The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XI. The Later Novel: Howells

§ 32. Jack London

Much the same thing may be said of Jack London (1876–1916), one or two of whose novels will likely outlast his short stories, important as they were in his best days, and close kin as his stories and novels are in subjects, style, and temper. Norris’s “elemental” in London became “abysmal” passions. He carried the cult of “red-blood” to its logical, if not ridiculous, extreme. And yet he has a sort of Wild-Irish power that will not go unnoted. John Barleycorn (1913) is an amazingly candid confession of London’s own struggles with alcohol. Martin Eden (1909), also autobiographical, though assumed names appear in it, recounts the terrific labours by which in three years London made himself from a common sailor into a popular author. The Sea-Wolf (1904) reveals at its fullest his appetite for cold ferocity in its record of the words and deeds of Wolf Larsen, a Nietzschean, Herculean, Satanic ship captain, whose incredible strength terminates credibly in sudden paralysis and impotence. Most popular of all, and best equipped for survival, is The Call of the Wild (1903), the story of a dog stolen from civilization to draw a sledge in Alaska, eventually to escape from human control and go back to the wild as leader of a pack of wolves. As in most animal tales, the narrative is sentimentalized, but there runs through it, along with its deadly perils and adventures, an effective sensitiveness to the Alaskan wastes, a robust, moving, genuine current of poetry.