Hamlin Garland's Early Work and Career

By Donald Pizer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
THE DEVELOPMENT OF A LITERARY CREED (1884-1887)

I

PROBABLY the most important single event in Hamlin Garland's career was his journey in October, 1884, from the plains of South Dakota to Boston.1 His purpose in making this move was to prepare himself to be a teacher of literature and oratory, a desire that sprang primarily from what he later called the power of comparative ideas. By gradually discovering the richness, the complexity, and the beauty of the physical and the intellectual world, Garland explained, he had developed standards by which to measure his own life, and had found goals to strive for. This process had not been operative for the first sixteen years of his life. During these years in Wisconsin and Iowa, he had experienced the normal life of a boy on a Western American farm, drafted to the plow early, taking school lightly, and living the full physical life of youth.

The first step in the process occurred in the spring of 1876. Garland's father had accepted the position of Grange elevator operator in Osage, Iowa, and in March, after renting out his farm, he moved his family into town. For the first time young Garland was freed from the heavy duty of the farm and was at leisure in the midst of the bustling life of the county seat. It was not long before he wanted to attend the town seminary, as most of his new friends were doing. He enrolled in the fall of 1876 and for the next five years divided his time between farm work (his father returned to farming in the spring of 1877) and the seminary.

The schedule of the Cedar Valley Seminary, like that of most Western schools of the day, was designed to fit the farmer's cycle

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