The Life and Adventures of Edward Snell in the State Library of Victoria is significant as an extended narrative diary account of the life of an immigrant caught up in the earliest days of the Victorian gold rush, and then in colonial infrastructure development. One of just three narrative diaries of the goldfields in the SLV, Snell’s covers the longest period (10 years) and is especially engaging, thanks to his amusing accounts and illustrations of events. These refer not only to the larger context of the diggings (and his prior experience in South Australia, and subsequent work in Victoria and Tasmania) but to one man’s personal experience of colonial Australia.
The other two goldfields diaries in the SLV, the Diary of Charles Evans (1853 –1855) and the anonymous Diary of a Miner Working on the Ballarat Goldfields (1855 –1856) provide more detailed social commentary on goldfields life than Snell’s diary, including establishing businesses in Ballarat, the daily life of a miner, a first-hand account of the Eureka Stockade, theatrical performances by Lola Montez and Charles Thatcher, mining accidents, the murder of a butcher, and the escape of a Bengal tiger from the Montezuma Circus. The Snell diary, however, covers a much longer period than either the Evans or Ballarat diaries, and includes more information about his experiences in Australia other than on the goldfields.