Underground Books recently acquired a small archive of materials related to famed American author Jack London. London, most well known today for his works The Call of the Wild and White Fang, was a dramatic and controversial figure in his time. His passionate activism, outspoken socialism, and racist ideologies made him a polarizing figure whose personal life has been widely studied by scholars, fans, and critics alike.
The highlight of our recent acquisition is a love letter from London to his mistress Charmian Kittredge in 1904. London was married to his first wife at the time, Elizabeth “Bessie” Maddern. They were open about the fact that they did not marry out of love, but the desire to produce “sturdy children” (a nod to some of London’s controversial views on eugenics). As the letter below shows, London’s fiery love of Charmian stood in stark contrast to his passionless marriage to Maddern. In 1905 London divorced Maddern and married Charmian, who would be his partner for the rest of his life.
The complete text of the letter reads as follows: God knows I love you, my woman. I know it now, as never before. And I know, also, that I shall see until I die the picture of a woman’s gray form – stark against the black crowd – as she stood on the pier-end and kissed, and kissed, and kissed her lover goodbye. I see you now, as clearly as I saw you yesterday and it was better than the last kiss, my darling. It was you, all you & all abandon, there on the ______-piece of the pier kissing your love to me. And because you could not get the last kiss, no woman got the last kiss from me yesterday. I kissed George on the lips by the gang-planks. Dear Charmian, dear my own. I shall come back, & soon. And we shall be happy, so happy. There are two correspondents on board with their wives, & how I envy them – not their wives, but the fact that they may take their wives with them, while my true wife remains at home.
Interestingly, there is also a bit here about how he “kissed George,” most likely a reference to his long-time friendship with poet George Sterling.
Other items in our collection include programs for Bosworth’s silent films of London’s books The Sea Wolf and John Barleycorn (2 copies of each), reproduced photographs of London and his horse, and magazine first appearances of several London short stories and novellas.
See details about purchasing this collection on our website at http://www.undergroundbooks.net/pages/books/707/jack-london/original-hand-written-jack-london-love-letter-to-charmian-other-misc-london-ephemera