The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975 Page: 46
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Garland's interest in the West was evident as early as 1885, when he went
to see William Dean Howells, perhaps the foremost man of letters in
America at the time. In their talk, Garland expressed a desire to write
something of the manners and customs of the West. Howells told him:
"Whatever you do, keep to the West. You have almost a clear field out
there. Why don't you regularly go in for it? I am sure you could give us
something that would be typically western." Afterwards, Garland wrote in
his literary diary, "My apprenticeship was over, I had been accepted by
America's chief literary man as a fellow, a literary historian."2
Taking Howell's advice, Garland at first restricted his interest to the
upper Midwest, the area where he grew up and which he knew best. After
spending the summer of 1889 in South Dakota, he wrote "A Prairie
Heroine" and sent it to Benjamin O. Flower, editor of Arena magazine.
Flower accepted the story and encouraged Garland to travel and to write
more stories depicting life in rural America.' From his travels, paid for in
large part by Arena, Garland wrote six short stories dealing with the
hard life in the rural Midwest. Arena published these under the title
of Main-Travelled Roads (189i), which served as his greatest literary
success for several years following. Thus, Garland used experiences and
observations of the commonplace in the life and surroundings of the Mid-
west farmers to establish himself as a writer.
In 1892 Garland turned his attention farther west when Flower urged
him to travel in the West. He first journeyed to Colorado. In Colorado
Springs, Garland stayed with Louis R. Ehrich, an associate and friend of
Arena magazine. At the same time, United States Chief Forester Bern-
hard E. Fernow came to Colorado to tour the national forests. He asked
Garland to join him for two weeks in the White River Plateau area. Garland
later remarked that that trip served as a transition for him, marking the
beginning of a new type of writing by him about the American West. He
wrote of his new attitude about the West:
If any of my critics wish to call this a confused, wavering, experimental
period I shall not dispute their statement. I was a boy let loose to play. I could
2Ibid., 55, 60 (quotations).
3Flower wrote Garland that "A Prairie Heroine" was a "delightful little sketch, al-
though one feels something like Oliver Twist after finishing it, as if there should be
another chapter." Flower pointed out that Garland had suppressed his thoughts in several
instances in the story. He encouraged Garland to "feel yourself thoroughly free to ex-
press any opinions you desire or to send home any lessons which you feel should be im-
pressed upon the people...." Flower to Garland, April 30, 1890, Item 1759, Hamlin
Garland Collection, University of Southern California Library.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975, periodical, 1974/1975; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117149/m1/64/: accessed June 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.