The Shirley Letters from California Mines in 1851-52: Being a Series of Twenty-three Letters from Dame Shirley (Mtrs. Louise Amelia Knapp Smith Clappe) to Her Sister in Massachusetts and Now Reprinted from the Pioneer Magazine of 1854-55, with Synopses of the Letters, a Foreword, and Many Typographical and Other Corrections and Emendations by Thomas C. Russell; Together with "An Appreciation" by Mrs. M. V. T. Lawrence

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T. C. Russell, 1922 - California - 350 pages
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Educated in Amherst, Massachusetts, Louise Amelia Knapp Smith Clappe (1819-1906) accompanied her physician-husband to California in 1849. The couple first lived in mining camps where Dr. Clappe practiced medicine and then moved to San Francisco, where Mrs. Clappe taught in the public schools for more than twenty years. The Shirley letters (1922) is the book edition of a series of letters written by Mrs. Clappe to her sister in 1851 and 1852. They were first published under the pseudonym of "Dame Shirley" in the Pioneer magazine, 1854-55. In these letters Louise Clappe writes of life in San Francisco and the Feather River mining communities of Rich Bar and Indian Bar. She focuses on the experiences of women and children, the perils of miners' work, crime and punishment, and relations with native Hispanic residents and Native Americans. Bret Harte is said to have based two of his stories on the "Shirley" letters.

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An intriguing look at the the Gold Rush experience without the mythology.
The travel, the work, living conditions, and the failures of mining operations are mixed with insightful descriptions of
people and places.
She only lived a short time in the region, but has given us a picture quite different from history texts.
We are richer for having her as a published writer, poorer for having so few others with the same skill.

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Page xx - ABOVE the pines the moon was slowly drifting, The river sang below ; The dim Sierras, far beyond, uplifting Their minarets of snow. The roaring camp-fire, with rude humor, painted The ruddy tints of health On haggard face and form that drooped and fainted In the fierce race for wealth ; Till one arose, and from his pack's scant treasure A hoarded volume drew, And cards were dropped from hands of listless leisure To hear the tale...
Page xvi - But all human stain, all trace of earthly travail, was hidden beneath the spotless mantle mercifully flung from above. They slept all that day and the next, nor did they waken when voices and footsteps broke the silence of the camp. And when pitying fingers brushed the snow from their wan faces, you could scarcely have told, from the equal peace that dwelt upon them, which was she that had sinned.
Page xxii - And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked ? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? 12 And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.
Page 130 - The little bird sits at his door in the sun, Atilt like a blossom among the leaves, And lets his illumined being o'errun With the deluge of summer it receives ; His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings, And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest, — In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best...
Page 44 - And the steps of the bearers, heavy and slow, And the sobs of the mourners deep and low; The weary sound and the heavy breath, And the silent motions of passing death, And the smell, cold, oppressive, and dank, Sent through the pores of the coffin plank...
Page 52 - I observed it particularly, for it was the first log cabin that I had ever seen. Everything in the room, though of the humblest description, was exceedingly clean and neat. On a board, supported by two butter-tubs, was extended the body of the dead woman, covered with a sheet. By its side stood the coffin, of unstained pine, lined with white cambric. You, who have alternately laughed and scolded at my provoking and inconvenient deficiency in the power of observing, will perhaps wonder at the minuteness...
Page 33 - Through the middle of Rich Bar runs the street, thickly planted with about forty tenements, among which figure round tents, square tents, plank hovels, log cabins, etc. — the residences, varying in elegance and convenience from the palatial splendor of 'the Empire' down to a 'local habitation,' formed of pine boughs, and covered with old calico shirts.
Page 55 - Hunt was wont to gaze upon that friend of his, "who used to elevate the common-place to a pitch of the sublime;" and he looked at me as if to say, that, though by no means gloriously arrayed, I was a mere cumberer of the ground; inasmuch as I toiled not, neither did I wash. Alas! I hung my diminished head; particularly when I remembered the eight dollars a dozen, which I had been in the habit of paying for the washing of linen-cambric pockethandkerchiefs while in San Francisco. But a lucky thought...
Page 138 - ... gallows. Almost everybody was surprised at the severity of the sentence; and many, with their hands on the cord, did not believe even then that it would be carried into effect, but thought that at the last moment, the jury would release the prisoner and substitute a milder punishment. It is said that the crowd generally seemed to feel the solemnity of the occasion; but many of the drunkards, who form a large part of the community on these Bars, laughed and shouted, as if it were a spectacle got...
Page 34 - ... nondescript in one corner, on which was ranged the medical library, consisting of half a dozen volumes, did duty as a table. The shelves, which looked like sticks snatched hastily from the wood-pile and nailed up without the least alteration, contained quite a respectable array of medicines. The white canvas window stared everybody in the face, with the interesting information painted on it, in perfect grenadiers of capitals, that this was Dr. — 's office. At my loud laugh (which, it must be...

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