THE following letters, as is generally known, were writtento THE NEW YORK TRIBUNE during a journey through Kansas, Utah, and California, last summer.
No one can be more conscious than the writer that theypresent the slightest possible claims to literary merit or enduringinterest. Their place is among the thousand ephemeral productions of the press on which the reading public, if good-natured, bestows akindly glance, then charitably forgets them. Ten years hence, hardly a hundred persons will be able, without sustained effort, torecollect that these letters were ever printed. Hurriedly written, mainly in wagons or under the rudest tents, while closely surrounded by the (very limited) appliances and processes of pioneer meal-getting,far from books of reference, and often in the absence of even thecommonest map, they deal with surfaces only, and these undercircumstances which preclude the idea of completeness of informationor uniform accuracy of statement. The value of such a work, ifvalue it have, must be sought in unstudied simplicity of narration, in the freshness of its observations, and in the truth of its avermentsas transcripts of actual experiences and currentimpressions.
By consulting and studying the reports of eminent officialexplorers and pioneers, from Lewis and Clark to Fremont and Lander, who have traversed the Plains, the Rocky Mountains, and the Great Basin, a far more complete and reliable book might have beenmade, but one extending to several volumes, and of which the publicdoes not seem to stand in conscious, urgent need. That herewithsubmitted, though of far humbler pretensions, has at least the meritof owing little or nothing to anyother.
If any excuse for printing these letters were wanted, it mightbe found in the fact that much of the ground passed over by thewriter was absolutely new--that is, it had never before been traversedand described. The route up Solomon's Fork and the upper portion of