Nineteenth-century American literary culture can be construed in part as a quarrel between admirers of New York and admirers of Boston. Many American writers looked down on New York as a vulgar place that was addicted to commerce. Emerson disliked New York; Thoreau hated it. Lydia Child, a Bostonian who moved to New York in 1841, said that in New York “the loneliness of the soul is deeper, and far more restless, than the solitude of the mighty forest.” Yet Child, who wrote a column about life in New York for a Boston newspaper, was impressed by New York’s “infinite varieties of character.”

Several American writers—most notably Walt Whitman and Henry James—defended New York and criticized Boston. Whitman thought Boston was filled with effete snobs. James found Boston boring. In November 1904, when he was visiting...


A Message from the Editors

Your donation sustains our efforts to inspire joyous rediscoveries.

Popular Right Now