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Title: Sentiment and a Saunter

Creator: Walt Whitman [unsigned in original]

Date: April 13, 1842

Whitman Archive ID: per.00463

Source: New York Aurora 13 April 1842: [2]. Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue. Original issue held at the Paterson Free Public Library, Paterson, NJ. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the journalism, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Michael Seibert, Jason Stacy, Tyler Young, and Kevin McMullen




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Sentiment and a Saunter.

With the passage of the sun over its meridian, yesterday, we sauntered out of the Aurora office, through the Park, and across the flagstones that lead from the two western gates to the opposite side of Broadway.1 A brown faced personage, dressed in blue, with a cloth cap and a gold band around it, was standing on the steps of the lordly Astor.2 He appeared quite solitary and alone; his hands were folded in a melancholy manner under the tail of his coat, and he gazed down abstractedly upon the busy current that coursed beneath him. By the erectness of his mien, and particularly by the brass buttons upon his garments, we felt pretty safe in setting him down as of the American navy.

On we went. As we passed Colman's,3 we stopped a moment to look at the prints of "Abelard and Heloise,"4 and at some scripture pieces, that ornamented the bow windows. What soft and sunny coloring, and how smoothly the shades of light and darkness fell upon the proper points of the picture! And those hapless lovers—whose heart might not melt in sympathising sorrow at the story of their affection—affection bestowed "not wisely, but too well?"5 Powerful is the pen! There in Italy, some hundred years ago, lived an obscure young man, who loved as6 obscure a maiden. Thousands of cases, just like theirs, have occurred, and are occurring; yet preserved by the cunning magic of the author's quill, the history of Abelard and Heloise will continue among us, and through after ages, as now, will touch chords in the soul, and create pity for their miseries. Surely no weapon is so mighty as the pen, wielded by a master hand!

Again we wended on. The weather was delicious; beautiful sunshine overhead—balmy, fragrant air—and the sight of many happy faces—all contributed to make the spectacle one of cheerfulness and grace. Near the City Hotel7 we passed a man with the face of a goat; his upper lip was completely covered with black bushy hair, as were also his jaws and under his chin. People turned round in their walk to look at the creature. It is an abominable practice, this, of converting a human countenance into a locomotive map! Wasn't it Paulding, when he was navy secretary, who issued the order for a general shearing and cropping of these diabolical appendages? It would be matter for erudite investigation to discover what concert there is between this movement and the decline of barrelled hair.8

That Globe Hotel is a tasty structure, as far as we can judge from an outside view.9 Those neat lamps, and the quietly fashionable air of the whole place, suits our ideas to an iota. There is a kind of rich unostentation in the appearance of the Globe, which lt10 might not be amiss for "some people" to imitate. We mean this latter hint for pretensive parvenues—not hotel keepers.

Many of both sexes, fashionable ladies, well dressed men, a sprinkling of loafers, and rather more than the usual quantity of "people from the country," (you can always tell a rustic in Broadway,11 from his ill-at-easeness)—were out upon the pave. We cast listless glances, at the mingled mass, at every thing that was to be seen around—and so sauntered down to Castle Garden entrance.12

Then we turned and came slowly back to the place where we started, having spent an hour as pleasantly as a man could wish.


Notes:

1. The Aurora office was located at 162 Nassau Street in New York's so-called "Newspaper Row," just across Park Row from City Hall Park. Broadway borders City Hall Park on the west. [back]

2. The Astor House hotel, which was located on "Broadway, between Barclay and Vesey streets" was commisioned by John Jacob Astor and opened in 1836. It had several features that were unheard of in contemporary hotels. According to Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, "Its 309 rooms at times housed up to eight hundred guests . . . [e]ach floor offered bathing and toiltet facilities," and "featured gas lighting provided by its own plant." Due to its features and popularity "it remained the nation's most prestigious hostelry for decades." See The New-York State Guide (Albany: J. Disturnell, 1843), 77; Edwin G. Burrows, and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 436, 601. [back]

3. William Colman's bookstore was likely located at 203 Broadway. See The New-York City and Co-Partnership Directory, for 1843 & 1844 (New York: John Doggett Jr, 1843), 77. [back]

4. The prints depict the 12th century romance of Abelard and Heloise. Abelard was a famous philosopher and teacher, while Heloise, despite her young age, was known for her command of various languages. Abelard was Heloise's tutor, and they began having an affair. Fulbert, Heloise's uncle, discovered the affair, and ordered a group of men to castrate Abelard. Ashamed of his actions, Abelard became a monk, and encouraged Heloise to become a nun. While in their respective orders, they began exchanging letters that ranged from discussions of their prior relationship to religious analysis. See Juanita F. Ruys, "Heloise," in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History, Volume 1, ed. Bonnie G. Smith (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008), 445; John Marenbon, The Philosophy of Peter Abelard (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). [back]

5. The phrase "not wisely, but too well" is from the Shakespeare play Othello, Act Five, Scene Two. Whitman uses this phrase to describe the passionate, but ultimately doomed relationship between Abelard and Heloise. See The Plays of William Shakspeare, ed. Samuel Maunder (London: J.W. Southgate and Son, 1840), 716. [back]

6. The word "as" is incorrectly printed instead of the word "an" in the original issue. [back]

7. The City hotel was located at 123 Broadway "between Cedar and Thames streets." See Thomas Longworth, Longworth's American Almanac, New-York Register, and City Directory (New York: Thomas Longworth, 1836), 753; The New-York State Guide (Albany: J. Disturnell, 1843), 77. [back]

8. James Kirke Paulding (1778–1860) was the United States Secretary of the Navy from 1838–1841. Whitman probably refers to the U.S. Navy dress regulations that were approved in February, 1841, near the end of Paulding's tenure as the Secretary of the Navy. In addition to uniform regulations, the new dress code ordered that hair "be kept short" and "[n]o part of the beard is to be worn long excepting whiskers." See Regulations for the Uniform and Dress of the Navy of the United States (Washington: J. & G.S. Gideon, 1841), 14. [back]

9. The Globe Hotel was located at 66 Broadway in New York City. See The New-York State Guide (Albany: J. Disturnell, 1843), 77. [back]

10. "It" is misspelled in the original issue, with a lowercase "L" instead of an "I." [back]

11. According to Nick Yablon, the street that would become known as Broadway was "wider than other streets in New Amsterdam [the original Dutch settlement], hence its colloquial name "the Broad Way," which became its offical name under the British." After America achieved independence, Broadway became famous for the "prominent landmarks along its route: the Federal/French Renaissance edifice of City Hall (1812); the nation’s first luxury hotels, most notably Astor House (1836); elite theaters and pleasure gardens such as the Park Theater (1798) and Niblo’s (1834); and the crowning spires of St. Paul's (1776), Trinity (1846), and Grace churches (1846)." The combination of businesses, entertainment options, and religious institutions encouraged class mixing and "social diversity." Broadway appears frequently in Whitman's writings. In New York Dissected (1856), Whitman elaborated on the appeal of Broadway. He wrote, "The chief street of a great city is a curious epitome of the life of the city; and when that street, like Broadway, is a thoroughfare, a mart, and a promenade all together, its representative character is yet more striking." See Nick Yablon, "'A Curious Epitome of the Life of the City'": New York, Broadway, and the Evolution of the Longitudinal View," Journal of Urban History 44, no.5 (2018): 955-959; Walt Whitman, "New York Dissected: IV.—Broadway," Life Illustrated 2, no.4 (1856): 116. [back]

12. According to Tyler Anbinder, "Castle Garden was a beloved theater founded in 1824 within the walls of a former military fortress known as Castle Clinton, which sat on a little artificial island two hundred feet southwest of Manhattan's southern tip." In addition to serving as a theater, it hosted various cermemonial and social functions until the 1850s when affluent New Yorkers began to leave the area. In 1855 Castle Garden was converted into America's first immigration depot. See Anbinder, City of Dreams: The 400-Year Epic History of Immigrant New York (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2016), 146–147. [back]


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