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About this Item

Title: Snoring Made Music

Creator: Walt Whitman [unsigned in original]

Date: April 18, 1842

Whitman Archive ID: per.00472

Source: New York Aurora 18 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.

Editorial note: This piece is unsigned. However, Whitman was the editor of the Aurora when this editorial was written, and Herbert Bergman identified him as its author in Walt Whitman, The Journalism. Volume I: 1834–1846 (New York: Peter Lang, 1998). The Whitman Archive editors agree that the style and content of the piece are consistent with other known Whitman writings of this period.

Contributors to digital file: Kevin McMullen and Jason Stacy

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Reader, was you ever so unfortunate as to be locked out, and put up at some lodging house where, much to your dismay, you are packed in a room containing some five or six single beds? Perhaps it is two o'clock in the morning—all the hotels are closed—and you have "Hobson's choice"1 in the matter, and it is this bed or none. You are tired, and long for rest. You get into the confines of sleep, when one of your fellow lodgers begins to snore; softly at first—a little higher—then a little stronger, till finally it resembles the grumbling of distant thunder. "Curse the fellow!" you mutter to yourself, and turn on the other side. Presently another joins in. His snoring is decidedly as disagreeable as the first, but his style is totally different—it sounds something like the short puffings of a steam engine.

"A damned comfortable sleep I am likely to have in this place!" you mutter again. But your troubles have only begun. A third joins in the chorus. His manner is essentially different from the others—a kind of long whine through the nose, ending with a snuffle. The music appears to be catching, for the whole five are now in rapid progress of snorification. You bolt upright in the bed, cursing your stars, night keys, and snorers. But it's of no use—you are a martyr; you would be just as likely to sleep, if up to your middle in a marsh, surrounded by bull frogs. Gradually the sound becomes so extremely ludicrous to your ears, that you endeavor to draw the vocalists into tune.

Snorer No. 1—Bass; deep and strong voice, bu rather ragged, thus—

"Who-o-o caw, puff; who-o-o caw, puff."

Snorer No. 2—Tenor; voice decidedly melodious—

"Huff whoo—huff whoo—huff whoo."

Snorer No. 3.—Soprano; a canting, conventicle sound—

"Whine whiff—whine whiff."

Snorer No. 4—Difficult to say what tones, but a mixture of all the above sounds. Now their dulcet notes join in sweet converse—

Who-o-o, puff; who-o-o caw, puff!
Huff whoo, huff whoo, huff who!
Whine whiff, whine whiff!
Puff, caw, huff, whine, whoo!
&c. &c.

You can stand it no longer; you clap on your breeches and toggery2 just as day begins to dawn, and bolt from the premises more weary and tired than if you had walked the streets all night.

Mem.—Never sleep in a room with a strange lodger.


1. Allegedly originating with an Englishman named Thomas Hobson, the phrase means to "take it or leave it." [back]

2. Clothing. [back]


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