Martin Eden: A Writer’s Story More Bitter Than Sweet- By Jack Engelhard

Filed in Gather Writing Essential by on January 17, 2012 0 Comments



Jack London wrote this novel, “Martin Eden,” when he was only in his 30s and it’s really the story of his life…about making it as a writer and about achieving that goal and about the futility of it all. He wanted fame and wealth and he got all that after years of rejection. He wanted the girl of his dreams, Ruth Morse, and when she finally came to him, he’d had enough.


Can you relate?


By the time the world caught up to him, Martin Eden was emptied out. The people whose approval he sought turned out to be phonies.


This brings to mind J.D. Salinger who (so brilliantly and so timelessly) used Holden Caulfield to express the same loathing, disgust and despair.


This also brings to mind King Solomon’s despair on achieving practically everything he desired and… then what?


Of the upper classes that he had pursued, all that glittered was not gold…it was snobbery.


I don’t remember the novel’s particulars all that well but I read it when I was in my own 30s or thereabouts. One scene remains vivid…that’s when (penniless) he finally got one of his stories accepted and published…Eureka!… and the publisher never got around to submitting a check. Martin Eden had to go begging for his money…the money he had earned, the money he was owed, the money that was his.


Can you relate?


Martin Eden expected charm and dignity among the literati, the sultans who served as book editors and book publishers, and found them ignorant and brutish. In his struggling years Martin Eden had been judged…judged to be useless, a failure. He was UNWELCOME.


They were thieves. They were murderers. In publishing the worst and scuttling the best, they stole the best years of a writer’s life.


Can you relate?


Martin Eden sought recognition among the upper class, personified in the glorious Ruth Morse. They – and she – kept turning him down.


He seethed in his obscurity and swore that by the sweat of his brow one day…one day he would show them.


He picked up demeaning jobs here and there but meanwhile he kept writing driven onward by lonely and hurtful and resentful ambition.


Finally it came, success, but by this time he was nursing a grudge against all the glitterati and literati who had snubbed him. There was no recouping the lost years. When Ruth Morse came to him at the moment when he was the most famous writer in America, Martin Eden (Jack London?) turned his back to her.

Martin Eden refused to forget. Martin Eden refused to forgive.

Can you understand? Can you relate?

About the author: Novelist Jack Engelhard’s international bestseller “Indecent Proposal” is now available on Kindle (as well as paperback). Also related to this article are his novels “The Girls of Cincinnati” and “Slot Attendant – A Novel About A Novelist.” Website:











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