The Little Lady of the Big House (1915) is a novel by American writer Jack London. Biographer Clarice Stasz states that it is "not autobiography," but speaks of his "frank borrowing from his life with Charmian" and says it is "psychologically valid as a mirror of events during [the] winter [of 1912-13]. The story concerns a love triangle. The protagonist, Dick Forrest, is a rancher with a poetic streak (his "acorn song" recalls London's play, "The Acorn Planters."). His wife, Paula, is a vivacious, athletic, and sexually self-aware woman (in one scene, she rides a stallion into a "swimming tank," emerging in "a white silken slip of a bathing suit that molded to her form like a marble-carven veiling of drapery.") Paula, like Charmian, is subject to insomnia; and Paula, like Charmian, is unable to bear children. Based on a reading of Charmian's diary, Stasz identifies the third vertex of the triangle, Evan Graham, with two real-life men named Laurie Smith and Allan Dunn. Even minor characters can be identified; Forrest's servant Oh My resembles London's valet Nakata. The long-bearded hobo philosopher Aaron Hancock resembles the real-life long-bearded hobo philosopher Frank Strawn-Hamilton, who was a long-term guest at the London ranch. Sculptor Haakan Frolich makes an appearance as "the sculptor Froelig" — and painter Xavier Martinez appears as the character "Xavier Martinez!"
London said of this novel: "It is all sex from start to finish — in which no sexual adventure is actually achieved or comes within a million miles of being achieved, and in which, nevertheless, is all the guts of sex, coupled with strength." One reviewer disparaged the novel's "erotomania."
Clarice Stasz comments:
Kevin Starr, in a brutally negative assessment, says the novel
The novel ends with Paula wounding herself mortally with a rifle—the reader is not told explicitly whether it is suicide, as her lover Graham believes, or an accident, as she tells her husband—and convincing a doctor to inject her with an overdose of morphine. As she drifts off, she says goodbye to both of her lovers: “Two bonnie, bonnie men. Good-by, bonnie men. Good-by, Red Cloud.... Stretch the skin tight, first. You know I don’t like to be hurt."