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 6pp 1st revision typed manuscript of The Cruise of the Snark with approximately 10 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 204-216 of London's final 1st edition of The Cruise of the Snark. This excerpt, which includes the middle section of Chapter XII: "The High Seat of Abundance," describes highlights of the Londons' experience in the Society Islands: Polynesian cuisine, fishing with live octopus bait, and sailing in tropical storms. Other topics include South Sea elephantiasis and an 86-year-old New England emigre named George Lufkin.


The galley proofs are oversized, measuring 9.25" x 12" on average overall, and have generously sized margins to accommodate handwritten author's edits. The pages are in fair to good condition, with scattered discoloration as well as isolated loss and repairs. The two black and white photographs have sustained serious water damage.


London's edits throughout the manuscript are in pencil and blue pen. On the first and fourth pages, London has drawn an arrow pointing to the text block where he wished corresponding illustrations to appear. On page two, London has replaced the word "take" with "have" and noted a superfluous hyphen between the words "we" and "marveled." London's handwritten captions on the photographs that would become Illustration 65, "A South Sea Island Home" and Illustration 66, "Visitors on board the Snark at Raiatea" are faded and only partly legible. 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.


"--ever we did admire a particular object it was immediately presented to us.  The two vahines, according to the way of vahines, got together in a discussion and examination of feminine fripperies, while Tehei and I, manlike, went over fishing-tackle and wild-pig-hunting, to say nothing of the device whereby bonitas are caught on forty-foot poles from double canoes.  Charmian admired a sewing basket—the best example she had seen of Polynesian basketry; it was hers.  I admired a bonita hook, carved in one piece from a pearl-shell; it was mine.  Charmian was attracted by a fancy braid of straw sennit, thirty feet of it in a roll, sufficient to make a hat of any design one wished; the roll of sennit was hers.  My gaze lingered upon a poi-pounder that dated back to the old stone days; it was mine.  Charmian dwelt a moment too long on a wooden poi-bowl, canoe-shaped, with four legs, all carved in one piece of wood; it was hers.  I glanced a second time at a gigantic cocoanut calabash; it was mine.  Then Charmian and I held a conference in which we resolved to admire no more—not because it did not pay well enough, but because it paid too well.  Also, we were already racking our brains over the contents of the Snark for suitable return presents.  Christmas is an easy problem compared with a Polynesian giving-feast.


We sat on the cool porch, on Bihaura’s best mats while dinner was preparing, and at the same time met the villagers.  In twos and threes and groups they strayed along, shaking hands and uttering the Tahitian word of greeting—Ioarana, pronounced yo-rah-nah.  The men, big strapping fellows, were in loin-cloths, with here and there no shirt, while the women wore the universal ahu, a sort of adult pinafore that flows in graceful lines from the shoulders to the ground.  Sad to see was the elephantiasis that afflicted some of them.  Here would be a comely woman of magnificent proportions, with the port of a queen, yet marred by one arm four times—or a dozen times—the size of the other.  Beside her might stand a six-foot man, erect, mighty-muscled, bronzed, with the body of a god, yet with feet and calves so swollen that they ran together, forming legs, shapeless, monstrous, that were for all the world like elephant legs.


No one seems really to know the cause of the South Sea elephantiasis.  One theory is that it is caused by the drinking of polluted water.  Another theory attributes it to inoculation through mosquito bites.  A third theory charges it to predisposition plus the process of acclimatization.  On the other hand, no one that stands in finicky dread of it and similar diseases can afford to travel in the South Seas.  There will be occasions when such a one must drink water. There may be also occasions when the mosquitoes let up biting.  But every precaution of the finicky one will be useless.  If he runs barefoot across the beach to have a swim, he will tread where an elephantiasis case trod a few minutes before.  If he closets himself in his own house, yet every bit of fresh food on his table will have been subjected to the contamination, be it flesh, fish, fowl, or vegetable.  In the public market at Papeete two known lepers run stalls, and heaven alone knows through what channels arrive at that market the daily supplies of fish, fruit, meat, and vegetables.  The only happy way to go through the South Seas is with a careless poise, without apprehension, and with a Christian Science-like faith in the resplendent fortune of your own particular star.  When you see a woman, afflicted with elephantiasis wringing out cream from cocoanut meat with her naked hands, drink and reflect how good is the cream, forgetting the hands that pressed it out.  Also, remember that diseases such as elephantiasis and leprosy do not seem to be caught by contact.


We watched a Raratongan woman, with swollen, distorted limbs, prepare our cocoanut cream, and then went out to the cook-shed where Tehei and Bihaura were cooking dinner.  And then it was served to us on a dry-goods box in the house.  Our hosts waited until we were done and then spread their table on the floor.  But our table!  We were certainly in the high seat of abundance.  First, there was glorious raw fish, caught several hours before from the sea and steeped the intervening time in lime-juice diluted with water.  Then came roast chicken.  Two cocoanuts, sharply sweet, served for drink.  There were bananas that tasted like strawberries and that melted in the mouth, and there was banana-poi that made one regret that his Yankee forebears ever attempted puddings.  Then there was boiled yam, boiled taro, and roasted feis, which last are nothing more or less than large mealy, juicy, red-coloured cooking bananas.  We marvelled at the abundance, and, even as we marvelled, a pig was brought on, a whole pig, a sucking pig, swathed in green leaves and roasted upon the hot stones of a native oven, the most honourable and triumphant dish in the Polynesian cuisine.  And after that came coffee, black coffee, delicious coffee, native coffee grown on the hillsides of Tahaa.


Tehei’s fishing-tackle fascinated me, and after we arranged to go fishing, Charmian and I decided to remain all night.  Again Tehei broached Samoa, and again my petit bateau brought the disappointment and the smile of acquiescence to his face.  Bora Bora was my next port.  It was not so far away but that cutters made the passage back and forth between it and Raiatea.  So I invited Tehei to go that far with us on the Snark.  Then I learned that his wife had been born on Bora Bora and still owned a house there.  She likewise was invited, and immediately came the counter invitation to stay with them in their house in Bora Bora.  It was Monday.  Tuesday we would go fishing and return to Raiatea.  Wednesday we would sail by Tahaa and off a certain point, a mile away, pick up Tehei and Bihaura and go on to Bora Bora.  All this we arranged in detail, and talked over scores of other things as well, and yet Tehei knew three phrases in English, Charmian and I knew possibly a dozen Tahitian words, and among the four of us there were a dozen or so French words that all understood.  Of course, such polyglot conversation was slow, but, eked out with a pad, a lead pencil, the face of a clock Charmian drew on the back of a pad, and with ten thousand and one gestures, we managed to get on very nicely.


At the first moment we evidenced an inclination for bed the visiting natives, with soft Iaoranas, faded away, and Tehei and Bihaura likewise faded away.  The house consisted of one large room, and it was given over to us, our hosts going elsewhere to sleep.  In truth, their castle was ours.  And right here, I want to say that of all the entertainment I have received in this world at the hands of all sorts of races in all sorts of places, I have never received entertainment that equalled this at the hands of this brown-skinned couple of Tahaa.  I do not refer to the presents, the free-handed generousness, the high abundance, but to the fineness of courtesy and consideration and tact, and to the sympathy that was real sympathy in that it was understanding.  They did nothing they thought ought to be done for us, according to their standards, but they did what they divined we waited to be done for us, while their divination was most successful.  It would be impossible to enumerate the hundreds of little acts of consideration they performed during the few days of our intercourse.  Let it suffice for me to say that of all hospitality and entertainment I have known, in no case was theirs not only not excelled, but in no case was it quite equalled.  Perhaps the most delightful feature of it was that it was due to no training, to no complex social ideals, but that it was the untutored and spontaneous outpouring from their hearts.


The next morning we went fishing, that is, Tehei, Charmian, and I did, in the coffin-shaped canoe; but this time the enormous sail was left behind.  There was no room for sailing and fishing at the same time in that tiny craft.  Several miles away, inside the reef, in a channel twenty fathoms deep, Tehei dropped his baited hooks and rock-sinkers.  The bait was chunks of octopus flesh, which he bit out of a live octopus that writhed in the bottom of the canoe.  Nine of these lines he set, each line attached to one end of a short length of bamboo floating on the surface.  When a fish was hooked, the end of the bamboo was drawn under the water.  Naturally, the other end rose up in the air, bobbing and waving frantically for us to make haste.  And make haste we did, with whoops and yells and driving paddles, from one signalling bamboo to another, hauling up from the depths great glistening beauties from two to three feet in length.


Steadily, to the eastward, an ominous squall had been rising and blotting out the bright trade-wind sky.  And we were three miles to leeward of home.  We started as the first wind-gusts whitened the water.  Then came the rain, such rain as only the tropics afford, where every tap and main in the sky is open wide, and when, to top it all, the very reservoir itself spills over in blinding deluge.  Well, Charmian was in a swimming suit, I was in pyjamas, and Tehei wore only a loin-cloth.  Bihaura was on the beach waiting for us, and she led Charmian into the house in much the same fashion that the mother leads in the naughty little girl who has been playing in mud-puddles.


It was a change of clothes and a dry and quiet smoke while kai-kai was preparing.  Kai-kai, by the way, is the Polynesian for “food” or “to eat,” or, rather, it is one form of the original root, whatever it may have been, that has been distributed far and wide over the vast area of the Pacific.  It is kai in the Marquesas, Raratonga, Manahiki, Niuë, Fakaafo, Tonga, New Zealand, and Vaté.  In Tahiti “to eat” changes to amu, in Hawaii and Samoa to ai, in Ban to kana, in Nina to kana, in Nongone to kaka, and in New Caledonia to ki.  But by whatsoever sound or symbol, it was welcome to our ears after that long paddle in the rain.  Once more we sat in the high seat of abundance until we regretted that we had been made unlike the image of the giraffe and the camel.


Again, when we were preparing to return to the Snark, the sky to windward turned black and another squall swooped down.  But this time it was little rain and all wind.  It blew hour after hour, moaning and screeching through the palms, tearing and wrenching and shaking the frail bamboo dwelling, while the outer reef set no a mighty thundering as it broke the force of the swinging seas.  Inside the reef, the lagoon, sheltered though it was, was white with fury, and not even Tehei’s seamanship could have enabled his slender canoe to live in such a welter.


By sunset, the back of the squall had broken though it was still too rough for the canoe.  So I had Tehei find a native who was willing to venture his cutter across to Raiatea for the outrageous sum of two dollars, Chili, which is equivalent in our money to ninety cents.  Half the village was told off to carry presents, with which Tehei and Bihaura speeded their parting guests—captive chickens, fishes dressed and swathed in wrappings of green leaves, great golden bunches of bananas, leafy baskets spilling over with oranges and limes, alligator pears (the butter-fruit, also called the avoca), huge baskets of yams, bunches of taro and cocoanuts, and last of all, large branches and trunks of trees—firewood for the Snark.


While on the way to the cutter we met the only white man on Tahaa, and of all men, George Lufkin, a native of New England!  Eighty-six years of age he was, sixty-odd of which, he said, he had spent in the Society Islands, with occasional absences, such as the gold rush to Eldorado in ’forty-nine and a short period of ranching in California near Tulare.  Given no more than three months by the doctors to live, he had returned to his South Seas and lived to eighty-six and to chuckle over the doctors aforesaid, who were all in their graves.  Fee-fee he had, which is the native for elephantiasis and which is pronounced fay-fay.  A quarter of a century before, the disease had fastened upon him, and it would remain with him until he died.  We asked him about kith and kin.  Beside him sat a sprightly damsel of sixty, his daughter.  “She is all I have,” he murmured plaintively, “and she has no children living.”


The cutter was a small, sloop-rigged affair, but large it seemed alongside Tehei’s canoe.  On the other hand, when we got out on the lagoon and were struck by another heavy wind-squall, the cutter became liliputian, while the Snark, in our imagination, seemed to promise all the stability and permanence of a continent.  They were good boatmen.  Tehei and Bihaura had come along to see us home, and the latter proved a good boatwoman herself.  The cutter was well ballasted, and we met the squall under full sail.  It was getting dark, the lagoon was full of coral patches, and we were carrying on.  In the height of the squall we had to go about, in order to make a short leg to windward to pass around a patch of coral no more than a foot under the surface.  As the cutter filled on the other tack, and while she was in that “dead” condition that precedes gathering way, she was knocked flat.  Jib-sheet and main-sheet were let go, and she righted into the wind.  Three times she was knocked down, and three times the sheets were flung loose, before she could get away on that tack.


By the time we went about again, darkness had fallen.  We were now to windward of the Snark, and the squall was howling.  In came the jib, and down came the mainsail, all but a patch of it the size of a pillow-slip.  By an accident we missed the Snark, which was riding it out to two anchors, and drove aground upon the inshore coral.  Running the longest line on the Snark by means of the launch, and after an hour’s hard work, we heaved the cutter off and had her lying safely astern.


The day we sailed for Bora Bora the wind was light, and we crossed the lagoon under power to the point where Tehei and Bihaura were to meet us.  As we made in to the land between the coral banks, we vainly scanned the shore for our friends.  There was no sign of them.


“We can’t wait,” I said.  “This breeze won’t fetch us to Bora Bora by dark, and I don’t want to use any more gasolene than I have to.”


You see, gasolene in the South Seas is a problem.  One never knows when he will be able to replenish his supply.


But just then Tehei appeared through the trees as he came down to the water.  He had peeled off his shirt and was wildly waving it.  Bihaura apparently was not ready.  Once aboard, Tehei informed us by signs that we must proceed along the land till we got opposite to his house.  He took the wheel and conned the Snark through the coral, around point after point till we cleared the last point of all.  Cries of welcome went up from the beach, and Bihaura, assisted by several of the villagers, brought off two canoe-loads of abundance.  There were yams, taro, feis, breadfruit, cocoanuts, oranges, limes, pineapples, watermelons, alligator pears, pomegranates, fish, chickens galore crowing and cackling and laying eggs on our decks, and a live pig that squealed infernally and all the time in apprehension of imminent slaughter.


Under the rising moon we came in through the perilous passage of the reef of Bora Bora and dropped anchor off Vaitapé village.  Bihaura, with housewifely anxiety, could not get ashore too quickly to her house to prepare more abundance for us.  While the launch was taking her and Tehei to the little jetty, the sound of music and of singing drifted across the quiet lagoon.  Throughout the Society Islands we had been continually informed that we would find the Bora Borans very jolly.  Charmian and I went ashore to see, and on the village green, by forgotten graves on the beach, found the youths and maidens dancing, flower-garlanded and flower-bedecked, with strange phosphorescent flowers in their hair that pulsed and dimmed and glowed in--".


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 31, 1905 in the amount of $1.25 payable to “Herbert C. Chivers.” The plain cream check is stamped in purple, maroon, and green recto and verso, and bears a y-shaped cancellation mark at center. In very good to near fine condition, with a few folded corners. Check measures 6.5" x 2.875".


Jack London's creditor Herbert C. Chivers (1869-1946) was a St. Louis, Missouri-based architect who served as the editor of The Home Builder, a monthly magazine that included ready-to-build house plans. London's check for $1.25 was probably for an annual magazine subscription.


In 1905, London purchased his first ranch on Mount Sonoma in Glen Ellen, California called Beauty Ranch, or the Ranch of Good Intentions. (Today, the ranch, along with London's 1911 Wolf House ruins, are part of Jack London State Historic Park.) This check suggests that London was preoccupied with ranch and home design. Finally, the world traveler wanted a place to call home.


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.


This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.



Item: 64526

Price: $1,200.00
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