Lane started out as a journalist and went on to write biographies of Henry Ford and Herbert Hoover, as well as a fictionalized biography of Jack London. She had something to do with the "Little House" books published by her mother, although the exact degree of her involvement is disputed. Lane is most famous for her book Discovery of Freedom, which she drafted "in a white heat." Following is an excerpt from an Appreciation of the book by Robert LeFevre, published August, 1985, by Laissez Faire Books.
* * *
It took awhile to locate a copy. Discovery of Freedom wasn't available in book stores, but a worn volume was finally found in a used book emporium and the purchase was made. I took the book home with me and began to read it that very evening.
I was captivated, enthralled, caught up in the grandeur of the concepts which marched one after another across the pages of Rose Wilder Lane's masterpiece.
Here was an epic depicting the story of humanity. It provided a backdrop and spotlighted performances by its stars. It is philosophy and history at the same time. But it is a record of human history, not a story about generals or politicians, preening and strutting before the masses. It is about the people who build the bridges, cut down the trees, plant the crops, sail the seas, who mine and manufacture, who have children and who suffer and survive and somehow manage to make life possible and even pleasant.
It is a story which contains wry humor, satire, and much wit. And there is a thread of wisdom which can shake a person to the roots.
This book provided motivation. I had to do something about it. First, I wanted multiple copies. I wanted to make it available for others so they could experience what I had experienced in reading it. In vain, Ruth and others working with me sought for copies. They were not to be found.
At last, in desperation, we tried to locate the author. Somehow Ruth succeeded. Rose Wilder Lane lived in Danbury, Connecticut but was visiting somewhere in Missouri.
The telephone call was placed and in a few minutes Rose was on the line.
I began by saying something to the effect that I had just finished reading her great book, Discovery of Freedom. I extended my congratulations on producing a truly marvelous work.
"It's a very bad book," Rose said.
I shook my head. "I must have a poor connection," I apologized. "It sounded as though you said it was a bad book."
"It is. That's what I said."
"Don't talk that way about that book!" I said. "It's a very good book. I ought to know. I just read it."
"It's a very bad book. I ought to know. I wrote it."
I was flatly forbidden to duplicate it in any way, shape or form. According to Rose, only 1,000 copies had been printed in the original edition. Rose had written at "white heat" and from her heart. There were errors of fact in the book (true... but they are minor). There is one major error which was brought to her attention by R.C. Hoiles, founder of the Freedom Newspaper chain. She had indicated that private property was only possible when government protected owners. After talking to R.C. she disliked the book. I can only think that her dissatisfaction with it came from this important criticism. After she and I became friends she explained that she wrote it all from memory, never even checking an encyclopedia or a history.
Rose Wilder Lane came out to the Freedom School in Colorado on various occasions and on one such instance undoubtedly saved the school from foreclosure. But not at any time did Rose relent or soften her stand respecting Discovery of Freedom. So far as I am aware it is the single book in print the author didn't want read.
When Rose finally died, mourned and respected by all of us at the Freedom School, Roger MacBride, who was Rose Wilder Lane's protege, graciously granted me permission to make copies of the book. Of course I did. And that kindness, over a long and sometimes twisting path, has led to the present edition of Discovery of Freedom, one of the great books of the twentieth century.
Copyright © 2000, The Daily Objectivist - Reprinted with permission of The Daily Objectivist and Davidmbrown.com.
3 Feb 2009