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'MANY a time, Sir, I have walked the streets, and, day-dreaming, have fashioned to myself the doings, the hopes, and cares of the householders. To my fancy, the brick walls of the houses have turned to glass, and I have seen all that passed inside.'
THE reader who may be inclined to keep my company whilst in this series of papers I shall go through the lengths and breadths of this populous city, must not expect to be entertained by startling tales or novel incidents. I have no 'MYSTERIES' of Boston to relate, no melodramatic doings to chronicle. I am a plain man, and shall have to do with plain matters, with common facts. If, therefore, the reader be willing, on these conditions, to lend me his ears,' well; but if records of every-day subjects, and chronicles of common things, possess no interest for him, we had better at once pursue different paths, than run the risk of falling out on our journey.
And it is really wonderful how many objects of interest lie in and about our daily paths, and how much amusement and instruction we might derive from them, if we would but slightly exercise our reflective faculties; we are too apt to fly in search of excitement to far-away scenes, forgetting that our sympathies may be more profitably enlisted by objects long familiar and near at hand.
For the observing man, every locality possesses some attraction, and there is no place so mean that it may not afford material for wholesome thought.
I have always been partial to great cities, not that I dislike the country-far from it; for few, when they have left the hot, dusty, brick and mortar Babylons far behind them, enjoy more than I do the fresh breeze as it sweeps over the heath, or comes rushing up the mountain side, with healing on its wings.' And then how glorious it is to dive into grand, dim, old woods, when the slant sunbeams are falling on the trunks of giant trees, and thousands of bright-winged creatures go glancing by. Pleasant is it to saunter through
'Verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways,'
absorbed in a half dreamy kind of melancholy. I say all this is delightful enough, at least to me, for a season; but I confess that after such sylvan enjoyments, I always return with renewed zest to my
endless meal of brick.'
I am not going to enter into a comparison between the pleasures of a city and country life. My purpose in the following papers will be chiefly to illustrate the formerto take continually-occurring matters for my subjects, and chat on them in an easy every-day manner. I am a plain writer, and make no pretensions to style in these 'Loiterings,' which will, I imagine, owe any interest they may chance to possess, to the localities they illustrate.
Cities, like individuals, have characters; some are great overgrown places, where men go on hurrying, driving, and
toiling, from morning till night, to build up Mammon's temple thousands upon thousands, dropping hourly from the scaffolding, and thousands more stepping on it to fill their places. In these great workshops of the world, mind is hammered down to a goldleaf thinness, so that a few grains of it are made to cover a vast extent of surface. The Physical preponderates over the Intellectual; and the masses congregated in such places are usually burly talkers, noisy theorists, but seldom profound thinkers. Other cities have a light and fantastic character-every house seems as if it were made of filagree work, and the inhabitants move as upon wires. Fashion, folly, and frivolity are the presiding deities, and many are their worshippers. To these a striking contrast is afforded by learned localities, where grave, thoughtful-eyed men, glide slowly through the gloom of cloisters, and across quadrangles surrounded by small-windowed chambers, in which the lore of ages has been nursed. Fine old places are these! One cannot move half a street without beholding some ancient seat of learning; and as gothic turret and tower fling their broad shadows on our pathway, they waken recollections of the wise and good who trod those pavements long ago.
I shall ever remember the delight with which I paced the streets of Oxford and of Cambridge, and how I made unto myself fading images of Newton, and Bacon, and Locke, and a whole host of illustrious men who in those ancient seats of learning had drank deeply from the fountains of philosophy and science. Every spot in those places was hallowed by association-here Raleigh had lingered there Sidney had walked-yonder the room which Byron occupied-and close by was Gray's favorite