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Walt Whitman to the Editors of The The Daily Crescent, 29 December 1848

While I write, the snow is falling; so softly, so softly, come its pure white flakes! Moreover, it has a "good bottom," as folks call it when the ground is hard and dry, so as to make fine sleighing. It is somewhat singular what an affect this "free sleighing" always has upon business in New York—and indeed every where North. The moment the bells begin to jingle, that moment the tradesman rubs his hands, the various retail shops lay in a larger and better supply of goods, and folks prepare for buying and selling, on a scale twice as brisk as usual. Then the long rides, over to Brooklyn and up toward the Jamaica turnpike, and so on from ten to twenty miles and back again, over an avenue equal to your "shell road"—the jokes and merriment by the way—the "hot stuff" prepared so bountifully when you stop—not to mention the time-honored prerogative of kisses from the girls—or that other concomitant of sligh​ -rides, an overturn. Here in town, however, as convenient a way as any is to get in one of the long-route omnibuses, when you go to and fro—perhaps five miles—for a northern shilling. Then the moving panorama on both sides of you, and the numerous passengers who

"Have their exit and their entrances"1

at almost every corner. It's an opportunity to study character, as well as to have fun and a sleigh-ride.

Unfortunately, there are so many vehicles in our streets that the very best of sleighing, in the coolest of weather, is soon cut up. It is a custom on some of the Broadway omnibus lines, to put four horses to the largest and showiest sleigh, the first day it can run—and to continue adding two, each consecutive day the said sleigh runs. Winter before last, I believe they had eighteen horses on—which is the highest number yet attained.



  • 1. Whitman is quoting a line from the character of Jacques (the "All the world's a stage" speech) in William Shakespeare's As You Like It (1623). [back]
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