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So full of oddities, and crudities, and strange developments, consequent upon unprecedented combinations of nationalities, characters and conditions, were the flush times of California, that to condense them into the more solid forms of history without to some extent stifling the life that is in them and marring their originality and beauty is not possible. There are topics and episodes and incidents which cannot be vividly portrayed without a tolerably free use of words—I do not say a free use of the imagination.

Much has been written of the Californian Inferno of 1849 and the years immediately following, much that is neither fact nor fable. Great and gaudy pictures have been painted, but few of them bear much resemblance to nature. Many conceits have been thrown off by fertile brains which have given their authors money and notoriety; but the true artist who, with the hand of the master drawing from life, places before the observer the all-glowing facts, unbesmeared by artificial and deceptive coloring, has yet to appear.

No attempt is made in these pages to outdo my predecessors in morbid intensifications of the certain phases of society and character engendered of the times. They contain simple sketches and plain descriptions, historical rather than fantastical, with no effort toward effect.

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