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II.  Books Containing Original Material by Wright 

20.  My Maiden Effort, Being the Personal Confessions of Well-known American Authors as to their Literary Beginnings, edited by Gelett Burgess. Garden City, New York, and Toronto: Doubleday, Page,  1921.  One hundred twenty-six authors (click to see list) including the following one-and-a-half page contribution by Harold Bell Wright:

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     Considering the painful fact that every mother's son and daughter of the million or more professional critics will most strenuously assert that I have yet to accomplish "my first literary effort," this request from the Editor, I confess, is rather a good joke.  However, a careful study of the formidable list of names submitted for my encouragement heartens me.  Upon second thought I am convinced that in such a company of distinguished authors, I shall stand alone.
     I, alone, of the whole ungodly crew have no literary efforts, maiden or matured to confess.
     The vital question of literature being thus settled to the satisfaction of everybody, there is left for me nothing but to offer the sad tale of my first crime.  My initial offense in the long series of atrocities that brought me to my present degradation was committed in The Christian Standard, a religious weekly published in Cincinnati.   As I remember, the year was Eighteen Hundred and Ninety-five.  Thank God I have forgotten the details.  Discerning judges will not fail to note the significance of this, my first choice of publisher, in its bearing upon my infamous career and so will properly credit me with a genius of sort.
     That I was not, in those young days, sufficiently depraved by nature to endure without a struggle the poignant emotions entailed by such a success, is evidenced by the fact that eight years passed before I was hardened by various other minor attempts to the point of perpetrating my first novel.
     This outrage, too, was published by a religious weekly, The Christian Century, or rather, to be exact, I should say it was published in part.  The editor cut it--he cut it religiously--one might say he carved it.  In answer to my protests this Christian martyr explained gently, "But, my dear boy, your drunken men actually stagger; and really you know, my readers do not like to see such things."
     Years have taught me that the editor was right; drunken men do not stagger.  But the editor did not go far enough--he really should have slaughtered the whole staggering monstrosity.
     Later, Mr. E. W. Reynolds, then a Chicago book seller, for reasons best known to himself forced this fearful horror upon his defenseless customers--staggers and all--and I was thus established in my deplorable profession.

Click here to see list of the other 125 authors

21.  Sage of the Desert and Other Cacti. By Francis Bonker and Dean John James Thornber, with an introduction by Harold Bell Wright. Boston: The Stratford Co., 1930. 7.6" by 5.25", dark brown, 106 pages, tan dust jacket. gc

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    IN a great Eastern city, an artist said to me: "I am told that you live in the desert."

    "Yes," I returned humbly, "I do."

    "But I don't understand," he said--with an air--"what inspiration can one possibly find in a desert?"

    "Have you ever been west of the Mississippi?" I asked. "


    "Then," said I gently, "it would be useless for me even to attempt to tell you about it--you could not understand."

    Indeed, I was not trying to be rude; I merely expressed the feeling of helplessness which always comes over me when I am asked to tell why I love the desert or what it means to me.

    One can, of course, say the usual things: Turquoise skies, far horizons, vast reaches of level mesas, wide valleys and rolling hills--blue-veiled mountains with tinted peaks, gray granite crags and purple-shadowed canyons--flaming wonder of the sunset, still mystery of the star-crowded night, gentle majesty of the morning, golden glory of the sun-filled day. But when all this is said there is something more which cannot be told but is only to be felt as one feels a "still small voice, speaking without words in the hidden depths of ones soul.

    Least of all can one describe the desert in blossom time. I have seen an almost unbroken carpet of living color--an infinite variety of shade and hue--extending as far as the eye could reach. I have seen the foothills, thirty miles away, turned to solid gold by wild poppies.  I have counted, in a space of four feet square, fourteen varieties of wild flowers. I have seen the desert when one could not put foot tot he ground without crushing a blossom. It should be said, however, that this wealth of bloom comes only when we have been blessed with abundant winter rains. It does not happen so  when the winter months are too dry.

    But the cactus blooms--rain or no rain. These strange, grotesque, forbidding and evil-looking plants seem to defy all laws of blossom making. One marvels that they manage even to live. indeed, many of them--bare green or brown sticks, without sign of leaf--seem not to be alive. But when their time is fulfilled, no matter how unfavorable the season, they burst forth with offerings of breath-taking loveliness.

    I wonder, sometimes, if certain laws of human character development do not apply in this strange vegetable kingdom also. Have you not noticed how often among human plants those that have been forced to fight hardest for a bare existence flower in rarest beauty? It is almost as if loveliness were the child of bitter hardship and travail.

    It seems so easy for the rose bush in my lady's garden to bring forth beauty; for the cactus to bloom is a miracle. I like to think that God, who is God of both the garden and the desert, gives to the cactus this beauty, rare and fine, because it has fought a good fight.

    Among those who know the desert, none, I think, can speak of these strange plants with greater knowledge than my good friend, Dean Thornber, of the University of Arizona.


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This Harold Bell Wright web site is written and produced by Gerry Chudleigh with the help of many friends.
Copyright 2000-May, 2011 by Gerry Chudleigh
Last updated 05/26/11