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The Physiology of New York Boarding-Houses

Thomas Butler Gunn

Publication Year: 2009

Thomas Butler Gunn's classic 1857 account of urban habitation, The Physiology of New York Boarding-Houses, explores the process by which boardinghouse life was translated into a lively urban vernacular.Physiology is at once an essential introduction to a "lost" world of boarding, even as it comprises an early, engaging, and sophisticated analysis of America's "urban turn" during the decades leading up to the Civil War.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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p. ix

Like the city it surveys, this book has been a collaborative creation, and many years in the making. Its foundations trace to my time in graduate school at Chapel Hill. With the support of a Gilder Lehrman Dissertation Fellowship in the summer 2004, I first encountered Gunn’s Physiology at the New York Public Library (NYPL); that institution’s crumbling copy, so precariously preserved, at...

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pp. xi-xxxi

In the early spring of 1842, a twenty-two-year-old New York journalist named Walt Whitman pronounced “the universal Yankee nation” a “boarding people.” Resorting to comic elaboration rather than sober explanation, the young newspaper editor would go on to amplify a point for readers that well may have needed none. He writes, “Married men and single men, old women and pretty girls; milliners and masons; cobblers, colonels, and counter-jumpers; tailors and teachers; lieutenants, loafers, ladies, lackbrains, and lawyers; printers and parsons—‘ black spirits and white, blue spirits and gay’—all ‘go out to...

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A Note on the Text

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p. xxxiii

The text of Physiology that appears here is the original Mason Brothers edition of 1857, the one and only version that exists. No major modifications of substance, grammar, or punctuation have been made to the book’s content in these pages. I have corrected for occasional printers’ and spelling errors, however. As to the latter, Gunn could be especially careless with respect to the spelling of ...

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The Physiology of New York Boarding-Houses

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pp. 1-174

The Bedouins—so we are informed by Layard1—set any member of a tribe who is unable to sleep to watch the camels. With the like practical philosophy the Author of this volume, having had considerable experience of New York Boarding-Houses, resolved to devote that not-altogether-agreeably-acquired knowledge to the formation of a book. He hopes...

Explanatory Notes

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pp. 175-198

Further Reading

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pp. 199-200

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About the Editor

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p. 201

David Faflik is an assistant professor in the department of English at South Dakota State University. A specialist in the city in literature, he currently is completing a book project entitled Boarding Out: Inhabiting the American Urban Literary Imagination, 1840–1860, which addresses U.S. writers’ response to the emerging metropolis during the middle decades of the nineteenth century....

E-ISBN-13: 9780813546216
E-ISBN-10: 0813546214
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813544397
Print-ISBN-10: 0813544394

Page Count: 236
Illustrations: 34 illustrations
Publication Year: 2009

OCLC Number: 311579270
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Physiology of New York Boarding-Houses

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Subject Headings

  • New York (N.Y.) -- Social life and customs -- 19th century.
  • Boardinghouses -- New York (State) -- New York -- 19th century.
  • Lodging-houses -- New York (State) -- New York -- 19th century.
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