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11 avril 2012 3 11 /04 /avril /2012 03:02

Jack London

John Griffith "Jack" London (born John Griffith Chaney,[1] January 12, 1876 – November 22, 1916)[2][3][4][5] was an American author, journalist, and social activist. He was a pioneer in the then-burgeoning world of commercial magazine fiction and was one of the first fiction writers to obtain worldwide celebrity and a large fortune from his fiction alone.[6] HP Pavilion dv6-3100 Battery

He is best remembered as the author of Call of the Wild and White Fang, both set in the Klondike Gold Rush, as well as the short stories "To Build a Fire", "An Odyssey of the North", and "Love of Life".[citation needed] He also wrote of the South Pacific in such stories as "The Pearls of Parlay" and "The Heathen", and of the San Francisco Bay area inThe Sea Wolf. HP Pavilion dv6-3100sa Battery

London was a passionate advocate of unionization, socialism, and the rights of workers and wrote several powerful works dealing with these topics such as his dystopian novel,The Iron Heel and his non-fiction exposé, The People of the Abyss. HP Pavilion dv6-3110ea Battery

Jack London's mother, Flora Wellman, was the fifth and youngest child of Pennsylvania Canal builder Marshall Wellman and his first wife, Eleanor Garrett Jones. Marshall Wellman was a great-great-great-grandson of Puritan Thomas Wellman.[7] HP Pavilion dv6-3111sa Battery

Flora left Ohio and moved to the Pacific coast when her father remarried after her mother died. In San Francisco, Flora worked as a music teacher and Spiritualist claiming to channel the spirit of an Indian chief.[8]HP Pavilion dv6-3110sa Battery


Biographer Clarice Stasz and others believe that London's father was astrologer William Chaney.[9] Flora Wellman was living with Chaney in San Francisco when she became pregnant. Whether Wellman and Chaney were legally married is unknown. HP Pavilion dv6-3112sa Battery

Most San Francisco civil records were destroyed by the extensive fires that followed the 1906 earthquake; it is not known with certainty what name appeared on his birth certificate. Stasz notes that in his memoirs, Chaney refers to London's mother Flora Wellman as having been his "wife" and also cites an advertisement in which Flora called herself "Florence Wellman Chaney".[citation needed]HP Pavilion dv6-3113sa Battery


According to Flora Wellman's account, as recorded in the San Francisco Chronicle of June 4, 1875, Chaney demanded that she have an abortion. When she refused, he disclaimed responsibility for the child. In desperation, she shot herself. HP Pavilion dv6-3114sa Battery

She was not seriously wounded, but she was temporarily deranged. After she gave birth, Flora turned the baby over to ex-slave Virginia Prentiss, who remained a major maternal figure throughout London's life. Late in 1876, Flora Wellman married John London, HP Pavilion dv6-3115sa Battery

a partially disabled Civil War veteran, and brought her baby John, later known as Jack, to live with the newly married couple. The family moved around the San Francisco Bay Area before settling in Oakland, where London completed grade school. HP Pavilion dv6-3115tx Battery


In 1897, when he was 21 and a student at the University of California, Berkeley, London searched for and read the newspaper accounts of his mother's suicide attempt and the name of his biological father. He wrote to William Chaney, then living in Chicago. HP Pavilion dv6-3116sa Battery

Chaney responded that he could not be London's father because he was impotent; he casually asserted that London's mother had relations with other men and averred that she had slandered him when she said he insisted on an abortion. He concluded that he was more to be pitied than London.[10] London was devastated by his father's letter. In the months following, he quit school at Berkeley and went to the Klondike. HP Pavilion dv6-3116tx Battery


Early life

London was born near Third and Brannan Streets in San Francisco. The house burned down in the fire after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake; the California Historical Societyplaced a plaque at the site in 1953. Though the family was working class, it was not as impoverished as London's later accounts claimed[citation needed]. London was essentially self-educated[citation needed]. HP Pavilion dv6-3117sa Battery


In 1885 London found and read Ouida's long Victorian novel Signa. He credited this as the seed of his literary success.[11] In 1886 he went to the Oakland Public Library and found a sympathetic librarian, Ina Coolbrith, who encouraged his learning. (She later became California's first poet laureate and an important figure in the San Francisco literary community). HP Pavilion dv6-3118sa Battery


In 1889, London began working 12 to 18 hours a day at Hickmott's Cannery. Seeking a way out, he borrowed money from his black foster mother Virginia Prentiss, bought thesloop Razzle-Dazzle from an oyster pirate named French Frank, and became an oyster pirate. In his memoir, John Barleycorn, he claims to have stolen French Frank's mistress Mamie.[12][13][14] HP Pavilion dv6-3119sa Battery

After a few months, his sloop became damaged beyond repair. London became hired as a member of the California Fish Patrol. HP Pavilion dv6-3120sa Battery


In 1893, he signed on to the sealing schooner Sophie Sutherland, bound for the coast of Japan. When he returned, the country was in the grip of the panic of '93 and Oakland was swept by labor unrest. After grueling jobs in a jute mill and a street-railway power plant, he joined Kelly's Army and began his career as a tramp. In 1894, he spent 30 days for vagrancy in the Erie County Penitentiary at Buffalo. In The Road, he wrote: HP Pavilion dv6-3121sa Battery


Man-handling was merely one of the very minor unprintable horrors of the Erie County Pen. I say 'unprintable'; and in justice I must also say undescribable. They were unthinkable to me until I saw them, and I was no spring chicken in the ways of the world and the awful abysses of human degradation. It would take a deep plummet to reach bottom in the Erie County Pen, and I do but skim lightly and facetiously the surface of things as I there saw them. HP Pavilion dv6-3122sa Battery


After many experiences as a hobo and a sailor, he returned to Oakland and attendedOakland High School. He contributed a number of articles to the high school's magazine,The Aegis. His first published work was "Typhoon off the Coast of Japan", an account of his sailing experiences. HP Pavilion dv6-3123sa Battery


As a schoolboy, London often studied at Heinold's First and Last Chance, a port side bar in Oakland. At 17, he confessed to the bar's owner, John Heinold, his desire to attend University and pursue a career as a writer. Heinold lent London tuition money to attend college. HP Pavilion dv6-3125sa Battery


London desperately wanted to attend the University of California, Berkeley. In 1896 after a summer of intense studying to pass certification exams, he was admitted. Financial circumstances forced him to leave in 1897 and he never graduated. No evidence suggests that London wrote for student publications while studying at Berkeley.[15]HP Pavilion dv6-3127sa Battery


While at Berkeley, London continued to study and spend time at Heinold's saloon where he was introduced to the sailors and adventurers who would influence his writing. In his autobiographical novel, John Barleycorn, HP Pavilion dv6-3130sa Battery

London mentioned the pub's likeness seventeen times. Heinold's was the place where London met Alexander McLean, a captain known for his cruelty at sea,[16] whom the protagonist in London's novel The Sea-Wolf, Wolf Larsen, is based.[17]HP Pavilion dv6-3131sa Battery


Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon is now unofficially named Jack London's Rendezvous in his honor.

Gold rush and first success

On July 12, 1897, London (age 21) and his sister's husband Captain Shepard sailed to join the Klondike Gold Rush. This was the setting for some of his first successful stories. HP Pavilion dv6-3140sa Battery

London's time in the Klondike, however, was detrimental to his health. Like so many other men who were malnourished in the goldfields, London developed scurvy. His gums became swollen, leading to the loss of his four front teeth. HP Pavilion dv6-3141ea Battery

A constant gnawing pain affected his hip and leg muscles, and his face was stricken with marks that always reminded him of the struggles he faced in the Klondike. Father William Judge, "The Saint of Dawson," had a facility in Dawson that provided shelter, food and any available medicine to London and others. His struggles there inspired London's short story, "To Build a Fire", which many critics assess as his best. HP Pavilion dv6-3163eo Battery


His landlords in Dawson were mining engineers Marshall Latham Bond and Louis Whitford Bond, educated at Yale and Stanford. The brothers' father, Judge Hiram Bond, was a wealthy mining investor. The Bonds, especially Hiram, were active Republicans. Marshall Bond's diary mentions friendly sparring with London on political issues as a camp pastime. HP Pavilion dv6-3180ea Battery


London left Oakland with a social conscience and socialist leanings; he returned to become an activist for socialism. He concluded that his only hope of escaping the work "trap" was to get an education and "sell his brains." He saw his writing as a business, his ticket out of poverty, and, he hoped, a means of beating the wealthy at their own game. HP Pavilion dv6-3298ea Battery

On returning to California in 1898, London began working deliberately to get published, a struggle described in his novel, Martin Eden. His first published story was "To the Man On Trail", which has frequently been collected in anthologies. HP Pavilion dv6-3299ea Battery

When The Overland Monthlyoffered him only five dollars for it—and was slow paying—London came close to abandoning his writing career. In his words, "literally and literarily I was saved" when The Black Cat accepted his story "A Thousand Deaths," and paid him $40—the "first money I ever received for a story." HP Pavilion dv6-3300 Battery


London was fortunate in the timing of his writing career. He started just as new printing technologies enabled lower-cost production of magazines. This resulted in a boom in popular magazines aimed at a wide public, and a strong market for short fiction. In 1900, he made $2,500 in writing, about $70,000 in current value. His career was well under way. HP Pavilion dv6-3300sg Battery

Among the works he sold to magazines was a short story known as either "Batard" or "Diable", in two editions of the same basic story. A cruel French Canadian brutalizes his dog. The dog retaliates and kills the man. London told some of his critics that man's actions are the main cause of the behavior of their animals, and he would show this in another short story. HP Pavilion dv6-3350ef Battery


In early 1903, London sold The Call of the Wild to The Saturday Evening Post for $750, and the book rights to Macmillan for $2,000. Macmillan's promotional campaign propelled it to swift success.[18]HP Pavilion dv6-3350sf Battery


While living at his rented villa on Lake Merritt in Oakland, London met poet George Sterlingand in time they became best friends. HP Pavilion dv6-3351sf Battery

In 1902, Sterling helped London find a home closer to his own in nearby Piedmont. In his letters London addressed Sterling as "Greek," owing to his aquiline nose and classical profile, and signed them as "Wolf." London was later to depict Sterling as Russ Brissenden in his autobiographical novel Martin Eden (1910) and as Mark Hall in The Valley of the Moon (1913). HP Pavilion dv6-3351ef Battery


In later life London indulged his wide-ranging interests by accumulating a personal library of 15,000 volumes. He referred to his books as "the tools of my trade."[19]HP Pavilion dv6-3355ef Battery


First marriage (1900–1904)

London married Elizabeth "Bessie" Maddern on April 7, 1900, the same day The Son of the Wolf was edited. Bess had been part of his circle of friends for a number of years. She was related to stage actresses Minnie Maddern Fiske and Emily Stevens. HP Pavilion dv6-3355sf Battery

Stasz says, "Both acknowledged publicly that they were not marrying out of love, but from friendship and a belief that they would produce sturdy children.",[20] Kingman says, "they were comfortable together... Jack had made it clear to Bessie that he did not love her, but that he liked her enough to make a successful marriage."[21]HP Pavilion dv6-3362ef Battery


During the marriage, London continued his friendship with Anna Strunsky, co-authoringThe Kempton-Wace Letters, an epistolary novel contrasting two philosophies of love. Anna, writing "Dane Kempton's" letters, arguing for a romantic view of marriage, while London, writing "Herbert Wace's" letters, argued for a scientific view, based on Darwinism and eugenics. In the novel, his fictional character contrasted two women he had known. HP Pavilion dv6-3362sf Battery


London's pet name for Bess was "Mother-Girl" and Bess's for London was "Daddy-Boy".[22] Their first child, Joan, was born on January 15, 1901, and their second, Bessie (later called Becky), on October 20, 1902. Both children were born in Piedmont, California. Here London wrote one of his most celebrated works, The Call of the Wild. HP Pavilion dv6-6000 Battery


While London had pride in his children, the marriage was under strain. Kingman says that by 1903 they were close to separation as they were "extremely incompatible." Nevertheless, "Jack was still so kind and gentle with Bessie that when Cloudsley Johns was a house guest in February 1903 he didn't suspect a breakup of their marriage."[23]HP Pavilion dv6-6000eg Battery


London reportedly complained to friends Joseph Noel and George Sterling that, "[Bessie] is devoted to purity. When I tell her morality is only evidence of low blood pressure, she hates me. She'd sell me and the children out for her damned purity. It's terrible. HP Pavilion dv6-6001ea Battery

Every time I come back after being away from home for a night she won't let me be in the same room with her if she can help it."[24] Stasz writes that these were "code words for [Bess's] fear that [Jack] was consorting with prostitutes and might bring home venereal disease."[25]HP Pavilion dv6-6001eg Battery


On July 24, 1903, London told Bessie he was leaving and moved out. During 1904 London and Bess negotiated the terms of a divorce, and the decree was granted on November 11, 1904.[26]HP Pavilion dv6-6001sg Battery


On August 18, 1904, London went with his close friend, the poet George Sterling, to "Summer High Jinks" at the Bohemian Grove. London was elected to honorary membership in the Bohemian Club and took part in many activities. Other noted members of the Bohemian Club during this time included Ambrose Bierce, Allan Dunn, John Muir,Gelett Burgess, and Frank Norris. HP Pavilion dv6-6002eg Battery

Beginning in December 1914, London worked on The Acorn Planter, A California Forest Play, to be performed as one of the annual Grove Plays, but it was never selected—it was described as too difficult to set to music.[27] London published The Acorn Planter in 1916.[28]HP Pavilion dv6-6002sg Battery


Second marriage

After divorcing Maddern, London married Charmian Kittredge in 1905. London was introduced to Kittredge by his MacMillan publisher, George Platt Brett, Sr., while Kittredge served as Brett's secretary. Biographer Russ Kingman called Charmian "Jack's soul-mate, HP Pavilion dv6-6003eg Battery

always at his side, and a perfect match." Their time together included numerous trips, including a 1907 cruise on the yacht Snark to Hawaii and Australia.[29] Many of London's stories are based on his visits to Hawaii, the last one for 10 months beginning in December 1915.[30]HP Pavilion dv6-6004sa Battery


The couple also visited Goldfield, Nevada in 1907, where they were guests of the Bond brothers, London's Dawson City landlords. The Bond brothers were working in Nevada as mining engineers. HP Pavilion dv6-6005ea Battery


London had contrasted the concepts of the "Mother Woman" and the "Mate Woman" inThe Kempton-Wace Letters. His pet name for Bess had been "mother-girl;" his pet name for Charmian was "mate-woman."[31] Charmian's aunt and foster mother, a disciple ofVictoria Woodhull, had raised her without prudishness.[32] Every biographer alludes to Charmian's uninhibited sexuality.[33][34]HP Pavilion dv6-6005eg Battery


Joseph Noel calls the events from 1903 to 1905 "a domestic drama that would have intrigued the pen of an Ibsen.... London's had comedy relief in it and a sort of easy-going romance."[35] In broad outline, London was restless in his marriage; HP Pavilion dv6-6005sg Battery

sought extramarital sexual affairs; and found, in Charmian Kittredge, not only a sexually active and adventurous partner, but his future life-companion. They attempted to have children. One child died at birth, and another pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. HP Pavilion dv6-6006ea Battery


In 1906, London published in Collier's magazine his eye-witness report of the San Francisco earthquake.

Beauty Ranch (1905–1916)

In 1905, London purchased a 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) ranch in Glen Ellen, Sonoma County, California, on the eastern slope of Sonoma Mountain, for $26,450. He wrote that "Next to my wife, the ranch is the dearest thing in the world to me." HP Pavilion dv6-6007sg Battery

He desperately wanted the ranch to become a successful business enterprise. Writing, always a commercial enterprise with London, now became even more a means to an end: "I write for no other purpose than to add to the beauty that now belongs to me. HP Pavilion dv6-6007TX Battery

I write a book for no other reason than to add three or four hundred acres to my magnificent estate." After 1910, his literary works were mostly potboilers, written out of the need to provide operating income for the ranch. HP Pavilion dv6-6008eg Battery


Stasz writes that London "had taken fully to heart the vision, expressed in his agrarian fiction, of the land as the closest earthly version of Eden ... he educated himself through the study of agricultural manuals and scientific tomes. He conceived of a system of ranching that today would be praised for its ecological wisdom."[HP Pavilion dv6-6011tu Battery

He was proud to own the first concrete silo in California, a circular piggery that he designed. He hoped to adapt the wisdom of Asian sustainable agriculture to the United States. He hired both Italian and Chinese stonemasons, whose distinctly different styles are obvious. HP Pavilion dv6-6013tu Battery


The ranch was an economic failure. Sympathetic observers such as Stasz treat his projects as potentially feasible, and ascribe their failure to bad luck or to being ahead of their time. Unsympathetic historians such as Kevin Starr suggest that he was a bad manager, distracted by other concerns and impaired by his alcoholism. HP Pavilion dv6-6024tx Battery

Starr notes that London was absent from his ranch about six months a year between 1910 and 1916, and says, "He liked the show of managerial power, but not grinding attention to detail .... London's workers laughed at his efforts to play big-time rancher [and considered] the operation a rich man's hobby."[citation needed]HP Pavilion dv6-6025tx Battery


London spent $80,000 ($2,070,000 in current value) to build a 15,000-square-foot (1,400 m2) stone mansion ("Wolf House") on the property. Just as the mansion was nearing completion, two weeks before the Londons planned to move in, it was destroyed by fire. HP Pavilion dv6-6027tx Battery


London's last visit to Hawaii,[36] beginning in December 1915, lasted eight months. He met with Duke Kahanamoku, Prince Jonah Kūhiō Kalaniana'ole, Queen Lili‘uokalani and many others, before returning to his ranch in July 1916.[30] He was suffering from kidney failure, but he continued to work. HP Pavilion dv6-6042sf Battery


The ranch (abutting stone remnants of Wolf House) is now a National Historic Landmarkand is protected in Jack London State Historic Park. HP Pavilion dv6-6051xx Battery



Many older sources describe London's death as a suicide, and some still do.[37] This conjecture appears to be a rumor, or speculation based on incidents in his fiction writings. His death certificate[38] gives the cause as uremia, following acute renal colic, a type of pain often described as "the worst pain [...] ever experienced",[39] commonly caused bykidney stones. Uremia is also known as uremic poisoning. HP Pavilion dv6-6054ef Battery


London died November 22, 1916, in a sleeping porch in a cottage on his ranch. He was in extreme pain and taking morphine, and it is possible that a morphine overdose, accidental or deliberate, may have contributed to his death. HP Pavilion dv6-6063sf Battery

The biographer Stasz writes, "Following London's death, for a number of reasons, a biographical myth developed in which he has been portrayed as an alcoholic womanizer who committed suicide. Recent scholarship based upon firsthand documents challenges this caricature."[40]HP Pavilion dv6-6054sf Battery


London's fiction featured several suicides. In his autobiographical memoir John Barleycorn, he claims, as a youth, to have drunkenly stumbled overboard into the San Francisco Bay, "some maundering fancy of going out with the tide suddenly obsessed me". HP Pavilion dv6-6087eg Battery

He said he drifted and nearly succeeded in drowning before sobering up and being rescued by fishermen. In the dénouement of The Little Lady of the Big House, the heroine, confronted by the pain of a mortal gunshot wound, undergoes a physician-assisted suicide by morphine. Also, in "Martin Eden", the principal protagonist, who shares certain characteristics with London himself, drowns himself. HP Pavilion dv6-6090sf Battery


London had been a robust man but had suffered several serious illnesses, includingscurvy in the Klondike. At the time of his death, he suffered from dysentery and uremia and late stage alcoholism. During travels on the Snark, he and Charmian may have picked up unspecified tropical infections. Most biographers, including Russ Kingman, now agree he died of uremia aggravated by an accidental morphine overdose.[41]HP Pavilion dv6-6090us Battery


London's ashes were buried, together with those of his second wife Charmian (who died in 1955), in Jack London State Historic Park, in Glen Ellen, California. The simple grave is marked only by a mossy boulder. HP Pavilion dv6-6091nr Battery


Accusations of plagiarism

London was vulnerable to accusations of plagiarism not only because he was such a conspicuous, prolific, and successful writer, but also because of his methods of working. He wrote in a letter to Elwyn Hoffman, "expression, you see—with me—is far easier than invention." He purchased plots and novels from the young Sinclair Lewis and used incidents from newspaper clippings as writing material. HP Pavilion dv7-4000eh Battery

Egerton R. Young claimed The Call of the Wild was taken from his book My Dogs in the Northland. London acknowledged using it as a source and claimed to have written a letter to Young thanking him.HP Pavilion dv7-4000sb Battery


In July 1901, two pieces of fiction appeared within the same month: London's "Moon-Face", in the San Francisco Argonaut, and Frank Norris's "The Passing of Cock-eye Blacklock," in Century. Newspapers showed the similarities between the stories, which London said were "quite different in manner of treatment, HP Pavilion dv7-4000 Battery

 [but] patently the same in foundation and motive."[42] London explained both writers based their stories on the same newspaper account. A year later, it was discovered that Charles Forrest McLean had published a fictional story also based on the same incident. HP Pavilion dv7-4001tx Battery


In 1906, the New York World published "deadly parallel" columns showing eighteen passages from London's short story "Love of Life" side by side with similar passages from a nonfiction article by Augustus Biddle and J. K Macdonald, titled "Lost in the Land of the Midnight Sun." [43] London noted the World did not accuse him of "plagiarism," but only of "identity of time and situation," to which he defiantly "pled guilty."[44]HP Pavilion dv7-4002TX Battery


The most serious charge of plagiarism was based on London's "The Bishop's Vision", Chapter 7 of his The Iron Heel. The chapter is nearly identical to an ironic essay that Frank Harris published in 1901, titled "The Bishop of London and Public Morality."[45] HP Pavilion dv7-4003tx Battery

Harris was incensed and suggested he should receive 1/60th of the royalties from The Iron Heel, the disputed material constituting about that fraction of the whole novel. London insisted he had clipped a reprint of the article, which had appeared in an American newspaper, and believed it to be a genuine speech delivered by the Bishop of London. HP Pavilion dv7-4003xx Battery


Political views

London joined the Socialist Labor Party in April 1896. In the same year, the San Francisco Chronicle published a story about the twenty-year-old London giving nightly speeches in Oakland's City Hall Park, an activity he was arrested for a year later. HP Pavilion dv7-4004ez Battery

He ran unsuccessfully as the high-profile Socialist nominee for mayor of Oakland in 1901 (receiving 245 votes) and 1905 (improving to 981 votes), toured the country lecturing on socialism in 1906, and published collections of essays about socialism (The War of the Classes, 1905;Revolution, and other Essays, 1906). HP Pavilion dv7-4004TX Battery

As London explained in his essay, "How I Became a Socialist", his views were influenced by his experience with people at the bottom of the social pit. His optimism and individualism faded, and he vowed never to do more hard work than necessary. He wrote that his individualism was hammered out of him, and he was politically reborn. He often closed his letters "Yours for the Revolution."[46]HP Pavilion dv7-4005so Battery


In his Glen Ellen ranch years, London felt some ambivalence toward socialism and complained about the "inefficient Italian labourers" in his employ.[47] In 1916, he resigned from the Glen Ellen chapter of the Socialist Party, but stated emphatically he did so "because of its lack of fire and fight, and its loss of emphasis on the class struggle." HP Pavilion dv7-4005sw Battery


Stasz notes that "London regarded the Wobblies as a welcome addition to the Socialistcause, although he never joined them in going so far as to recommend sabotage."[48]Stasz mentions a personal meeting between London and Big Bill Haywood in 1912.[49]HP Pavilion dv7-4006so Battery


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