Author under Sail: The Imagination of Jack London, 1893-1902

Author under Sail: The Imagination of Jack London, 1893-1902

Author under Sail: The Imagination of Jack London, 1893-1902

Author under Sail: The Imagination of Jack London, 1893-1902


In Author Under Sail, Jay Williams offers the first complete literary biography of Jack London as a professional writer engaged in the labor of writing. It examines the authorial imagination in London's work, the use of imagination in both his fiction and nonfiction, and the ways he defined imagination in the creative process in his business dealings with his publishers, editors, and agents. In this first volume of a two-volume biography, Williams traverses the years 1893 to 1902, from London's "Story of a Typhoon" to The People of the Abyss.

The Jack London who emerges in the pages of Author Under Sail is a writer whose partnership with publishers, most notably his productive alliance with George Brett of Macmillan, was one of the most formative in American literary history. London pioneered many author models during the heyday of realism and naturalism, blurring the boundaries of these popular genres by focusing on absorption and theatricality and the representation of the seen and unseen. London created an impassioned, sincere, and extremely personal realism unlike that of other American writers of the time.

Author Under Sail is a literary tour de force that reveals the full range of London as writer, creative citizen, and entrepreneur at the same time it sheds light on the maverick side of machine-age literature.


He, by some wonder of vision, saw beyond the farthest outpost of
empiricism, where was no language for narration.

—Jack London, Martin Eden

Life lies in order to live. Life is a perpetual lie-telling process….
Appearances are ghosts. Life is ghost land.

—Jack London, John Barleycorn

Any traditional summation of events surrounding the date 1900—a year, like 2000, that draws our attention magnetically—will include the panic of 1893 and the formation and disintegration of Coxey’s and Kelly’s industrial armies, the Chicago Columbian Exposition, Plessy v. Ferguson, the discovery of gold in the Klondike, the first public viewings of films, and the war with Spain. In general, it was a time in the United States of three key trends: industrial and financial development through consolidation and incorporation; world power exercised by military strength; and general protest and dispute voiced against the incorporating and military powers. Jack London was personally involved in four of six specific events during this time and a major figure of one of these trends. Perriton Maxwell, at one time the editor of Cosmopolitan and later a literary agent, contacted London in August 1916 to see if he would be interested in writing a short message “for one of the foremost and influential of American magazines” and for the “American people” in general on the question of “the significance of Christmas day 1916.” Maxwell had been asked to contact “the ten most distinguished and representative citizens of this country.” He tells London, “For many obvious reasons I have chosen you as one of this important group.” The irony of this request is stunning. First, Christmas was always a day of depression, anxiety, and aloneness for London. Second, by Christmas 1916 London was dead. Third, his writing career is bracketed by references to Christmas: his very first essay on socialism, written in 1895, begins, “Socialism . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.