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18 The Old Pioneer Takes the Back Trail In the midst of this period of hard work on Hesper, news of the death of Frank Norris came to me. Frank Norris the most valiant, the happiest, the handsomest of all my fellow craftsmen. Nothing more shocking, more insensate than the destruction of this glorious young fictionist had come to my literary circle, for he was aglow with a husband’s happiness,gay with the pride of paternity, and in the full spring-tide of his powers. His going left us all poorer and took from American literature one of its strongest young writers. The papers at once wired me for tributes, and these I gave, gladly,and laterwhen one of the magazines paid me for an article, I used the money in the purchase of a tall clock to serve as a memorial .This time-piece stands in the hall of my city home and every time I pass it I am reminded of the fine free spirit of Frank Norris. In my small corner of the world he remains a vital memory. All through October I wrote on my novel, but as the dark days of autumn came on,I began as usual to dwell upon my interests in the city and not even Zulime’s companionship could keep me from a feeling of restlessness. I longed for literary comradeship. Theoretically my native village was an ideal place in which to write, actually it sapped me and after a few weeks depressed me. With no literary “atmosphere,” damnable word, I looked away to NewYork for stimulus.I did not go so far as one of my friends who declined to have anything to do with his relatives simply because he did not like them, but I clearly recognized that my friends in the city meant more to me than any of my Wisconsin neighbors and it became more and more evident that to make and keep an arbitrary residence in a region which did not in itself stimulate or satisfy me,was a mistake.There was nothing to do in West Salem but write. Above all otherconsiderations,however,I had a feeling,perhaps 215 Garland_Daughter_to press 10/20/06 3:43 PM Page 215 it was a mistaken one,—that my powers grew in proportion as I went Eastward. In West Salem I was merely an amateur gardener, living a life which approached the vegetable,—so far as external action went.In Chicago I was a perversity,a man of mis-directed energy .In NewYork I was,at least respected as a writer. In short NewYork allured me as London allures the writers of England, and as Paris attracts the artists of Europe. It was my literary capital.Theoretically I belonged to Wisconsin, as Hardy belonged toWessex or Barrie to Scotland,actually my happiest home was adjacent to Madison Square. Only as I neared the publishing centers did I feel the slightest confidence in the future. This increased sense of importance may have been based upon an illusion but it was a very real emotion nevertheless. Why should I not feel this? From my village home,from digging potatoes and doing carpenter work, I went (almost directly) to a luncheon at theWhite House,and the following night I attended a dinner given to Mark Twain on his sixty-seventh birthday with William Dean Howells,Thomas B.Reed,Wayne McVeagh,Brander Matthews,H.H.Rogers,George Harvey,Pierpont Morgan,Hamilton Wright Mabie and a dozen others who were leaders in their chosen work, as my table mates. Perhaps I was not deserving of these honors—I’m not urging that point—I am merely stating the facts which made my home inWest Salem seem remote and lonely to me.Acknowledging myself a weak mortal I could not entirely forego the honors which the East seemed willing to bestow,and as fatherwas in good health with a household of his own,I felt free to spend the entire winter in New York. For the first time in many years,I felt relieved of anxiety for those left behind. New York was in the worst of its subway upheaval when we landed there, but having secured a small furnished apartment in a new but obscure hotel on Forty-seventh street,Zulime and I settled down for the winter. Our tiny three-room suite (a lovely nest for a woman) was not in the least like a home for an old trailer and...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780873516662
Related ISBN
9780873515665
MARC Record
OCLC
835517518
Pages
352
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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