The Purloined Letter

Here is one of Joan's letters that had me confused for about two years. It is so incredible that I now give it a title: "The Purloined Letter". Across the top of the letter, in Charmian's distinctive hand and strongly underlined, are these words; "a month after Jack's death. I kept up their Xmas money sent other things. Charmian CKL." Beneath this in Joan's new left-slanting hand is the address, "606 Scenic Ave. Piedmont Calif". Beneath that, again in Charmian's hand: "Charmian pays since Jack's death on Nov. 16 1916." In between the words "since" and "Jack's" in Joan's new slant is the date Dec. 30, 1915 or 1916 (the numeral so unclear that it could have been a 5 or a 6.) Here is the letter:

"Dear Aunt Eliza, Thank you so much for-well-everything: for the Xmas money & the box and the turkey money. They were all splendid and we had the merriest Xmas possible. But the New Year is coming and school reopens Monday, the third of January so carfare & lunch money and allowance are again in use.

"The carfare and lunch money amount to $15.40. The allowance is $3.00, making a total of $18.40 to send down. And now about the furs. Becky & I are crazy to get them. We were looking around but I think we can do better in the city. San Francisco, you know. "Lidees" (?) has been recommended as a splendid place. What do you think about it? After school begins, the only day we could go of course would be on Saturday. But let us know & we will be ready any time, the sooner- the better of course, as we're so anxious to get them. Wishing you and Irving a Very Happy New Year. Joan.

I can not understand why Charmian gave the date of Jack's death as Nov. 16 when it seems the entire world knew he died on Nov. 22. This letter incidentally was at Utah State University and without a doubt was available to researchers who surely drew the tragically wrong impression of Joan. They are not wholly to blame. When you read this letter, and have no others by which to make judgement, then, unfortunately, the perceived image is as though carved in stone.

If you were to assume that the date on this letter was indeed Dec. 30 1916 you would then also be inclined to label Joan in monstrous terms which I know has been the case.. My first thought was, Joan would not have written, "we had the merriest Christmas possible", a month after her father's death. I checked all the 1915 letters and some of the "fives", including one of Becky's had the same odd twist. Then going back to the letter in question and re-reading the last paragraph; "And now, about the furs", I remembered other references to furs, and found three letters that will prove the date as Dec. 30, 1915.

The following letter from Jack to Joan dated, clearly, both in the typescript which I have, and in printed form on pages 464-465 in the 1965 "Letters From Jack London" should clear Joan's name and give you pause to wonder. On the printed page you will see only Jack's letter which takes up a little more than half the page. You will not see, nor would you ever know what is written in Eliza Shepard's distinguished flowing hand just below Jack's holographic Daddy".

Here is Jack's letter dated December 15, 1915: "Dear Joan: In reply to yours of December 11, 1915: I am afraid that my steamer will start before I have time to catch it. You will understand from this in how big a hurry I am, and how crowded I am for time. Now, skipping everything else, and getting down to the main point; I do not know anything about furs. I have never worn furs in my life, though I am aware I have bought them for persons of the female persuasion. You have put up to me a very awkward question, namely, how much and how far I can go in the way of getting furs for you and Becky. I come back and say that I do not know a damn about furs for girls of your age and of your situation in life. Suppose you come back quick and let me know what you think are the maximum and minimum prices for furs that will suit the two of you. In a rush, with lots of love, Daddy."

Here in long hand beneath the word "Daddy" is Eliza's note: "Dear Joan. Daddy left this letter for me to mail & told me to take up the fur matter with you. I think you are very wise to wait until after Christmas for the sales. I am going to get a fur then. How much money do you want for Christmas. Sincerely ES."

The beginning of p.s. which is cut off reads; "I will send box..." Next in the sequence on furs is Jack writing from Honolulu, T.H.March 7, 1916, (pages 467-8 in the same 1965 "Letters From Jack London":

"Dear Joan: In reply to yours of February 16, 1916, just to hand. Glad you like the furs. Hope some day to see them on you before they're worn out. I hope also, twenty years from now, to hear you tell me in your own intellectual maturity, your revised judgment of The Star Rover. I hope also, at that time, to find that The Little Lady of the Big House, has appreciated in your comprehension. I am glad you like the end of it; it was the only way out-the only clean, decent way out I mean. Some day, will you take the time off and tell me what books of mine you have read, and what books you have not read. Also, some time, personally with you, I should like to have you tell me-and I make this as a challenge and a preparation in advance to tell me what you think about me..."

The rest of the letter concerns business matters Joan is to take up with Aunt Eliza; mentions that he received her postal telling him that Becky had come through the operation all right, and that HEARTS OF THREE would be made into a series of films and that the SUNDAY EXAMINER will publish each week "the story as written by me", and adds, if the girls want to see the films they will have to pay the admission price out of their own pocket money; "Lots of love all around, Daddy."

It is, I think, as much of a tragedy for Jack, as it was for Joan and Becky that each were deprived of a father-daughter relationship. I am as certain as I can possibly be, given the lowly mortal that I am, that the letters of Joan's that would have gladdened her father's heart were deliberately withheld from him. I also believe now, more than I ever did before, that he might have lived longer had certain circumstances been altered; despair over personal relationships that have gone awry has the power to erode the spirit and cause death.

I no longer believe that Charmian made an honest mistake in making Joan's letter seem to have been written one month after Jack's death as she so states in her handwritten notation at the top of the letter. Why Charmian's' words, inserted as they were above and below Joan's date have some significance I can't say, but how could she have written the date of Jack's death as "Nov 16 1916". The numeral 6 is lined up beneath each previous 6 and so your eye, as was mine, is deceived. I can't truly say this was a clever way for Charmian to place Joan in a bad light. For Charmian to have had the date of Jack's death as Nov. 16 1916 keeps me shaking my head. Charmian, of all people, knew best the hour, the day, and the year of her Mate's death: why then did she write Nov 16 instead of Nov. 22?

I can't believe either, that Charmian was unaware of the arrangements of buying furs that were taking place in 1915 between Joan and Becky, their father and Eliza! Also my suspicions of Charmian's motives in discrediting Joan stem from my discovering other letters with a peculiar twist of words that changed innocence to deceit (I will refer back to this in a later segment of this document). And it is important to know that Charmian controlled all mail coming and going. And this letter of Joan's is only one of several that wound up at Utah State that were not in Joan's file of letters returned to her.

I have difficulty with the letters of 1916. They start out with no sign of things going awry, although history has shown Jack as very ill at the time. Perhaps it is that knowledge, that this would be the last year of his life, which causes me to find hidden meaning in certain of his words to Joan; For example, "Also, some time, personally, with you, I should like to have you tell me - and I make this as a challenge and a preparation in advance - to tell me what you think about me." (from the March 7, 1916 letter from Honolulu I quoted earlier and which is published in LETTERS FROM JACK LONDON pgs, 467-8). For me this is such a poignant quest; as tragic as was Joan's in their aborted efforts to seek the answer: "Did she/he love me?"

It is possible that not many of you know that Jack had developed a keen interest in Joan's boy friend, Edmund de Freitas, and had written some of his most loving letters to Joan, replete with the kind of advice that only a fond father could give. An example from LETTERS FROM JACK LONDON Aug. 25, 1915 (pg. 457-459):

"Only just now have I in the course of reading your letter, read the last name of Edmund or Brownie. All the more do I feel the necessity of talking to you about men & women in this world ...0, my daughter I should like dearly to be able to talk to you about men, and women, and race, and place." And another in the same book (pg. 459-460) Sept.18, 1915: "Some day I should like to see you in your French heeled slippers. Joan you are on the right track. Never hesitate at making yourself a dainty, delightful girl and woman. There is a girl's pride and a woman's pride in this, and it is indeed a fine pride. On the one hand, of course, never overdress. On the other hand, never be a frump. No matter how wonderful are the thoughts that burn in your brain, always, physically, and in dress, make yourself a delight to all eyes that behold you... Nothing would your Daddy ask better of you in this world than that you have a fine mind, a high pride, a fine body, and just as all the rest, a beautifully dressed body... Daddy."

This next letter which Jack wrote to Joan from Honolulu, June 28, 1916, surprisingly is not in LETTERS FROM JACK LONDON. It is another tender letter despite a couple of scoldings. He mentions Joan's boy friend, Edmund de Freitas: "...Am looking forward to Edmund wiring me ahead of his return via Honolulu, so that I can get him out surf-canoeing, etc. etc." (Jack's abbreviations) "Anent your 'sort of J.L. Club', I think you will be pleased with some of the short stories I am writing now, the first ones in over four years..." The next two paragraphs are so lyrical there can be no 'doubt of his love.

"I grow more and more in love with Hawaii, & I am certain somewhere in the future (not too remote) that I shall elect to make Hawaii my home. Some day I hope for the joy of introducing you to the lovely & lovable people who belong here, and who will meet you, I know, for my sake to begin with, with arms around.

"If you love me a little, will you learn to sing for me "Sing Me to Sleep" & "The Perfect Day"? --- so that I may hear them from you soon. I fear that I shall not be able to see you until the latter half of August. I leave here July 26th, on S.S. 'Matsonia', go to Summer Jinks of Bohemia Club, then to Ranch, & shall be in New York in October: Have refused offer after offer to go war-corresponding in Mexico." After two more minor reproaches, one about grammar, the other about postal errors, he ends the letter with "Love to Bess and yourself."

Jack's next letter Dated July 3, 1916 from Oakland is to both Joan and Becky. It is brief and describes in rare detail the quality of pina cloth; "made in the Philippines out of pineapple fiber. It takes the place of chiffon very nicely in many ways, and wears better much better; and I understand is washable. It does not 'muss' easily, and always looks fresh and crisp. There is enough white pina cloth for a dress each for you, also enough white silk for each... you may want to use the silk for the under-parts of evening dresses. The two cotton-crepe mandarin coats might be used for summer evening coats; at any rate, they are very attractive for house wear." Signed with hand written "Daddy."

This is a puzzling letter since Jack had clearly stated in his letter from Honolulu dated June 28/1916 that he would be "leaving Hawaii July 26th, on S.S. 'Matsonia', go to Summer High Jinks of Bohemia Club, then to ranch, & shall be in New York in October. "In this letter he also instructed Joan to "tell Aunt Eliza to continue theatre money through vacation and to give the ten dollars each vacation money."

I may not be able to prove my suspicions about that odd letter with the description of fabrics. It is puzzling to me because I can't imagine Jack writing such a detailed letter with the sole subject devoted to fabrics. Perhaps the exotic source of pina cloth might have excited such interest but I doubt it. I think now, that this letter with its "Oakland, July 3, 1916" heading was designed by an unfriendly hand to show Joan in a bad light. I'll tell you why; there is no timely response from Joan to Daddy regarding the fabrics until Aug. 10, 1916; even though on July 11/1916 she had written to Eliza following Jack's instructions in his Honolulu letter of June 28/1916. In doing so, Joan is writing about monetary things which her father had sanctioned and had asked her to relay to Eliza. I find this manipulation of Joan's letters taken out of sequence from those of her father's to be the major factor in the disinheritance of Jack's only children. Joan, as the family chronicler was made the scapegoat in what I now perceive as a deliberate plot of several years' standing; which I will deal with in the next segment of this intricate "tapestry" I began weaving in the Spring of 1994. It is now Spring of 1998.

About that letter of "Oakland, July 3, 1916", how could Jack have been in Oakland on that date when he wrote to Joan that he was due to sail from Honolulu on July 26! I checked all the 1916 letters in the Hendricks-Shepard LETTERS FROM JACK LONDON and found four letters written by Jack from Honolulu to various people, with dates of March and June followed by an Aug. 5, 1916 Glen Ellen Letter to Mr. Wilson in which Jack writes; "In reply to your letter of June 23, 1916: I have just returned from Hawaii, last night, hence you will understand my delay in replying..."; additional evidence as far as I see it, that Jack could not have been in Oakland on July 3rd.

Too often, in searching through the correspondence exchanged between father and daughter, I became aware of a lapse in sequence in which misunderstandings flourished like rank weeds in an untended garden. I had no sense of the possibility of an unseen hand playing a cheating game until I saw on my screen the accusations of "silence" which became warning signals: "Remember Joan the silence so far has been on your part and will be met by silence on my part," and, "your whole future is at stake if I don't hear from you," and, "Don't you think it is about time I heard from you? Or do you want me to cease forever from caring to hear from you?"

Joan's poignant letters did indeed bear bitter fruit; I have shown you the very letters in which that young girl expressed her anguish and her love for her father. It is inconceivable that Jack London, the man and father, the writer of such incisive knowledge, could have also been the author of the cruel and vitriolic letters received by both Joan and her mother. How significant do you think it might be that young Becky, who rarely wrote to her father, escaped the onslaught of those terrible letters, and still, in the final analysis, was dealt the same cruel fate as Joan; not only disinheritance but abandonment even after the death of their father.

This seemingly innocent letter, the one of the pina cloth and the ambiguous date, combined with the knowledge that death was there upon Jack at the time when these particular letters were being written; that knowledge, that awareness, caused me to have a restless night pondering the significance (if any) of that puzzling letter. My initial reaction was that it could only have been written by a woman. Jack had many of the sensitivities of a delicate nature, and, still, I base my gut feeling about this letter (as emanating from a woman's viewpoint) on the reality of my 47 year marriage with a man who no doubt inherited many of Jack's characteristics, his grandson, Bart Abbott. I am certain that both Jack and Bart would have had the same sensual, tactile response to the quality of the fabrics mentioned, and would have shown their delight in chiffons and silks, with touch and caress, or if in writing, then in poetry.

As of this writing, I found this same letter in the latest collection of Jack London Letters (Labor, Leitz, Shepard, Vol.3. 1988, pg. 1559). Again, it puzzles me. All is the same in the text, but the origin of the letter is Honolulu not Oakland! I was ready to believe that the Oakland origin was a typing error until I glanced at the note which acknowledges the source of this letter. It reads: "MS. Jones TLS". This notation truly added to the mystery which, hopefully, will be resolved. This letter was in a collection of letters that Joan sold to Waring Jones in 1971. The same letter, with Oakland as its origin was in the collection of letters Joan received from Charmian after Jack's death. I cannot account for this disparity. It remains, for me, one of those loose threads that I cannot weave into a tapestry. Perhaps a dedicated Jack London scholar can sort this out.

There are more such changes in dates and place in this same LETTERS of JACK LONDON; 2 examples: a letter to Ernest Matthews, Vol 3, pg. 1293, Jan.6, 1914, credited to Jack London in this volume, and as source, Waring Jones. It is a particularly nasty, vindictive letter against Joan who would turn 13 in a few days. It is also a betrayal by Uncle Ernest on whom the chronicler, Joan, depended for news of her father. I am reluctant to quote from this letter because researchers now have access to these sources but they don't necessarily have access to my collection, over which I hold copyright.

The letter in question for those who cannot afford to buy this enormous 3 volume collection is here: "Dear Ernest: Find enclosed two letters from Joan, under dates of Dec. 3 and 9, 1913, which please read and return. I sent, on Dec. 29, allowance and carfare to Joan, but no Christmas money, telling her that I was hard up, which I truly was. Also, I told her, which was equally true, that the watches I had given her and Bess were the only presents I had made this year, and that the only Christmas present I had received up to Dec. 29, was an advertising calendar. It happened only a month or so ago that I sent Joan $9.00 flat, for six months dancing lessons. The only reply to her these days, is to fill my letters with talk about money matters. Some day when she gets older and rereads these letters of mine, they may cause her some embarrassment. With love from Charmian and me. Sincerely, Jack London."

The letter Jack refers to (Dec. 29, 1913) is printed on Pg. 1285 Vol.3. It is also in my collection.

A letter dated Nov. 18, 1913, pg. 1269 Vol.3 with Jack as author in the published book, lists Charmian as author in the collection of letters that was returned to Joan after her father's death. It was one of several that was found by Tony Bubka in 1969 at Utah State, and has the same vindictive tone as in the previous letter and is addressed to Ernest Matthew: "Dear Ernest: Oh, well - I am saving the entire correspondence for Joan. Some day she will have an interesting and embarrassing half hour in reading it over. By the way, she lost that big letter of mine to her. It was picked up on Grove street by some unknown person, and mailed to me at Glen Ellen. When I returned it to Joan, she replied that the kid Bess had been carrying it and lost it. Now what do you think of that! I am enclosing you Joan's letter, which please return. Go ahead and do whatever you judge best in the matter of the steps. There is no use paying almost as much for temporary wooden steps as for something better. We are lying under the trees in Georgiana Slough while a southeaster ir (sic) roaring overhead. The water is calm as a billiard table, and we don't get a breath of air on deck. All my upper teeth were pulled out by Dr. Shuey, and eighteen hours after they were pulled out, I had an upper plate in my mouth and ate a duck dinner on it; but it was damned sore, and I suffered hell, until at Sacramento I had a lower wisdom tooth pulled. Sincerely yours, Charmian."

It is difficult to determine the origin of the letter I have in my possession because it simply opens with the date. And visually, there is a separation of two lines between the discussion of the wooden steps and the following description of "lying under the trees in Georgiana Slough" which is typed on a different typewriter with smaller pitch.

Of course I suspect a certain hand managing the course of certain letters and as I said earlier I may not prove anything - but perhaps someone other than myself would have the expertise to do so - with my blessings and cooperation. I will end this section with Jack's last letter which was sent to Joan, and will continue with a group of letters from Jack to Bessie, and his two daughters which have bearing on the will which disinherited both Joan and Becky.

"Dear Joan: Nov. 21, 1916
Next Sunday, will you and Bess have lunch with me at Saddle Rock, and, if weather is good, go for a sail with me on Lake Merrit. If weather is not good we can go to a matinee of some sort. Let me know at once. I leave Ranch next Friday. I leave Calif. Wednesday following. Daddy."

It is my belief that such a crucial last letter would not have reached Joan had it not been for Sekine who had, on that last tragic day, set about the task of bringing order out of the disarray that marked the dying man's agony of the previous night. It was Sekine who, to the dismay of the doctors, had picked up the medicinal vials, neatened the scattered books and papers and placed that last note to Joan in the outgoing mail basket. It was Sekine who placed a note in the breast pocket of Jack's burial suit as he lay in his casket.

In her biography, published in 1921 (JACK LONDON by Mrs. Jack London, Volume 2, Mills & Boon, Limited) Charmian writes of that last day; (Chapter XLI, Nov. 22: The Last Day: page 396) On Friday, at dawn, I was awakened from fitful sleep by the rumble of the death-wagon coming up the hill. When, delaying, I slipped into the abandoned workroom, the opened casement through which so often he had passed alive told of the manner in which Jack London had gone from his house.

Sekine came to where I sat, thinking, adjusting, and laid out a handful of keys, the dingy Klondike coin-sack of chamois, and a few stray notes, all taken from the ranch suit Jack had last worn. Sekine murmured something about having put some notes in the breast-pocket of the burial clothes, together with a pencil and pad - "Just as he always had them, misses," he whispered.

"But Sekine - the notes - what notes?" I asked, biting back the trembling of my lips at thought of the pitiful last service the boy had rendered, but fearful lest some latest words of Jack's had gone beyond recall.

"Something I wrote, and sent with him - no one will know," Sekine explained. "I wrote", raising his head, "'Your Speech was silver, your Silence now is golden'... That was all... It was my goodbye."

It is in this same biography of Charmian's that the tangled web of deceit is revealed. The first threads of the intricate tapestry that illustrates this history were picked up by Charmian, perhaps subconsciously, perhaps in contrition, for surely she must have had some qualms of conscience over her role, passive or active, in cheating her step-daughters, Joan and Becky out of their heritage. The centerpiece of the tapestry is the will, admittedly a strange document, more an attack on Bessie than a love letter to herself as viewed through Charmian's eyes.

In her biography, page 386, she writes, and reflects back: "When in the days to follow Jack's holographic will was read, first in the family circle, next by Judge T. C. Denny, in court, and tacit responsibilities were made known, I could not help reverting to that fervent exclamation - ( 'Thank God you're not afraid of anything') or - was it an entreaty, a supplication? If a prayer, at least he had answered it by his own passive action in neglecting, during the half decade the will had lain in deposit, to alter a line of it. In effect it is a love letter, written by a wise man who knew our metal (sic) and he named Eliza Shepard and my cousin Willard L. Growall as executors. But Jack gave loophole for discontent and criticism in that, beyond trifling provision for various beneficiaries, he stipulated: "Whatever additional may be given them shall be a benefaction and a kindness from Charmian K. London and shall arise out of Charmian K. London's goodness and desire."

I will include a copy of the will which will be attached to this paper. In these next paragraphs I plan to quote certain phrases that either cast doubt on the authenticity of the will or prove evidence of fraud. Over many years I have heard the question asked uncountable numbers of times, as perhaps you, the reader may be asking, as have family members and quite a number of lawyers; the question being: "How could Jack London disinherit his only children?" The legal opinion given at various times by various lawyers, who, out of interest in the famous author, asked to examine any wills we might have as well as the one probated. Their opinions were offered free of charge.

Only one, a newly graduated law student who had passed the bar, and had set up his first office, asked my husband for this exciting challenge. The young lawyer felt that Bart, as Jack London's grandson, was within his rights to challenge the will. Bart himself had always accepted the fact that both his mother, Joan, and his aunt Becky had been disinherited and so he was rather sanguine. He gave permission to go ahead but if any sign of threat was offered, the young lawyer was to forget it. We would not be able to pay legal fees and the young lawyer could conceivably lose his license.

The lawyer wrote his query to I. Milo Shepard who turned it over to his legal firm who in turn wrote a rather insulting letter to the young lawyer, and threatened his client (Bart) with a counter suit charging "malicious prosecution".

I personally find it admirable, not malicious, for someone closely involved by family ties, to seek confirmation and even reparation when a great injustice has been done.

Here now I present segments of the will with my comments of remembered opinions of various lawyers, and some others, such as Charmian's own words from her first biography; JACK LONDON by MRS JACK LONDON Published 1921 by Mills & Boon Limited, London. Vol. TWO. Later you may read the will in full and form your own judgement. Mine of course is biased.


It is hand written: Glen Ellen, California. May 24,1911.

The first paragraph: "I, Jack London, being of sound mind, on this day do declare this to be my last will and testament, cancelling and nullifying all previous wills thereby."

The second paragraph states: "I do not want this will probated. The executors to serve without bonds".

Before I proceed I want to point out that Jack London died Nov 22, 1916. In order for this will to have gone through probate despite his specific statement to the contrary, there would have to be an attached codicil which would be pertinent to the specific statement, "I do not want this will probated." There was presented to the court a codicil dated April 17, 1914. You might very well question Charmian's statement in her biography, (JACK LONDON VOL.Two, page 386) that Jack, "by his own passive action in neglecting, during the half decade the will had lain in deposit, to alter a line of it." How could a codicil dated three years later be attached to a 1911 will that had lain in deposit half a decade untouched by Jack's own hand?

The third paragraph: "The executors are Eliza Shepard, George Sterling, and Willard L. Growall."

In the biography, on the same page, (386) Charmian has this to say regarding the will: "In effect it is a love letter, written by a wise man who knew our metal (sic) and he named Eliza Shepard, and my cousin, Willard L. Growall as executors." I find it strange that in 1921 Charmian fails to list George Sterling as one of Jack's appointed executors. I am sure that George would have honored Jack's specific words; "I do not want this will probated." He mistrusted Charmian, and I believe it is for these reasons that a fraudulent codicil was probated. Legal clout enabled this will to be probated I believe; Charmian's Uncle, also named Willard Growell, had been a judge of the Supreme court of Sonoma county, and Eliza was Charmian's attorney. Minus this clout, the codicil would not have passed through the court since it bore no reference to the order of the testator that he did not want the will probated. By law the court would have apportioned a fair distribution of the property including the royalties.

Now to the fourth paragraph; "In all questions relating to my books, plays, translations, and literary dealings and interpretations, my present wife, Charmian K. London, is to be consulted. Her advice, and judgement are to be considered of paramount importance."

And now to paragraph number five; "To Charmian K. London I do hereby give and bequeath my whole estate, real and personal and of every sort and description, including any and all investments, royalties and rights in books, plays, translations, etc. except insofar as the following legacies may have claims upon said estate." (Royalty claims by children.)

There is full agreement among lawyers that authors, playwrights, etc. cannot disinherit the widow/widower, and blood children (adopted child is the same as blood child) from sharing equally the royalties, providing they are alive at the time of author's death. And Joan and Becky, natural born children of Jack London, were still alive at the time of their father's death and did not inherit. Such artists may disinherit blood kin of land, homes, personal objects of all kinds, but not copyrights nor royalties. Ironically, Jack London was well aware of these laws of copyright since he had been in the forefront of negotiating for these very laws.

The most contentious part of this will is in regards to his two daughters; "To my daughters, Joan London and Bess London, the estate shall pay to each of them twenty-five dollars a month as long as they remain unmarried. Immediately on marriage or death the estate will cease paying this monthly advance."

"Here in relation to Joan London and Bess London, my daughters, let me state that any additional wealth they may obtain shall not be from my estate, but from my present wife, Charmian K. London. To her must they be beholden for anything additional to the twenty-five dollar monthly allowance accorded each of them from the estate. Whatever additional may be given them shall be a benefaction and a kindness from Charmian K. London and shall arise out of Charmian K. London's goodness and desire.

"To my sister, Eliza Shepard, I give and bequeath the sum of two thousand five hundred dollars. In addition the estate shall pay to her each month the sum of thirty-five dollars. This thirty-five dollars is not to be considered a legacy nor an annuity, but is to be earned by her as follows: Having proved to my satisfaction that she is peculiarly fitted for the post, I appoint her business manager and agent of the estate, in consultation with the other two executors and acting under the instructions of the three executors combined, of which she is one. I add that, according to the judgement of the executors and according to any increase in the responsibilities & earning powers of the estate, her monthly salary shall be increased accordingly."

The question that comes to my mind about the above is the credibility of the codicil, which eliminates the third executor, George Sterling. The presumption being, that George was in California at the time this will was written but that he was not in California on April 17, 1914 when the codicil was written. I must leave it to you the reader to try to analyze the significance, if any, in what Charmian has to say about this date of April 17, 1914. From the same biography JACK LONDON by Charmian London Vol Two, Chapter XXVII 1914: New York; Mexico; Roamer, page 295-296. "As it was, Collier's wired to know how long it would take him (Jack) to make ready to start for Galveston, Texas, should they telegraph him to go. "Twenty-four hours," was the response. Came the bombardment of the Naval Academy at Vera Cruz, and on April 16th the summons arrived. We left Glen Ellen the next morning, and Oakland the same afternoon".

The will again; "The insurance, which falls to my two daughters, Joan London and Bess London, will constitute a separate fund, which will be managed for them until they are twenty-one years of age. The executors I hereby empower, by their discretion and judgement to draw upon said insurance, and even reduce it or append (unclear word, expend?) all of it, for the purpose of education of Joan and Bess or for other expenses extraordinary that shall be for the benefit of Joan and Bess.

Should Charmian K. London marry, all the estate shall still be hers, with the exception of the foregoing exceptions and claims upon it, and with the additional exception that she must pay to the insurance fund of Joan London and Bess London the sum of five thousand dollars cash.

I recommend that my daughters, Joan London, and Bess London, be personally housed, cared for, and managed by my beloved wife Charmian K. London, of whose fitness and goodness for this duty I am amply confident.

The reason that I give all my estate to Charmian K. London with the exceptions noted, is as follows: Charmian K. London, by her personal fortune, and far more, by her personal aid to me in my literary work, and still vastly far more, by the love, and comfort, and joy, & happiness she has given me, is the only person in this world who has any claim or merit earned upon my estate. This merit and claim she has absolutely earned, and I hereby earnestly, sincerely, and gratefully accord it. Again repeating that I am of sound mind, I put my signature to this document, my last will and testament."

Jack London

Glen Ellen, California

May 24

There is no sign of date of year. And because of the need for that closing date, I made an appointment with the curator of the Sonoma County Museum in Santa Rosa where the original will is displayed under plexiglass. The curator arranged to have the very large display case brought down to the basement and, with one of my daughters, we were allowed to hold those actual, original pages. Here are my notes on this which I wrote hastily on the back of one of my bank statements, the only paper I had with me at the time:

Feb. 22/1995. Chaney & Helen went to the Sonoma County Museum via appointment w/curator to view and hold in our hand, pages from Jack London's original & probated will, written on a notebook lined paper with the usual 3 punched holes in thirds across the top. Ms. T, the curator, offered to copy the whole thing out but it seemed to us unnecessary. We checked the pages & they matched the copy we have. We asked only for page 8 which needed clarification of 2 lines which came out clearer and the last page which had a curious break or tear over the year date. It was in the original a square hole, which doesn't really show in copy. The hole was clean, at least no rough edges. My first reaction; that it had been cut, there was no indication that it was broken off due to age, not able to judge, but my thought: the paper was not brittle, yet why did it strike both Chaney & me as very strange, it looked like this: May 24 (here I drew a shape similar to a parallelogram where the year date would normally appear). The upper right hand corner (of the hole) obliterates, or rather cut off the bottom part of the "C" in California which was written above the date. (This blank space is clearly visible in all copies, and is actually an evenly cut hole in the original.) To continue with my note: There was no codicil.

I have a clean copy of the codicil, also holographic, which states: "Owing to the absence of George Sterling from the state of California I hereby drop his name from my will as an executor and appoint Eliza Shepard and Willard L. Growall, to act as executors (an erased word here) will and to carry out the terms of same." signed "Jack London. Glen Ellen, Calif. April, 17, 1914".

I remind you once more of Charmian's account in her biography when they received notice from Collier's magazine about the bombardment of the Naval Academy at Vera Cruz. The date of the summons was April 16, 1914. Jack was to cover the Mexican rebellion. Charmian writes; "On April 16, the summons arrived. We left Glen Ellen the next morning, and Oakland the same afternoon." (Pg. 296) JACK LONDON by CHARMIAN LONDON. 1921. So how did this codicil find its way into "deposit" where a 1911 will had "lain for half a decade" when, "by his own passive action in neglecting, during the half decade the will had lain in deposit, to alter a line of it."

All of this minute examination of the original will was my attempt to understand why Jack London would have written such a document. In February of 1995 when we saw this original will, I had no suspicion of tampering, nor of outright fraud. I had a good clear copy of the will and had actually read it along with the dreadful "colt" letter, way back in 1946 when Joan first showed them to me. In my youthful, altruistic view I saw both the letter and the "will", not as "disinheriting", but as the cry of a heartbroken father who had lost, not only his chance of fatherhood with Charmian, but the opportunity of having his daughters share some part of his life by living part time at the Ranch.

Jack's plot to build a house up there so that he would have access to his daughters, while tentatively considered by Bessie, was sabotaged by Charmian. Bessie took violent offense by Charmian's precipitous horse-back ride down and around the fact-finding team having a picnic on the proposed homesite. The ride may have been a consequence of the suffering and torment that Charmian was going through after the death of Baby Joy. Bessie, however, saw only threat to her children at the hand of an unstable woman. Bessie, unable to forgive Charmian, was to make the mistake of a lifetime, in setting strict rules that forbade the girls' visits to the Ranch. I believe this will and a bitter letter written to Bessie at this time, was the direct result of Bessie's refusal to allow the girls visits to the ranch, citing Charmian as "unfit".

You have only to read the letter of January 8, 1911, Jack to Bessie, which I have quoted earlier in this document, to understand the source of this incredible will; a document which, by his own statement in the first paragraph, "I do not want this will probated," meant exactly that. The letter, written at the peak of his rage, precedes the will by four months; the most dire warnings that continue for three more years set the tragic pace: "Please don't think for a moment that you are the only one who loves Joan and Bess. And don't forget this danger: The less I am acquainted with my children, the less I shall be interested in my children. And insofar as you stand between me and knowing my children, by that much will my interest be lessened, and by that much will what I shall do for them be lessened." You will find this letter in the first volume of LETTERS by Hendricks and Shepard and in Vol.Two of the three volume set by Labor, Leitz and Shepard.

Jack was well versed in legal matters and understood that if he died and the will filed as written, it would then have to go through a court process by which Charmian and the two daughters would have shared equally as had been Jack's intention in two prior wills of 1905! For your interest I will include typed copies of these. I have both wills which are holographic, but too difficult to read and too lengthy due to Jack's sprawling handwriting.

Jack's stepsister, Eliza Shepard, was not only Jack's farm manager and legal adviser, but was also Charmian's lawyer in the will of 1911. She has been quietly relegated to the background as a less intriguing character in this dramatic picture. I believe she was much more complex. Joan, from personal observation describes Eliza as energetic, shrewd, with a quick mind. Jack gives a more incisive analysis of her in a letter to Mabel Applegarth dated Nov. 30, 1898 (see full letter in both issues of LETTERS).

I will quote only in part since it is a most complex and long letter: "...You speak of going to my sister: I know how well she loves me; do you know how? or why? I spent years in Oakland and we saw nothing of each other-perhaps once a year looked on each others face. If I had followed what she had advised (taken a postal job) ...I would today be a clerk at forty dollars a month, a railroad man, or something similar... I would be satisfied to live like a puppet and die like a puppet. Yes, and she would not have liked me half as much as she does now, Because I felt that I was or wanted to be something more... because I showed that my brain was a little bit better... she took a liking to me. But all this was secondary: primarily she was lonely, had no children, a husband who was no husband, etc., she wanted someone to love. A great deal of this same feeling has been lavished on the W.R.C. (Woman's Relief Corps - Eliza was a member) for this same reason. If the world was at my feet tomorrow, none would be happier than she, and she would say she knew it would be so all the time."

Yet Jack was to make Eliza his lawyer in a desperate effort to frighten Bessie into signing off the two endowment policies that named her beneficiary in the event of his death before hers. This was a sick battle that was to be fought off and on up to the month and year of his death when she finally signed.

I believe the tactics used by Jack, illegal as they were, gave Eliza the means to validate that April 17, 1914 codicil that was instrumental in disinheriting Jack's only children, Joan and Becky. The battle began in 1908 when Bessie decided to remarry. She asked Jack if she could cash in the two endowment policies so that she and her husband-to-be, Charley Milner, could buy a lot on which to build a house of their own.

When Jack learned of Bessie's plan to marry, he left the Solomon Islands, visited with Bessie and Charley Milner and offered them what he thought was a good deal: they could buy the house from him, after 20 years they were to sell it back to him at the same price plus the cost of improvements. In return Bessie was to sign over to him two endowment policies. She turned down both offers. Jack was to initiate a feud over what he felt was a plot by Charley and Bessie to "shake him down." I think Bessie truly wanted a home of her own where she could live with no restrictions such as Jack had imposed in their divorce contract; that she could occupy the house only while unmarried. "Why?" she was to ask him in a letter, "would I sell the house when I want a home not an investment." He had argued that he was offering them an "investment, a generous gift no other man had ever offered his first wife and her second husband." Her refusal drove Jack to unreasoned violation of the law.

Upon his return to the Solomon Islands Jack began the battle. In Volume two of LETTERS, (LABOR, LEITZ, & SHEPARD) Jack writes a series of letters to Eliza and to Charmian's Aunt, Ninetta Eames. In the first letter to Eliza, dated March 19, 1908 he tells her to seek advice from a lawyer regarding the legality of changing the beneficiaries on insurance policies because, he says: "By written agreement of community property, and release by Bessie of all claims on my books, past, present and future, I stipulated to keep up 6 life insurance policies, four with Bessie beneficiary in case of my death; two with the children beneficiaries. I have since changed the two policies in which the children were beneficiaries, to other persons as beneficiaries. At the same time, the 4 Bessie-beneficiary I have changed to the children, making the children beneficiaries. Now, since this is a violation of the written agreement by me, what would legally happen in case of my death?" (1) Would Bessie be able to sue and obtain from the insurance on the four policies transferred to them, and the children be able to sue my estate or beneficiaries and obtain the insurance on the two policies transferred from them? (2) Or, would the agreement become null and void by my violation of it, so that Bessie and the children could participate in all my estate at time of my death, and in royalties, past, present, and future, on all my writings?"

Here I will list the particulars of the policies as of 1904 Divorce agreement and settlement:

(1)Policy #1,025,963 of Equitable Life Assurance Society, in the sum of $1,000 payable to Bessie London.

(2)Policy #56,927 of the Pacific Mutual Life Ins. Co. of California in the sum of $1,000 payable to Bessie London.

(3)Policy #330,212 of the Atna Life Ins. Co, in the sum of #1,000 payable to Bessie London.

(4)Policy #3,410,981 of the New York life Ins. Co, in the sum of $1,000 payable to Bessie London.

(5)Policy #3,667,303 of the New York Life Ins. Co, in the sum of $3,000 payable to Joan London & Bess London.

(6)Policy #3,667,304 of the New York life Ins. Co. in the sum of $3,000 payable to Joan London and Bess London.

Earlier Jack had asked Ninetta Eames, who was handling his business affairs to arrange to borrow money on insurance policies. On Oct. 26 1908 (pg. 758) he writes to Ninetta from the Solomon Islands. "As regards raising money on insurance policies made out to Bessie as beneficiary, I think she has got me on a technicality on our agreement arranged preceding the divorce. So it would be impossible to get her to sign any papers allowing me to raise money on said policies. However, I am proceeding to fight this out with her and I shall let you know the outcome."

The next day, Oct. 27, 1908, from the Solomon Islands, he wrote the first of several letters (Pgs. 762-768) that would repeat again and again, his anger and frustration over Bessie's refusal to sign over those two endowment policies which he was happy enough to include in his part of the 1904 divorce settlement. The value of $1,000 each seems such a small sum that it seems not worth the rage. But there are some hints in this letter that makes me wonder if his rage had more to do with concern that another man would be father, albeit "step" to his daughters, and to his resentment that in her separation complaint Bessie had charged him with infidelity naming Anna Strunsky, and worse, charging him also of having infected her with gonorrhea. He was never to forgive her that last charge. In the above letter, he threatens to fight fight fight until there is not a penny left for anyone to get. Without letters from Bessie I find it difficult to understand what this fight is all about. It seems she would have accepted Jack's offer to buy the house but did not want the option of selling it back to him after twenty years. In this same letter, Jack quotes from one of her letters; "Jack, if I wanted to sell this place, for what earthly reason would I want it so badly? I want a home." He counters with; "That being so, why under the sun are you raising all this tempest because I refuse to let you and Charley drag out of me the increased value of said home, when if you use it as a home, at the end of twenty years the increased value will be yours, and the home can become an investment and you can pocket the money I have given you.?"

This very complex bitter letter, filled with threats and recriminations, was followed up three days later by a letter to Eliza from Guadalcanal, dated. Oct., 31, 1908; "I have just written Mrs. Eames this mail telling her to charge Bessie $50.00 a month, if, after her marriage she still occupies 519-31st., and does not buy it." ... "If you see Bessie tell her I am going to fight like the very devil."

One day later another letter is sent to both Eliza and Ninetta Eames. ( P.771.). Nov. 1. 1908, Solomon Islands; "Dear Aunt Netta, Dear Eliza; This is a letter containing additional instructions concerning my fight with Bessie. Wherever this might conflict with previous instructions, follow the instructions in this letter. Netta: I see by the agreement I signed with Bessie that it was not $65.00 but $75.00 minimum monthly allowance I was to pay her. So, if Bessie is not married when you receive this, instruct The Macmillan Company to pay her $75.00 a month."

He then orders them to "tie up the Ranch" put it in Homestead in Charmian's name so there can be no judgements against it... so it is untouchable. They are to sell 519-31st St. house to Bessie only upon her signing a contract giving him first refusal at $4500,00 plus improvements after purchase by Bessie and Charlie.

"By far", he says, "the most important point is LIFE INSURANCE. By that", he says, "I stand to lose over $4000.00 plus interest for a period of twenty years." He leaves it to their judgement whether or not to change the beneficiaries in the four insurance policies immediately upon Bessie's marriage. If Bessie "shows signs of fighting" they are to sell his mother's house for cash and keep the money where Bessie can't find it. If they sell his mother's house they will have to rent one for her. If Bessie shows fight, and if, after a reasonable time after she marries Charlie and has not bought the house they are to sell that too. If Bessie and Charlie keep possession without buying on Jack's terms they are to bring suit to oust them and sell the house for whatever they can get.

"Let Eliza have control of any law business, consulting with Aunt Netta, but having the final decision herself in what shall be done in matters legal." He explains to Eliza that he has agreed in the divorce settlement to keep up life insurance in her name and points out that his is LIFE insurance, and ENDOWMENT as well. "If I die, my beneficiaries get the life insurance; but if I live until the policies mature, I am not dead, and the money I should receive from those companies is not life insurance but endowment. Now, has the beneficiary in such a policy have any claim on the endowment. I imagine not. In my agreement with Bessie, it is stated specifically that I will keep up the life insurance under which she is beneficiary. Not a word is said about endowment." He tells Eliza to consult a good insurance lawyer and the insurance companies themselves. He lists the four policies of which Bessie is the beneficiary. They are the same as those I listed earlier and each for $1,000.

"My agreements with Bessie, and likewise my Will, will be found in the private papers in Aunt Netta's charge in my will. I am drawing up a new will as soon as I get to Australia that will cut Bessie absolutely out of everything." He summarizes again all the above instructions and adds: "I want to make myself untouchable. With the Ranch homesteaded to Charmian, the Oakland houses sold, and myself in debt to my publishers, there should be no way in which any court judgments can touch me. And I wont bring the Snark back until the coast is clear." He ends this with one more salvo; "Under the circumstances, I shall have to give you largely a free hand. You will be compelled to use your own judgements in the matter. I make only one stipulation - there is to be no compromise. It shall be a fight to the finish and then I'll go on fighting."

Letter to Ninetta Eames (pgs. 789-91) from Jack; Mt. Royal Hotel, Tasmania, Feb. 5, 1909... "Will you mail all Life Insurance Policies in which Bessie is the beneficiary, to the respective companies, having the name of the beneficiary changed to Joan and Bess London - that is to say, let Joan and Bess London be the joint beneficiaries in each policy. The fun of this will be that in case I should die, Bessie would be compelled, in order to get the Insurance money, to sue her own children for it. Do this immediately upon receipt of this letter."

He says all over again in this letter that as soon as he gets back to California he will change his will and cut Bessie entirely out from any participation whatsoever in his estate etc.

Next comes the real clincher; "To return to the Insurance proposition: You will find that Joan and Bess London are already beneficiaries in other policies. In all these other policies in which the two children are beneficiaries, substitute Charmian for the beneficiary, for the TOTAL AMOUNT, with the exception of $1,000.00, for which Eliza Shepard is to be named."

Perhaps he finds this woman stupid, this aunt of Charmian's A.K.A. Mother Mine, because he feels compelled to write the above as a "re-statement", which I will not repeat. (I'm having my own bad time with this.)

Next we turn to pg. 792 Jack to "Dearest Sister Eliza" from The Australia, Sydney, Feb. 14, 1909; He's replying briefly to her letter of Jan 27. "I am going to stick by my proposition about compelling Bessie to agree not to sell 519-31st St. for twenty years after purchasing. She can't sue me to keep the contract until after she is married. So she needn't let the situation retard her marriage." He throws in a few more arrows in this somewhat one-sided fray, snide remarks; he thinks Bessie will marry Charley Milner "if he'll have her and when he'll have her." He writes almost with glee: "Anyway she is getting $25.00 less a month from the Macmillan Company and when I get home I'll make things warm for her." He says she hasn't written to him nor have the children since that "hot letter I sent her." (see Oct. 27, 1908, pgs. 762-768). In ending this "brief" letter to Eliza, he admits he hasn't looked up his contract with Bessie (their divorce agreement) but will do so in order to learn if its up to him to pay the taxes on 519-31st St.

To be honest, at this point I am having a difficult time keeping an objective viewpoint on all this manipulation behind the scenes. The "hot" letter Jack refers to will appear again in somewhat altered form in the fall of 1916. Shortly after this letter to Eliza, Bessie broke her engagement to Charley and never remarried.

Eight years later after peace had been restored between Joan and her father, she felt secure in his good graces and barely broached the dreaded subject of finances only to find herself facing a storm. Since certain historians have written of this from a one-sided perspective I will let Joan tell it in her own memoir, JACK LONDON and his DAUGHTERS. It is from the synopsis (unpublished), and please remember that Joan was only fifteen at the time;

Page 11 of synopsis; "The last crisis, in August of 1916, was, in all innocence, precipitated by me. Ironically, its origin was the life-line, the crack left open in the closing door: 'Whenever you want money, within reason, for clothes, books, spending, etc., write me for it.' Mother's monthly 'allowance' from him sufficed only for necessities, and so when we were small my letters had contained awkward requests for skates and sweaters and tickets for plays we especially wanted to see; later, I had to ask for monthly carfare and lunch, money for high school, books, summer coats, a school pin. Most adolescent yearnings I suppressed, a few greatly daring hints went unnoticed. As time passed I grew embarrassed and then humiliated by the need to make these endless petty requests. The solution seemed eminently reasonable to me: Bess and I were older now, Daddy must increase Mother's allowance.

Courageously, and at the same time pretty sure of his approval, I broached the subject when we were lunching together in Oakland soon after his return from a seven months' stay in Hawaii. How very ill he must have been, I think, for how else explain the totally unexpected violence of his reaction. He was furiously angry, and although I immediately withdrew my proposal, he insisted upon discussing it further. "Discussing" is scarcely the right word for what followed: accusations, upbraidings, erection of straw dummies that were instantly demolished, self-justification that sank finally into self-pity.

Whatever I tried to say was cruelly twisted into its opposite intention. Frustrated in every attempt to get through to him, stung by the injustice of his accusations, I felt the beginnings of anger and then, to my horror, tears. I struggled desperately to hold them back, but he saw them.

His tirade ended at last. He asked me to send him some figures to help him make up his mind, and said he would let me know. Bess and I walked down twelfth Street with him to the Orpheum where he was to meet Charmian and some friends. None of us had much to say. In front of the theater he kissed us perfunctorily and moved toward the glass doors that led into the lobby. With one hand on the door, he looked back for a long moment at us, still standing disconsolstely on the sidewalk. My impulse to run to him, to fling my arms about him, died at sight of his set, unsmiling face. He turned then, pushed open the door and went inside. We were never to see him again."

The letter of October 12, 1916 to Bessie (from Glen Ellen) might have resulted from the incident Joan described or perhaps it could have been a rehash of the Oct. 27, 1908 letter Jack wrote to Bessie from the Solomon Islands, during the heat of his raging over the marriage plans of Bessie and Charlie Milner, which Jack felt involved plans to cheat him out of the two endowment policies. Much of his anger over the marriage (which never took place) seemed to have dissipated over the years. , He had, after all illegally switched all the policies and the beneficiaries, which violated the divorce agreement.

The letter of Oct. 12, 1916 (pgs.1586 - 88) is once again a battle over insurance policies, as well as the same old argument over the marriage that never took place. There are so many things wrong with this letter that I can't help but doubt that Jack London was its author. I'll tell you why, and I will begin with the explanatory footnote No. 1. In her letter to J.L. of Oct. 9 1916 (CSmH), Bessie London claimed that according to the community property settlement of their divorce she was given four life insurance policies on J.L. in return for the claim she had against J.L.'s book royalties. Bessie apparently confused these policies with the two endowment policies J.L. carried on her life.

The record of the divorce settlement lists four policies in Bessie's name, each in the sum of $ 1,000, and two policies each one in the names of Joan and Bess in the sum of $ 3,000 each. None of these policies as listed spell out the words "Endowment" or "Life Insurance" The numbers of Bessie's named policies and the insurance companies are as follows;

No.1025963 Equitable Life Assurance Society. $ 1,000.
No. 56927 Pacific Mutual Life Ins. Co. $ 1,000.
No. 330212 Etna Life Ins. Co. $ 1,000.
No. 3410981 New York Life Ins. Co. $ 1,000.

The two policies in each of which both Joan and Bess are named;

No. 3667303 New York Life Ins. Co. $ 3,000.
No. 3667304 New York Life Ins. Co. $ 3,000.

If you check back on Jack's letter of Nov. 1, 1908 from the Solomon Islands (pgs. 771-3 Leitz Labor Shepard) addressing Eliza and Ninetta Eames about nefarious tactics they were to employ in his fight against Bessie, he adds this; "By far, the most important point is LIFE INSURANCE (his caps). By this I stand to lose over $4000.00 plus interest for a period of twenty years ...I leave it up to the judgement of you two whether or not immediately upon Bessie's marriage it would be well to change the beneficiaries on the four insurance policies concerned. The clause in my agreement with Bessie is to the effect that I agree to keep up the life insurance in her name. Now here is a point. Mine is LIFE insurance, and ENDOWMENT as well." He goes on to explain the difference and even identifies the policies that are in Bessie's name: "The policies of which Bessie is beneficiary are four in number, for $ 1000 each. One is in the Equitable Life, Policy 1025963; one is in New York Life, Policy 3410981; one is Pacific Mutual, Policy 56927; and one is in Etna Life, Policy 330212."

A footnote to the above states; Ms: CS mH; 3 pp., tls. (marked "Copy signed by Jack"). Also I would point out that the above named policies in Bessie's name are identical to those named in the 1904 divorce agreement. In this letter of 1908 there is no mention of the two policies in which both daughters, Joan and Bess, are named as beneficiaries in the same divorce agreement. But read on and notice, please, the following orders via letter to Ninetta Eames from Jack, (pp. 789 - 791) dated February 5, 1909 from Mt. Royal Hotel, Tasmania. ..."Will you mail all Life Insurance Policies in which Bessie is the beneficiary, to the respective companies, having the name of the beneficiary changed to Joan and Bess London - that is to , say, let Joan and Bess London be the joint beneficiaries in each policy. The fun of this will be that in case I should die, Bessie would be compelled, in order to get the insurance money, to sue her own children for it. Do this immediately upon receipt of this letter... To return to the INSURANCE proposition: You will find that Joan and Bess London are already beneficiaries in other policies. In all these other policies in which the two children are beneficiaries, substitute Charmian for the beneficiary, for the TOTAL AMOUNT, with the exception of $ 1,Q00, for which make ELIZA the beneficiary."

He repeats this last order as though Mrs. Eames were stupid, goes on with other demands and signs the whole with; "Love, Jack London." On February 24, 1909, from Sydney Australia, (p.792) he writes to Eliza in reply to her letter of January 27, 1908; "I am going to stick by my proposition about compelling Bessie to agree not to sell 519-31st St. for 20 years after purchasing..." He promises to "make things warm for her" when he returns. Which he apparently forgot to do until another battle erupted in January of 1911 over Bessie's firm stand against allowing the two daughters, Joan and Bess, to visit the Ranch.

I had written earlier to you of the fiasco of Charmian riding her horse downhill and around the picnic group where Bessie, the two daughters, and teenage Adela Rogers St. Johns were sitting; Mrs. St. Johns describes this scene in her biography FINAL VERDICT. Bessie had been persuaded by Jack to come to the Ranch to check out the possibility of moving up there in a house he would build far removed from the cottage he and Charmian occupied. Charmian's ill-conceived horseback ride, unfortunately confirmed Bessie's belief that Charmian was not fit to care for her little girls. Bessie's refusal and her criticism of Charmian's fitness were to inspire what must be one of the most degrading letters a man could have written to his former wife, the mother of the only children he was to have; Charmian had just lost her first child on June 22, 38 hours after Baby Joy's birth.

With this great sorrow virtually ripping him apart, combined with his frustration over Bessie's stubborn stand Jack was to write this savage letter to Bessie on January 8, 1911 and on May 24th, 1911, was to write the will that declared in the second paragraph, "I do not want this will probated." The letter has been published in the King Hendrick-Irving Shepard LETTERS FROM JACK LONDON, pp. 329 - 331, and in LETTERS OF JACK LONDON, Vol.Two, Labor, Leitz and Shepard, pp. 969 - 971. I will include a copy of the will with this document.

I will no longer debate this issue but will certainly hold to my belief that two women, Eliza and Charmian, for their own reasons and purposes did intend to deprive both Joan and Bess (Becky) of their rights and heritage. It is more obvious in the probate records that Joan and Bess (Becky) were to be targeted and prevented from taking part in any future claims against the estate. Bessie was to be used as the patsy. I don't believe that Bessie understood, and certainly no lawyer advised her on the matter, that contracts with minors is illegal; that Bessie, who had been appointed all over again in 1918 at the specific request of Eliza Shepard, Willard L. Growall and Charmian London, that she, Bessie M. London "take the necessary steps in the Supreme Court of the State of California in and for the County of Alameda, to authorise her on behalf of said Joan and Bess London to enter into this compromise and settlement."

On Nov. 3, 1916 Jack and Bessie agreed and signed a contract which raised the allowances of Bessie and daughters, allows Bessie to remain in house until remarriage, assigns 3 life insurance policies to Joan and Bess, two endowment policies to be turned over by Bessie to Jack, all five policies to be paid to Jack if he is alive at time of maturity. Bessie to release all rights titles, etc, in his literary works. He had promised Bessie that she and the two girls would benefit in his will if she agreed to sign over the endowment policies.

Jack had started the increased payments in October 1916. But since his death, nothing had been paid by the executors, from Dec. 1916 to August 1917 when Bessie petitioned the court to honor the contract of Nov. 3 1916. Eliza, as Charmian's attorney disallows Bessie's appeal and offers a counter proposal, based on the assurance that Bessie be appointed as guardian of the "estates" of the two minor daughters. After another year has passed Bessie signs the compromise settlement: Joan and Bess receive conveyance to 606 Scenic and 519 31st St. free and clear. Bessie to receive $350 owed her for repairs on the property. Beginning in October 22 Bessie to receive $150 monthly for Joan and Bess {Becky}. When Joan turns 22 or marries prior allowance ends. Becky's allowance then is raised to $100 monthly and is to be paid directly to her when she reaches 18. If she marries before Joan reaches age 22 or marries then the sum of $100 will be for her. All payments must come from royalties and made only when sufficient royalties are available. The girls received their insurance money. Bessie releases all claims against the estate on Dec. 6, 1918, signed by all three, Bessie, Joan, and Bess; both girls under age 18.

I can only, at this point, wonder if Jack signed a holograph will and left it in Bessie's care? Why else would she have signed away so much? When Joan arranged, shortly before her death, to sell a number of her private papers through the prestigious firm of Howell Books, dealers in rare books, papers and manuscripts, could they have made an error in listing a 1916 holograph will by Jack London? I don't think so.

I have two contracts from Howell Books, one which was sent to our home for Joan to sign. Instead of signing Joan decided to seek one more chance at life and asked Bart to drive her to the Laetrile clinic in Playa de Tijuana, Mexico. The doctor there could not treat her because she had had the maximum surgery and chemotherapy allowable. I told you this story earlier in this document and only say this to remind you of the question regarding a 1916 will. Joan died at Kaiser Hospital in January 1971 without having signed that first contract with Howell Books. Three months after her death the original collector asked Bart to honor his mother's contract; which Bart, with reluctance, did, feeling honor bound to do so.

The question is: why did someone break into Joan's writing cabin while we were in Mexico? Her papers from her tall old style oak file cabinet and her large desk were scattered ankle deep over the floor. Was someone after that 1916 will? Neither Bart nor I could have known what was missing. So I pose the question to you the reader. The facts at issue: the papers Joan prepared for sale were numbered from 1 to 147 and each item had an identifying word or more preceded by TLs, Als. or mention of an envelope; for example, 92-94 3 T. postcards to Joan n.d. And the wills in the Howell contract are identified this way:

125. 9 pp. holograph will of Jack London. Very fine content 9/19/1916.
126. 29 pp, holograph will of Jack London incl. 2 codicil. i2/4J 1905.

The list of items posted at the Huntington are not numbered but are listed by year, and with minimum identification, such as: Joan London. A.L.s. to Jack London, 5 pp. March 21, 1911. There are two wills listed:

Jack London. Holograph will signed, 9 pp. July 19, 1905
Jack London. Holograph will signed, 29 pp. Dec. 4, 1905

The question I have asked myself is in regard to what I perceive as a deliberate attempt on the part of certain persons within the Jack London purview, scholarship, interest, or business to keep a hard-fisted control over materials that might give another side of the Jack London story. Why must it be so one sided? Jack London, as his daughter Joan came to understand, belongs to the world and surely the world deserves to know the other side of the story, which Professor Wilcox asked of me. For this I thank him.

Joan wrote a synopsis to her memoir and a group of papers entitled Myths and Realities, none of which had been published. She intended the latter as an Afterward to her memoir, Jack London and His Daughters. I hope to see this in print someday because they portray the mature woman, Joan, able to come to terms with the tragedy surrounding her mother and father as parents. In her painful understanding of her mother's role, Joan's poignant quotation, (H.J.MuIler) reflects her own forgiveness: "Again I must remember: 'In feeling compassion for the doer of the deed, we cannot afford to condone the deed itself."

- end -

Helen Darcy Abbott