Monday, February 08, 2010

E. Gould Buffum's Six Months in the Goldmines: From a Journal of Three Years Residence in Upper and Lower California

The rare book is now on-line at the Library of Congress.

E. Gould Buffum was in Lower California (Baja California) as an officer in the U.S. Army during the U.S.-Mexican War. I quoted from his delightfully vivid memoir of his time in and around La Paz and Todos Santos in my own memoir, Miraculous Air: Journey of a Thousand Miles through Baja California, the Other Mexico. Some years later, Buffum ended up in Paris as the correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. I found several references to secret meetings with him in Paris circa 1865-1866 in the archives of John Bigelow, the U.S. minister to France. This brings me to the connection with my novel:

Because she did meet with Bigelow and she was looking to cause a scandal, it is entirely possible that Alice Green de Iturbide, mother of the prince in The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, my novel based on the true story, might have made Buffum's acquaintance while in Paris. Certainly she would have known who he was, for he was then considered one of the leading U.S. journalists in Europe. I took a small liberty in having her threaten Madame Almonte with his appearance in the scene in the chapter "In the Grand-Hotel."

Shortly after this time, Buffum, alas, committed suicide in Paris. He left a charming record of his travels in France, Switzerland and elsewhere on the continent. More about that book anon.