The World of Jack London

The Kempton-Wace Letters

From Dane Kempton to Herbert Wace


October 7, 19—.

IT is true that you have a hard task before you, but it not because you are fighting convention and shattering illusion; it is because you are assailing a good. Love has never acquired the prestige of the established, and the run of marriages are prompted by advantage, routine, or passion. So you are no innovator, Herbert. The idolatry of love will not be overthrown by a drawn battle between those of the Faith and those of the Reformation. Nothing so spectacular awaits us.

I have a friend who has undertaken to translate "Inferno" into English, keeping to the terza rima. "It is like climbing the Matterhorn," he says gravely. "I get to places where I feel I can go neither forward nor back. The


task is prodigious." And it is. But whom will it concern if he succeeds in going forward? There are few who will read his book. The translation is of more importance to the translator than to anyone else. Yet the professor's magnum opus confers a degree upon us all. Because a standard is upheld and a man is willing and able to climb a Matterhorn of thought, we can ourselves stride forward with better courage. The work will be an output of heroism, and it will ennoble even those who will not know of it.

I have another friend who ruined his life for love, so says the world that you think steeped in the idolatry of love. A priest, who by a few strokes was able to quell in America a strong and bitter movement, a gifted orator, a man of giant powers, and who was won away at the age of forty from his career by a mere girl. The girl planned nothing. She found herself a force in his life almost despite herself. The mere fact that she lived was enough to wrest this Titan from the arms of the Church. He told me that she criticised him with the directness of a simple nature, and that he came to


understand her truths better than she herself. I think she must have loved him at first, but she did not go to him when all grew calm. I wish it could have been otherwise, and that she could have brought him a woman's heart.

The priest, as the professor, is a hero. Both made great outputs.

There are few who can live like these. But because there are a few who can love and work, the game is saved. And because there are a few of these, we must ever quarrel with the many who are not like them.

"Give all to love;
Obey thy heart;
Friends, kindred, days,
Estate, good fame,
Plans, credit, and the Muse,—
Nothing refuse."

Does this really seem such poor philosophy to you? And when, Herbert, will you marry?



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