1875. Williams dismissed Walt Whitman on June 30, 1874; Whitman "respectfully acknowledged" his dismissal in his July 1, 1874 letter to Williams. [back]
  • 3. Francis M. Doyle was murdered on December 29, 1871, by Maria Shea, known as "Queen of Louse Alley," when he went to her home to recover a stolen watch and chain. According to the Washington Daily Morning Chronicle, Doyle, a native of Ireland, was 38, had a wife and three children, and lived at 340 K Street. He had been on the police force for four or five years, and had served during the War for three years as a fireman on the U.S. Wabash. Among the manuscripts at Yale is a draft of an article which Whitman prepared for a Washington newspaper to answer criticisms of Doyle for his "arrest of a little boy, for theft." Whitman doubted that "the true interests" of the public were "aided by this attempt to make martyrs and heroes of the steadily increasing swarms of juvenile thieves & vagabonds who infest the streets of Washington." [back]
  • 4. Whitman refers to Abby Price's son; he wrote of Arthur's visit in his January 23–24, 1872 letter to Louisa Van Velsor Whitman. [back]
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