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Smithfield Preston Foundation

Papers, 1784-1881, n.d., Ms1997-002

April 23, 1819 -- letter from William Cambell Preston to Susan S. Preston McDowell in Abingdon, Virginia

---- North

My Dear Sue,

I can't help saying to myself everyday as I loiter along Broadway," what a strange figure should I make if my mind was exhibited to public view with all its thoughts just as they occur" for there is such a strange medley of immages, notions and feelings that I should be set down for one stark mad. The train of ideas goes on somewhat in this way. "What a beautiful street, how gaily crowded. How handsomely addorned with waves and merchandize. Look at those stiff englishman. see what a party of ladies. the persona of one of them is like Susan’s. I’ll step quicker and see her face. Ah! not like Susan’s and then I forget where I am and saunter along until some bustling lady gives me a broad side with a "beg pardon sir" which ---- me most thoroughly and so I’d begin again. I have never seen a thorough ---- which could be contemplated with a pleasure so totally unmixed as that which Broadway exhibits from ten to two and from five to seven. The air, gait, and countenance of all you meet bespeake gaity or a light and unimportant business which travells hand in hand with pleasure, the shops are decorated with much taste and splendour and the buildings which consume the street on either side are of the finest kind. The crowd is so great as to afford a perfect solitude so that no one is more anxious to conceal any feeling than they would be amidst ---- shady hills at Saltworks. I have taken a stand at a corner and contemplated one hundred countenances, in which the greatest concern expressed was such as would arise from the perplexity of chosing between a black and a blue coat, or between a cashmire and can ---- shawl, and what at first surprised me not a little was that nine truths of the crowd which danced by me were young people. I soon discovered however that there was no business upon Broadway but that of faxhion and that the mighty, perplexing, heart rending affairs of commerce were transacted on Dearle and Wall Streets. On the last are the banks and insurance offices where between two and three oclock may be seen many are anxious agitated countenance betokening a ---- credit or a desperate adventure. Each day since I got here has passed pretty pretty much in the same way. I breakfast at eight, read or write til ten, lounge thro the streets or make visits until two, read or write again until four, dine until seven, and then go to the theatre or some party if I have the good fortune to be asked to one. Last night I was at a Mr. McPhessons of whom Mr. Greenway can tell you. This gentleman, Mr. ---- and Genl ---- have entertained me handsomely.

On the second of may I sail in the "Amity" a fine merchantman loaded with cotton and flour in which the accomodation are all that I could wish. She was selected for me by Mr. ---- whose judgement can be relied upon, and I have every prospect of an agreeable voyage.

Col. Groghn is to be married in a day or two to Miss Livingston of the great Livingston family. "None but the brave"

Farewell dear Sue. I find the farther I am from home, the more I love you all and the more I think of you. Kiss the whole family for me with the warmth which becomes a son and Brother.

William. C. Preston

April 23rd 1819

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