To The Last Man
It was inevitable that in my efforts to write romantic history of the great West I should at
length come to the story of a feud. For long I have steered clear of this rock. But at last I
have reached it and must go over it, driven by my desire to chronicle the stirring events of
Even to-day it is not possible to travel into the remote corners of the West without seeing
the lives of people still affected by a fighting past. How can the truth be told about the
pioneering of the West if the struggle, the fight, the blood be left out? It cannot be done.
How can a novel be stirring and thrilling, as were those times, unless it be full of
sensation? My long labors have been devoted to making stories resemble the times they
depict. I have loved the West for its vastness, its contrast, its beauty and color and life,
for its wildness and violence, and for the fact that I have seen how it developed great men
and women who died unknown and unsung.
In this materialistic age, this hard, practical, swift, greedy age of realism, it seems there is
no place for writers of romance, no place for romance itself. For many years all the
events leading up to the great war were realistic, and the war itself was horribly realistic,
and the aftermath is likewise. Romance is only another name for idealism; and I contend
that life without ideals is not worth living. Never in the history of the world were ideals
needed so terribly as now. Walter Scott wrote romance; so did Victor Hugo; and likewise
Kipling, Hawthorne, Stevenson. It was Stevenson, particularly, who wielded a bludgeon
against the realists. People live for the dream in their hearts. And I have yet to know
anyone who has not some secret dream, some hope, however dim, some storied wall to
look at in the dusk, some painted window leading to the soul. How strange indeed to find
that the realists have ideals and dreams! To read them one would think their lives held
nothing significant. But they love, they hope, they dream, they sacrifice, they struggle on
with that dream in their hearts just the same as others. We all are dreamers, if not in the
heavy-lidded wasting of time, then in the meaning of life that makes us work on.
It was Wordsworth who wrote, "The world is too much with us"; and if I could give the
secret of my ambition as a novelist in a few words it would be contained in that
quotation. My inspiration to write has always come from nature. Character and action are
subordinated to setting. In all that I have done I have tried to make people see how the
world is too much with them. Getting and spending they lay waste their powers, with
never a breath of the free and wonderful life of the open!
So I come back to the main point of this foreword, in which I am trying to tell why and
how I came to write the story of a feud notorious in Arizona as the Pleasant Valley War.