‘You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.’
On the centenary of Jack London's death, David Stuart Davies considers his life and work. ...
"The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time. "
Jack London (Chaney, John Griffith) was born on January 12th, 1876 in San Francisco. He was deserted by his father, William Henry Chaney and was brought up on the tough Oakland waterfront by his mother, Flora Wellman and stepfather John London, whose surname he took.
At the age of 17 he signed on a sealing ship, which took him to the Arctic and Japan. When he returned the Depression had hit the USA and adopted socialistic views. In 1894 he joined a March on Washington to petition on behalf of the poor, in the same year he was arrested and jailed for vagrancy. Lacking any formal education, London educated himself in public libraries, and at the age of 19 he enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley, but dropped out after one semester. After joining the Klondike gold rush, he returned to Oakland and began to write about his various experiences.
In 1900 he married Elisabeth Maddern, but left her and his three daughters three years later. He later married Charmian Kittredge. His first novel, A Daughter of the Snows, was published in 1902 and quickly led to his third novel, the hugely successful The Call of the Wild (1903). He quickly became established as a highly successful and popular novelist and earned a vast amount of money during his lifetime. However in the latter years of his life, alcoholism, ill health, and self-doubt caused him severe unhappiness. He found it extremely difficult to reconcile his own success with the things he had previously seen and endured.
He died on November 22nd, 1916, officially from gastro-intestinal uremia, though it has long been thought that he killed himself with an overdose of morphine.
TITLES BY JACK LONDON