The incinerated dream of Jack London.



I would rather be ashes than dust.  I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.  I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.  The proper function of man is to live, not to exist.  I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.  I shall use my time.  ~Jack London, 1916

Jack London was a hard charging, immensely popular author of 40-plus books when he bought a number of adjacent parcels of land in Glen Ellen, California between 1908 and 1913. He had studied the farming practices of Asia while working as a war correspondent and felt that Americans were ruining the soil with their methods and thought he could do better. With his usual immense energy, bravado and having  plenty of money at his disposal he set about building “Beauty Ranch”.

In addition to getting the farm started, Jack also hired an architect to draw up plans for an immense 26 room stone mansion for himself and his wife Charmian. He named it “Wolf House” after the animals he loved and had written so much about.  Just days before the couple was to move in, the house caught fire and burned to the ground leaving only its’ huge stone skeleton as a sad reminder of Jack’s dream home.






“Wolf House” was never rebuilt and Jack London died in 1916. He and Charmian are buried together on a hill behind it under a big stone taken from the ruins of “Wolf House”.

3 thoughts on “The incinerated dream of Jack London.


    What a fascinating story – I’d never heard it before. It kind of surprises me that writing the way he did – Jack London desired to dwell in a mansion. Buck realized wealth meant nothing – it was the wild where he was a king. But, Jack did name it Wolf House – I guess that’s something. My 13-year-old son loves, Call of the WIld. I reread it again for the fifth time when my son had to read it in school. We humored ourselves for months quoting lines from the story.
    Your accompanying images are terrific!

    1. JohnAmes

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment Ann Marie. I have a feeling Jack London was somewhat of a driven soul. Near the end of his life his doctor advised him to take better care of himself and in particular cut down on his drinking. Fame does strange things to people and Jack was certainly very much in the public eye and very much in demand. It is said he had a goal of writing no less than 1000 words a day no matter where he was and what he was doing? He drove himself very hard.


        Yes, I guess Mr. London was old school prolific…
        Back then, fame drove the famous to drink – today fame drives the famous to drink, drugs and plastic surgery – I think I preferred old school it was a bit more honest.
        Excellent post, if I didn’t say it before.

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