Hamlin Garland

Keith Newlin

in American Literature

ISBN: 9780199827251
Published online August 2012 | | DOI:
Hamlin Garland

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Hamlin Garland (b. 1860–d. 1940) was born in West Salem, Wisconsin, and in his youth moved to a number of prairie farms in Iowa before taking up a homestead near Aberdeen, South Dakota, in 1883. In 1884 he sold his homestead rights and traveled to Boston, where he undertook a program of self-education in the Boston Public Library. Soon, he was lecturing on American writers and began publishing a number of stories, poems, and essays in magazines, where he gained a reputation as a literary radical who advocated for realistic fiction and drama that celebrated the commonplace even as it underscored the discrepancy between the haves and have-nots. In 1891 he published his first collection of short fiction, Main-Travelled Roads, stories that sought to depict the actual working life of Midwestern farmers and that are generally regarded as his best work. His energy and ambition were such that he soon flooded the literary market with material, including four novels in 1892 alone. In 1894 he published his literary manifesto, Crumbling Idols, in which he argued that writers needed to shrug off their reliance on East Coast and British masters to realize their identity as American writers with an intimate connection to the land. Rose of Dutcher’s Coolly, generally regarded as his most successful novel, appeared in 1895, and then Garland turned to the mountain West for new material, having grown weary of his subject. From 1895 to 1916 he published twenty-one books, most of them conventional romances devoted to the western cowboys, ranchers, and forest rangers who enthralled him, before he also tired of this subject. Thereafter, he turned to autobiography, capitalizing on his reputation as a prominent lecturer who had made the acquaintance of most of the leading American and British writers. In 1917 the first volume of his autobiography appeared, A Son of the Middle Border, a remarkably honest and moving account of his rise from life on a frontier farm to international celebrity. Its sequel, A Daughter of the Middle Border, carrying his story to 1914, was published in 1921 and received the Pulitzer Prize for biography. Thereafter Garland turned to mining his daily diaries for material and produced, among other books, a second sequence of autobiographies, which largely recount his meetings with authors and other celebrities, interspersed with the daily events of a busy author and lecturer. In the early 21st century Garland is chiefly remembered for his early fiction and his role in advocating for realism in literature.

Article.  9796 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (American)

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