Jack London

Jack London, "The Cruise of the Snark" Annotated Manuscript and Signed Check

Jack London, The Cruise of the Snark Annotated Manuscript and Signed Check


Lot consists of 5pp 1st revision typed manuscript of The Cruise of the Snark with 15+ handwritten edits/words in Jack London's hand; along with a signed check dating from the era of the Snark's construction.


In the spring of 1907, Jack London (1876-1916), along with his wife Charmian (1871-1955) and a small crew, set out for a modern maritime adventure aboard the Snark, their 45' long custom built sailboat. Over the next 2 years, the Londons would sail west and south across the Pacific Ocean, exploring Hawaii, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Tahiti, Australia, and other tropical locales. London later recounted his travel experiences in a non-fiction illustrated account called The Cruise of the Snark, published by The Macmillan Company in New York in 1911.


These typed manuscript galleys correspond to pages 182-191 of London's final 1st edition of The Cruise of the Snark. This excerpt, which is from the middle section of Chapter XI: "The Nature Man," describes London's friend and self-proclaimed wild man Ernest Darling (1872-1919).


Ernest Darling fascinated London's contemporaries. London had met Darling in California before encountering him again on his travels in the Snark, and the adventure author knew his story well. London published "The Nature Man" as a short story in Woman's Home Companion in 1908 before incorporating it into a chapter of The Cruise of the Snark in 1911.


Darling, a Kansas-born bluestocking who had attended Stanford University and graduated from medical school, nearly died of consumption in his mid-20s. Darling treated himself by adopting a simpler, more primitive lifestyle. His diet consisted of fruits, nuts, vegetables, and raw meat and he eschewed most clothing. He was intensely physically active and lived mostly outdoors. Darling eventually settled in Tahiti, cultivated a self-sufficient food-producing plantation, and married a Tahitian woman. He died in the great influenza epidemic of 1918-1919.


The galley proofs are oversized, measuring 9.25" x 12" on average overall, and have generously sized margins to accommodate handwritten author's edits. They are in mostly good to very good condition, with expected wear including folds, closed tears, and minor scattered loss. Isolated discoloration, water stains, small holes, and rust marks do not affect the legibility of the text. The first page is trimmed at top. A clerk's checklist pinned to the first page dated May 5, 1911 lists the book's working title as "Snark."


London's edits throughout the manuscript are in pencil. On the first, second, and fourth pages, London has drawn an arrow into the text block where he wished illustrations to appear. Included are two black and white photographs that would become Illustration 59, "The abbreviated fish-net shirt" and Illustration 60, "The Nature Man's plantation", both with handwritten captions in London's hand. On the third page, London has corrected two typographical errors ("be" to "he" and "thc" to "the".) On page four, London draws attention to a printing spacing error. Other possibly publisher's edits in red are found throughout.


The manuscript pages correspond to the following published text found in The Cruise of the Snark. Areas affected by London's edits are in bold.


"...the invitation.  In the meantime he went aboard the Snark and took possession of her library, delighted by the quantity of scientific books, and shocked, as I learned afterwards, by the inordinate amount of fiction.  The Nature Man never wastes time on fiction.

After a week or so, my conscience smote me, and I invited him to dinner at a downtown hotel. He arrived, looking unwontedly stiff and uncomfortable in a cotton jacket.  When invited to peel it off, he beamed his gratitude and joy, and did so, revealing his sun-gold skin, from waist to shoulder, covered only by a piece of fish-net of coarse twine and large of mesh.  A scarlet loin-cloth completed his costume.  I began my acquaintance with him that night, and during my long stay in Tahiti that acquaintance ripened into friendship.

“So you write books,” he said, one day when, tired and sweaty, I finished my morning’s work.

“I, too, write books,” he announced.

Aha, thought I, now at last is he going to pester me with his literary efforts.  My soul was in revolt.  I had not come all the way to the South Seas to be a literary bureau.

“This is the book I write,” he explained, smashing himself a resounding blow on the chest with his clenched fist.  “The gorilla in the African jungle pounds his chest till the noise of it can be heard half a mile away.”

“A pretty good chest,” quoth I, admiringly; “it would even make a gorilla envious.”

And then, and later, I learned the details of the marvellous book Ernest Darling had written.  Twelve years ago he lay close to death.  He weighed but ninety pounds, and was too weak to speak.  The doctors had given him up.  His father, a practising physician, had given him up.  Consultations with other physicians had been held upon him.  There was no hope for him.  Overstudy (as a school-teacher and as a university student) and two successive attacks of pneumonia were responsible for his breakdown.  Day by day he was losing strength.  He could extract no nutrition from the heavy foods they gave him; nor could pellets and powders help his stomach to do the work of digestion.  Not only was he a physical wreck, but he was a mental wreck.  His mind was overwrought. He was sick and tired of medicine, and he was sick and tired of persons.  Human speech jarred upon him.  Human attentions drove him frantic.  The thought came to him that since he was going to die, he might as well die in the open, away from all the bother and irritation.  And behind this idea lurked a sneaking idea that perhaps he would not die after all if only he could escape from the heavy foods, the medicines, and the well-intentioned persons who made him frantic.


So Ernest Darling, a bag of bones and a death’s-head, a perambulating corpse, with just the dimmest flutter of life in it to make it perambulate, turned his back upon men and the habitations of men and dragged himself for five miles through the brush, away from the city of Portland, Oregon.  Of course he was crazy.  Only a lunatic would drag himself out of his death-bed.


But in the brush, Darling found what he was looking for—rest.  Nobody bothered him with beefsteaks and pork.  No physicians lacerated his tired nerves by feeling his pulse, nor tormented his tired stomach with pellets and powders.  He began to feel soothed.  The sun was shining warm, and he basked in it.  He had the feeling that the sun shine was an elixir of health.  Then it seemed to him that his whole wasted wreck of a body was crying for the sun.  He stripped off his clothes and bathed in the sunshine.  He felt better.  It had done him good—the first relief in weary months of pain.


As he grew better, he sat up and began to take notice.  All about him were the birds fluttering and chirping, the squirrels chattering and playing.  He envied them their health and spirits, their happy, care-free existence.  That he should contrast their condition with his was inevitable; and that he should question why they were splendidly vigorous while he was a feeble, dying wraith of a man, was likewise inevitable.  His conclusion was the very obvious one, namely, that they lived naturally, while he lived most unnaturally therefore, if he intended to live, he must return to nature.


Alone, there in the brush, he worked out his problem and began to apply it.  He stripped off his clothing and leaped and gambolled about, running on all fours, climbing trees; in short, doing physical stunts,—and all the time soaking in the sunshine.  He imitated the animals.  He built a nest of dry leaves and grasses in which to sleep at night, covering it over with bark as a protection against the early fall rains.  “Here is a beautiful exercise,” he told me, once, flapping his arms mightily against his sides; “I learned it from watching the roosters crow.”  Another time I remarked the loud, sucking intake with which he drank cocoanut-milk.  He explained that he had noticed the cows drinking that way and concluded there must be something in it.  He tried it and found it good, and thereafter he drank only in that fashion.


He noted that the squirrels lived on fruits and nuts.  He started on a fruit-and-nut diet, helped out by bread, and he grew stronger and put on weight.  For three months he continued his primordial existence in the brush, and then the heavy Oregon rains drove him back to the habitations of men.  Not in three months could a ninety-pound survivor of two attacks of pneumonia develop sufficient ruggedness to live through an Oregon winter in the open.


He had accomplished much, but he had been driven in.  There was no place to go but back to his father’s house, and there, living in close rooms with lungs that panted for all the air of the open sky, he was brought down by a third attack of pneumonia.  He grew weaker even than before.  In that tottering tabernacle of flesh, his brain collapsed.  He lay like a corpse, too weak to stand the fatigue of speaking, too irritated and tired in his miserable brain to care to listen to the speech of others.  The only act of will of which he was capable was to stick his fingers in his ears and resolutely to refuse to hear a single word that was spoken to him.  They sent for the insanity experts.  He was adjudged insane, and also the verdict was given that he would not live a month.


By one such mental expert he was carted off to a sanatorium on Mt. Tabor.  Here, when they learned that he was harmless, they gave him his own way.  They no longer dictated as to the food he ate, so he resumed his fruits and nuts—olive oil, peanut butter, and bananas the chief articles of his diet.  As he regained his strength he made up his mind to live thenceforth his own life.  If he lived like others, according to social conventions, he would surely die.  And he did not want to die.  The fear of death was one of the strongest factors in the genesis of the Nature Man.  To live, he must have a natural diet, the open air, and the blessed sunshine.


Now an Oregon winter has no inducements for those who wish to return to Nature, so Darling started out in search of a climate.  He mounted a bicycle and headed south for the sunlands.  Stanford University claimed him for a year.  Here he studied and worked his way, attending lectures in as scant garb as the authorities would allow and applying as much as possible the principles of living that he had learned in squirrel-town.  His favorite method of study was to go off in the hills back of the University, and there to strip off his clothes and lie on the grass, soaking in sunshine and health at the same time that he soaked in knowledge.


But Central California has her winters, and the quest for a Nature Man’s climate drew him on.  He tried Los Angeles and Southern California, being arrested a few times and brought before the insanity commissions because, forsooth, his mode of life was not modelled after the mode of life of his fellow-men.  He tried Hawaii, where, unable to prove him insane, the authorities deported him.  It was not exactly a deportation.  He could have remained by serving a year in prison.  They gave him his choice.  Now prison is death to the Nature Man, who thrives only in the open air and in God’s sunshine.  The authorities of Hawaii are not to be blamed.  Darling was an undesirable citizen.  Any man is undesirable who disagrees with one.  And that any man should disagree to the extent Darling did in his philosophy of the simple life is ample vindication of the Hawaiian authorities verdict of his undesirableness.


So Darling went thence in search of a climate which would not only be desirable, but wherein he would not be undesirable.  And he found it in Tahiti, the garden-spot of garden-spots.  And so it was, according to the narrative as given, that he wrote the pages of his book.  He wears only a loin-cloth and a sleeveless fish-net shirt.  His stripped weight is one hundred and sixty-five pounds.  His health is perfect.  His eyesight, that at one time was considered ruined, is excellent.  The lungs that were practically destroyed by three attacks of pneumonia have not only recovered, but are stronger than ever before.


I shall never forget the first time, while talking to me, that he squashed a mosquito.  The stinging pest had settled in the middle of his back between his shoulders.  Without interrupting the flow of conversation, without dropping even a syllable, his clenched fist shot up in the air, curved backward, and smote his back between the shoulders, killing the mosquito and making his frame resound like a bass drum.  It reminded me of nothing so much as of horses kicking the woodwork in their stalls.


“The gorilla in the African jungle pounds his chest until the noise of it can be heard half a mile away,” he will announce suddenly, and thereat beat a hair-raising, devil’s tattoo on his own chest.


One day he noticed a set of boxing-gloves hanging on the wall, and promptly his eyes brightened.


“Do you box?” I asked.


“I used to give lessons in boxing when I was at Stanford,” was the reply.


And there and then we stripped and put on the gloves.  Bang! a long, gorilla arm flashed out, landing the gloved end on my nose.  Biff! he caught me, in a duck, on the side of the head nearly knocking me over sidewise.  I carried the lump raised by that blow for a week.  I ducked under a straight left, and landed a straight right on his stomach.  It was a fearful blow.  The whole weight of my body was behind it, and his body had been met as it lunged forward.  I looked for him to crumple up and go down.  Instead of which his face beamed approval, and he said, “That was beautiful.”  The next instant I was covering up and striving to protect myself from a hurricane of hooks, jolts, and uppercuts.  Then I watched my chance and drove in for the solar plexus.  I hit the mark.  The Nature Man dropped his arms, gasped, and sat down suddenly.


“I’ll be all right,” he said.  “Just wait a moment.”


And inside thirty seconds he was on his feet—ay, and returning the compliment, for he hooked me in the solar plexus, and I gasped, dropped my hands, and sat down just a trifle more suddenly than he had.


All of which I submit as evidence that the man I boxed with was a totally different man from the poor, ninety-pound weight of eight years before, who, given up by physicians and alienists, lay gasping his life away in a closed room in Portland, Oregon.  The book that Ernest Darling has written is a good book, and the binding is good, too.


Hawaii has wailed for years her need for desirable immigrants.  She has spent much time, and thought, and money, in importing desirable citizens, and she has, as yet, nothing much to show for it.  Yet Hawaii deported the Nature Man.  She refused to give him a chance.  So it is, to chasten Hawaii’s proud spirit, that I take this opportunity to show her what she has lost in the Nature Man.  When he arrived in Tahiti, he proceeded to seek out a piece of land on which to grow the food he ate.  But land was difficult to find—that is, inexpensive land.  The Nature Man was not rolling in wealth.  He spent weeks in wandering over the steep hills, until, high up the mountain, where clustered several tiny canyons, he found eighty acres of brush-jungle which were apparently unrecorded as the property of any one.  The government officials told him that if he would clear the land and till it for thirty years he would be given a title for it.


Immediately he set to work.  And never was there such work.  Nobody farmed that high up.  The land was covered with matted jungle and overrun by wild pigs and countless rats.  The view of Papeete and the sea was magnificent, but the outlook was not encouraging.  He spent weeks in building a road in order to make the plantation accessible.  The pigs and the rats ate up whatever he planted as fast as it sprouted.  He--".


In addition to the hand-corrected manuscript is an unnumbered check inscribed overall and signed “Jack London” on the payee line. Issued from the Central Bank of Oakland, California on May 20, 1905 in the amount of $.75 payable to “C.E. Locke Mfg.” The plain cream check is stamped recto and verso in red, purple, and blue, and the amount due has been circled in blue pencil. In very good condition, with a partly folded top edge and a small closed tear, possibly a cancellation mark, at top. Check measures 6.5" x 2.875".


C.E. Locke Manufacturing Company, based in Kensett, Iowa, specialized in fabricating an early-twentieth-century calculating machine called the Locke Adder. Named after its inventor Clarence E. Locke (1866-1945), the Locke Adder functioned much like an abacus. Could London have purchased a Locke Adder for 75 cents in May 1905? It's possible since Locke patented his first designs in 1901.


Jack London grew up in Oakland, California. He attended elementary school through high school there, and studied at a local waterfront bar named Heinold's First and Last Saloon; the proprietor later lent him tuition money to Berkeley.


Jack London wrote dozens of poems, short stories, essays, and novels over a prolific career curtailed by chronic ill-health. With income generated from adventure classics like Call of the Wild (1903) and White Fang (1906), London was able to purchase a ranch and outfit the Snark.



Item: 64476

Price: $1,500.00
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