Urban Sketches eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 70 pages of information about Urban Sketches.

He has made this disclosure in confidence.  He wishes it to be respected.  He wants to know if you have five cents about you.


The time occupied in walking to and from my business I have always found to yield me a certain mental enjoyment which no other part of the twenty-four hours could give.  Perhaps the physical exercise may have acted as a gentle stimulant of the brain, but more probably the comfortable consciousness that I could not reasonably be expected to be doing anything else—­to be studying or improving my mind, for instance—­always gave a joyous liberty to my fancy.  I once thought it necessary to employ this interval in doing sums in arithmetic,—­in which useful study I was and still am lamentably deficient,—­but after one or two attempts at peripatetic computation, I gave it up.  I am satisfied that much enjoyment is lost to the world by this nervous anxiety to improve our leisure moments, which, like the “shining hours” of Dr. Watts, unfortunately offer the greatest facilities for idle pleasure.  I feel a profound pity for those misguided beings who are still impelled to carry text-books with them in cars, omnibuses, and ferry-boats, and who generally manage to defraud themselves of those intervals of rest they most require.  Nature must have her fallow moments, when she covers her exhausted fields with flowers instead of grain.  Deny her this, and the next crop suffers for it.  I offer this axiom as some apology for obtruding upon the reader a few of the speculations which have engaged my mind during these daily perambulations.

Few Californians know how to lounge gracefully.  Business habits, and a deference to the custom, even with those who have no business, give an air of restless anxiety to every pedestrian.  The exceptions to this rule are apt to go to the other extreme, and wear a defiant, obtrusive kind of indolence which suggests quite as much inward disquiet and unrest.  The shiftless lassitude of a gambler can never be mistaken for the lounge of a gentleman.  Even the brokers who loiter upon Montgomery Street at high noon are not loungers.  Look at them closely and you will see a feverishness and anxiety under the mask of listlessness.  They do not lounge—­they lie in wait.  No surer sign, I imagine, of our peculiar civilization can be found than this lack of repose in its constituent elements.  You cannot keep Californians quiet even in their amusements.  They dodge in and out of the theatre, opera, and lecture-room; they prefer the street cars to walking because they think they get along faster.  The difference of locomotion between Broadway, New York, and Montgomery Street, San Francisco, is a comparative view of Eastern and Western civilization.

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Urban Sketches from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.