A Letter To Woman's Home Companion
Jack London - 1 -
Glen Ellen, Sonoma County, California, U. S. A.
Glen Ellen, Sonoma County, California,
July 18, 1906.
The building of the SNARK goes on apace; but the earthquake and fire have sadly de-
layed the work. Much of material and outfit that ordinarily could have been bought in San
Francisco, I have been compelled to send for to New York. Also, freight is slow these days,
because every merchant and builder is ordering new materials and stocks from the East, and
the railroads are congested. Let me give you an instance. The oak ribs for the boat were
ordered from the East and arrived the day after the earthquake. For four solid weeks we
searched California for the freight car containing these ribs before we found it. And so it
has been with everything else.
And now, naturally, you want to know what I am going to do for you-------or, rather,
for "The Woman's Home Companion." If we are boarded by pirates and fight it out till our deck
becomes a shambles-------I won't write the account of same for "The Woman's Home Companion."
If we are wrecked at sea, and starve and eat one another, I shall not send you harrowing de-
tails of same. Nor will I send you any account, if we are all killed and eaten by the canni-
Joking aside, as I understand it, what you want me to give is the healthful, and in-
teresting, and strong, and not the unpleasant, decadent, and repellant. I shall try to give
what be of interest to your readers. If I go astray, it 's up to you to put me straight again.
You 'll be able to catch me by mail or cable. You see, I shall depend upon you for this; for,
while I realize that your readers would not be interested in the reading matter of a sporting
weekly, I have not my finger as intimately on the pulse of your readers as you have. (I hope
this is n't a mixed metaphor).
- 2 -
I expect to deal largely with the home-life of various peoples, with especial atten-
tion to the part that is played by the women and children. I shall knock around a great deal
in out-of-the-way places, and shall see ways of living undreamed of by your readers.
In addition to home-life in general, a number of topics occur to me, which I present
for your consideration. If you don't like any of them, let me know. Here they are: Domestic
problems; social structures; problems of living; cost of living, compared with same in United
States; education; opportunities for advancement; general tone of peoples, culture, morals,
religion, etc.; how they amuse themselves; the marriage and divorce problems; housekeeping;
charities; and last but not least, the servant-girl problem.
But say, Mr.Vance-------now that I have nicely jotted down all the foregoing, sup-
pose I should n't write a line on it! Suppose I should light upon things vastly more interest-
ing to your readers, and write such things up! You see, I want latitude. Will you give it to
I imagine you know me well enough to guess that I 'm no Cook's tourist. I have nev-
er like to travel in the well-oiled groove--------even in dealing with editors. I 've got to
see things for myself, in my own way. I remember the way I arrived in Italy. On the train I
met a Frenchman who spoke a little Italian and less English. We grew chummy. At Spezzio we
were delayed by a train-wreck. We went sailing in the harbor, and on an Italian man-of-war
became acquainted with a boatswain. The latter got shore liberty and proceeded to show us the
town. Both he and the Frenchman were revolutionists. Birds of a feather, you know-------and
by three in the morning there were a dozen of us, singing the Marseillaise and clashing with
the police. Now I would n't write such an adventure for "The Woman's Home Companion," but
you can bet I saw more in one night of the real human life of Spezzio than could a whole gen-
eration of tourists.
As you know, the SNARK is a small craft. She is forty-five feet long on the water-
line, and at sea is to be propelled solely by wind. Yet she is equipped with a seventy
horse-power engine. When we strike the land, out go the masts, on goes the engine, and away
we go up into the land. For instance, we plan to go up the Seine to Paris; up the Thames to
London; up the Danube from the Black Sea to Vienna; up the Amazon and other big South American
rivers; and in the United States, up the Hudson, along the Erie Canal and Great Lakes, and
- 3 -
down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico. We expect to spend months on the canals of China,
a summer at Venice, a winter at Naples, and certainly a winter at St.Petersburg. And because
the boat is small and able to go up into the land, I consider that I shall get in far more
intimate touch with peoples and conditions than if I merely hung around the ports.
I guess my first article to you will be from Hawaii. Don't judge all my articles
by what this first one may be. It may be infinitely worse than the rest of the series, and it
may be infinitely better. A writer is no more infallible xx than an editor whne it comes to
hitting the bulls-eye.
After Hawaii we sail for the Marquesas. Expect to fool around a lot in the South
Seas. I 'm sure we 'll take in the pearl-fishing. (I 'll wager I 'll be able to give your
readers some new wrinkles in the cooking of fish, meat and vegetables). Then we 're sure to
go to Samoa, New Zealand, Tasmania, and Australia. There 's a field in itself for you!
I 'm sure we 'll do the Philippines, and I 'm equally sure you 'll be interested in
them. Then there 's Japan, and the women and children of Japan. I 've already been twice to
Japan, and believe me it requires more than two visits to take in all the beauty and wonder of
the women and children. But life 's too short to go on with my whole itinerary.
By the way-----fotos. I 'll see that you get plenty of good photographs. Incident-
ally, I am myself taking along only four cameras, and I know how to use them, too.
If you get ideas, or if your readers suggest to you ideas, concerning things to write
about, send them along-------the ideas, I mean. Of course, you can't bully me into writing
what I don't want to write-------but your ideas will receive serious attention, and I am con-
fident, if you are not parsimonious, that you will be able to give me many valuable sugges-
In conclusion, your readers are your clients, while I am my own client. I under-
stand that you 're a regular Cerberus. That 's all right, but I 'm not going to throw any
sops to you. I 'm not going to ask you not to revise my stuff. If you promised you would n't
I know you 'd revise it anyway-------of such stuff are editors made. I 'll deliver the goods,
without swear-words (in the text), and do you fulfil your divinely appointed task of protect-
ing your readers. But for goodness' sake don't turn all my good red blood to water.