10 FEBRUARY 1849, Page 16


ALTA CALIFORNIA.* Du. BROOKS appears to be an Englishman seeking fortune in America. His narrative gives a glimpse of himself as one of a party in a scheme of Oregon settlement, and there are indications of his former whereabouts at Washington. His ostensible object in visiting California was to get a surgeonship in the American army ; but as peace had been confirmed just before his arrival, that project was baffled. Before he had time to form any other scheme, the rumours of gold-finding grew into news, and everybody was agog for the adventure. Men abandoned their business, hotel-keepers shut up their houses, soldiers deserted their colours, sailors their ships, and even a skipper left his vessel to take care of itself. Al- most the only persons who stuck to their posts were the officers of the American army ; and they were obliged to do the duty of their subordi- nates as well as their own.

In such a prevalence of "mineral yellow fever," Dr. Brooks joined himself to several other persons in search of fortune, and started for the mining districts : of his toils, adventures, and success there, this book purports to give an account. Four Mouths among the Gold;finders in Alta California is in the form of a rough journal, kept during the journey to the districts, and of the sights and doings there, varied by the personal reflections of the writer, and some adventures of the party among Indians and thieves. The difficulties under which the book was written precluded anything mach more elaborate than jottings, whatever Dr. Brooks's abilities bad been ; but the narrative furnishes a clear, natural, and lifelike account of the toils, risks, privations, and prospects of indi- vidual adventurers, with a good enough description of the rough mode of washing and working. It also contains some striking glimpses of hu- man nature. The labour is not only severe but troublesome, (especially to those adventurers who lack the means of making or buying a cradle for washing the sand,) from the strain upon the muscles of the back : the climate also is trying. The " anri sacra fames," however, stimulates men to exertions which at first are incessant: new comers work all day and every day. The older hands find it necessary to keep the Sabbath, not as a day of devotion, but of rest. If we may judge by the conduct of Dr. Brooks's party, restlessness of mind would seem to be another symptom. When the day's yield does not come to the average or perhaps to the hopes, or when new adventurers begin to crowd the place, any report is readily caught up, and people are off in pursuit of a richer soil; no doubt, very often illustrating the dog and shadow of /Esop. Whatever may be the influence of the gold of California upon the fortunes of the world, its effects seem rarely favourable upon those of individuals. "Thieves break in and steal " ; ruffians murder and rob; for although we suspect the reports about the robberies and murders among the work- men to be exaggerated, the roads are beset by robbers, with or without the lasso, and a single traveller would seem to have small chance of reaching the sea-shore in safety. Hardship, exposure, the climate, and the food, produce sickness; and many die with no one to bury them, for such is the selfishness induced by the absorbing thoughts of gain that their fellow workmen will not even cover the dead with earth. It should, however, be observed, that nearly all the early adventurers were, from the mere fact of being on the spot, men of loose lives and desperate career ; and we infer that the persons left unburied were there "on their own hook," not with messmates. The coarsest food, the commonest and roughest implements, raw material like timber, were at prices go exor- bitant as to dip very deeply into the gold-finders' earnings ; in the more occupied spots to absorb them. "June 23d, Friday.—The last entry in my diary seems to have been written last Sunday. Next day we began to find the provisions running short. A con- sultation was accordingly held upon the subject. It was quite out of the question to buy provisions in the diggings. Work as one might, the day's living of any man with a respectable appetite—and one seems always to feel hungry here— would pretty well absorb the day's labour. We therefore determined to despatch Bradley and Josd back to Sutter's Fort for a supply; it being stipulated that Bradley should share in the gold we might find during their absence."

It requires luck in the gold region, as elsewhere, to become suddenly rich ; large lumps of virgin gold must fall in one's way, or a snug digging must be discovered. "Light come light go." It would almost seem to require as much self-control to keep as good fortune to acquire. Dr. Brooks's party appear to have been as respectable as any of the diggers. They had means ; they had some sort of mechanical skill amongst them; they had perception to comprehend the form of a difficulty and inven- tion to alleviate if not to remove it ; they were numerous enough tS combine their labour ; they had the advantages which education gives in organizing an adventure, and sufficient prudence to husband them- selves and resources, with the advantage of the doctor's advice and medicine-chest. They seem all to have been honest; for though Dr.

1. Four Months among the Gold-tinders in Alta California: being the Diary of all Expedition from San Francisco to the Gold Districts. By J. Tyrerbitt Brea.% I"' Published by Bogue.

Brooks and others suspected an American companion of misappro- priating a large amount of gold, and murdering to rob one of the band of another large quantity, the suspicion was quite unjust. The share of Dr. Brooks for four months of hard work is not very easily made out, but it ought to have been considerable. A closing letter to his brother is England, written about a month after his return to accompany his journal, gives this statement of his affairs.

"And now, the first question you will ask me is, whether I have made my fortune? I reply, my old bad hick has not forsaken me. I always seem to come in ibr monkey's allowance—more kicks than halfpence. Three months ago I thought my fortune was made, and that I might come home a South Arnencan nasal Nothing of the kind. Here I was almost on the spot when the first news of the gold was received. I have worked hard, and undergone some hard- ships ; and, thanks to the now almost lawless state of this country, I have been deprived of the great mass of my savings, and must, when the dry season comes round again, set to work almost anew. I have but fourteen hundred dollars worth of the precious metal remaining, and, with the rate of prices which now univer- sally prevails here, that will not keep me much over a couple of months. My own case, though, is that of many others. As the number of diggers and miners augmented, robberies and violence became frequent. At first, when we arrived at the Mormon diggings, for example, everything was tranquil. Every man worked for himself, without disturbing his neighbour. Now the scene is widely changed indeed. When I was last there' as you will see by my diary, things were bad enough; but now, according to the reports we hear, no man, known to be in pos- session of much gold dare say as he lays down his head at night that he will ever rise from his pillow. The fact is, that there is no executive government of any strength here to put an end to this state of things. • • •

"Of course, as you may expect, I am naturally much cast down at the turn which matters have taken—I mean as regards my own misfortune. It is heart- breaking to be robbed by a set of villains of what yen have worked so bard for, and have undergone so much to ;obtain. I am in hopes, however, that my next gold campaign may be a more successful one."

Four Months among the Gold-finders is of no great mark as a book of travels : the eye that is looking for gold-dust is not attracted by other subjects. But so little is known of California, that Dr. Brooks's vo- lume is not without some value in this respect for its incidental sketches. The temporary attraction of the book, however, arises from its pictures of the gold-districts. In this point of view it is the best account we have seen ; the literary defects of Dr. Brooks adding to the force of the literal sketch ; while, though not devoid of warmth in his expectations, he is without the gross and obvious exaggeration of many of the American narrators.