R[obert] U[nderwood] Johnson
December 14th, 1897
R. W. GILDER, EDITOR.
R. U. JOHNSON,
C. C. BUEL,
Mr. John Muir,
My dear Muir,
Your cheerful shout of the 6th of December gave me much pleasure, and so did the first paragraph of your postscript, in which you say that you may possibly take a trip through the interior of Alaska next summer, and if you do will be glad to write a sketch for The Century.
By the interior of Alaska we presume you mean the Klondike, and if so it is a bargain; but we want to make more of it than a single article. If it is worth doing at all it is worth doing in an Important way, so that It would attract public attention.
We are about to print articles on two routes to the Klondike -- one a description of the Yukon River route from St. Michaels, the other a very brief sketch of the rush over the mining passed from Skaguay; but these would in no way militate against your description of the mining region and the people. You are the only first-class writer, up to date, who thinks of going there. Can you not plan out, even tentatively, the trip, telling us when you could probably go, how long you would have to stay, when you could return, and how much It would cost us.
J. M. 2.
The rest of the postscript. I own, gave me a shock. We cannot, of course, complain of your printing elsewhere any material that may have been declined here, and of course you know we have declined nothing of yours except where we have been shooting through the same hole for a long time, being afraid that we had bored our readers with the subject of forestry, as up to six or eight months ago we were absolutely the only magazine in the country that had touched that subject at all, and we had identified "The Century" with it. But we hoped that before you came to book publication you would have naturally turned to us, even if later you should have concluded in the long run to accept a more advantageous offer elsewhere. Mr. Scott, our President, does not remember any unwillingness to take the risk of publishing your first book, the fact being that we did publish your first book and have sold three thousand copies of it. We suppose we are too good-natured with our authors. What we ought to do is to get them in a corner and make them sign away their freedom to us for all time, as other people do. It isn't so much a separate article here or there that we should care about, but the fact that another house has taken away one of our authors, as we had come to look upon you. it is like having a child kidnapped Perhaps if the editors had less fear of seeming indelicate in pushing business matters with their friends they would be able to withstand the insidious attacks of our more active rivals. As the same thing has Just happened to one of Mr. Gilder's intimate friends, whom he thought he had anchored in
J• M. 3.
deep water, the finger of scorn is pointed at these two editors by the publishing end of this house; so I pocketed my delicacy, and last night I got even with you by taking it out on Tesla, who, being a friend of mine, will probably give anything important he has to a rival magazine!
Now let me confess that I am the culprit in the matter of changing the title of your last article. You can write very beautiful articles, but when it comes to a title you cannot hold a candle to a Century editor! "Stickeen" has no pull at all, whereas "An Adventure with a Dog and a Glacier" catches them coming and going. It catches the whole dog-loving community -- which is large, all the glacier people, and everybody who loves adventure. Many nice things were said of that narrative.
Here is a way out of the difficulty, and we hope it will commend itself to you as being on our part both just and generous. You agreed months ago to write for us some articles consisting of the most Interesting memoranda of your life as an explorer -- a collection of short things. You remember I mentioned the incident of the eagle coming down upon you in a canon, the wonderful auroras, the stream of phosphorescent fish, etc. Our idea in this series was to cover your "camp-fire talk;" to have articles consisting of short pieces of from a half page to a page and a half in length, giving a great total of variety. This was our (my) idea, and Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin a Co.
"a good [illegible] for the [illegible] it is not [illegible]"
J. M. 4.
ought to stand aside until this Is executed; and with this — as a related kind of writing- we intended to put the story of "Stickeen." We do not want to give up this series, nor the resultant book,( though we thought the thing was too much in embryo to speak of the book) These articles you could write before going to the Klondike, and we should like to have you send a little schedule for such a series; that is, the titles of the incidents.[illegible].
As to the rest, since you have promised to, we should be willing to pass over the text of .''The Alaska trip'', and the ''Discovery of Glacier Bay'' to Houghton, Mifflin & Co.— we mean the text only— and of course you would write any others you wanted to go with those two to make a well rounded book for them. The Forestry articles you will probably wish to con-tinue to write for them and make a book of that, [illegible] but we think that as we proposed the Klondike to you before you went with Sargent last year, and as we proposed the camp-fire series, (not under that name) these things ought to take precedence of your work for the Invader. Can it not be arranged in that way, so that you can keep your promise to Houghton, Mifflin & Co. at the same time that you fulfil your promise to us, and our reasonable expectations in the matter of the Klondike? It is bad enough to give up anything to the enemy, but we shall do it with a good grace if you will let our two series take precedence .
J. M. 5
Sargent, in the garden and the Forest, (I think it is the Garden and the Forest) this week, has an article on Binger Hermann's proposition for political heelers to look after the vanishing forests of the West. It is a good piece of writing.
I was most shocked to hear, some days after my return from France, of the death of our dear old friend Stiles, which occurred about the time of Dana's death. scattering it as broadcast as the other book, but I want you to have one with my name in the front of it.
With kind remembrances to Mrs. Muir, and most cordial good wishes for the holidays,
P. S. Every now and then Tesla expresses regret that he had not been able to give you more attention when you were here, and asks when you are coming again. I am sending you a copy of my new book. I am not
J • M • 6 •
PP.S. You ought to bear In mind that the delay In printing your article was on account of our desire to have it adequately illustrated. We depended on the illustrations to be made by an artist who went to Alaska with Mr. Drake, and after all, we had simply to redraw photographs, as the artist's sketches did n't turn out well; so don't be hard on us on this account.
1897 Dec 14
Original letter dimensions: 26.5 x 21 cm.
Johnson, Robert Underwood, "Letter from R[obert] U[nderwood] Johnson to John Muir, 1897 Dec 14." (1897). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 2042.
Reel 09, Image 1194
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