The City of the Saints
THE CITY OF THE SAINTS,
ACROSS THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS TO CALIFORNIA.
"The Lake Regions of Central Africa," Etc.
Harper & Brothers, Publishers,
"Clear your mind of cant."—Johnson.
"Montesinos—America is in more danger from religious fanaticism. The government there not thinking it necessary to provide religious instruction for the people in any of the new states, the prevalence of superstition, and that, perhaps, in some wild and terrible shape, may be looked for as one likely consequence of this great and portentous omission. An Old Man of the Mountain might find dupes and followers as readily as the All-friend Jemima; and the next Aaron Burr who seeks to carve a kingdom for himself out of the overgrown territories of the Union, may discern that fanaticism is the most effective weapon with which ambition can arm itself; that the way for both is prepared by that immorality which the want of religion naturally and necessarily induces, and that camp-meetings may be very well directed to forward the designs of military prophets. Were there another Mohammed to arise, there is no part of the world where he would find more scope or fairer opportunity than in that part of the Anglo-American Union into which the older states continually discharge the restless part of their population, leaving laws and Gospel to overtake it if they can, for in the march of modern colonization both are left behind."
This remarkable prophecy appeared from the pen of Robert Southey, the Poet-Laureate, in March, 1829 ("Sir Thomas More; or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society," vol. i., Part II., "The Reformation—Dissenters—Methodists.")
RICHARD MONCKTON MILNES.
I have prefixed your name, dear Milnes, to "The City of the Saints:"
The name of a linguist, traveler, poet, and, above all, a man
of intelligent insight into the thoughts and
feelings of his brother men.
Unaccustomed, of late years at least, to deal with tales of twice-told travel, I can not but feel, especially when, as in the present case, so much detail has been expended upon the trivialities of a Diary, the want of that freshness and originality which would have helped the reader over a little lengthiness. My best excuse is the following extract from the lexicographer's "Journey to the Western Islands," made in company with Mr. Boswell during the year of grace 1773, and upheld even at that late hour as somewhat a feat in the locomotive line.
"These diminutive observations seem to take away something from the dignity of writing, and therefore are never communicated but with hesitation, and a little fear of abasement and contempt. But it must be remembered that life consists not of a series of illustrious actions or elegant enjoyments; the greater part of our time passes in compliance with necessities, in the performance of daily duties, in the removal of small inconveniences, in the procurement of petty pleasures, and we are well or ill at ease as the main stream of life glides on smoothly, or is ruffled by small obstacles and frequent interruptions."
True! and as the novelist claims his right to elaborate, in the "domestic epic," the most trivial scenes of household routine, so the traveler may be allowed to enlarge, when copying nature in his humbler way, upon the subject of his little drama, and, not confining himself to the great, the good, and the beautiful, nor suffering himself to be wholly engrossed by the claims of cotton, civilization, and Christianity, useful knowledge and missionary enterprise, to desipere in loco by expatiating upon his bed, his meat, and his drink.
The notes forming the ground-work of this volume were written on patent improved metallic pocket-books in sight of the objects which attracted my attention. The old traveler is again right when he remarks: "There is yet another cause of error not always easily surmounted, though more dangerous to the veracity of itinerary narratives than imperfect mensuration. An observer deeply impressed by any remarkable spectacle does not suppose that the traces will soon vanish from his mind, and, having commonly no great convenience for writing"—Penny and Letts are of a later date—"defers the description to a time of more leisure and better accommodation. He who has not made the experiment, or is not accustomed to require rigorous accuracy from himself, will scarcely believe how much a few hours take from certainty of knowledge and distinctness of imagery; how the succession of objects will be broken, how separate parts will be confused, and how many particular features and discriminations will be found compressed and conglobated with one gross and general idea." Brave words, somewhat pompous and diffused, yet worthy to be written in letters of gold. But, though of the same opinion with M. Charles Didier, the Miso-Albion (Séjour chez le Grand-Chérif de la Mekkeh, Preface, p. vi.), when he characterizes "un voyage de fantaisie" as "le pire de tous les romans," and with Admiral Fitzroy (Hints to Travelers, p. 3), that the descriptions should be written with the objects in view, I would avoid the other extreme, viz., that of publishing, as our realistic age is apt to do, mere photographic representations. Byron could not write verse when on Lake Leman, and the traveler who puts forth his narrative without after-study and thought will produce a kind of Persian picture, pre-Raphaelitic enough, no doubt, but lacking distance and perspective in artists' phrase, depth and breadth in fact, a narrative about as pleasing to the reader's mind as the sage and saleratus prairies of the Far West would be to his ken.
In working up this book I have freely used authorities well known across the water, but more or less rare in England. The books principally borrowed from are "The Prairie Traveler," by Captain Marcy; "Explorations of Nebraska," by Lieutenant G. A. Warren; and Mr. Bartlett's "Dictionary of Americanisms." To describe these regions without the aid of their first explorers, Messrs. Frémont and Stansbury, would of course have been impossible. If I have not always specified the authority for a statement, it has been rather for the purpose of not wearying the reader by repetitions than with the view of enriching my pages at the expense of others.
In commenting upon what was seen and heard, I have endeavored to assume whether successfully or not the public will decide the cosmopolitan character, and to avoid the capital error, especially in treating of things American, of looking at them from the fancied vantage-ground of an English point of view. I hold the Anglo-Scandinavian of the New World to be in most things equal, in many inferior, and in many superior, to his cousin in the Old; and that a gentleman, that is to say, a man of education, probity, and honor—not, as I was once told, one who must get on onner and onnest—is every where the same, though living in separate hemispheres. If, in the present transition state of the Far West, the broad lands lying between the Missouri River and the Sierra Nevada have occasionally been handled somewhat roughly, I have done no more than I should have permitted myself to do while treating of rambles beyond railways through the semi-civilized parts of Great Britain, with their "pleasant primitive populations"—Wales, for instance, or Cornwall.
I need hardly say that this elaborate account of the Holy City of the West and its denizens would not have seen the light so soon after the appearance of a "Journey to Great Salt Lake City," by M. Jules Remy, had there not been much left to say. The French naturalist passed through the Mormon Settlements in 1855, and five years in the Far West are equal to fifty in less conservative lands; the results of which are, that the relation of my experiences will in no way clash with his, or prove a tiresome repetition to the reader of both.
If in parts of this volume there appear a tendency to look upon things generally in their ludicrous or absurd aspects—from which nothing sublunary is wholly exempt—my excuse must be sic me natura fecit. Democritus was not, I believe, a whit the worse philosopher than Heraclitus. The Procreation of Mirth should be a theme far more sympathetic than the Anatomy of Melancholy, and the old Roman gentleman had a perfect right to challenge all objectors with
ridentem dicere verum
14 St. James' Square, 1st July, 1861.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
Route from the Missouri River to the Pacific
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Map of the Wasach Mountains and Great Salt Lake
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General Map of North America
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- The word is proposed by Dr. Norton Shaw, Secretary to the Royal Geographical Society, and should be generally adopted. Anglo-Saxon is to Anglo-Scandinavian what Indo-Germanic is to Indo-European; both serve to humor the absurd pretensions of claimants whose principal claim to distinction is pretentiousness. The coupling England with Saxony suggests to my memory a toast once proposed after a patriotic and fusional political feed in the Isle of the Knights—"Malta and England united can conquer the world."