“The terrible rush of metropolitan life: those busy New-Yorkers,” (1915). Courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery.
In December 1866, Mark Twain left San Francisco for New York. Like generations of transplanted Westerners then and since, he found life in the big city a little disorienting. He described his feelings in a letter to the San Francisco-based Alta California.
There is something about this ceaseless buzz, and hurry, and bustle, that keeps a stranger in a state of unwholesome excitement all the time, and makes him restless and uneasy, and saps from him all capacity to enjoy anything or take a strong interest in any matter whatever - a something which impels him to try to do everything, and yet permits him to do nothing. He is a boy in a candy-shop - could choose quickly if there were but one kind of candy, but is hopelessly undetermined in the midst of a hundred kinds. A stranger feels unsatisfied, here, a good part of the time. He starts to a library; changes, and moves toward a theatre; changes again and thinks he will visit a friend; goes within a biscuit-toss of a picture-gallery, a billiard-room, a beer cellar and a circus, in succession, and finally drifts home and to bed, without having really done anything or gone anywhere. He don’t go anywhere because he can’t go everywhere, I suppose. This fidgety, feverish restlessness will drive a man crazy, after a while, or kill him. It kills a good many dozens now - by suicide. I have got to get out of it.
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