Jack London’s first major work, “The Call of the Wild,” changed both the face of literature and the fortunes of a young author.
A tale of transformation — a domestic dog being forced by circumstance to revert to his wild state — London’s work immediately sold out its first print run, and plucked readers’ heartstrings around the globe.
Upon the book’s release in 1903, noted literary critic and essayist Hamilton Wright Mabie wrote that the new little book about of a pet stolen from a comfortable home and forced to become a sled dog in the icy North was “likely to make a deep impression by reason of its power and unusual theme.”
Here is what critics were saying back upon the book’s initial publication!
The Call of the Wild book review
From The Times-Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia) – August 16, 1903
It is delightful to note the unanimity of opinion with which Jack London’s “Call of the Wild” has been received.
It has been said of it that “it is an ideal book for a man, for, aside from its fascination as a story, and the graphic power with which its description of life where a man is what he can do with his arms and legs and will are portrayed, it is built on the rocks which form the bottom of every man who is worth his salt.
The beauty, the swing and the wonderful art of the story make it almost equally attractive to women. Virile the book certainly is; but its romance is likewise fascinating.
Novel a great success
From The Topeka State Journal (Topeka, Kansas) – October 03, 1903
Jack London’s novel, “The Call of the Wild,” has scored a great success everywhere. Before its publication, London was not one of the big men. A great popular success could not be predicted for the book, as it could be in the case of “The Mettle of the Pasture.”
The book’s merit caused it to take hold at once, however, and in less than two months from its issue, it had gone into its fiftieth thousand.
Mr. Hamilton W. Mabie Reviews Jack London’s New Novel
From The Wichita Daily Eagle (Wichita, Kansas) – July 23, 1903
In his new story, “The Call of the Wild,” Jack London has written the romance of a dog’s life with a vigor, insight, and dramatic power which no other similar tale except “Bob, Son of Battle” approaches in interest and literary quality.
The Scotch story depends largely on the human elements which are mixed with it. “The Call of the Wild” centers entirely on Buck, the great dog who is stolen from a ranch in Southern California, where he is the soul of fidelity, rewarded by the greatest freedom and affection; taken to the far north and made a member of a team of dogs who carry the mail into the Yukon region.
Gradually his character changes under the pressure of new and hard conditions. He becomes a leader and master among his fellows, the older and more savage instincts reviving in him.
In the end, after the most adventurous life described with graphic power, “The Call of the Wild” becomes more and more distinct and finally masters him, and he reverts to the savage state in the northern wilderness, becomes the mate of wolves, and lives as his ancestors lived centuries before him.
This this change from civilization to savagery is affected gradually, and is traced, stage by stage, with dramatic and deepening interest.
The story has a deep psychologic interest, and may be read as a striking parable; but it is, above all, an absorbing tale of wild life, full of pictorial power and abounding in striking incidents of frontier town, camp, and adventure.
From The New-York Tribune – August 17, 1903
If you’ve read it before, you already know: “The Call of the Wild” is a story that stands the test of time.
Along with the complete text, Click Americana’s special edition of the book contains most of the illustrations that appeared when it was originally published, as well as a selection of a dozen popular quotations, vintage book reviews from more than a century ago, bonus images, a biography, and a related short story London wrote a few years earlier — when he first returned from the Yukon after the Klondike Gold Rush.
Together, the text, images and extra features offer greater depth to this influential story, and insight into the mind of the writer himself.