Hamlin Garland's Early Work and Career

By Donald Pizer | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
THE POPULIST REVOLT (1891-1892)

I

WHEN GARLAND published Under the Wheel he was an unknown writer. Two and a half years later, in January, 1893, the Chicago Tribune's literary editor confidently stated that as far as Western literature for 1892 was concerned, "In the department of prose fiction Mr. Hamlin Garland is easily first."1 In the interval Garland had published five books. After Main-Travelled Roads appeared in early June, 1891, there followed four novels in 1892: Jason Edwards, A Member of the Third House, A Little Norsk, and A Spoil of Office. Of these novels, only the latter half of A Spoil of Office was wholly original work. Jason Edwards and A Member of the Third House were derived from earlier plays. A Little Norsk was completed in late 1888, and the first half of A Spoil of Office was written sometime during 1888-1889. Garland's eagerness to gather up and publish older work stemmed primarily from his desire to establish himself as a professional author. In the fall of 1891--after Main-Travelled Roads had been widely and, on the whole, encouragingly reviewed, and after Flower had commissioned him to write a serial novel for the Arena--Garland resigned from the Boston School of Oratory and determined to devote himself entirely to writing and lecturing. But instead of finding greater opportunity for composition, he appears to have found freedom to travel. For two and a half years, from October, 1891, until April, 1894 (when he finally settled in Chicago), he was seldom in one city for more than a month at a time. No wonder that his new work of this period consisted primarily of shorter pieces--essays, short

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