CALIFORNIA
Lot 180
CALIFORNIA
Sold for £2,520 (US$ 4,039) inc. premium

Lot Details
CALIFORNIA
Autograph "Reminiscences of Auld Lang Syne" kept by No 425 Douglas D. Lindsay of No 7 Company, 83rd Regiment, and dated from "Camp Nusscerabad, East India, 1859", bearing a dedication "To his friend and gossip, Thomas Smith, of Her Majestys 83rd Regiment" and with a note on the circumstances under which the volume was written ("...Quintilian did not write in a barrack room..."), upwards of 100 pages, half-calf, marbled boards, minor dust-staining etc., 8vo, 1859-1861

Footnotes

  • "SUCH MEN EXIST ONLY ON THE BORDERS OF THE NEW WORLD": HUNTING THE GRIZZLY BEAR IN GOLD RUSH CALIFORNIA. The author appears to have been an American adventurer who, at the time he penned this series of autobiographical adventures, was serving in the British army in India. His father, from whom he was estranged, he refers to as "Mr Delaware" and his family as "Delaware of Westville", with an uncle called Thomas Cotesbury ("...I am come of a very ancient family, who are said to be descended in right line from the Prodigal Son..."). In the early part of the book, he tells us of his youthful love affairs and of how he had studied for the bar ("...I found myself, after a short experience with more creditors than clients..."). Having proved himself a failure as a lawyer, he sets sail from Manhattan to seek his fortune in California. This was during the years of the Gold Rush. He sailed first on the SS Illinois from New York to Portobello. (Although the author is deliberately vague as to names and dates, a mail ship of that name is recorded as on the New York to Chagres run between 1851 and 1859, see John Haskell Kemble, The Panama Route, 1848-1869, 1943, reprinted 1990). Having trekked across the mountains to Panama, he secures a passage from Acapulco in "a crazy old polacca rigged schooner which was bound direct for San Francisco". But the ship gets wrecked off the coast of California: "the schooner never arrived at San Francisco: nor none of her 'Company' with the single exception of Myself, and that was a long time afterwards". Cast on shore, he is rescued by a bear hunter by the name of Nathan Walker, a figure who seems to have stepped straight out of the pages of a Western.

    The author sets the scene for his ensuing adventures among the backwoods of California with the élan of a born spinner of campfire yarns (and an erratic spelling to match): "On the first day of my convalescence, I sate at evening in the fronte of the house, overlooking the landscape... beyond which was the 'Corral', a large enclosure of cedar logs, called 'redwood', into which the Milch cows were driven... the bellowing of the herds, and the cries of the drivers, as they rode to and fro over the plain, through the level beams of sunset, running their swift and docile horses with short turns to check the devious rush of cattle, or throwing and winding the lasso, sounded remote and pleasing... I lay on a bench of cedar, my head pillowed on a Spanish Saddle, which glittered with silver embroidery. Over me a wide arber of the celebrated grape of 'Los Angeles' deffused its transperant shadows, the rich clusters hanging within reach, small purple, full of aromatic juice... My new friend and saviour, Nathan: Walker, the red bearded hunter, was extended on a bear-skin... he rose upon his elbow, and spoke slowly, without accent or enthusiasm: Walker had been a scholar and a lawyer, and his talk was a mixture of the rude and polished, cool, grave, and imperturbable, with eyes so still and fierce, they burned the very soul. He might have been the lord of some barbarious primaeval tribe. Such men exist only on the borders of the New World! incapable of folly and careless of wealth, the Knights Paladin of the wilderness, for whom, modern society has no name, no poem, and no place. 'They talk of bears,' said Walker, fixing his large gray eyes on mine, with their still regard, 'Of bears in ole Kansas... I have read too, what has been written by the great hunters, but none of them knew the bear of California...'". The final adventure is the tale of "The Man in the Drab Coat", a gambler who had drifted from the gold diggings and lost his money in New Orleans. The volume concludes with a postscript dated from "Camp Kollapere" on 23 July 1860, stating that he is ready to start on a second volume "In which I propose giving you a few more passages from my experience in America".
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