Harold Bell Wright served as pastor of the Christian
Church (Disciples of Christ) in Lebanon, Missouri from 1905 to early 1907, when
he accepted an invitation to pastor the Olive Avenue Christian Church in Redlands,
California. But before the end of the year Wright had left the
ministry for good. Immediately he began work on this story of a young
preacher who courts a woman in what is
obviously Lebanon. As with his other early books, this book is largely
autobiographical: Dan Matthews, the hero of the book, leaves pastoral
ministry to be true to himself.
Elsbery W. Reynolds, owner of The Book Supply Company
was not bashful in promoting this book. On the back of the dust jacket
people deciding whether or not to buy the book could read this
"Harold Bell Wright has given us the greatest novel of
his day and generation in The Calling of Dan Matthews, and in wonder we
exclaim: 'To what heights may this gifted author not attain? What will
his master mind in its broadness and gentleness not grasp?'
The Calling of Dan Matthews is a good, wholesome story,
and comes to us like the cannonading of the elements purifying a murky
atmosphere. Righteous in its mission, contemporary with present day
thought, most beautiful in story, and exceedingly praiseworthy in
Big Dan, that manly man of convictions; Hope Farwell, so
delightfully refreshing; the old Doctor, true philosopher and poet, and
poor little crippled Denny, so sympathetic, loving everything and
everybody, are masterful character creations—the
best Mr. Wright has yet done.
Unless you are a man or woman living without hope,
without aspiration or ambition, without life's emotions, the laughter
and tears, read The Calling of Dan Matthews. It will do you good and so
will do unto others."
Novelists don't usually "explain" the books
they write, but in a book store in Monterey, California I found a copy
of The Calling of Dan Matthews in which he had penned the following,
based on a quotation from Shakespeare:
Did you ever hear of "Divine Selfishness?"
"This above all, to thine own self be true
and it must follow as the night the day
thou canst not then be false to any man."
For all the years of my thinking manhood this has been
to me a vital law and a glorious gospel. This is
what I call "Divine Selfishness." With it stands
always in my thinking the fiat of The Master
"The truth shall make you free."
In "The Calling of Dan
Matthews" I have
tried to say that the one thing above all
that a man cannot do and reckon his
life worth it's face value is to be untrue
to his own heart and soul convictions
or to occupy himself with other than his own
work. That Truth, first to self and thus
thru self to the race -- truth expressed in
its only adequate language, life -- is
inseparable from the Christianity of the Christ --
that without this truth for the goal of all
striving neither man nor society nor institutions
can be rightly called Christian.
I am asked many times, "Could not
remained in the ministry?" I answer, "No.
Dan could not -- perhaps you could."
Harold Bell Wright
December 8, 1909
All American first editions are by
the Book Supply Company and look exactly like the illustrations at the
top of this page. The first edition was also available in
full leather, and in "half
leather," that is with the corners and spine in leather. Before BSC turned the book over to Burt for reprints they
also sold some copies at a lower price, with the words "Popular
Edition" stamped inside the front cover. Hodder and Stoughton
published a British first edition, plus additional editions. The
book was reprinted many times by A. L. Burt, Grosset and Dunlop,
Appleton, McLeod & Allen, and Triangle. Most of the early reprints carry no indication that they are not first
editions. Recently the book has been re-published by Bethany,
with the text "edited" [lightly fooled around with] by a
Though this was Wright's third book, it was his first
one to reach the million sales mark, getting there shortly before
the Shepherd of the Hills. And a high percentage of this title were
first editions, so they are quite common, both in first editions and
reprints. First printing (Mott): 100,000, second printing: 100,000,
total: 1,085,000. Dust jackets are difficult to find.
p. McLeod and Allen, is 1909, a United Kingdom
first edition. Appearance identical to American first edition.
s. Pelican, 1995, paperback.
Related Books: Some Christians, especially
pastors, were outraged at the message and conclusion of The
Calling of Dan Matthews. Alexander Corkey immediately wrote,
The Victory of Allen Rutledge: A Tale of the Middle West (H.
K. Fly Company, New York, 1910, illustrated by Florence Rutledge Wilde,
319 p., 8vo. decorated blue cloth covers), to counter Harold Bell
Wright's book and give the "proper" message. In Corky's
book a similar pastor in a similar church faces similar challenges, but
stays to fight against evil—and wins. Three years
later Corkey wrote a sequel, The Vision of Joy, or When
"Billy Sunday" came to Town, (H. K. Fly Company,
New York, 1913, illustrated by Raymond L Thayer.) --Thanks to Eric Tudor
for the tip.
Review of Book
by Dr. Joyce Kinkead Copyright
1979 by Joyce Kinkead. Used by
[Like That Printer of Udell's] The
Calling of Dan Matthews,
published in 1909, focuses on [a] man, the title character, who made the
decision to affiliate himself with the church in a ministerial role.
Although this novel again focuses on practical Christianity, its
attack on the churches is far more bitter than the one found in That
Printer of Udell's. Wright's
first novel has an optimistic ending in which the two
"infidels" eventually become church members.
In The Calling of Dan Matthews, there is no hope, for Dan
is asked to leave his pastorate at the request of the elders of the
church, and he decides to go into business rather than to pursue the
The plot of this novel serves as a sequel to Wright's second
novel, The Shepherd of the Hills.