Dreadful California


This is a classic example of a fabulous old book. It’s a typical travel journal for those who didn’t have the luxury of traveling. This author, who later reveals himself to be a bit of a nut-job (who wouldn’t with such a name), seems to be a trifle disillusioned that his quest for gold during the 1849 Gold Rush resulted in zilch and is determined to squawk to anyone who will listen. Invariably, simply because there were few to refute the traveler’s outrageous claims, the resulting piece of literature is hysterically entertaining…particularly since there isn’t a single reference to earthquakes…the one thing that non-Californians fear most about this state.

I always marvel that one was gutsy enough to write such foolishness, but even more astonished that a publisher published it! Just when I think political pundits and non-stop commentators cannot be more irrelevant, rude and aggravating, I come across a title like this and realize I live in an excessively verbally boring and illiterate time. Here’s the complete title filled with excellent vocabulary:

Dreadful California: being a true and scandalous account of the barbarous civilization, licentious morals, crude manners and depravities, inclement climate and niggling resources, together with various other offensive and calamitous details of life in the Golden State. By Hinton Helper.

It’s not often one is gifted with such a title. Who, besides lawyers, talks about licentious morals any more? I’m not certain many people have been taught proper manners anymore, so there certainly aren’t critics remarking on one’s particularly crude ones. And niggling resources??? This is word choice at its best. What a more refreshing way to describe the present economy. I think I may have to start a new dictionary entry for this moment in history: A period marked by niggling resources.


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