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Mannering is originally from Sussex, England, and is associated with the forceful zodiac sign of Leo. He is part of the council of twelve men who meet at the Crown the night the book opens.
Dick is quite the businessman; in addition to owning and operating the Prince of Wales Opera House in Hokitika, he is known as "a whoremonger, a card sharp, a shareholder, and a goldfields magnate" (I.6.23). That's quite a, er, varied resume …
Mannering is also loud and opinionated—and a cheat. Early in the book, we learn that he had "salted" one of his mines, which means that he was taking gold from elsewhere and planting it on a "duffer" claim called the Aurora (where there was otherwise no gold). He did this to make the claim appear to have value before selling it.
Then, he ended up selling the claim to his friend Emery Staines, which makes him look extremely dastardly to us at first—it's bad enough to salt a claim, but then to sell it to a friend? What a jerk, right?
Well, not exactly. It turns out that Mannering was actually trying to help Staines out by selling him a dry claim—and, as we learn later in the book, Staines knew all about the fact that it was a duffer.
You see, as part of their sponsorship agreement, Staines was required to give up 50 percent shares of his first claim to Carver. However, Staines quickly figured out that Carver was a very bad dude (and that the sponsorship agreement was a total con in the first place), so he wanted to find a way to prevent Carver from making any money off of him. So, Mannering sold Staines the Aurora as a favor, since the claim would allow Staines to fulfill his obligations to Carver without producing any moolah that Carver could then claim.
So, Mannering actually looks like a nicer guy once that's all explained, since you find out he didn't actually screw over his friend. Of course, it is still fraud, but at least he decided to put that fraud toward a good cause? We're trying to be glass-half-full here, people …
But then, you can't really ignore the fact that Mannering is loud, racist, and bullying throughout the novel, and he's particularly offensive with the Chinese characters. So, we'll save the choruses of "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow" for now.