Page:Mexico, California and Arizona - 1900.djvu/331

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311
SAN FRANCISCO.

to complain of its present stagnation, the bare existence of such a place strikes the new-comer with amazement.

Its air is not ephemeral, but of a fine, massive gravity. Its shops are filled with costly goods, its streets with comely, beautifully dressed women. It has an art and literature. Private galleries contain foreign modern pictures of the best class. Some local artists have made for themselves a more than local reputation. There is a well-attended "School of Design," which has already graduated several pupils whose talent has been recognized abroad. The "Mercantile Library" is handsome, and most complete in its appointments.

San Francisco "society," though a trifle bizarre in the use of its newly acquired wealth, has an under-stratum of unexceptionable refinement. Its most bizarre side, too, is certainly approved of in Europe, where its magnates entertain kings and give their daughters in marriage to lofty titles.

The European traveller who visits "the land of Barnum" and "of Washington" with literary intent must be cruelly broken up by what he will find here. Such a place should be a vast, motley camp, as it is known to European travellers that most American cities should be. With its thirty-three years, and its heterogeneous elements, it should exhibit a combination of squalor and mushroom splendor. The wretched shanty should elbow the vulgar palace, a democratic boorishness of manners, blazing in diamonds, the faint, refined natures that by any chance have ventured into such a Babel. But, alas! we live in an age of expedition, of labor-saving inventions. With unlimited means, such as here enjoyed, the work of years is condensed into months. Camp there is none, but a luxurious city, presenting all the ordinary characteristics of civilization.