[Robert Underwood] Johnson
Martinez, Jan. 7. 1898
My dear Johnson.
I'm not kidnapped, nor have I been beguiled into signing away any of my own or Century rights.
The fuss you make about the bits of things I write is most flattering. As to the forestry articles two have been published & I'm at work on three others. The Yellowstone, Yosemite, & Sequoia National Parks. Sargent started them. He urged Page to write & write & got me started on them. Page offering my own term both for the magazine & book. Knowing what you had already done on forestry I had no reason to hope the Century would accept them. & I wanted to do all I could for the woods. Then spurred on as before by Sargent & others Page inquired whether I had made any engagement with the Century for an Alaska book & finding the ground clear offered to print the whole book chapter by chapter on a month
in the Atlantic & then bring them out in a book. All on my own terms as to compensation, style, illustrations etc. & as you had given no such encouragement. but on the contrary had held one of the ten articles of the proposed book three years I thought I could not be wrong in accepting Houghton Mifflins offer.
You say that I agreed last summer "to write for us some articles consisting of the most important memoranda of your life as an explorer" etc mentioning Aurora, Eagle-or Crow-attack. Auroral salmon etc. In this you are mistaken. You wrote me before you started for Europe proposing this patch work, but I made no reply to it. Instead of writing to Gilder I thought I had better wait your return & I reply now that I have no liking & no skill for such high colored crazy quilt odds-&-ends articles & must therefore decline attempting them.
As to my obligations to the Century Co as I remember them. They are as follows, Years ago I offered an article on my sled trip across the Muir Glacier wh after consulting with Gilder You agreed to take. This you shall have if you still want it. (It will contain the Crow attack.) Again you requested the glorious Aurora. This also I'll be glad to write for the Century but only as a goodsized article. Not as a page on halfpage patch. The Auroral salmon also if you like, as a full-bodied fish article, & for these I shall claim the right to place them in any book I choose, as you kindly suggested. I also remember telling you I meant to publish a little book on Yosemite & you saying you thought the Century Co might publish it. I'm willing they should provided the terms they offer prove as good as others I may get. You'l have the refusal of it.
But mark you I dont know when these things will be written. I can't [dash?] off things to order on time & therefore refuse to be time tied.
As to the Klondike I may possibly go there next summer to see the flrs & trees. If I do you shall have the refusal of any magazine stuff I may write. but you will have to pay well for it. Last summer I wrote three Alaska letters for the S.F. Examiner an urgent request for which I was paid $50 a column. & offered as much more than this as I might think right to ask - By the way the little Atlantic pays more than the Century - probably too much. Still it shows encouraging appreciation of my awkward efforts.
Mrs M & I have run over your new book of poems & wonder how you could have found time amid the drudging of Editorial work to write so many fine things. The way Mrs M [devoured?] your Slav Tesla rhymes You may imagine. Tell Electric Tesla that I feel his draw over all the continent, & will gladly give way to it whenever I can, & now Happy New Year & Goodbye.
1898 Jan 7
Original letter dimensions unknown.
Muir, John, "Letter from John Muir to [Robert Underwood] Johnson, 1898 Jan 7." (1898). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 2054.
Reel 10, Image 0027
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