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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

New York and the Prodigious Voyage Thither

By Charles Wolley (fl. 1700)

[A Two Years Journal in New-York. 1701.]

THE CITY of New York in my time was as large as some market towns with us, all built the London way; the garrison side of a high situation and a pleasant prospect, the island it stands on all a level and champaign. The diversion especially in the winter season used by the Dutch is aurigation, i.e., riding about in wagons, which is allowed by physicians to be a very healthful exercise by land. And upon the ice it’s admirable to see men and women as it were flying upon their skates from place to place, with markets upon their heads and backs. In a word, it’s a place so every way inviting that our English gentry, merchants and clergy (especially such as have the natural stamina of a consumptive propagation in them; or an hypochondriacal consumption) would flock thither for self-preservation. This I have all the reason to affirm and believe from the benign effectual influence it had upon my own constitution; but O the passage, the passage thither, hic labor, hoc opus est: there is the timorous objection. The ship may founder by springing a leak, be wrecked by a storm or taken by a pickeroon; which are plausible pleas to flesh and blood, but if we would examine the bills of mortality and compare the several accidents and diseases by the land, we should find them almost a hundred for one to what happens by sea, which deserves a particular essay, and, if we will believe the ingenious Dr. Carr in his Epistolæ Medicinales, there is an “Emetic Vomitory” virtue in the sea-water itself, which by the motion of the ship operates upon the stomach and ejects whatever is offensive, and so extimulates and provokes or recovers the appetite, which is the chiefest defect in such constitutions: and besides, there is a daily curiosity in contemplating the wonders of the deep, as to see a whale wallowing and spouting cataracts of water, to see the dolphin, that hieroglyphick of celerity, leaping above water in chase of the flying-fish, which I have sometimes tasted of as they flew aboard, where they immediately expire out of their element; and now and then to hale up that Cannibal of the sea, I mean the shark, by the bait of a large gobbet of beef or pork; who makes the deck shake again by his flapping violence, and opens his devouring mouth with double rows of teeth, in shape like a skate or flare as we call them in Cambridge; of which dreadful fish I have often made a meal at sea, but indeed it was for want of other provisions.