“We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the old world some weeks nearer to the new; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.” — Henry David Thoreau, “Economy,” Walden
Thoreau is referring to the trans-Atlantic telegraph cable, which was first used successfully (though briefly) in 1858, four years after the publication of Walden. Regular communication wasn’t established till 1866, and even then transmissions were dreadfully slow — it was the dialup modem of the nineteenth century. But before then, it took at least ten days for news to cross the Atlantic by ship. Princess Adelaide, incidentally, was a member of the British royal family.
Apparently in Henry’s day Americans were still interested in the doings of the British royals. I’m sure glad we’ve gotten over that.
(About “A Year in Walden”)