Life & Letters


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Title: Walt Whitman to the Editors of The Daily Crescent, 9 December 1848

Date: December 9, 1848

Whitman Archive ID: med.00986

Source: The location of the original manuscript is unknown. Whitman's letters to Alexander Hamilton Hayes (1806–1866) and John Eliot McClure (ca. 1809–1869)—the editors of The Daily Crescent (New Orleans, Louisiana)—were published in that newspaper. The transcription presented here is derived from The New Orleans Crescent (21 December 1848): [1]. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the correspondence, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schoeberlein, Zachary Turpin, Stephanie Blalock, and Jeff Hill

New York,
Dec. 9.

Eds. Crescent

Your friends here—and you may be satisfied you have "some" in these diggings—are delighted at beholding such an evidence of prosperity as the advent of your large and beautiful Weekly—which I submitted this morning, to the inspection of a knot of our craft, and of journalists, who all pronounced it a model newspaper. I hope you will keep up the character of variety which appears in it, and which is as much the spice of a newspaper, as of life. You needn't blush when I tell you that among good judges here, the Crescent is considered to be the best Daily in the south-west. Moreover, you know, print people are not over-fond of praising their contemporaries; and don't do it without strong cause.

The great topic of interest here (since the election is settled) appears to proceed from the existence of the cholera,1 which has arrived at last, sure enough. Thus far it has been kept at the Quarantine station on Staten Island, about seven miles below the city. Some three of four cases were landed from the Liverpool liner New York, a week ago; they were bedded in a large room, where there were several other sick persons. As others were landed, they went in the same room. But not many hours elapsed before some of the other sick persons exhibited symptoms of cholera too. The doctors, however, (who, as a class, are the most self-opinioned creatures under the sun,) wouldn't separate the original patients, till the spread of the disease threatened alarming consequences. They did separate them, though, at last, and put the cholera patients in an isolated place, by themselves. Since that time, the disease has spread little or none. From the best information, there have been about twenty cases; and half of these have resulted fatally. It must be borne in mind, at the same time, that most of these cases were of persons who were in all likelihood debilitated by disease or dissipation, and their systems sank under the exhausting drain of cholera. The weather, too, has been remarkably bad, for health. For the last three days—during Wednesday, Thursday and Friday—the air has been filled with a heavy, stagnated, foggy wetness, and the streets with mud and filth, and every object covered with clammy moisture. Of course, too, nearly every disease is now, through the popular alarm, converted into cholera.

We shall soon see how all this will change when there comes a dry, keen frost. I know the cry is that weather makes no great difference in the spread of the dreaded disease; but that is nonsense. When the nature of the atmosphere is completely changed, and exhalations are not developed, it looks likely that the same effects will ensue as from totally different causes!

Our young men are in some commotion, induced by the golden realities of California;2 and there is talk of fitting out ships, and much people going in them, to hoe up the gold. What splendid visions! and how much more reliable, too, than splendid visions usually are! Havn't you felt a "call" toward those shores which so

"Pour down their golden sands,"3

that people gather them by the tin cup-full? I must say I should have no sort of objection to go if I were'nt "tied down," in New York. Let us hope that the yellow tide will have to set this way, (through New Orleans, of course,) and that editors and printers and newspaper correspondents, may get some of it, with the rest.

As the river continues navigable, and the canals ditto, produce of all kinds remains low in price and plentiful in quantity. The latter part of yesterday afternoon was oppressively warm—and this on the 8th of December! One of the papers wittily says the telegraph has brought on a dispatch of Southern weather....The Simpson4 benefit was very largely attended on Thursday night; I am informed it will yield $1400 or $1500 profit. The play and performances generally were well sustained.....Exhibitions of various kinds—pictures and other works of art among the rest—are now very well patronized in New York. The proprietors of nearly all these places are making money....It is every way likely the plan of the "Battery enlargement" will be favorably decided upon before long. You won't know the old spot, then, it will be so much bigger.

Brooklyn, where it was burnt up—and that was about five acres of its best part—is being rapidly rebuilt again, with wider streets, and more substantial houses.



1. Cholera is a bacterial infection of the small intestine that is spread through contaminated water. Cholera causes severe dehydration and diarrhea. [back]

2. In 1848, James W. Marshall was employed by John A. Sutter to build a sawmill in what is today Coloma, California. Marshall found several pieces of gold, and the news of Marshall's discovery was the beginning of the California Gold Rush (1848–1855). The Gold Rush brought hundreds of thousands of people to California in search of gold. As a result of the rapid growth, California was able to enter the Union as a free state as part of the Compromise of 1850, while Native Californians and indigenous societies were attacked and pushed off their lands by those seeking their fortunes in gold. [back]

3. This line comes from the hymn "From Greenland's Icy Mountains," which was written by Reginald Heber (1783–1826), an English Anglican Bishop. [back]

4. Edmund Simpson (1784–1848) was an English actor and theatre manager. He worked alongside Stephen Price (1782–1840) who leased the Park Theatre in New York, and, after Price's death, Simpson became the sole manager. Simpson held the position until 1848, when he retired; he died later that year. [back]


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