Hamlin Garland's Literary Beginning
by Edwin Watts Chubb
Hamlin Garland is one of the writers whose name suggests the great
Northwest. He was born in Wisconsin in 1860, went to Iowa and later to
Dakota, striving at an early age to wrest a living from the soil. At
ten years of age he plowed seventy acres of land. His vivid
descriptions of Western farm-life are not the results of reading and
casual observation, supplemented by a vivid imagination; they are the
products of actual experiences.
In a personal interview with Mr. Garland, Frank G. Carpenter gives us
the following interesting particulars:
"The conversation here turned to Mr. Garland's literary work, and he
told me how he was first led to write by reading Hawthorne's Mosses
from an Old Manse. This book so delighted him that he wanted to write
essays like it for a living, and he practised at this during the
intervals of his school-teaching and studying for years. It was not
until he was older that he attempted fiction or poetry. The story of
his first published article is a curious one. Said he:
"'My first literary success was a poem which I wrote for Harper's
Weekly, entitled 'Lost in the Norther.' It was a poem describing a
blizzard and the feelings of a man lost in it. I received twenty-five
dollars for it.'
"'That must have been a good deal of money to you then, Mr. Garland?'
"'It was,' was the reply. 'It was my first money in literature, and I
spent it upon my father and mother. I paid five dollars for a copy of
Grant's Memoirs, which I sent father, and with the remaining twenty
dollars I bought a silk dress for my mother. It was the first silk
dress she had ever had.'
"'When did you write your first fiction?'
"'My mother got half of the money I received for that,' replied Mr.
Garland, 'as it was due to her that I wrote it. I had been studying in
Boston for several years, when I went out to Dakota to visit my
parents. The night after I arrived I was talking with mother about old
times and old friends. She told me how one family had gone back to New
York for a visit, and had returned very happy, in getting back to
their Western home. As she told the story, the pathos of it struck me.
I went into another room and began to write. The story was one of the
best chapters of my book Main-Traveled Roads. I read it to mother,
and she liked it, and upon telling her that I thought it was worth at
least seventy-five dollars, she replied: "Well, if that is so, I think
you ought to divvy with me, for I gave you the story." "I will,"
said I, and so, when I got my seventy-five dollars, I sent her a check
for thirty-seven dollars and fifty cents. I got many other good
suggestions during that trip to Dakota. I wrote poems and stories.
Some of the stories were published in The Century, and I remember
that I received six hundred dollars within two weeks from its editors.
It was perhaps a year later before I published my first book. It had a
good sale, and I have been writing from that day to this.'
"Hamlin Garland spends a part of every year in the West. He has bought
the old home place where he was born in Wisconsin, and he has there a
little farm of four acres, upon which he raises asparagus,
strawberries, onions, and bushels of other things. His mother lives
with him. During my talk with him the other night he said: 'I like the
West and the Western people. I have been brought up with them, and I
expect to devote my life to writing about them. I spend a portion of
each summer on the Rocky Mountains, camping out. I like to go where I
can sleep in the open air and have elbow-room away from the crowded