Lot 187 of 395:
1847 North Carolina lawyer overwhelmed by the ‘great city’  

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Lot closed - Sold For (Includes Buyers Premium):$96
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Autograph Letter Signed - 1847 North Carolina lawyer overwhelmed by the ‘great city’

Washington, John N.

New York City


Dec. 18, 1847


4 pp. Autograph Letter Signed. Astor House, New York City.

To his fiancée, Sally Emery, New Bern, North Carolina. Visiting New York for the first time, the 28 year-old lawyer was overwhelmed, at first thrilled by the sight of Trinity Church (“the most magnificent structure that ever my eyes rested on, the most superb towers, domes, arches, the most beautiful and large painted windows!”). But after a week in the city, the “glittering show and enticing pleasures” began to pall: “…New York is… a great world in itself – a great volume wherein to study human nature! Every race from every clime of the vast earth is here; and every trade and occupation and character may be here met with. In the morning when I ride and look out upon Broadway, I am astonished at the thousands that crowd its sidewalks. All seem lost in their own peculiar views and objects of pursuit. None notices another, each in himself goes hastening on his way. Unlike the throng of other cities, there are no saunterers – all are walking as for very life. Some even run now and then to hurry on to their goal. At noon, I find no diminution in numbers or speed… and when at twelve o’clock at night I lay me down to repose, my weary limbs, the noise and hum of tramping footsteps and busy converse lulls me to sleep! All day long and…all night long, this continuous stream of human beings swell this almost unending street. Now it rises and swells like the laboring of the mighty sea, then it sinks down to the dull and sullen roar of the distant cataract; anon it bursts up with all the noise and strife of contending storms. And this is not the history of a day, but the never ending routine of this great city…The contemplation of this vast place and all its varied scenes gives birth to a thousand as varied emotions. At one time you are amused at the ludicrous scenes passing before you; in a moment after, you are sad and ready to weep over wretchedness and distress that takes their places. But the chief feeling that comes over me is that of oppression. I feel almost like suffocating; and then O! how I long for the quiet and even the gossip of New Berne! I never could be happy and contented in New York! Give me the sweet repose of country, or country town…I never in the whole course of my life went through with so much labor and fatigue. I do believe I walked twenty or twenty five miles daily during the whole week…the weather was worse than ever known here before, wet and muddy all the time, now raining and warm enough to melt, and in 3 hours snowing and cold enough to freeze your very blood!” John Washington later became the leading lawyer of New Bern, then a city of 5,000.

Lot Amendments

Yellow staining along edges and creases; good.

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