Hamlin Garland Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111207081-Garland.jpg Hamlin Garland Published by Salem Press, Inc.

Hannibal Hamlin Garland was born on a farm near West Salem, in Wisconsin. When he was eight years old his family moved to the Iowa prairie, where he grew up in the hard rural life he described in his books. In 1881, after graduating from Cedar Valley Seminary in Osage, Iowa, he taught school for a year in Illinois before moving to Boston, where, penniless and unknown, he spent a winter reading in the public library. Here he first became acquainted with the writings of Henry George and Herbert Spencer, who gave him the ethical and social inspiration to accept the realities of the agricultural life.

A trip back to his father’s Dakota farm in 1887 confirmed Garland in his desire to write about the life of the plains. With the encouragement of the writer Joseph Kirkland he began his first stories, which were printed in Century, Harper’s Weekly, and Arena. After his writing had made him famous, Garland, in 1893, moved to Chicago, where he remained until 1916. He counted among his friends and acquaintances some of the prominent literary figures of the time, including William Dean Howells, Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, and Rudyard Kipling. In 1916 he moved to New York and in 1930 to Los Angeles, where he died ten years later.

Main-Travelled Roads, Garland’s first collection of stories, belongs to the more important documents of American literary history. It is a conscientious record of the midwestern...

(The entire section is 453 words.)


(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Of Scotch-Irish descent, Hannibal Hamlin Garland moved with his family from Wisconsin, where he was born in West Salem on September 14, 1860, to an Iowa farm while still a child. Years spent on the farm made him seek escape through a career in oratory. To this end, he attended Cedar Valley Seminary from which he was graduated in 1881. He held a land claim in North Dakota for a year, but mortgaged it for the chance to go East and enroll in Boston University. He succeeded in getting to Boston but was unable to attend the university; however, he embarked on a self-directed program of reading in the holdings of the Boston Public Library. While in Boston, he began writing, his first attempts being lectures, then stories and books. It was around this time also that he joined the Anti-Poverty Society and became an active reformer. He read Henry George and embraced the Single Tax theory as a solution to some of the many contemporary social problems.

Donald Pizer, along with many scholars, divides Garland’s career into three general phases: a period of political and social reform activity that coincides with his most memorable fiction set in the Middle West (1884-1895); a period of popular romance-writing in which his settings shifted from the Midwest to the Rocky Mountains (1896-1916); and a period of increasing political and social conservatism, during which he wrote his major autobiographical works (1917-1940). In 1899, Garland married Zulime Taft, and they became parents of daughters born in 1904 and 1907. His list of acquaintances and friends grew to include such literary figures as William Dean Howells, Eugene Field, Joseph Kirkland, Edward Eggleston, Frank Norris, Stephen Crane, George Bernard Shaw, and Rudyard Kipling.

He lived the last years of his life in Hollywood, where he could be near his married daughter. In these later years, he turned more seriously to a lifelong fascination with the occult, producing two books on the subject. He died of cerebral hemorrhage in Hollywood on March 4, 1940.


(Survey of Novels and Novellas)

Hamlin Garland’s early years were spent on an Iowa farm. As soon as he was big enough to walk behind a plow, he spent long hours helping to plow the acres of land on his father’s farm. After twelve years of springs, summers, and early falls working at the ceaseless toil of farming, Garland came to realize that education was the way out of a life of farm drudgery. He attended and graduated from Cedar Valley Seminary. He next held a land claim in North Dakota for a year but mortgaged it to finance a trip to Boston, where he intended to enroll at Boston University. Once in Boston, he was unable to attend the university but continued his education by reading voraciously in the Boston Public Library. He also began to write at that time.

Garland’s instincts for reform were ignited in Boston, where he joined the Anti-Poverty Society and, introduced to the work of Henry George, came to believe that the single tax theory was a solution to many contemporary social problems. He eventually returned to North Dakota and began to see some of his stories, sketches, and propagandistic novels published. By 1894, he had formulated in a series of essays his theory of realism, which he called “veritism.”

Garland married Zulime Taft in 1899, and the couple had two daughters (in 1904 and 1907). He continued to write, but by 1898, he had begun to feel that he had exhausted “the field in which [he] found Main-Travelled Roads and Rose of...

(The entire section is 431 words.)