4 MAY 1850, Page 14


British artist who has resided for some years in America. Whether his professional merits did not meet with their proper distinction, or, as he intimates, he had lived long enough among the Yankees to acquire their restless thirst of speculative adventure without much scrupulosity as to the nature of the speculation, he at all events joined himself to a band of military. " volunteers " who were about to depart for the war in California as soon as they could be drilled into a little order. This enlistment, or whatever it may be called, took place in June 1847; by August they were embarked for their destination ; and after a quarrelsome and comfortless passage round Cape Horn, they reached Monterey in California, in February 1848. As military force was more needed in Lower California, some of the band was despatched to La Paz, and thence to San Jose. On this latter occasion Mr. Ryan made his first and only effort in actual war. The Mexicans had assembled in some force, threatening to advance upon San Jose ; so the American commander determined to attack them first. After an arduous march, the Mexican position was carried: the part of Mr. Ryan and his friends consisted in clear- ing a wood of an ambuscade in which affair the trees appear to have been more troublesome ambuscade, the enemy. Peace came soon after ; the volunteers were ordered back to Monterey; and would have been permitted to discharge them- selves without their land-grants or their pay. As the reports of the Californian El Dorado were just then confirmed, the labours of Their pay and a formal discharge were requisite to enabldeiglienngisto 'culture had small attraction for men bent upon the " get there ; and after something like a mutiny, in which the notion of tarring and feathering the commandant flitted across the mili- tary mind of the volunteers, the needful was forthcoming. Mr. Ryan joined himself to some other adventurers and, after a good deal of fatigue and hardship, reached what was Called the Stanislaus mine. He was not very lucky in finding gold; the expenses of living bade far to exhaust his gains when he had eaten up his own pro- visions; the labour was too severe for his strength and habits of life ; his health suffered from exposure and the bad air; and he apprehended more ill effects from the coming winter. Mr. Ryan prudently returned to Monterey ; and, finding no opening there, set off for San Francisco, with a view of doing something. But what was that something to be 9 Portrait-painting he knew was hopeless ; but he thought a trade might be driven in the

• Personal Adventures in Upper and Lower California in 1848-49; with the Author's Experience at the Mines. Illustrated by twenty-three Drawings taken on the spot. By William Redmond Ryan. In two volumes. Published by Shoberl.

" lettering " and sign-painting way. He designed and painted a _specimen whose display in front of his domicile attracted more no- tice than custom. As a last resource, he undertook to paint the inside of a steamer lying in the bay, and on the completion of the job started as a house-painter in the town. In this line he succeeded well enough ; but he determined on leaving California and returning to the States, for the following sensible reasons.

"I had been gradually making up my mind to return to the United States, and the period had now arrived for putting my determination into execution. Perhaps a brief explanation as to the motives that influenced me in aban- doning a country to which the eyes of so many are turned as a second 'Land of Promise,' may serve as a lesson to those who allow the imagine- - lion to exercise too great an influence over their actions, and who may be induced to give way to hopes that are based on illusions. "It is unquestionable, that in no other part of the world can money be more easily acquired; but when we take into account the sufferings endured -in its acquisition, and the relatively high prices paid for all the necessaries of life, it is very much to be doubted whether the same amount of industry and self-denial would not obtain equal results in more civilized countries. There were, besides, many circumstances that foreshadowed to me a future • replete with difficulties and privations. The winter was fast setting in ; and I felt that I could not pursue my avocations continually exposed to the heavy rains which were certain to deluge the town. ' The success that attended my first efforts had besides exposed me to competition ; and, in the keen struggle for existence that I blew must inevitably ensue amongst a popula- tion increasing at a ratio without parallel, I felt that I expossed myself to the chances of ruining my health in the pursuit of a chimera. Shortly before leaving, I had numberless applications for employment from persons in my line, even in the very best part of the year for mining., and I knew from this and many other concurrent facts, that during the winter my trade would decrease to such an extent that I should be obliged to support myself on my previous earnings. I subsequently learned that all my anticipations had been fully realized : the tide Of population that flowed into San Fran-- cisco became so enormous, that the prices of all the necessaries of life almost doubled in value, while that of labour descended in an inverse ratio. The streets were deluged with water ; and those who pursued any sort of mecha- nical occupation were compelled to work up to their knees in fetid pools. Heavy boots, that could be previously procured for eight dollars, now rose in value to mneV-six dollars a pair ; a convincing proof not of the wealth but of the wretchrauess of the place it being impossible to attend to one's pursuits without these necessary articles."

Mr. Ryan states that his sketches were not originally intended for publication ; having been "hastily thrown off for the amuse- ment of the writer's family in England." He has, however, resided so long in the States that he has acquired the full minute- ness of writing which seems to make the Americans a nation of litterateurs. He indulges in reflections; he reports dialogues at full length ; he gives gazetteer-like accounts of places and adopts those other modes dfilling space which we call bookmaking. But had he applied himself more directly to the task of furnishing information, Mr. Ryan could not very well have succeeded on the topics of common travelling. He wants distinct objects of par- -suit; he does not seem to be aware that the natural features of the country and the peculiarities of the Californians have been fre- quently described already. Neither has he the natural or ac- quired perception which sees the more remarkable traits of things, and describes them as they really are, whether the mode of de- scription be the hard or the florid; The interest of his book al- together depends upon the freshness and character of his subjects. The common sketches of California, whether of town, country, or people, are of small account. It requires the volunteers, the war, the effects of the American and indeed cosmopolitan influx consequent upon the discovery of the gold, andthe hardships, adventures, and sin- tarcharacters encountered in seeking it, impart interest to to Ryan's narrative. Even then, his composition is often so ob- viously made for effect, according to the writer's idea, that one hardly feels satisfied as to the extent to which the stories may be coloured. There is no doubt, however, as to the main truth of the picture, or as to the general soundness of Mr. Ryan's conclusions. These conclusions are quite opposed to California as a place of emigration, or as a spot where fortune could be obtained with any certainty. Even in the earlier stages it was "luck" that deter- mined the matter ; men risked health and life, worked very hard, and suffered some privations, for gains which, though an enor- mous day's wages measured by the rate of London or New York, were nothing at the week's end, because the expenses for the hardest fare, the commonest clothing, &c., absorbed them all. Be- sides, every one was eiposed to the risk of robbery or murder, the fleecing arts of the speculator, or the temptations of the publican and gambler. Yet, unfavourable as Mr. Ryan's picture is in general, the reader, unless he look closely, may form an exagge- rated idea of the riches of the mining country. The gold-beds that were first explored had got exbansta even when Mr. Ryan was in the country ; thus confirming Sir Roderick Murchison's theory of the temporary nature of the supply that California would furnish. The whole account of the author's adventures in connexion with his mining scheme, and the particulars he gathered from the con- versation of others, is pregnant with the old/moral of Midas re- peated so often in various forms. At the same time, the mind ;hat occupied itself in these refleellons at "the diggings" was perhaps not the best fitted to succeed, where hard work was necessary to propitiate Fortune. "Van Anken adhered perseveringly to the rich, crumbling slate, that stood edgewise before him ; digging might and main, alternately employmg his pick, crow-bar, and jack-knife, according to the difficultiesjie had to encounter in the nature of the soil. The rest of the party were equally diligent, at short distances from one another, either extending the old holes or forming new ones, but all intent at their work, and absorbed in the accomplishment of the one idea ever present to their minds, namely, the realization of a rapid for- tune.

"For my own part, now I was here, and could the more fully enter into the philosophy and fact of the thing, I began to entertain strong misgivings as to whether the results attained by such severe toil were at all commensu- rate with the sacrifices made in connexion. with it. According to my belief, and looking at the men as they wrought, no amount of success they might hope for could ever sufficiently compensate them—accustomed as the major- ity had been to the comforts and even refinements of civilized society—for the privations and hardships they were compelled to endure; for the disrup- tion of those social ties which bind men together, for the estrangement of the affections of their kith and kin, for the mental abnegations they must practise, for physical suffering and prostration, for the constant apprehen- sion they dwelt in of dying a lingering death by fever and ague and for the disorganization of habits which such a mode of life was calculated to in- duce even amongst the best-regulated minds. They wrought so hard and so perseveringly, that I felt persuaded that the same amount of industry, iii- telligence, and assiduity, conjoined with the exercise of the many virtues which the difficulties they had to encounter brought into activity, if it had been directed to the accomplishment of the same end, through the channels opened by the different professions and callings, must have resulted in secur- ing to them an honourable position and a competency, without exposing them to the temptations of cupidity or the follies of a speculative extravagance. But all my moralizings applied equally to myself, and were brought to an abrupt close by a boisterous exclamation from Halliday. "'Luck, by. U—!' said he, tossing up a small lump of gold, which fie had succeeded m picking out with his knife from a hole at which he had stopped, whilst I stood gazing at the extraordinary scene around me, ab- sorbed in my reflections.'

In. addition to the hardships, discomforts, and perils of the country, the society is none of the best. Gamblers and chevaliers of all kinds had flocked into it, as the old song says, by one, by two, by three ; the first arrivals in gross by the regular line of steamers was not a flattering sample of civilization.

"One day, all the inhabitants of the town rushed together in a crowd to the port, to witness the arrival of a huge steamer which had appeared in the offing ; the largest that had passed along this coast, and, as I understood, the first into the bargain. The Car °miens gazed at it in silent wonderment, not at all able to comprehend how it could have been constructed of such a size ; how it could be made to go without sails; where all the smoke it cast out of its huge funnel came from; and how the large fire in its inside did not burn the vessel up.

"Site was the California, the first of the new American line steamers ; and having cast anchor and landed her passengers, Abrigo's coffeehouse presented in the course of a few hours such a scene as perhaps could not be witnessed in any other country but this, and that under the peculiar circumstances of its then position.

"As far as appearances went, a finer-looking or a more respectable boar If emigrants never stepped ashore from any vessel ; but I venture to there never landed at Monterey a shrewder or a smarter' set, or their match at gambling, with all its accompanying vices. At faro, monte, indeed at any game of cards, they appeared quite in their element ; and the Spaniards, though sharp enough, were mere children in this respect com- pared to them. Several had brought roulette-tables, 'sweet-cloths,' and dice, and banks were immediately established on every available spot. Even

the • -tables were for the time diverted from their original use, andde- voted to rouge-et-noir, and such like games of chance; at which the dealers soon realized enormous sums in gold, receiving it in lumps and in ounces according to the kind. There was scarcely a device common to gamblers which was not brought into active practice • and many new tricks and games I had never seen played before were on this occasion introduced for the first time in California.

"Meanwhile, and in the midst of the excitement of play, numerous other individuals from on board the vessel were endeavouring to acquire money by legitimate trading. All sorts of articles were offered for sale at enormous prices. Shoes, hats, baskets, bowie-knives, handkerchiefs, spades, shovels, picks, and crow-bars, biscuit and flour, cheese, beef and pork, confectionery and spices, tobacco and anuiZ spirits and wine—in fact, every kind of mer- chandise, seemed to have been landed in minute quantities, expressly to tanta- lize purchasers, to raise an extra demand, and consequently to augment prices. One particularly shrewd fellow had a dozen of the commonest sort of bowie- knives, which he offered at the modest sum of five dollars each ; and, hav- ing readily disposed of them, renewed the operation with another dozen, and another, and another, until he had realized a handsome sum. But he never appeared with more limn a dozen at a time, as his whole stock in trade ; and, as he never made his appearance twice in the same place, nobody seemed the wiser, his miraculous dozen being renewed as fast as it went off. "Another man greatly amused me by driving bargains for his wearing apparel- and I am afraid to say how many times he stripped and reappeared clad anew, to sell his garments again, before he was satisfied. In a word, there was but one cry, but one all-absorbing thought= Money, money, money !' "