Rose Lane, a born writer who pliedrnher trade from her youth until almostrnthe day of her death at the age of 81, wasrnnevertheless prevented from distinguishedrnliterary accomplishment by herrndesire for fame and fortune and by a restless,rnimpatient temperament that wouldrnnot permit her to define a coherent artisticrngoal for herself and persevere towardrnit. After beginning her career as a woman’srnfeature writer and reporter for thernSan Francisco Bulletin under its distinguishedrnProgressive editor Fremont Older,rnshe produced a pedestrian novelrnabout a frustrated career woman beforernaccepting an offer to work as a genteelrnpropagandist for the Red Cross, filingrnstories from London at the end of thernFirst World War and later from Georgiarnand Armenia that described the reliefrnwork the agency was accomplishing inrndistressed areas abroad. After returningrnfrom the incorporating Soviet Union andrnthe Near East, she went to her parents’rnfarm near Mansfield, Missouri, wherernthe Wildcrs had eventually come to restrnafter failing in their youthful endeavor asrnpioneer farmers on the plains of DakotarnTerritory. Her father Almanzo was a taciturnrnman whose sole interests were goodrnhorses and careful agriculture, her motherrna literate woman and former schoolteacherrnwho for years had contemplatedrnwriting about her experiences as a pioneerrngirl in Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas,rnMinnesota, and Dakota. Since at leastrn1911 she had contributed short work tornthe Missouri farm journals, and by thern20’s she felt encouraged—partly by herrndaughter’s success as a writer—to try herrnhand at something larger. (“I intend torntry to do some writing that will count,”rnshe had written her husband from SanrnFrancisco where in 1915 she visited Rose,rn”but I would not be driven by the work asrnshe is for anything and I do not see howrnshe can stand it.”) Finally at the age ofrnabout 60 she began to commit her ownrnrecollections and memories, togetherrnwith her father’s stories, to paper, holdingrnin nrind the idea for a series of whatrnshe called “children’s novels.” Quiternnaturally, she submitted the early resultsrnfor scrutiny to the only professional writerrnof her acquaintance, who “ran itrnthrough the typewriter” and afterwardrnassisted her mother in placing the finishedrnmanuscript with a publisher, thusrnestablishing a creative and editorial routinernthat persisted from Little House inrnthe Big Woods through These HappyrnGolden Years; ‘I’he First Four Years wasrnpublished after the deaths of both women.rnThrough her work on what sherncalled her mother’s “g—damn juvenilern[s],” Rose—the prodigal daughterrnhome from San Francisco, New York,rnParis, and Vienna—became interestedrnin Laura Wilder’s pioneer material tornthe point that she finally reworked itrninto two “adult” novels of her own. Letrnthe Hurricane Roar and Free Land, inrnthe first of which the “fictional” protagonistsrnbear the names of her maternalrngrandparents, the Charles and Carolinernof her mother’s books. (Thus, as Laurarnlabored to fictionalize fact. Rose wasrnbusy factualizing fiction.)rnMrs. Wilder, having completed whatrnIloltz alternately refers to as “fiction”rnand “her life story,” c]uit writing by herrnlate 70’s in order, as she explained, to livernthe life that remained to her as a celebratedrnand relatively wealthy woman;rnwhile Rose Lane, after producing thernbest-selling Free Land, lost her inspirationrnfor fiction and immersed herself inrnlibertarian theory until her death inrn1968—a mostly forgotten and marginalizedrnfigure, supported in the final decadernby royalties from her mother’s books.rn”Mama Bess,” Iloltz concludes, “collectedrnboth prestige and money, whilernRose collected neither.” Yet:rnAlmost everything we admirernabout the Little I louse books—rnthe pace and rhythm of the narrativernline, the carefully nuaneedrnflow of feeling, the muted dramarnof daily life—arc [sic] created byrnwhat Mama Bess called Rose’srn”fine touch,” as .shining fiction isrnmade from her mother’s tangle ofrnfact. .. . The First Four Years [onrnwhich Rose did no work [ representsrna fair sample of her abilities,rnand even despite some editorialrnsprucing up by Roger MacBridern[Rose’s heir] it retjuires all the Icvitationrnand momentum affordedrnby the earlier books to justify itsrnexistence between covers.rnWhat William Iloltz does not evenrnattempt to explain is why, ifrnRose Wilder Lane were capable of writingrnso brilliantly under the name of LaurarnIngalls Wilder, she could not writernequally well under her own. Let the HurricanernRoar and Free Land are wan restatementsrnof her mother’s work (in therncase of the second novel, strongly pepperedrnwith polemical additives) unlikelyrnto appeal either to children or to the sophisticatedrnliterary audience at whichrntheir author, contemptuous of the “g—rndamn juvenile [s],” aimed. Indeed, whenrnone compares Hurricane with The FirstrnFour Years, a fair conclusion is that Mrs.rnWilder’s draft represents as strong an effortrnas the finished product of Mrs. Lane.rnAnd there remains the question of therncompetent artist’s ability for self-evaluation:rnwhoever it was who “really wrote”rnthe Little I louse books must have knownrnhow well and truly she had written, yetrnIloltz offers no evidence that, for RosernLane, the work was anything more thanrna colossal nuisance to be resented, asrnwell as, in time, the source of substantialrnroyalty checks that supported her parentsrnwithout her help in their extremernold age. Typically, he presents LaurarnWilder’s pride of authorship as vanity,rnposturing, and dishonesty.rn”To appreciate Rose Wilder Lane’srncontributions to her mother’s books,”rnMr. Iloltz insists, “one must simply readrnher mother’s fair-copy manuscripts inrncomparison with the final published versions.rnWhat Rose accomplished wasrnnothing less than a line-by-line rewritingrnof labored and underdeveloped narratives.”rnAs he proceeds to explain thisrnrewrite job in greater detail, it is importantrnto note the ingenuous use of keyrnwords, marked here by italics:rnFrom this manuscript Rose wouldrnretain the story line and many ofrnthe inciderrts, but sometimes littlernof her mother’s original language,rnand that often rctuned to renderrnleaden lines more felicitous. Shernrearranged material freely tornachieve foreshadowing and thematicrnclarity. She added much exposition,rndialogue, and description,rnoften inventing incidents asrnwell. She suppressed much thatrnwas tedious or irrelevant or inconsistent.rnAt some point, these myriadrnchanges became formative andrnthen transformational, and arnstruggling story came alive. . . .rnshining fiction is made from herrnmother’s tangle of fact. . . . To givernsome sense of Rose’s transformationrnof the manuscript, I have selectedrna few pages from thernmanuscript and the published textrnof Little I’own on the Prairie.. . .rnThese arc major instances of whatrnoccurred in hundreds of minorrnways as Rose wrought aestheticrnSEPTEMBER 1993/27rnrnrn