Jack London (1876-1916) , prolific American novelist and short story writer, whose works deal romantically with the overwhelming power of nature and the struggle for survival. His left-wing philosophy is seen in the class struggle novel The Iron Heel (1908). Jack London was born on January 12, 1876, in San Francisco. He was deserted by his father, William Henry Chaney, , and raised in Oakland by his mother Flora Wellman, a music teacher and spiritualist, and stepfather John London, whose surname he took. London’s youth was marked by poverty. At the age of ten he became an avid reader, and borrowed books from the Oakland Public Library.
After leaving school at the age of 14, London worked as a seaman, rode in freight trains as a hobo and adopted socialistic views as a member of protest armies of the unemployed. In 1894 he was arrested in Niagara Falls and jailed for vagrancy. Without having much formal education, London educated himself in public libraries, and at the age of 19 gained admittance to the University of California at Berkeley. He had already started to write. For the remainder of 1898 London again tried to earn his living by writing. His early stories appeared in the Overland Monthly and the Atlantic Monthly . In 1900 he married Elisabeth Maddern, but left her and their two daughters three years afterwards, eventually to marry Charmian Kittredge.
In 1901 London ran unsuccessfully on the Socialist party ticket for mayor of Oakland. He started to steadily produce novels, nonfiction and short stories, becoming in his lifetime one of the most popular authors. London’s first novel, The Son Of The Wolf , appeared in 1900. His Alaska stories, The Call Of The Wild (1903), in which a giant pet dog Buck finds his survival instincts in Yukon, White Fang (1906) and Burning Daylight (1910) gained a large reading public. Among his other works are The Sea-Wolf (1904) and The Road , a collection of short stories.
In 1902 London went to England, where he studied the living conditions in East End and working class areas of the capital city. His report about the economic degradation of the poor, The People Of The Abyss (1903), was a surprise success in the U.S. but criticized in England. In 1906, he published his first collection of non-fiction pieces, The War Of The Classes , which included his lectures on socialism. London also published a semi-autobiographical novel Martin Eden (1909) and a travel book The Cruise of the Snark (1911).
London had purchased in 1910 a large tract of land near Glen Ellen in Sonoma County, and devoted his energy and money improving and enlarging his Beauty Ranch. In 1913 London’s Beauty Ranch burned to the ground, and his doctor told him that his kidneys were failing.
A few months before his death, London resigned from the Socialist Party. Debts, alcoholism, illness, and fear of losing his creativity darkened the author’s last years. He died on November 22, 1916, officially of gastro-intestinal uremia. However, there have also been speculations that London committed suicide with morphine.