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London On London…

July 2024
2min read

Only a man who has undergone famine can properly value food; only sailors and desert-dwellers know the meaning of fresh water. And only a child, with a child’s imagination, can come to know the meaning of things it has been long denied. I early discovered that the only things I could have were those I got for myself.

—John Barleycorn, 1913

Perhaps the greatest charm of tramp-life is the absence of monotony. In Hobo Land the face of life is protean … where the impossible happens and the unexpected jumps out of the bushes at every turn. … The hobo never knows what is going to happen the next moment; hence, he lives only in the present moment.…

—The Road, 1905

Martin had enjoyed the fight, with a recrudescence of the old fighting thrills. But they quickly died away, and he was oppressed by a great sadness. He felt very old—centuries older than those careless, care-free young companions of his other days. He had traveled too far to go back.… He was too far removed. Too many thousands of opened books yawned between them and him.

Martin Eden, 1909

Civilization has spread a veneer over the soft shelled animal known as man. It is a very thin veneer.… Starve him, let him miss six meals, and see gape through the veneer the hungry maw of the animal beneath. Get between him and the female of his kind upon whom his mating instinct is bent, and see his eyes blaze like an angry cat’s, hear in his throat the scream of wild stallions.… Touch his silly vanity, which he exults into high-sounding pride, call him a liar, and behold the red animal in him that makes a hand clutching that is quick like the tensing of a tiger’s claw, or an eagle’s talon, incarnate with desire to rip and destroy.

—The Call of the Wild, 1903

Marriage means less to man than to woman? Yes, by all means, at least to the normal man or woman. As surely as reproduction is woman’s peculiar function, and nutrition man’s, so surely does marriage sum up more to woman than to man. It becomes the whole life of the woman, while to the man it is rather an episode, rather a mere side to his many-sided life. Natural selection has made it so.

—The Kempton-Wace Letters, 1903

Heavens, how I wrote! Never was there a creative fever such as mine from which the patient escaped fatal results. The way I worked was enough to soften my brain and send me to a madhouse. I wrote, I wrote everything.… On occasion, I composed steadily, day after day, for fifteen hours a day.

—“Jack London by Himself,”
in Mainly About People , 1910

The man’s stooped and narrow shoulders and weazened chest proclaimed him the true child of the crowded ghetto.… To Martin, this withered wisp of a creature was a symbol. He was the figure that stood forth representative of the whole miserable mass of weaklings and inefficients who perished according to biological law on the ragged confines of life. They were the unfit.

—Martin Eden

No, I am not in love. I am very thankful that I am not. I pride myself on the fact. As you say, I may not be adjusting my life artistically to its environment… but I do know that I am adjusting it scientifically. I am arranging my life so that I may get the most out of it, while the one thing to disorder it, worse than flood and fire and the public enemy, is love.

—The Kempton-Wace Letters

Martin questioned the validity of his popularity. It was the bourgeoisie that bought his books and… it was not clear to him how it could possibly appreciate or comprehend what he had written. His … beauty and power meant nothing to the hundreds of thousands who were acclaiming him and buying his books. He was the fad of the hour … who had stormed Parnassus while the gods nodded.

—Martin Eden

The dice were loaded. Those that died did not win, and all died. Who won? Not even Life, the stool-pigeon, the arch-crapper for the game—Life the ever-flourishing graveyard, the everlasting funeral procession.

—Burning Daylight, 1910

… it is a terrible ordeal for a man to stand upright on his two legs unswaying, and decide that in all the universe he finds for himself but one freedom, namely, the anticipating of the day of his death.

—John Barleycorn

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