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Walt Whitman to the Editors of The Daily Crescent, 17 August 1848

We were blessed with a most refreshing rain this morning, after a dry spell of three weeks, which had parched the ground to powder. New York is now in the height of the "dog-day" season. In every street, except those high up town, the very air one has to breathe is offensive, even without the loads of dust we have had of late. I am convinced that for some four or five weeks, the hot weather here is much more unbearable than any of yours at the South. Our evenings and mornings afford no relief during this time. The former are too disagreeable to sleep, and the latter send up odors to heaven whose offence is indeed rank. The heat is very stifling and oppressive, to people of feverish dispositions, causing a very fair idea of purgatory. Of course the only philosophy for the time is of that cool and easy sort which does not get disturbed by trifles. One had far better bear the ills he has than get excited and fly to others a thousand times worse.1 What's the state of the caloric in the Crescent City?

You can have no idea of the highly-strung interest felt by us New Yorkers in the progress of affairs in Ireland.2 It even divides public attention with the political matters of our own land. Surely, never before was there such a prospect of a collusion between power and right, as the last accounts from Ireland warranted.3 Here is the spirit-stirring appeal of the Directory4 for this city:

[We published yesterday the appeal above alluded to. It is a nobly and eloquently worded document, short but comprehensive.—Eds. Crescent.]

I see a little letter under date of July 24th, from Gen. Taylor,5 in which the old hero says, "I am not a party candidate, and, if elected, shall not be the President of a party, but of the whole People." Good for Taylor! Such letters do him benefit here, far more than may be imagined.

Notwithstanding the heat, the places of public amusement keep open and are doing a good business. Hamblin6 is progressing rapidly with his improvements of the Park Theatre, both internally and externally. I have no doubt at all that he will make the establishment pay, and that it will prove one of the most popular places of dramatic entertainment in America. At the Bowery, now, they are balleting—Ciocca7 and Miss Turnbull8 being the principal performers. Niblo's (the Astor Opera House,) gives light comic pieces; Barton's ditto; and the National (Chatham) the usual variety.

Have you had any meetings in New Orleans to raise contributions for Ireland? If not, will you allow me to suggest the holding of one forthwith?



  • 1. Whitman is alluding to Hamlet's "To be or not to be" speech from William Shakespeare's Hamlet: ". . . makes us rather bear those ills we have / Than fly to others that we know not of?" [back]
  • 2. Whitman is referring to the Young Ireland movement—an Irish nationalist movement that supported Irish independence. The movement had its origins in the Repeal Association's campaign to repeal the 1800 Irish Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland. Young Irelanders seceded from the Repeal Association and formed the Irish Confederation, garnering a strong base in Dublin, and exerting a lasting influence on subsequent separatist endeavors. Young Irelanders attempted an unsuccessful insurrection in 1848 with the aims of Irish independence and democratic reform and as a response to British Parliament's passage of a "Crime and Outrage Bill" that enacted martial law in Ireland in an attempt to counter Irish nationalism. The Young Irelanders' rebellion in July 1848, resulted in the arrest of the movement's leaders and the collapse of the rebellion efforts. Ireland would not become self-governing until 1922. [back]
  • 3. For the most recent account of the news from Ireland, see "State of Ireland," The New Orleans Crescent, (August 25, 1848), 2. [back]
  • 4. See "Address to the Friends of Ireland," The New Orleans Crescent (August 25, 1848), 2. [back]
  • 5. Zachary Taylor (1784–1850), a Southern slaveholder and a well-known American miltary leader in the Mexican-American War, was the Whig Candidate for president in the 1848 United States Presidential Election. Taylor won the election and went on to serve as the twelfth president of the United States, from 1849 until his death in 1850. [back]
  • 6. Thomas Souness Hamblin (1800–1853) was a Shakespearean actor, businessman, and theatre manager. Under his management, New York City's Bowery Theatre became a successful venue for American working-class theatre. Hamblin occasionally booked opera and ballet events, but primarily produced melodramas, romances, farces, and circus acts that appealed to the working class Bowery B'hoy audiences of the Bowery district. In 1848, Hamblin bought the lease to the Park Theatre, which he renovated and reopened; however, the theatre was destroyed by fire a few months later. [back]
  • 7. Giovanna Ciocca (b. 1825?) was an Italian ballet dancer who traveled to New York and performed at the Park and Bowery Theatres. [back]
  • 8. Julia Anne Turnbull (1822–1887) was a dancer and actress who was part of the stock company at the Park Theatre in New York. She studied ballet under the French dancer Eugènie Lecomte (1811–after 1843), and later went on to become a ballerina of national renown. Turnbull danced at the Bowery Theatre and went on a solo tour in 1847. For more on Turnbull, see "Turnbull, Julia Anne," Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia, Anne Commire and Deborah Klezmer, eds. (Waterford, CT: Yorkin Publications, 2002), 15:653. [back]
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