Jack London in California
Camp Internet has relied on Jack London's writings about surfing in the
Explore the California Channel Islands section of the Camp.
For Explore the California Backcountry, we will be looking at his life
and writings about the California Mountains.
Jack London - Biography London was an internationally enjoyed writer whose
travels to far corners of the earth gave him excellent experiences and
material for his well-known books The Call of the Wild, White Fang, The
Sea wolf and Valley of the Moon.
But through it all, London was a lifelong Californian, and an expert in
capturing the energy and vitality of western living. By the time he was
26, he had published numerous short stories and two books, had purchased
a comfortable home in the hills on the eastern side of San Francisco Bay,
and had a one-year-old daughter.
He was surrounded by a crowd of friends - artists, poets, playwrights,
and critics - who came to enjoy the Piedmont Hills around London's home
From the introduction of Jack London's California by Sal Noto, we learn
that " London was always proud to say he was first and foremost a Californian,
and with rich material at hand, he dew heavily from personal experiences
in his native state for much of what he wrote.
So it is not surprising that over half of his books contain something
concerning people, events, and landscapes of the Golden State during the
colorful and sometimes turbulent period at the turn of the century" (early
The UC Berkeley Sun Site introduction to Jack London describes him as
a " prolific writer whose fiction explored three geographies and their
cultures: the Yukon, California, and the South Pacific. He experimented
with many literary forms, from conventional triangle love stories to science
fantasy. His noted journalism included war correspondence, boxing stories,
and the life of Molokai lepers. A committed socialist, he insisted against
editorial pressures to write political essays and insert social criticism
in his fiction. He was among the most influential figures of his day,
who understood how to create a public persona and use the media to market
his self-created image of poor-boy-turned-success. London's great passion
was agriculture, and he was well on the way of creating a new model for
ranching through his Beauty Ranch when he died of kidney disease at age
40. He left over fifty books of novels, stories, journalism, and essays,
many of which have been translated and continue to be read around the
London was born on January 12, 1876 to parents Flora Wellman and William
H. Chaney, who were not to marry. Eight months after his birth, Flora
did marry John London, and the young boy was named John Griffith London.
The family moved frequently trying to find a stable source of income.
Their efforts at farm living were not successful, and they lived most
often in the growing cities of the San Francisco Bay area. By the time
London was 15, he was trying his hand at oyster pirating, and eventually
joined the California Fish Patrol that gave him a legitimate income and
kept him sailing the waters with the exhilarating freedom that he so loved.
He was impatient in school, had several troubles with law, and became
even more determined to get his schooling. He passed, through self-study,
the entrance exams to UC Berkeley, even though he had not formally completed
high school. But it was soon the call of gold in the Klondike that caught
his attention, and after only a semester at college, he was on the road
for northern Canada. All this before he was 20 years old, and before the
end of the 1890s.
While these many experiences didn't prove profitable - not in gold ore
- these experiences gave Jack London a wealth of materials and maturity
for his writing. The experiences in the Klondike proved to be some of
the most important in his life and he said, "It was in the Klondike that
I found myself. There … you get your perspective. I got mine." He came
back in 1898 and began writing short stories for magazines such as the
Overland Monthly and the Atlantic Monthly. By the time he was 24, he had
written and published his first book, "the Son of the Wolf" using inspiration
from his Klondike and Alaska travels. He married, had two daughters and
wrote one of his most famous works "The Call of the Wild" by 1903.
After separating from his first wife, London was ready to try out country
living, and began spending time in Sonoma, a fertile valley surrounded
by mountains north of San Francisco. There he met his second wife, Charmain
Kittredge, a spirited young woman who was an excellent 'mate' to London's
urge for travel, adventure, and closeness to the land. He had bought a
127-acre retreat in Glen Ellen, near Charmain's family lodge, the Wake
Soon after their marriage, and following the 1906 earthquake that knocked
San Francisco to the ground, the Londons set sail on an adventure to Hawaii,
the Marquesas, Tahiti, Samoa, the Fijis, New Hebrides, and the Solomon
Islands. By the time they reached Australia two years later, they had
to end the trip due to the entire crew's difficulty in overcoming various
tropical illnesses. They returned to their ranch at Glen Ellen in 1909.
He named it "Beauty Ranch' and it eventually came to cover 1400 acres.
London's life lasted 40 years, and during that time he became a beloved
American author who captured the heart and soul of the West. While on
assignment for Collier's Magazine to report on the Mexican Revolution
in 1914, he became ill again. Respites in Hawaii and returning home to
the ranch were unable to cure his illness this time. On November 22, 1916,
he died at his Beauty Ranch, which has now become a State Park to honor
this remarkable man's life and achievements.
Valley of the Moon
London Creative Writing contest
Jack London Quiz
Jack London Quiz