September 23, 2008
Edgar Rice Burroughs Wrestles With Time
When the student is ready the teacher will appear.
There are two major themes in Burroughs that present significant difficulties. One is his preoccupation with slavery. Slavery pervades the corpus. I haven’t begun to guess at Burroughs’ notions on slavery. The second is the wrestle Burroughs has with the concept of Time. Time is a major preoccupation of scientific thinkers.
My ideas on Burroughs ideas on Time were jelled by the following quote from ‘Understanding Media’ by Marshall McLuhan that I came across while rereading the book recently:
As a piece of technology, the clock is a machine that produces uniform seconds, minutes, and hours on an assembly-line pattern. Processed in this uniform way, time is separated from the rhythms of human experience. The mechanical clock, in short, helps to create the image of a numerically quantified and mechanical universe. It was in the world of the medieval monasteries, with their need for a rule and for synchronized order to guide communal life, that the clock started on its modern developments. Time measured not by the uniqueness of private experience but by abstract uniform units gradually pervades all sense life, much as does the technology of writing and printing. Not only work, but also eating and sleeping, came to accommodate themselves to the clock rather than to organic needs. As the pattern of arbitrary and uniform measurement of time extended itself across society, even clothing began to undergo annual alteration in a way convenient for industry. At that point, of course, mechanical measurement of time as a principle of applied knowledge joined forces with printing and asembly line as means of uniform fragmentation of processes.
While Burroughs never states his position succinctly McLuhan might have abstracted the above quote from Burroughs’ novels.
The Pellucidar series is centered on the problem of Time while Burroughs persistently dwells on the problem throughout the corpus. Mars itself is a contrast between the orbits of Earth and Mars with its two different durations of time. The lost cities of Africa are a contrast in time periods as they all exist within the present while products of a distant past, most notably the lost city of Opar that dates back to Atlantis nearly unchanged.
Tied to the concept of Time are Burroughs’ notions on evolution. The most notable novel in that line being The Land That Time Forgot. Time forgot. Time didn’t so much forget it as encapsulate a series of time periods that exist side by side.
Usually Burroughs’ ruminations are thoroughly disguised as ‘entertainment.’ If you are merely entertaining yourself by reading Burroughs you probably won’t consciously recognize the underlying examinations but you probably will be affected subconsciously. A hypnotic suggestion so to speak. After all, the stories themselves are fairly slight and yet the attention of readers from teenagers to college professors over a century now are riveted by the author.
I don’t intend to be exhaustive in this essay but I would like to concentrate on two novelistic examinations by Burroughs. The largest examination and most obvious is that of ‘Tarzan At The Earth’s Core’ and its successor ‘Tarzan The Invincible.’ The other hidden example is ‘Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid’ also known by its published title: ‘The Oakdale Affair.’ I will begin with the latter.
I’ve written on ‘Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid’ a couple times, one major essay being on the ezine, ERBzine, Only The Strong Survive. http://erbzine.com/mag14/1483.html . There is a great deal going on in this wonderful story that isn’t so obvious. I didn’t have that good a handle on the story although Lord knows I tried hard enough.
I was mystified by the course taken by Bridge, the Kid, the Bear, the Gypsy Girl and Hetty Penning from the Squibb Farm to the destination warehouse. There is probably a great deal of symbolism I’m still not getting but as it appears to me now Burroughs is contrasting two different kinds of time.
The journey takes a day and a night to complete by which I do not mean to say twenty-four hours of mechanical time but a physical day and night of experiential time. In other words according to McLuhan Time measured by the uniqueness of personal experience on one hand and time measured by abstract uniform units on the other.
Both the origin of the journey and its end are based on experiential time where the sun not the clock governs the actions. As darkness falls the journey through time is bisected by the passage through a town. Here experiential time is contrasted to mechanical time. That mechanical time is precisely measured according to the precepts of the efficiency expert Frederick Taylor. Indeed, within a year or so Burroughs would pen a book on the same theme entitled ‘The Efficiency Expert.’
In this book, Willie Case, a little farm boy who Gail Prim posing as a hobo had bummed from him came to town. The story involves several criminal acts and a major detective so Willie is hot to solve the case. Willie comes to town which is run by the clock. Willie has a dollar to spend. ERB accounts for each and every penny as it is spent. In a very humorous scene Willie goes into a restaurent at dinner time by the clock. In a Frederick Taylor efficient manner Willie arranges his dinner plates so that he makes the minimum moves in a most timely manner shoveling the food into his mouth in minimum time. Very efficient if ridiculous dining.
He then goes to the movies. Movies are run on a time schedule by the clock, so various aspects of rigid mechanical time are represented. As Willie leaves the theatre he spots the hobo troupe weaving through town on experiential time. No straight lines. Here the two modes of time intersect. Very cleverly done on ERB’s part. The troupe then weaves on to their destination while Willie calls the cops on a pay phone.
While one is not conscious of the two modes of time that ERB represents yet subconsciously a deepening interest is added to the story. While mystified by the action I would never have guessed the significance of the time comparisons if I hadn’t read the McLuhan passage that put things into perspective.
Also at this time ERB wrote two other investigations of Time: ‘The Efficiency Expert’ and ‘The Land That Time Forgot.’
I think his two most explicit investigations were ‘Tarzan At The Earth’s Core’ and its successor ‘Tarzan The Invincible.’
Burroughs through Tarzan seems to reject civilization. He seems to prefer experiential time to mechanical time. In Invincible he says:
Time is the essence of many things to civilized man. He fumes and frets, and reduces his mental and physical efficiency if he is not accomplishing something concrete during the passage of every minute of that medium which seems to him like a flowing river, the waters of which are utterly wasted if they are not utilized as they pass by.
His Pellucidar series creates a model to investigate the nature of Time. Pellucidar is a model of a reversed Time and Space system. The earth is essentially turned outside in replicating the exterior in a closed universe. He posits a sun suspended in the interior that is perpetually shining. While the outer earth rotates on its axis only half the surface is in light facing the sun while the other half is in darkness facing away. Thus the appearance of change which is time is obvious. In Pellucidar as the earth turns no portion of the inner world is in darkness although the perpetual shadow from the interior moon must have described a circular path.
As there is no experiential time, there is no night and day, the beings of Pellucidar have no notion of the passing of Time indeed there is no passing of Time; Time as a reality does not exist. Time is not necessary for existence; a person or thing is merely invested with a certain amount of energy. When that energy is expended the person or thing ceases to exist.
Thus, for example, when one winds a top it is invested with a certain amount of energy. At peak energy it rotates rapidly gradually slowing down into a wobble and when its energy is expended it falls over and attains perpetual rest. No time is involved although using man made mechanical means the duration of the spin can be measured.
So, in the universe at large. It is quite clear that Burroughs has Einstein in mind. In Invincible he says:
…but though Time and space go on forever, whether in curves or straight lines…
One can’t mention curved space without being familiar with Einstein. He is thus offering an alternative to Einstein’s notion of the fabric of Time and Space. There can be no fabric of time and space as time has no objective existence. It is a contruct to serve the needs of man. The sun, for instance, came into existence with a certain amount of potential energy. Barring accidents, that energy will be expended at a certain rate just like the top and when that energy is fully expended the sun will follow whatever course the death of suns follow. There is no time involved, hence no time-space continuum and no fabric of time and space.
McLuhan says essentially the same thing.
So, ‘Tarzan At The Earth’s Core’ is a demonstration of the fallacy of Einstein’s notion.
Moving on to ‘Tarzan The Invicible’ Burroughs then has Tarzan dealing with the notion of terrestrial time. As McLuhan notes, the notion of a time to eat arose with clocks; Tarzan dispenses with the notion of a time to eat eating only when he is hungry. There are no clocks in Tarzan’s Africa. As Burroughs says an individual has all the time in the world.
Of all the vast resources that Nature had placed at their disposal, she had been most profligate with Time, since she had awarded to each all that he coud use during his lifetime, no matter how extravagant of it he might be. So great was the supply of it that it could not be wasted, since there is always more, even up to the moment of death, after which it ceased, with all things, to be essential to the individual. Tantor and Tarzan were therefore wasting no time as they communed together in silent meditation.
One has all the time one needs until the day one dies then one no longer has need of time. In other words, the organism’s energy has been expended and the husk falls to earth.
So Tarzan is active when necessary, such as hunting for food or fighting and lazes around when activity is unnecessary. Perfectly balanced and happy according to Burroughs. OK for the jungle, I suppose, but I’ve got things to do such as writing stuff like this but then that is only how I dispose of the energy left in my organism during the time remaining. With other media such as electric lights I am not bound by the diurnial cycle being freed from that experiential limitation. One only has to sleep when one is tired. Time means nothing to me either. With stores open around the clock I can even buy groceries when the mood hits me. Other items can be purchased on the internet at any time of day. So, technology has freed us from many of the restraints of what civilization is pleased to call time.
So, when reading Burroughs one should always bear in mind what time means to him and how various notions of time relate to the story. Obviously in Invincible while Tarzan is attempting to live on experiential time the Revolutionaries are living by the clock and calendar. Thus the story is also the tale of the clock or two time systems.
I knew there are reasons I like Burroughs other than interesting stories; complexities like the nature of time are one of the extras if one can only discover and realize them. Now, I really have to work on the nature of slavery in the Corpus.
The Low Brow And The High Brow
An In Depth Study Of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Novels
The Mucker And Marcia Of The Doorstep
Marcia Of The Doorstep ERB’s Serious Literary Attempt
The ten year interval from the writing of The Mucker to Marcia Of The Doorstep were momentous years in the life of Edgar Rice Burroughs. When one looks back on those years from ERB’s personal side and from the societal side one is astonished at the changes both were going through. Both had changed greatly; neither ERB nor the world was the same as it had been before 1920.
While ERB evolved rapidly on the psychological side he was rather slow on the emotional side. He seems to have been slow to adjust to the new demands placed on him. On one level ’Marcia’ records ERB’s inability to handle his newly minted money. ’Marcia’ will record in metaphorical terms, ‘highly fictionalized,’ ERB’s running through a fortune to end in debt by 1924.
The story retells the history of the period from say 1900 when he married Emma to 1924, or his present. He is no longer the person who wrote ’The Mucker.’ That book had wallowed in the low brow. The whole milieu of the story was set in low brow locations from the beginning in the great West Side of Chicago to the boxing milieu of New York City. The story is sort of an ode to the grungy side of life.
The following two novels of what is actually a quartet showed ERB evolving from a completely vulgar low brow guy through the Bridge of ’Out There Somewhere’ tramping in search of himself and the ‘found’ Bridge of ‘Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid’ who returns to his aristocratic Virginian origins reunited with his Anima. Now returned to polite society in a Bohemian fashion in ‘Marcia Of The Doorstep’ ERB is writing a high brow version of ’The Mucker.’ The coin has flipped from tails to heads.
The milieu has changed from Chicago streets and New York gyms to the parlors of wealthy New Yorkers and the conforts of middle class LA. ERB’s alter ego is now the grandson of a wealthy ex-Senator.
Whereas Byrne felt completely alien on entering Barbara Harding’s New York mansion Dick Steel, a lower class but aspiring to better things suitor of Marcia is introduced by her into the upper class environment where he is quite comfortable and at ease, chatting amiably with no faux pas. So, perhaps the trip from Grand Avenue to Riverside Drive within one lifetime is possible. In this sense perhaps Dick and Marcia are alternate personas for ERB and Emma. I think ERB was struggling to adapt himself to his new circumstances during the previous decade; perhaps the character of Marcia was meant to create his new persona for him. A second beginning as it were.
At the same time, if Marcia’s foster-father Marcus Aurelius Sackett is a version of himself, as he certainly is, then he sees himself as an impractical wastrel who even when handed the means for a prosperous life manages to lose the money. This easily parallels ERB’s own life as he was on the edge of ruin in 1924 when he wrote the story.
He defiantly says of Sackett that he had never learned the value of money and never would which was an accurate prediction of his future course. One has the feeling that despite present hardships ERB thought the money would never run out and that Emma’s financial worries were unfounded. Indeed, this proved to be the case as phenomenal income did continue to come in as comic strips, radio and a new lease on movie life for his Tarzan in an improvement on the film medium in the form or sound that was unthinkable in 1924. Tarzan money came in at a pace more slowly than he could spend it. Until late in life when he became too ill to spend ERB remained one step from the crest of the hill leading to the poor house.
His preposterous attempt to make a fortune as a hog farmer was ending in disaster. Rather than making money on his grade Duroc Berkshires he lost as much as thirty-nine thousand dollars in a single year.
At the same time he had managed to antagonize Hollywood so badly that after a very promising start in films, from 1921 to 1927 no movies of Burroughs novels were made. Thus ERB was cut off from a very lucrative stream of revenue at this critical time. Network radio wa just coming on stream in the twenties while ERB would earn nothing from the medium until the thirties. The comic strip which produced a handsome income stream also came at the end of the decade. As these forms of entertainment were incomparably more lucrative than publishing ERB’s income depending solely on books and magazines was severely curtailed during this period. The twenties then were a comparatively lean period for Burroughs.
I have never seen any evidence as to how the Otis Estate was paid for. The price of $125,000 seems a bargain in the burgeoning LA real estate market even today. Indeed, a friend of Herb Weston’s from LA speculated that ERB paid half a million for it. Whether ERB paid cash or what period of time he made payments so far as I know has never been revealed. Whether he had clear title to the property before he mortgaged it is unknown.
Originally looking for about twenty acres according to his correspondence with Herb Weston, within a couple weeks of arriving in LA he had purchased 540 acres. Typical Burroughs. And what an estate it was. In a letter of 3/14/19 to Weston ERB describes the ranch which was apparently renamed Tarzana from its inception. Thusly, p.83, ’Brother Men.’
Tarzana is a delightful place. We have 540 acres on the State Highway (Ventura Blvd.) - a boulevard running from Los Angeles to San Francisco- in the San Fernando Valley foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains. The place is 23 miles from L.A. shopping district and 13 miles from the ocean- by auto road. The house stands on the top of a hill about half a mile from the boulevard and has- as nearly as I can count them- eighteen rooms & six baths. It is of Spanish architecture built around a patio in which are many flowers and shrubs. The hill comprises some fifteen acres set out in flowers, shrubs and trees. I think there are some two thousand trees of several hundred varieties- many of which were brought from Asia and Africa.
Half a mile up the canyon are the foreman’s house, bunk houses, barns, corrals, etc. I acquired five hundred head of pure bred Angora (mohair) goats, five horses, a cow, forty hens and a bum dog, beside farm implements and $8000.00 worth of iron and concrete piping. There is an abundance of water and I almost forgot a 12 acre grove of olive, lemon, apricot & orange trees, besides 250 English walnut trees.
In addition, during prohibition, the estate came with a fully stocked cellar of the finest liquors and wines.
ERB kept telling Weston Tarzana had drawbacks while Weston kept repeating incredulously: What drawbacks?
Within weeks of purchasing this Garden of Eden developers arrived at his door wishing to develop the City of Tarzana for him.
All the elements of prosperity were there for him. He had five producing orchards plus a large herd of Angora goats. Both the orchards and the goats should have been able to produce a substantial income if managed wisely. Not only was Tarzana a bargain but it should have been nearly self-supporting from day one not including being able to relax with a bottle of old vintage wine at day’s end.
Within two years of Tarzana’s purchase ERB was on the verge of bankruptcy deep into schemes to develop country clubs and sub-divisions in an effort to raise cash. Perhaps such efforts were merely schemes to display his business talents. If so they were nearly as ill-advised as his attempt to commercially raise hogs.
In his attempt to be high brow ERB seems to have been highly influenced by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Beautiful And Damned. The choice of the model is interesting. ERB’s first role model, Jack London, had died in 1916; his second, Booth Tarkington was still going strong strong winning Pulitzer Prizes in fact, one for ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’ and another for ’Alice Adams.’ But Tarkington’s mindset belonged to the earlier era. After the sea change of the Bolshevik Revolution and the end of the War a new mood characterized society. The Flappers, the Roaring Twenties and the New Era were coming into prominence.
I find this interesting. ERB picked up on the change immediately attempting to adjust his writing to the New Era. His earlier ‘The Girl From Hollywood’ can also be seen in that light. ERB also honed in on the writer who epitomized the era. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel ‘This Side Of Paradise’ appeared in 1920. The Beautiful And Damned was published in 1922. A short two years later then ERB had recognized that Fitzgerald represented the new direction, bought his book soon after issue and immediately incorporated the book into his work. Between 1922 and ’24 then ERB had recognized that Fitzgerald represented the new direction. Remarkably, rather than condemning the new or rejecting it he readily accepted it trying to emulate it in Marcia. I don’t know about you but I admire that.
If ‘The Girl From Hollywood’ was a hybrid attempt in 1922, in 1923 ‘Marcia’ was conceived and delivered on the new model a year later. Of course ERB was still ERB but ‘Marcia’ is very interesting.
One can’t say for certain how Burroughs saw the progression of his writing career but by 1924 he was no longer stunning the world with creations like John Carter of Mars or Tarzan Of The Apes but was a more predictable quantity. After all, how could anyone actually know what the future held so he was trying to carve a new niche. Originally his puplisher McClurg’s wanted only to publish the Tarzan series, reluctantly beginning to publish the Mars series late in the second decade, so that none other of Burroughs huge output of the teens found its way to book form until the twenties. McClurg’s grudgingly put them in print, then sneeringly sold the plates to him as worthless toward the end of the decade as if to say, we told you so.
As publishers they may have evaluated the other titles as too rough for publication which opinion has some merit. Perhaps without movie revenues to flesh out his income during this period ERB put a lot of pressure on McClurg’s to publish the stuff in a desperate attempt to boost his income. That could explain some of the developing friction between the two.
Of all the titles published in the twenties ‘Marcia’ wasn’t one of them. The book didn’t see print until 1999 when Donald M. Grant took the risk. I find the book fairly interesting;, as a Bibliophile I could do no other, and while not a great novel I think that as a Burroughs title it would have made money without damaging his reputation. There is a great deal to it. I like ‘Out There Somewhere’ and ‘Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid’ better but I might give ‘Marcia’ the edge over ‘The Mucker.’ In fact, I would. I didn’t think ‘The Mucker’ was among ERB’s best.
Compounding Burroughs’ publishing problems was the fact that he was impetuous in his reaction to the Bolshevik Revolution rushing the condemnatory ‘Under The Red Flag’ to publishers. The novel, or possibly tract, was universally rejected. As originally written the story may have been a polemic which was not suitable for the magazines to which he submitted it. The story may have been too shrill in any event.
As if by magic the Red/Liberal faction appeared from nowhere to dominate publishing, the arts, education, religion and innumerable little rivulets of society. All of a sudden the previously dominant Republican administrations that had been so solidly entrenched since the Civil War was in a minority. They were able to hang on through the Harding, Coolidge and Hoover administrations but then their ideology was completely overturned by the twenty years of treason of the FDR-Truman administrations.
Thus Burroughs identified himself with the minority counterrevoltionary party. Already ridiculed by the publishing world he would find it increasingly difficult to publish over the next two decades. He would be under constant attack both at home and abroad. As he owned the magnificent intellectual property of Tarzan- and really, all his other work pales beside the Big Bwana- he couldn’t be completely disposed of although it should not be forgotten that as the decade of the twenties closed he turned to self-publication. This may have been from greed as he publicly said but it should be remembered that a few blackballed writers like Upton Sinclair who were denied publication through the regular channels also turned to self-publication about the same time.
ERB’s novels of the early twenties apart from the Tarzan and Mars series were 1922′s ‘The Girl From Hollywood and 1923′s ‘The Bandit From Hell’s Bend.’ He complained that ‘The Girl From Hollywood’ was sabotaged, taken off the market, that it was selling well and could have sold better which is undoubtedly true. The novel while not great, is on a par with Harry Leon Wilson’s ‘Merton Of The Movies’ or the Graham Bros. ‘Queer People.’
All three novels were early examples of the Hollywood novel at the time TInseltown was in its infancy and did not yet glory in its immorality. The movies were assuming a central place in American culture. Novel and novel of the times makes reference to the movies or Hollywood. The Grahams’ ‘Queer People’ was a completely negative vision of the movie capitol and is still worth reading. The Queer in the title does not refer to homosexuality but to strange and weird such as Weston referred to ERB. The novel was the Grahams’ way of saying sayonara, as they were run out of town after the book was published. There’s a tribute for ya.
ERB’s ‘The Girl From Hollywood’ falls in between ‘Merton’ and ‘Queer People.’ ERB’s book may have displeased the moguls but because of his standing he couldn’t be run out of town. It is possible they were the people who were interfering with the publication of ‘Girl’ behind the scenes forcing its discontinuation. The filming of Tarzan movies did end about the time of ‘Girl’s’ publication. The hiatus in Tarzan films may have been a result as a punishment. The second half of ‘Marcia’ which is also a Hollywood story is all sweetness and compliments to the film industry so probably ERB was trying to make amends.
His ‘Bandit From Hell’s Bend’ was the first of his two Westerns. As Westerns go it is a good book. Set in Arizona ERB was writing about country he knew. Contrary to his protestations that he wrote as well or better of places he had only imagined rather than seen he writes better of the seen. You can’t take public statements at face value.
Then in 1924 he took up his pen to write ‘Marcia Of The Doorstep.’ This may have been an attempt to write a blockbuster that would alleviate his financial distress. Also he tired of being called a low brow and a hack writer. He put his heart and soul into the book but he was never able to sell it. The book was rejected by every publisher until he finally gave up. Once again, he was possibly denied publication as a punishment.
Is it any good? Well, it’s characteristically Edgar Rice Burroughs. He manages to compress what should have been the final two hundred pages into fifty. Still, while perhaps not great literature, after you’ve read a number of novels of the era I don’t think it compares unfavorably. I think the book could have been published profitably which in business is all that counts. If the public liked ‘The Girl From Hollywood’, ‘Marcia’ should have sold OK. As it is it’s historically valuable.
I don’t regret having read it once nor as a Burroughs scholar do I regret having read it four times. It does improve with each reading. Being no fan of Scott Fitzgerald I don’t consider it much inferior to ‘The Beautiful and Damned’ on which the main frame of Marcia is based.
In discussing ‘Marcia’ I would like to break the book down into components. The first is the cast of characters. ERB obviously intended the book to break him into the big slicks like Collier’s or the Saturday Evening Post. He had heard of fifty thousand dollar paydays to people like Zane Grey. The money would have been especially welcome in 1924. I think the book was good enough for those magazines myself but I wasn’t the editor.
In writing about the New York theatre and Hollywood it was inevitable that Jewish characters should have a central part. Both the New York stage and the Big Screen were controlled by that ethnic group. ‘Marcia’ has a fairly large cast of Jews. Abe Finkel and Max Heimer, both early bi-coastals. And there was Judge Berlanger the attorney from New York. Jews are also discussed by the characters Della Maxwell and the Sacketts. Della is especially caustic.
The immigrant scene was in a state of rapid transition. The dialect comedy had not yet disappeared although with the cessation of unrestricted immigration and the establishemnt of the ADL the type of story was in decline, however the dialect joke persisted into my boyhood when we were suddenliy forbidden to laugh. In 1955-56 my class was assigned reading from Leo C. Rosten’s ‘The Education Of Hyman Kaplan’ which is about a Jewish immigrant in night school. Rosten not only wrote this book as late as 1937 but he rather belatedly wrote a sequel ‘The Return Of Hyman Kaplan’ in 1959.
In ‘Marcia’ ERB makes mention of the Jewish comedy characters Potash and Perlmutter in relation to Finkel and Heimer as movie producers. Potash and Permutter was the creation of Montague Glass from 1909 to 1914. Glass ceased writing the stories in the latter year at the request of the AJC and ADL. The stories appeared in the Saturday Evening Post where ERB undoubtedly saw them. While no book exists in ERB’s library they were collected in a couple volumes of which I have obtained one. For whatever reason Samuel Goldwyn revived the characters for the movies in 1923, 1924 and subsequently.
The first was titled ‘Postash And Perlmutter.’ The second was ‘In Hollywood With Potash And Perlmutter.’ It was undoubtedly this last film that inspired ERB to bring his character Abe Finkel out from New York and unite him with Max Heimer as movie producers. He either reviewed the dialogue in Glass’ stories or remembered it.
ERB grew up with dialect comedy as the immigrants integrated themselves into American society. He would have been familiar with many stage dialect acts including many Jewish ones. The stage was full of plays like ‘Abie’s Irish Rose’ and ‘Potash And Perlmutter.’
These times of his youth were when immigrants were especially greenish. They spoke with accents and characteristic phrasing. They couldn’t be accurately produced without replicating the accents. The great story of the period is that when an Italian push cart vendor was asked: You have no bananas? replied: Yes, we have no bananas today. The phrase was overheard, turned into a popular song and for some reason caught the fancy of America.
The Jews of the period had their verbal mannerisms and ERB copied them in the character of Max Heimer, a shyster lawyer. He is careful to designate Max as ‘Jews of this type.’ His other Jewish lawyer, Judge Isaac ‘Ike’ Berlanger, is meant to balance the Jewish characterization as he is the epitome of respectability speaking perfect English. But balance isn’t the issue.
The anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith had been organized in 1913. The organization then began to censor the media to remove any comment tthat could possibly be considered derogatory to Jews. It is not improbable that Montague Glass stopped writing the ‘Potash And Permutter’ stories at the request of the ADL. He thereafter concentrated on other ethnic groups.
It seems remarkable that ten years later Goldwyn revived the stage play for his movie. As Janis Garza in the NYTimes review comments:
In 1923 he (Goldwyn) decided to make a film of the play (also written by Glass and Charles Klein), which went against the preference of most moguls of the day- they shunned anything Jewish, although most of them were Jewish themselves. The ethnic comedy was Goldwyn’s first as an independent producer.
The moguls didn’t so much as shun Jewish subjects as that the ADL was closely monitoring their activities. Perhaps Goldwyn bucked the ADL because in his insecurity as an independent producer he felt such Jewish self-deprecation would be well received by the gentiles and his own people. If so, he was right.
Is it to be wondered then that ERB probably thought he was on safe ground in his own comic characterization since he was only doing what Jews were doing? After all the immigrant culture in this diverse, multi-cultural paradise was as much his as it was theirs. What does multi-culturalism mean if the cultures can’t be shared by everyone? Exclusivity is not the way.
Still, as I said, balance isn’t the issue. One was supposed to depict jews only of the Berlanger type. So I’m sure one of the principal reasons the book wasn’t published was the character of Max Heimer and his partner Abe Finkel.
At this time the concept of the Melting Pot, which itself was a Jewish invention, was still the immigration ideal although the vision had been all but shattered for the Old Stock side by the Great War. The period through at least 1925 was that of 110% Americanism as a reaction to perceived immigrant disloyalty during the war and since the Bolshevik Revolution. The period also saw the flourishing of the second Ku Klux Klan which was nearing its apogee at this time. Great pressure was being put on immigrants to be ‘American.’
The Jewish battle with Henry Ford had not yet been settled so I imagine Max Heimer drew some unwanted attention to Burroughs.
The beginnings of the concept of the Diversity were taking form in a shift away from the concept of the Melting Pot. Elements of the immigrants who didn’t wish to merge their ethnic identity in a Melting Pot fought back to impose their ethnicity on the old stock, which, after all was only to be expected.
The leaders of the movement were the Jews and Italians both of which the old stock had always feared were unassimilable. Their fears were justified as neither group have been assimilated to this day. Witness the Sopranos.
If one is to have a concept of diversity then perforce each element must have a character of its own; they must be different to a degree that is obvious. If no one is different then there is no diversity. Ergo- don’t you think? Therefore it would be wrong not to depict these differences. Well, it is. Except in the movies for some reason.
At this particular time the Jews were especially sensitive. Hollywood, as Neal Gabler said, was an empire of the Jew’s own. All the important studios were under Jewish ownership. The American Jewish Committee, the B’nai B’rith and its terrorist unit the anti-Defamation League patrolled the corridors of publishers and studios to prevent anything they didn’t want published or filmed. I think ERB’s portrayal of the shyster lawyer Max Heimer fell within the prohibition.
That ERB was innocent of any attempt to defame Jews, or anyone else for that matter, was irrelevant. However in response to accusations his portrayal of the worthy Jewish gentleman in his ‘Moon Maid’ may have been an attempt to conciliate the AJC and ADL.
ERB had previously been contacted by the AJC on May 10, 1919. (See Hillman-Burroughs Bio Timeline 1910-1919). The American Jewish Committee is a killer watchdog outfit operating in conjunction with the ADL. The latter was six years old in 1919. The AJC thirteen. The ADL was already disliked and feared as the Jewish enforcer. The AJC isn’t particularly well known. My aunt who has been active in all kinds of Jewish protests hadn’t even heard of it when I mentioned the agency to her so I’m surprised the AJC itself contacted Burroughs rather than the ADL. I wonder why.
The letter was not addressed to him in Tarzana but forwarded from his old address at 700 Linden in Oak Park, so the contact may have originated at the end of 1918 or the beginning of 1919. These two years would have been critical for the Jews who became very active in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution.
The letter requests (demands) that ERB sign a card endorsing a ‘Jewish Bill Of Rights.’ I’m a student of Jewish history but I had never heard of the Jewish Bill Of Rights before reading of it in the Timeline. The Jewish Bill Of Rights was an appeal to end the persecution of and discrimination against Jews. Now, in fact, this ‘request’ was a threat. If you did not sign and return it one must therefore be considered an ‘anti-Semite.’ As an anti-Semite one would need your own Bill Of Rights.
Apparently the AJC sent a copy of the Jewish Bill Of Rights for ERB to read which, according to Hillman and Danton Burroughs ERB did, in some detail. In his reply ERB was ambivalent enough to mark him as at least a latent anti-Semite who bore watching.
On May 21, 1919, fairly promptly, ERB replied that ‘he had always peen perplexed by the intolerance and inhumanity that all religions- Jews, Christians, Moslems, Pagans, etc.- had exhibited toward each other.’ This was not the appropriate response. First, he compared Jews to other religions as equals: secondly, he said that Jews also were guilty of intolerance and inhumanity and thirdly, ERB excludes himself from any religious category speaking down to them as some misguided souls of an inferior mentality. As one of a Scientific Consciousness ERB could do no other- he was above the Religious Consciousness, but his reply must have branded him as a latent or real anti-Semite. There is no freedom of conscience in the Religious Consciousness.
Let me repeat, the AJC is top Jewish watchdog. While the ADL whose director is perforce high profile as the Enforcer, no one is aware of who the director of the AJC is. That ERB was contacted, then, is significant. Either he wrote something the AJC objected to or possibly the agency was winnowing out writers in its postwar offensive. If the Jewish Bill Of Rights was sent to all writers then their replies would identify them as philo- or anti-Semites.
ERB then compounded his error by objecting to clause 6 of this Jewish Bill Of Rights. He found the clause unclear ‘as he always believed that every alien should be expected to read and write in the language of the country to which they were immigrating.’
Every ‘alien.’ Oops!
Without having read this Jewish Bill Of Rights, based on my studies, I opine what clause 6 probably meant was this: At that time, as now, the Jews were seeking complete autonomy in the US, as they had been in Czarist Russia. In 1918-19 they thought they had attained their goal in the Soviet Union. In Russia they had always wanted to make Yiddish an official second language on a par with Russian. This meant that the Russians would have to learn Yiddish. Eventually then Yiddish would displace Russian as the premier language. From Yiddish to Hebrew would then be a short leap. Sound far fetched? Consider, within a hundred years the Jews had wiped the name of Russia from the map. The country was then known as the Union Of The Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics. Not bad work, huh?
They also hoped to make Yiddish the official other language of the US, much as the Mexicans are working toward doing with their language today, which would eventually displace English to be replaced in turn by Hebrew. In the long run then Yiddish would become the lingua franca of the West eventually the whole world to be succeeded by Hebrew and the triumph of the Revolution. Not as difficult as it might look.
This may be what ERB refers to as being unclear to him. Once again, by questioning, even denying, Jewish goals he made himself a marked man. He had failed the AJC test. He would be carefully watched. Thus his characters of Max Heimer and Abe Finkel probably made his book unpublishable. (See my ERB and FLA Exit The Twenties on ERBzine). As he never tried to publish Marcia under his own imprint that would imply that he finally got the message. The message was forget ‘Marcia.’
As Max Heimer is the male protagonist, Della Maxwell is the female protagonist. She has an importance that might go unnoticed by the casual reader. Della is actually a finely drawn character integrated into the story in a meaningful way. Della represents the Chicago aspects of ERB’s origins. She was from Chicago although her antecedents aren’t clear.
A significant category of books in the library are Chicago novels. One that that isn’t there but which ERB may have read is Theodore Dreiser’s ‘Sister Carrie.’ In Dreiser’s novel Carrie was a young girl down from Wisconsin who was seduced by an older man named Hurstwood. They left Chicago for New York where he slowly disintegrated while Carrie became a star of of the stage.
Della not only had an illicit romance with a married man in Chicago but the fellow was a bigamist also marrying Della. So while Marcia was a doorstep child she was legitimate after a fashion. Della was only seventeen or eighteen when Marcia was born so she couldn’t have older than fifteen or sixteen when she began her relationship with her ‘husband.’ As Della was an experienced actress when she hit the Big Apple she must have been on the stage by at least fifteen at the time she was filling that long engagement in Chicago.
Learning that she was her husband’s second wife she left him going to NYC shortly before Marcia was born. Thus Burroughs duplicates the story of ‘Sister Carrie’ approximately which could be just a coincidence or he might be influenced by Dreiser here.
It doesn’t seem plausible that she could have known the Sacketts before as Burroughs indicates but she apparently did. Knowing them as the finest of the fine she left Marcia on their doorstep.
The next day she arrives as a long lost friend to take rooms with them. Thus while she never identifies herself as the baby’s mother she lives with and has a hand in rearing her child. While Max Heimer gets the story moving on the Animus side Della does the same from the Anima side.
Now, Della bears a great resemblance to a number of Burroughs’ other representations of his Anima figure. For instance, Maud the nursemaid of ‘The Outlaw Of Torn’ or Hetty Penning, the girl thrown from the car in ‘Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid among others who represent the failed Anima of Burroughs. It is not surprising then, that Della gives birth to the replacement Anima figure of Marcia and is around until Marcia is able to unite with the Animus figure Chase III. Della’s dying letter is responsible for removing the barrier to Marcia and Chase III’s marriage.
In terms of Burroughs’ psychology Della represents the Anima betrayed in his confrontation with john The Bully. Marcia then represents his new Anima (Barbara Harding, Gail Prim, Marcia to match John Chase I, II and III) born from the dishonor of his old Anima- in other words Marcia was born of an illicit romance between Della and a married man.
Marcus Aurelius Sackett as ERB then lives in his house with his wife Clara (Emma), Marcia Aurelia, named after himself, and therefor an integral part of his existence as his replacement Anima and his old failed Anima, Della Maxwell. An interesting solution to ERB’s problem.
This also brings up numerical problems. Marcia is explicitly said to have been left on the Sackett doorstep on 4/10/06. The numbers add up to twenty. Twenty is the age ERB’s Anima replacements have to be. Why isn’t clear. Thus Marcia won’t be twenty until 1926. On 4/6/27 when Marcia would have still been twenty ERB began his play ‘You Lucky Girl.’ The commencement of the play coincides with his meeting of Florence Gilbert so Marcia now twenty coincides with Florence who may very well have been intended as the ‘Lucky Girl.’
I don’t know the reason why but numbers in the corpus are significant.
Della is the equivalent of the golden hearted prostitute who first appears in ERB’s work in 1913-14′s ‘The Girl From Farris’s. Della is a hard case but with the good sense Sackett lacks. Psychologically this would be in keeping as, when John The Bully emasculated Burroughs making him a dependent personality he lost the ability to act in his own self-interest always deferring to the wishes of others at critical junctures.
Always the great good friend of the Sacketts Della saves the day from the grave for Marcia and Jack Chase III.
The story’s not bad although the execution may not be up to the highest standards of literary fiction which this story attempts to be. I’ve already given my opinion of Scott Fitzgerald’s influence and I might add that to Edith Wharton of ‘The House Of Mirth’, also in Burroughs’ library, was another signficant influence on Marcia.
The Sacketts while central figures in the book are passive. Things happen to them but they do little to make things happen. The couple is obviously based on ERB and Emma. ERB accurately portrays himself as an unrealistic, good hearted, bumbling wastrel without one shred of common sense. In the splitting of his personality common sense remained with his old Anima which was no longer of any use to him.
Clara Sackett is portrayed as his long suffering but devoted and loving wife. It is easy to imagine that her worries about financial matters were those of Emma herself. Beginning in 1913 when ERB first came into money the stuff had been water in his hands. He had literally gone through a million dollars from 1913 to the time this story was written and was actually deep in debt near bankruptcy. If ERB really wanted to be a businessman he should have gone to night school.
In the story when Mark Sackett receives the money from Chase I Clara is nearly beside herself in fear he will squander this very large sum. In fact the first thing Mark does is draw out some old blueprints for a yacht which he has been cherishing. Clara shudders when she comes upon him studying the plans. She is desperate because the couple is getting older and they have no other savings to fall back on.
Her worst fears are realized when Mark uses the money to organize a Shakespearean touring company. I think we can equate this with ERB’s purchase of the Otis Estate. However the tour is a great success but Sackett is cheated out of not only the earnings of the tour but his original twenty thousand dollars by Max Heimer who he had retained as his business manager. Thus stranded in LA, symbolically, the couple is again penniless.
This was precisely ERB and Emma’s own position in 1924 when Burroughs through his own mismanagement had all but lost Tarzana. I think, then, that Clara Sackett is a fairly accurate idea of how Burroughs perceived his wife.
As in real life the couple begins well but a long decline in their fortunes begins which leaves them destitute. Clara’s jewelry is gone. Pawned and lost just as Emma’s had been in the couple’s dark hour around 1910. The jewelry also figures importantly in ‘Tarzan The Untamed.’ Then Max Heimer extorts the twenty thousand dollars from Chase I which at least get the couple to LA.
Nineteen thirteen’s ‘The Mucker’ had been a low brow novel dealing with low brow themes in low brow millieux. Marcia, a decade later, psychologically light years later, is meant to rehabilitate ERB as a high brow. He has spent the last ten years trying to realize his ambition to be a prince. However as he wrote at the end of ‘The Mucker’, it takes more than one lifetime to travel from Grand Avenue to Riverside Drive. ERB wasn’t going to be allowed to make that journey in this lifetime.
Thus he makes Sackett, which is to say himself, a Shakespearean actor, the ultimate in high brow, of the old cultured school who abjures the low brow flicks. In Chicago Emma had acquainted Our Man with the stage which obviously completely entranced him. I don’t know for sure who ERB modeled Sackett on but in Marcia he trots out his knowledge of the stage by mentioning such stellar lights as Henry Irving, Forbes-Robertson, Julia Marlowe, E.H. Sothern and a few others. Wherever he acquired his knowledge of the stage, I haven’t been able to locate any such books in his library, either the books have been lost or he himself made use of the public library; no computers in those days. On the other hand they’re just names.
Of course, there is one other possible source, always overlooked, that source would be his wife Emma. As a voice student in Chicago Emma would have become steeped in the lore of the theatre. For instance while performing aboard ship Marcia sings ‘The Jewel Song’ from Faust followed by Gottschalk’s ‘The Girl I Loved.’ I could be wrong but personally I don’t believe ERB knew Gottschalk from Yellin. If he had ever heard ‘The Jewel Song’ from Faust it was from Emma’s lips. I will return to this topic in a moment but if this novel doesn’t betray an influence from Emma I don’t know what does.
Yet, again Burroughs amazes by the range of his knowledge. One should always bear in mind that nothing can come out of your brain that isn’t in it. Creativity doesn’t mean that you can invent knowledge, knowledge is the substance of creativity, thus ERB had to do some studying to be able to write this book as well as his others. He must also have had an excellent memory without which study is useless.
In addition to presenting the great names of the theatre ERB is allowed to present himself as a learned and cultured high brow fella. He has spent the last ten years attempting to shed himself of his post-confrontation origins, to return to his interrupted destiny as a prince.
You can feel his yearning for respectability, for an entrance into polite society or at least the pages of Collier’s or The Saturday Evening Post. Hollywood, the then unoffical porn capitol of the world, now officially, was no place to look for polite society but as there are affected people everywhere, it may have seemed so. As the publishers tossed ‘Marcia’ back in his face he wasn’t going to make any grand entrance into society as a result of this book.
After the rejection of ‘Marcia’ Burroughs would be allowed to write nothing but Tarzans and science fiction. Even though his two Apache novels were published in this decade his second Western, which is more than good enough for the genre, was rejected.
ERB was condemned to continue as a low brow writer.
In 1923-24 ERB was treading financial deep water as was Sackett not knowing whether he was going to sink or swim. The move to LA was becoming a financial disaster. His ill-advised plan of becoming a pig farmer was draining him of cash. The hiatus in the production of Tarzan movies meant that he was cut off from the easy movie money which made his intellectual property so valuable. During this period he had to rely exclusively on magazine sales and book royalties which were inadequate for his inflated life style.
As is common with artists who pursue the glamour rather than the substance and as usual with ERB he had spent his earnings as he had gotten them. As Hillman points out in his 1920 Timeline Burroughs incurred phenomenal expenses immediately after acquiring the Otis Estate which was also immediately renamed Tarzana as though ERB had been planning it a long time.
For the year 1920: Tarzana undergoes major renovations: central heating, a three car garage, servants rooms, workshop, a study that doubles as a home school room, a ballroom/movie theatre/playroom, projection booth, swimming pool, golf course, lion and monkey cages, riding trails, hen house, hog pen, dairy barn and horse stalls, maintenance etc.
And that doesn’t include three cars for the garage, his pedigreed grade Duroc Berkshire swine, horses and other live stock which consumed enormous amounts of money with no return as ERB knew little or nothing about farming or stock raising.
ERB went into this with the romantic notion of getting back to the land. Herb Weston warned him about the attitude advising him that if he himself were to go into farming he would run the farm as a factory with strict cost/return controls. One wonders whether ERB ripped out the fruit and nut orchards to make room for the golf course. I suspect so.
As was predictable by mid-year 1922 ERB was seeking a loan to cover his losses. He realized he lacked the know how and skills to run a profitable working farm so in January of 1923 as per Hillman’s Timeline he ‘…disposes of his livestock and farm equipment in an auction.’ It is also significant that a couple months later on March 2nd he incorporated himself as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. The move may have been for the economic reason of reducing taxes but perhaps an even more compelling reason was the defensive one of placing his most valuable assets beyond the reach of his creditors in case he had to declare bankruptcy. As all his copyrights and literary assets as well as the other properties of the corporation would be beyond the reach of his creditors.
The strategic move may also have prevented his creditors moving on him as what was left as assets was more trouble than it was worth. His creditors may have thought it better to let him try to dig himself out since the property would ultimately be theirs anyway than to incur the expense of disposing of the real property themselves.
However as Burroughs could no longer use the income accruing to the corporation the question is where did he get the money to retire his personal debts. You know, the problem really needs some explanation.
Burroughs was desperate for cash. Looking longingly across LA to Santa Fe Springs and Signal Hill with their spectacular oil strikes ERB attempted to find oil in Tarzana. Unfortunately there isn’t any in the San Fernando Valley.
It is to be noted that Chase III gets involved in oil schemes in ‘Marcia.’ This aspect of ERB’s finaglings should be examined more closely too.
In what I would call near desperation ERB came up with schemes for his El Caballero Country Club and subdividing Tarzana. He was renting sites on the ranch to movie companies for productions. This sort of income would have been separate from his salary as an employee of ERB, Inc. All such oil or real estate income could be applied to his personal debt.
Turning his home into a clubhouse necessitated his moving from the ranch to LA. By early 1925 he was forced to borrow $200,000.00 to stay afloat. Thus ERB could tailor John C. Fremont’s quip: ‘When I came to California I was penniless…now I owe two millions of dollars.’ to his own situation.
Incredibly ERB’s magnificent earnings of the last ten years of a million or so had been turned into a debt of 200,000 dollars. That’s some work; not everyone can get loans of that magnitude.
‘Marcia Of The Doorstep’ rather faithfully portrays this course of events. The Sacketts begin moderately prosperous sinking into some real povery when they are rescued by the virtual gift of Max Heimer. One can read that as his first income from novels. Sackett, like Burroughs, has little idea of the value of money. He spends it as fast as he gets it then loses everything. The Sacketts are dead broke.
Interestingly they learn of their impoverishment in San Francisco the town from which Billy Byrne was shanghaied. I am unfamiliar with ERB’s connection with Baghdad By The Bay. While Byrne went to sea the Sacketts find their way to LA. ERB talks of leaving the land of fog for the Sunny Southland so he must have had some experience with SF.
Sackett is too proud to go into movies so he exhausts his few resources being ultimately turned out of lodgings by his landlady in a fictionalized account of ERB’s actual situation in Tarzana.
Now arises a problem with Emma that probably contributed to ERB’s divorcing her. P. 222:
Marcus Aurelius Sackett found that three hundred dollars did not go very far in Los Angeles. Even a modest room was expensive and food was as high as in New York- also Marcus Aurelius Sackett had not yet learned the value of money. He never would. After he had invited several old friends to dine with them at the Montmartre Clara had taken what was left from him and put him on an allowance that was barely sufficient to cover cigars and carfare. It was the first time in their married life that Clara had taken the reins into her own hands; but as she told Marcus, she didn’t purpose being thrown on the charity of a strange city any sooner than was absolutely necessary.
After having watched her new husband gamble away their last forty dollars in 1904, gone through the first real money they had seen in 1913 and now watching their assets disappear in 1924 it appears that Emma took matters in hand to take control of finances from ERB.
While ERB was probably confident that the money would always come in they couldn’t have been sure of it nor guessed at the substantial amounts that would always be on the horizon. Are to this day. Besides giving money to ERB was like giving matches to a pyromaniac. The guy didn’t even put it in his pocket before he spent it. Also I’m not sure that Emma wasn’t entitled to a little more sayso than ERB allowed her.
Clara Sackett is portrayed by ERB as an inveterate reader of novels. She is always putting a novel down. He makes a point of indicating this. This was probably true of Emma also. So, let us assume that Emma had good literary sense. ERB always gave his stories to Emma to read before he submitted them. She was kept on the payroll after the divorce as a reader. Further, let us assume that an ERB manuscript looked something like ‘Tarzan And The Forbidden City’ which an uncharitable reviewer might say was a collection of notes. There is a noticeable decline in the quality of ERB’s writing after the divorce.
Now suppose that, while not actually taking a hand in the writing, Emma provided editorial skills to whip a manuscript into shape. Every writer can use a good editor and I suspect ERB more than most. Thus if Emma had provided editorial skills and services, I don’t say she rewrote anything, over the years she may have had more of a hand in ERB’s success than one thinks. Bear in mind I don’t say she did any of the writing or affected the imaginative quality of the stories, only that she was active possibly as a contributing editor.
So, Marcia is a highly fictionalized account of ERB’s exodus from Chicago and the four year debacle to 1925.
I think that if you squint your eyes and let your imagination view the story you will find a fairly accurate portrayal of ERB and Emma. Of course he left out the squabbles. Emma comes off extremely well. Perhaps ERB’s subconscious appreciation of the woman got the truth from him.
Within the context of Burroughs, ‘Marcia’ is really an incredible story. The amazing thing is that with all these financial worries ERB was able to not only continue to turn out his two books a year but to keep up on his reading. The library contains a large number of books that were purchased in these years and read.
Apparently the strain was great enough that ERB didn’t have time to maintain his correspondence with Herb Weston. From June 1919 to August 1926 there is a hiatus in the correspondence. Either Weston lost the letters or ERB was too stressed to write.
Central to the story are the Chases- John Hancock Chase I, II and III. The initials JC are the same as both John Carter and John Clayton. Here we have a total of five Johns so ERB’s fixation with John The Bully is given a positive twist. If ERB didn’t change his own name to John he gave it to his supreme heroes.
John Hancock Chase I as the name implies is of fine Old Stock. John Hancock was one of the preeminent heroes of the American Revolution who wrote his name large on the Declaration Of Independence so that King George could read it without his spectacles. Thus the Chases are connected with the Puritan founding fathers. He was also originally from the South, Baltimore, and lives in New York thereby uniting the country from New England and the Middle States to the South.
How old he is isn’t clear. He lost his wife in childbirth forty-six years previously which would have been c. 1875-76 depending on whether the story commences in 1922 or not. If he maried at thirty that would make him eighty-nine in 1922. Probably still had that old ramrod military bearing but definitely an Ancient Mariner. In 1924 he would have been 91. If one assumes he married young at twenty make it 81 which is also plausible. An element of Chase I’s character may be that of George T., ERB’s father. He was born in 1833 so that if Chase I was born in 1833 he was eighty-nine. A little old but I’m betting on a birth date of 1833.
Still another source may be that fine old Southern gentleman portrayed by Thomas Dixon, Jr. in his novels. Chase I is from Maryland so that he is from the South living in New York City. That ERB does not make him a Virginian may mean he was not of the first water as was John Carter. Anent Carter, the Carter’s were in real life one of the first families of Virginia. However it is interesting that his antecedents cover the Puritans, the Cavaliers, and the middle colony of New York. Thus in a Dixonian sense he has reunited the country, ‘The Birth Of A Nation’, in the person of Chase I, healed all those Reconstruction wounds.
Another possible interpretation is that while ERB professed to love his father there was enough resentment to demote him to Maryland. As Baltimore appears frequently in the corpus while there is no indication that Burroughs visited the city its importance may be simply as the place Poe died. Burroughs would likely have been familiar with the poem ‘The Streets Of Baltimore’ commemorating Poe by the ever prolific Anon. The poem, by the way, can be found in the collection entitled ‘The Best Loved Poems Of The American People’ available since 1936.
Burroughs was probably familiar with most of the poems, athough perhaps not the book, as the poems are written mostly in the galloping rhythmic style of Kipling that ERB himself emulated. While Burroughs was influenced by novels and non-fiction one should never forget the cornpone verse and song lyrics he loved that may have had as much or more influence on him than anything else. He indirectly references many poems such as Will Carleton’s ‘Over The Hill To The Poor House.’ At about the time he was writing this book he was honored by a visit from ‘Uncle’ Walt Mason who wrote prose poems in the same galloping rhythm. He was apparently so infatuated with Mason’s stuff that he visited the writer at his home in Emporia, Kansas on his 1916 cross country trip. Thus poets like Mason and H.H. Knibbs, who he also made a point of looking up- Robert W. Service, Kipling and others may have been as influential on his development, or moreso, than writers like London or Tarkington even. He could have looked up Zane Grey who had a place in Pasadena but he never did. I am convinced he would have looked up London but for the latter’s untimely death.
In ‘Marcia’ he names the captain of the Lady X ‘Danny’ Dever after Kipling’s poem of the same name. It is quite possible that many of his characters can be traced back to well known poems or those that are obscure or forgotten. Verse was everywhere in thos days from the pages of pulps to newspapers. ERB had a copy of Edgar A. Guest’s newspaper verse, which was syndicated, in his library so the guy obviously loved paperly verse. Eugene Field. Get yourself a copy of ‘The Best Loved Poems Of The American People’ and familiarize yourself with them.
The Boy stood on the burning deck,
Whence all but he had fled:
The flames that lit the battle’s wreck
Shone round over the dead.
Felicia Hemans- Casabianca
Think about it.
If Chase I was influenced by ERB’s father while being a Southern Gentleman from Maryland where did the Southern influence come from: Very popular at this time was Thomas Dixon, Jr. and his Reconstruction novels- The Leopard’s Spots, The Clansman and The Traitor. ERB had a copy of ‘The Traitor’ in his library, while it would seem likely he had read the first two volumes of the trilogy and certain that he had seen D.W. Griffith’s 1915 movie adaptation of the trilogy- The Birth Of A Nation.
A large part of the Southrons alive would have experienced Reconstruction and its Jim Crow aftermath. the victors hadn’t yet written the censored history of the period so opinion was as yet quite varied as ‘The Birth Of A Nation’ indicated.
Chase I resonates the fine old Southern Gentleman in Dixon’s novels. It is quite possible then that Burroughs has moved one of Dixon’s Southern gentlemen North to New York City. This may possibly have been meant to humanize the Northern industrial magnate of whom Dixon is as caustically critical as any Gustavus Myers. And on sounder grounds too.
Chase I may then have been a portrait of the type of father ERB would have liked to have had. Cultured, wealthy, kind and generous but stern.
Chase II, who as a married man, lives in his father’s house along with his young son, Chase III, gets into a problem with a woman that isn’t explained very well. Chase II at some celebration drank so much that he blacked out for nine hours. Max Heimer somehow picked him up in this drunken condition taking him to his own apartment. Heimer had apparently been living with the woman Mame Myerz for several years. Although she later states that she wasn’t home that night Heimer concocts a scheme in which she was supposed to have conceived a child by Chase II. Nine months later Heimer returns to begin blackmailing Chase II. Unable to bear the shame Chase II shoots himself.
Obviously Mame Myerz is Jewish. The correct spelling of her name must have been Meyers or Meiers but perhaps ERB didn’t have the courage to make both her and Heimer clearly Jewish or perhaps she changed the spelling of her name to avoid appearing Jewish as was commonly done.
Ever on the qui vive it is this story that Heimer exploits sixteen years later when he learns Marcia was left with the Sacketts on about the same date, 4/10/06. If you note, those numbers add up to 20. Pretty Freudian, huh?
Chase II then, represents ERB’s failed Animus on the street corner with John the Bully while Mame Myerz blends with Della Maxwell as the failed Anima. Burroughs despises his failed Anima but as part of himself he can’t hate it. His Anima representations always start out as ‘bad’ girls but he then rehabilitates them. Perhaps by separating out Mame Myerz from Della Maxwell he can vent his hatred twice removed.
Chase III born of his failed Animus represents ERB as he would like to have been. Tall, clean limbed, clean living, thoroughly clean. The emphasis on clean is probably because John The Bully besmirched ERB’s Animus making him feel dirty as did Norman in ‘The Outlaw Of Torn.’ Rather than making Chase III an Army officer, for some reason ERB makes him a Naval officer. However, stationed in Hawaii. The Islands were becoming a fixation of Burroughs probably influenced by Jack London’s stories of the Islands. The Islands will figure importantly in ERB’s later life. All roads are trending toward Hawaii.
Thus, Marcia, his Anima replacement and Chase III, his new Animus, meet in paradise on the waters of his subconscious. Marcia first sees Chase III rising from the waters, as it were, as he climbs over the side of the yacht. I asume the yacht is anchored in Pearl Harbor although ERB makes it appear to be on the open ocean. Chase III then takes Marcia to the land for her first time. Thus ERB and Florence honeymooned in Hawaii while they later lived on the Honolulu side of Pearl. There is an interesting passage in Marcia on pp. 237-8 where the sailor Crumcrow, the name indicates his worthlessness, soliloquizes as he spies on the pirate camp:
“That Bledgo…Say, that guy’s the toughest nut I ever seen. Talk about hard boiled! Gee! Hard boiled is soft alongside o’ him. I wonder what he’d say if I walked in there right now. Probably knock my block clean off. Wisht I’d kept my bazoo shut. They’re havin’ a good time there an’ we ain’t never had a good time in our camp- nothing but watch and work. I’m sick o’ work. that guy Chase gives me a pain. Nothin’ but work and watch, an’ you can’t kick ’cause the damn boob does it himself. I’d like to be an officer. You’d bet your pants I’d not work or watch either. What do I have to work for him for? I ain’t in the army no more. And say, wouldn’t it give you a swift pain the way I say ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir’ him an’ salute him. Every time I see that guy’s mug I snap to attention. Gee! It makes me sick. I don’t know what makes me do it, and he hit me once, too, knocked me coo-coo- the dirty —–.”
That’s a quick encapsulation of ERB’s life between John The Bully and his brief army career. Bledgo here represents John The Bully beside whom a hard boiled egg is soft. Forty years later the memory of his confrontations with John is as green as the day it happened. And rightly so, John changed his life.
ERB also changed the status of his own life when he entered the Army forsaking his chance to be an officer. Thus Chase III represents ERB as he would like to have been who orders the shadow of his former self around. ‘You used to be in the army?’ Chase asked Crumcrow.
Crumcrow then deserts to John/Bledgo’s side passing out of ERB’s life, hopefully.
By 1924 ERB was rebooting his life and able to see his earlier character from a distance.
ERB put a lot of loving care into the creation of Marcia. Late in the book he actually describes her as Cinderella. That fairy tale figure began life well but was dispossessed being turned into a servant girl who swept the ashes from the fire. Her innate role of a princess was discovered by the Prince because of her unique foot which retored her to her true position. Something like the unique birthmark that identifies the real Prince.
As ERB’s Anima figure there can be no doubt that ERB is recapitulating his own history. He makes Marcia impossibly sweet and beautiful but then novels are filled with these sweet and beautiful women who are so difficult to find in real life.
Everyone loves Marcia while she fits in everywhere, perhaps as ERB wished he did. Only sixteen when she is adopted by the Ashley’s, grown men like Banks von Spiddle and Chase III fall head over heels in love with her. Although she came from an impoverished stage actors background she is able to adapt to high society manners in a trice and without any glitches, unlike Billy Byrnes. Born to the manner and manor as they say. The Ashleys invite her to take a trip with them on their yacht where it seems as a tyro sixteen year old she might be slightly out of place. Marcia however has the social aplomb and sophisticated patter of a woman much older than herself.
As with Billy Byrne and Barbara Harding, Marcia and Chase III are marooned on a desert island. Chase III and Harding change places while Marcia assumes in her relationship to Chase III that of Byrne to Barbara.
The Samurai are replaced by Bledgo and the IWW malcontents. Bledgo is the shadow of John the Bully who continues to haunt ERB’s imagination. He is knocked unconscious as Marcia and Chase III try to evade him. His end is unknown as it is not known whether he sailed with the pirate crew or not nor is it any concern. Thus ERB hopefully disposes of the hateful memory of John and his former self in the shape of Crumcrow; maybe he has exorcised their files from his memory banks. He hopes so.
ERB’s Anima an Animus are reunited climbing the slopes of the mountain spiritually cleansed by the torrential driving rain. The rain storm of course remains a symbol for sexual passion. This is terrific stuff; ERB has his moments.
Across the crest they are reunited with the society people from whom they had been separated by John the Bully, symbolically represented by their taking different boats during the disaster at sea. The people of his former existence had landed on the other side of the island.
Marcia’s seeming happiness is delayed when in Manila she receives Berlanger’s letter advising her that she and Chase III are brother and sister.
Fleeing her lover on the eve of their reunion/wedding she takes ship to California on which is a movie director who…
But I will save that for the play by play description of the book in Part V.
The essentials of her role have been dealt with.
The writing of Marcia was a virtual financial disaster for ERB. He had taken a whole year to write it while the fifty thousand that he hoped to receive never materialized. The year returned nothing to him at this very critical juncture in his finances. The experiment was so costly he never tried it again.
In 1066 and succeeding centuries the Norman conquerors enslaved the Anglo-Saxons of East Anglia which was an affront deeply resented. Take a lesson.
In the sixteenth century when the printed Old Testament became universally available the East Anglians identified with the enslaved Hebrews of Exodus. They elected themselves as a Chosen People and developed the compensatory Utopian attitude of inherent virtue as a Chosen People of God.
In the seventeenth century New England (Anglia) was settled by emigrants from East Anglia. Not just English but East Anglians. Virginia was settled by descendents of the Norman conquerors of 1066. The Virginians once again chose slavery as their method of labor. First indentured White people then Africans.
While Utopian ideals developed in New England the abolitionist movement began which resulted in the Civil War/War Between The States, war between regions or actually war between ideologies. There was no chance the South was going to discontinue slavery anytime soon no matter what anyone says.
In revenge for 1066 the Cavaliers (Whites) of the South were absolutely crushed giving up all rights by surrendering unconditionally.
The nascent Liberal Party of Puritans elevated the Africans over the Cavaliers thus establishing a protectorate over the ‘victims’ which is characteristic of the faith while establishing their power over dissident Whites. Thus the Liberals ultimately aligned themselves with all colored revolutionary movements in the world against White European conquerors.
Within the United States they viewed immigrants as ‘victims’ of the Old Stock pathologizing the Old Stock as ‘bigots’ no better than Cavaliers of the Old South. All opponents to their Liberal religious ideology which included the intellectual mindset of Science thus became wrong headed vile ‘bigots’ who had no right to live. After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 the utopian Communist ideology became their politics; call it Socialism it all comes out the same.
As Edgar Rice Burroughs was not a Liberal, not a Communist and not religious but Scientific he unwittingly placed himself in opposition to the Liberal Coalition. On that basis a serious attempt was made to abort his career while subsequently an attempt to erase his name and work from history is being conducted.
Thus the twenties ushered in a new changed era fraught with new adjustments which were misunderstood or not understood at all. Burroughs’ career after 1920 has to be seen in the light of this concealed antagonism that he had to counter without being clear as to the causes.
Part V of The Mucker and Marcia Of The Doorstep follows in another post.
September 11, 2008
The Low Brow And The High Brow
An In Depth Study Of Edgar Rice Burroughs’
The Mucker And Marcia Of The Door Step
Background Of the Second Decade Social And Political
I have been criticized for discussing material that seems to bear no relationship to the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The social milieu in which a man lives and works directly affect what and how he writes. He will react within that milieu whether he can understand and articulate it or not.
ERB understood much. He understood the main conflict of his times- that between the Religious and Scientific Consciousnesses. How he understood it is one thing, its exact nature is another. The battle was not necessarily put into the terms of science versus religion. On the objective level science had more prestige while on the subjective level religion had the upper hand creating a dualistic conflict. As Voltaire said: No one ever willed himself an athiest. The same can said of Science. The usual terms employed in the conflict was that of spirtiualism versus materialism. So those two words were supercharged masking the real conflict.
While religion retained great strength in this period science was so strong that religions had to adapt to science, thus one had the ecumenical Congress Of Religions in Chicago in 1893 during which a common plan of resistance was discussed.
One reaction to Science was American Liberalism. Liberalism is in fact a religion founded on beliefs rather than facts. American Liberalism developed out of the Puritan faith of New England. The Puritans believed themselves to be the successor of the Hebrews of the Old Testament as the Chosen People of God.
Two very interesting studies have appeared in the last couple decades which illuminate the English background of the United States. One is David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed; the other is Kevin Phillips’ The Cousins Wars. Both illustrate the continuity of behavior of the colonists between England and the Colonies. That continuity began with the Norman invasion of England in 1066 and continues through the strange Liberal mentality of today. Burroughs who was of the ‘Conservative’ mentality had to struggle with the forces of Liberalism in his day.
When the Normans invaded England they enslaved the Anglo-Saxon inhabitants. Anyone who has read Ivanhoe by Walter Scott has the image of Gurth with his iron colar inscribed on his memory. This piece of arrogance was to have serious consequences in both England and America.
The Normans occupied the Southern counties of England which Thomas Hardy caled Wessex, while the brunt of slavery fell on the East Anglian counties. The insult of slavery was burned into East Anglian memories along with a desire for revenge made more savage by the the religious certitude that they were the Chosen People of God.
The East Anglians, of course, revolted against the Norman Church Of England, emigrating to North America where they settled in the States of New England. New England = New Anglia. In England they fought the English Civil War against the Normans. Puritan Roundheads against Norman Cavaliers. It then became the turn of the defeated Cavaliers to emigrate to North America. They chose to go to Virginia where they gave the colony its Norman Cavalier character and nickname. The ancient enemies were now divided North and South.
As Fischer points out, slavery by the Norman descendents in England had disappeared only about a hundred years before the English Civil War. The Cavaliers now revived slavery in their Southern colonies. First they brought indentured servants from England who were slaves subject to the whims of their masters for a stated period of years that could easily be extended. Then African slavery was introduced. For a period of time both White and Black slaves worked side by side in the fields with the Blacks gradually displacing the Whites.
The New Englanders looked with fear and loathing on the Norman Virginians, who as they saw it, now resumed their old habits. It was here that the American Civil War was conceived. The Puritan New Englanders after having first rejected the king in the American Revolution which their East Anglian forebearers had failed to do in England then turned to agitating a war against the Norman Cavaliers of the South, whose ancestors had enslaved them, on the basis of an anti-slavery abolitionist program.
Just as they had succeeded against the Crown where their forebearers had failed they succeeded in absolutely crushing the descendents of the Normans. This punishment of the Cavaliers was the most severe of any since 1066. Thus subsequent US history with its notion of unconditional surrender was formed. This was a vicious attitude formed from the same feeling of defeat.
To return to the East Anglians in England to explain the American Liberal mindset. Shortly after printed books became readily available the East Anglians bought Bibles adopting the Old Testament notion of the Chosen People by substituting themselves for the Hebrew Children. A British Israelite group formed calling the English people the new Chosen People. Indeed, the British throne is believed to be in lineal descent from that of King David of Old Israel.
Thus there were at least three Chosen Peoples in existence from the fifteenth century on- Jews, the English and the Puritan New Englanders. New England became Greater New England as the Puritans multiplied spreading across the Northern tier of States.
A psychological characteristic of Chosen Peoples is that they upload their needs and wishes to an imaginary god in the sky then download the same needs and wishes back to themselves as the Will Of God. Thus they say not my will but they will be done, O Lord. The faithful thus become justified sinners. Any criminal act can be justified as the Will of God which it is the duty of the faithful to perform This also creates a double standard because what is right for themselves in the eyes of the Lord is forbidden to others. The children of Israel can exterminate other peoples with impunity, but it is wrong for other peoples to even defend themselves against the children of the Lord. Serious stuff.
These ends and desires are accepted then as a messianic or utopian goal. It is the duty of the Chosen People to impose God’s Will on the rest of the world. To resist that Will is evil making the non-believer a dastard, a heretic, an infidel, an anti-Semite or whatever.
In the United States the Will of the god of the Puritans was transformed into Manifest Destiny, which in turn metamorphosed into the triumph of Democracy as defined by the Chosen People of America, who in turn metamorphosed from Puritans into Liberals.
As a chosen people and as a result of the Civil War the Liberals identified with the victims who needed their help. Thus the Civil War was fought in their minds by a virtuous people acting out the Will of God to rescue unfortunate victims from a malevolent White minority. In the case of the Civil War it was the Negro slaves. As the century and Liberalism developed the umbrella of help was extended to all the ‘enslaved’ or colonial peoples of Europe which is to say all the colored peoples of the world. It was not enough that injustice as perceived by the Liberals should be corrected, but that the perpetrators should be condignly and brutally punished unconditionally in the name of and by the Will of their God, which is to say the projected desires and wishes of a self-appointed Chosen People.
Utopian literature which flourished after the Civil War is the direct result of this Messianic fervor. Utopian literature abounds in England, Greater New England and with the jews.
Having then succeeded in crushing the Cavaliers of the South the Liberals attempted to demean, belittle and abuse the White South in the most draconian manner. The period of Reconstruction is the blackest hour in American history. The Whites were stripped of civil rights having the Negroes placed over them as masters. The Whites, so far as possible, were expropriated of all property through taxation when not stolen outright. The Whites, of course, reacted by forming the first Ku Klux Klan to protect their lives and interests. Reconstruction lasted until 1877 well nigh into the twentieth century. The South was impoverished and set back for at least a century and may still be recovering today if such is possible under the present Liberal regime.
All factual references to Reconstruction have been obscured by references to the KKK but in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries memories of Liberal crimes in the South were fresh and bleeding wounds. As is well known Jim Crow was the inevitable result of the attempt to crush and bury the White South.
As the nineteenth century progressed and utopian literature flourished the Puritans, now Liberals, identified with all the ‘oppressed’ which is to say colored peoples of the world against the European conquerors. Everywhere America sided with the natives against Europeans. In a feeling of total frustration Charles De Gaulle would remark: America is a White country, but it acts like a colored country.
At about mid-nineteenth century Jewish utopian messianists under the direction of Karl Marx formed the Communist Party. Thus Jewish utopian messianism spread from England- Marx was based in London- throughout Europe to the world. As Communism also opposed Western colonialism, although not Communist colonialism, these two powerful agencies worked to upset the Western hegemony of the world. As someone will always have hegemony of the world what appears on the surface as ‘justice’ is merely the transfer of power to another agency and hence new ‘injustice.’ As of this writing it appears that the beneficiary of American and Communist efforts will be the Chinese. This shift has already happened but has not yet been officially acknowledged. Thus the result of the Liberal and Communist quest for ‘social justice’ will be merely to place Europe and America’s neck under a Chinese yoke rather than the other way around. Obviously the Chinese god is not the same as the Utopian God.
During the period of Reconstruction as the Liberals were punishing the Southern Whites and rewarding the Negroes immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe began in earnest. While the Irish and Germans had created their own set of problems yet culturally they were close enough to the original Anglo-Saxon colonists to be, after a fashion, readily assimilated.
But with the congeries of nationalities from East and Southern Europe came many and diverse customs and languages. Assimilating them into Anglo-Celtic-Teutonic America was not so easy. Thus groups of Americans resisting immigration arose. The Know Nothings fought the Irish but this was different.
The Liberals could then pathologize the anti-immigration people as ‘nativists’, later White Supremacists and other derogatory terms. They could afirm their own virtue against these people as they had against the Southern Whites. When the power base of restrictionists took form in the South as the second Ku Klux Klan this only served to show the perfidy of Southern Whites in a new shade.
The Liberals then allied themselves not only with the interests of Negroes but with the immigrants to form the Liberal Coalition which was to dominate American society from the Second Decade to the present.
Already British and Puritan utopianists, they were now joined by the Jews who from 1870 to 1914 represented the largest nationality of immigrants. Both the Liberals and the Jews were Bible based. Liberals considered Jews as the successors to the Biblical Hebrews if not Hebrews themselves. While Roman Catholics distanced themselves from Hebrewism the Protestant sects derived directly from the Old Testament considered themselves neo-Hebrews so they were quite willing to defer to what they considered paleo-Hebrews. Thus the two versions of utopianism were joined. Both forms of Hebrewism accepted anti-Semitism as the greatest vice. The foregoing discussion has been a good account of what Semitism is: that is a belief in one’s own divinely appointed role as the arbiter of the world’s fate.
So far as I know neithr Semitism or anti-Semitism have ever been adequately defined so for the purposes of this paper anti-Semitism will be defined quite simply as the denial of the Semitist’s self-appointed role as the agent of God on earth.
As one of a Scientific Consciousness such a denial seems hardly necessary but as most people are of a Religious Consciousness there it stands.
Needless to say Burroughs was of the Scientific Consciousness therefore per force an anti-Semitist although he would never have understood his position in those terms.
As can be seen Judeo/Liberal/Utopianism is a religious matter that will defy reason. It is a matter dependent upon a subjective, spiritual belief system. It is beyond the reach of logic. Never argue with them. The adherents cannot be argued with, they must humored. Reigions are revealed not thought out.
The nineteenth century also saw the rise of Science which is an objective materialistic sysem, conscious not subconscious, based on facts and reality. It doesn’t take a genius to spot that the religious systems and the scientific systems are incompatible; one must subordinate or destroy the other. Now, seriously folks, this is war to the knife.
Knowledge is hard won and built up slowly while revealed religion is complete and entire at conception. While the former is subject to trial and error the latter is seemingly pat- it is God’s own Word.
As Freud pointed out the religious consciousness received three main blows. The first was that the Universe was heliocentric rather than terracentric; the third was the malleable construction of the human mind as defined by psychoanalysis. These two could be religiously managed; nothing had been revealed that couldn’t be manipulated to religion’s use. The middle blow could not. That was the concept of Evolution as enunciated by Charles Darwin. Thus it was clear except to the most entrenched religionist that the world was not created by God in 4004 BC as Bishop Ussher stated but evolved beginning somewhat over four billion years ago. There’s an incompatibility there that cannot be swept under the carpet or even ignored.
Make no mistake: science and religion are at odds in the struggle for the human mind. Writing in 1829 the incomparable Edgar Allen Poe expressed the problem in his brilliant poem:
Sonnet – To Science
Science! true daughteer of Old Time thou art!
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Who preyest thus on this poet’s heart,
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise,
Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies,
Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car,
And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
To seek a shelter in some happier star?
Has thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?
In addition to driving the Hamadryad from the wood, science also pulled God down from the heavens and exposed the fraud. Freud showed God to be merely a projection of human desires. How could religion counter the claims of Science?
I do not single out any specific religion whether Christian, Jewish, Moslem or whatever. All religions evolved in human consciousness and represent a phase of development in that evolution. A phase of evolution but not its end. Dig it!
It then became necessary for religionists to absolutely deny Evolution. In their favor was the fact that Darwin not merely but only enunciated the concept, but had no infallible proofs of the process. Thus relgionists could say silly things like: Do you really believe human being, you, actually descended from an ape? and be fairly convincing. Most people were ashamed of such an ancestry. Nobody asked the monkeys how they felt about the comparison.
Inherent in Evolution is the idea of speciation. Thus every time a species evolved there was a chance that it was an improvement on previous manifestations. Between the Chimp and Homo Sapiens I are innumberable steps which have since disappeared. If that were true then religious concepts which insisted that God created Man whole and entire without evolving were false. If Creation was false than Religion was false. There were many who empowered by the concept of Evolution and reasoning from appearances made the claim that was called ‘race’ rather than species. The genetic differences between the ‘races’ were not yet clear.
Until fairly recent times and the rise of genetics there was no infallible evidence to indicate speciation. Today there is. From 1859 when Darwin enunciated Evolution through the period under examination here, the second decade of the twentieth century, anyone asserting speciation could be ridiculed and destroyed as a bigot by the religionist. Evolution itself was attacked and undermined in the thirties by the Boasian school of Anthropology which is still vital today. (See Kevin MacDonald, The Culture Of Critique, 1998, 2002).
In this period the Evolutionist was in a minority position. Thus when Burroughs came down so strongly on the side of Evolution in his Tarzan series it is very surprising he created no uproar and there is no evidence the series was noticed on that account.
It appears that Burroughs took the broad approach to these social problems. He could see both sides of the issue deciding on the merits of the case rather than the ideology of the situation. As has been noted he was quite capable of changing his mind on vital issues when presented with convincing evidence, i.e. life on Mars. He was a true scientist.
Perhaps around 1910 it began to dawn on a significant number or people for the first time that unlimited and unrestricted immigration was causing unexpected and irreversible changes in the social fabric. The war on Anglo-Saxon ideals, institutions and customs was well underway. Such reactions had been a recurring feature of American society but now there was no West to escape to. In addition industry had reshaped the cities. Farm machinery was reshaping farming practices reducing the need for farmhands so that country boys migrated to the cities. By mid-decade for the first time more people lived in the cities than on the land.
These changes were unwelcome and uncomfortable to a lot of people creating a malaise. Those who viewed Reconstruction for the horror it was as well as those who considered themselves Old Stock were pathologized by the Liberals but their views found expression in books and articles but usually on the defensive side as with Jack London’s Valley Of The Moon and not on the aggressive side which would be visited by condign punishment as heresy.
If one mentioned immigrants at all it was possible to discuss only positive attributes. The Liberal turned a blind eye to the aggression of home countries preferring to see these home places too as victims who needed their protection. As Chosen People the Liberal sees himself as naturally superior to the ‘victims’ but does not perceive his supposed superiority as ‘racism.’
An honest and well meaning writer like Homer Lea who had actually been in the Orient and learned of Japanese plans first hand was pathologized and dismissed as a crank although his prognostications were based in fact as Pearl Harbor was to show.
Some feelings are vague and can’t be articulated. Even as a child I was disquieted by the notion that everyone came to america to escape oppression or to seek religious freedom. I saw but couldn’t articulate the two facedness of this notion. Only in the last decade or so have I found the means to acquire the necessary knowledge and developed modes to express it.
Quite frankly the US was used as a haven for many, many revolutionary groups. Perhaps the American Revolution caused most Americans to look upon all revolutions as beneficent. I couldn’t and can’t see it tht way.
American ‘malcontents’ were told to shut up while a malcontent could come from anywhere else in the world and be honored for resisting repression. I mean, criminals, murderers, mere disturbers of the peace in their own countries. Cranks. East Indian malcontents gathered in San Francisco to plot against the British Raj. Sun Yat Sen lived in LA where he raised funds and was lionized. Homer Lea was recruited by Sun Yat Sen to serve as a general in the Chinese Army. Lea’s story may have been the influence that charmed Burroughs into seeking a place in the Chinese Army.
The United States not only knew of the malcontents’ activities but even tolerated them perhaps abetting them. The US role in European history has been that of a spoiler. Looking upon all colored peoples as victims needing their help Liberals could do no other than work for their interests against the Europeans.
One of the more disastrous actions was John Hay’s Open Door policy in China. At the time in the 1890s the European States were about to partition China into spheres of influence. What the result would have been is anybody’s guess however the world would probably be much different today. Hay’s Open Door policy scotched the partition with the result that China remained a unified State. Of all the turning points one can find in history this is undoubtedly a turn in the tide of fortunes for the West. Subsequent to the Hay policy Chinese revolutionaries were hosted in California. Mexican gun runners operated from the US during the Mexican Revolution as Zane Grey records in novels like The Light Of Western Stars and Desert Gold.
Of course the Irish who called Ireland the Ould Sod and America the New Island acted as one people divided by an ocean. Funds and guns were raised in America and used in Ireland against the British. In the unrestricted immigration of the time Irish revolutionists moved back and forth across the Atlantic. If arrested in Ireland they claimed American citizenship and were released to return to the US.
In 1919 a most egregious example occurred which received no reprimand from the US, while England didn’t even bother to file an objection. Eamon De Valera, the future premier of Ireland escaped the British to be smuggled to the US where he functioned openly. William K. Klingaman tells the story in his popular history ’1919′ of 1987:
Eamon De Valera, meanwhile, had been smuggled out of Ireland and into the United States, where he was touring the major cities along the East Coast, drumming up financial support for Sinn Fein and the Irish Republic. His reception was nothing short of spectacular. De Valera was given the presidential suite at the Waldorf; the Massachusetts state legislature received him in a special joint session; forty thousand wildly cheering supporters turned out to hear one of his speeches in Boston; and the press seemed to love him wherever he went. After all, he was excellent copy, and news of English injustices in Ireland always sold plenty of papers. As the Nation noted with bemusement, “He gets a front-page spread whenever he wants it, with unexampled editorial kindliness thrown in.” The tall, very thin, dark Irishman brought no message of peace and goodwill to the United States, however. Now that the Peace Conference was over and freedom-loving Irishmen still remained enslaved under the British yoke, De Valera told an enthusiastic audience in Providence, “the war front is now transferred to Ireland.”
So, while the Irish were embattled on the Ould Sod, the Irish of the New Island had enough influence and power to baffle any objections either in the US or England. They were truly functioning as a state within a state in the US and as revolutionists on the Ould Sod. Thus the US influence in international politics was unique indeed.
The Italians also functioned as emigrant workers of Italian citizenship before the War and were an irredentist population within the United States with many colonial beach heads. After the war, assuming the continuance of unrestricted immigration Mussolini attempted to shift the cost of medical treatment for wounded Italian soldiers by sending them to the US for free medical treatment. This is astonishing stuff that gets no notice in history books.
Of course, the most famous instance of dual citizenship of a divided homeland is that of the Jews.
A ship landed in the seventeenth century in New York City, New Amsterdam as it was known then, bearing a hundred plus Sephardic Jews from Brazil. The next immigrant cadre were the German Jews mainly from 1830 to 1850. These two immigrations were small compared to the influx of millions of Jews from the Pale of Settlement usually known as Polish or Russian Jews. From 1870 to 1914 they came in increasing numbers. As I have detailed elsewhere the intent to transfer the whole population of Jews from the Pale to the United States was aborted by the outbreak of the Great War.
Jews had always been forbidden Great Russia. However during an expansionist phase Russian annexed the Ukraine, Byelorussia and the North. The annexed areas became the Pale Of The Settlement along with the Polish Jews acquired by the first partition of Poland. Thus Jewish nationalism came into conflict with Russian assimilationism. The Russians, of course, were sovereigns of the land while the Jews were a stateless nationality. The Russians along with the rest of their acquired peoples attempted to Russify the Jews. These along with Poles, Letts, Estonians, Lithuanians and whatever resisted Russification. In point of fact, the Czars had bitten off more than they could chew.
Had the Russians been facing mere dissident peoples they may have been able to manage them. But, along about mid-nineteenth century the political ideology of Communism provided a framework within which all peoples could combine thus submerging their national identities for their political goals. It is true that fifty to sixty percent of all Comunist parties were Jewish but the remainder which was substantial, wasn’t. As part of its ideology Communism discouraged nationality so it was possible for numbers of all nationalities to work together.
The Russians became the adversaries of the Jews, the Czar their bete noir. Thus a remendous undeclared war existed between the Communist Revolution, usually called just The Revolution and the Russian government and people.
By the time the Jewish emigration to America began in earnest in the 1870s the Jewish mind was conditioned by this warfare. Now, all Israel is one. Therefore the German Jews who had preceded the Jews from the Pale prepared the way for those from the Pale. Whole industries were immediately controlled by Jews. The male and female garment industries being the prime example. The work force of these industries was almost entirely Jewish. Thus the infamous sweat shop may be said to be of Jewish origin although it is usually used to defame the United States.
The whole garment industry of the country then was controlled from New York City. We’re talking big money with a lot of it flowing into Jewish agencies sometimes euphemistically called charities. This money in turn fueled worldwide Jewish warfare on Russia.
The Equitable Insurance fraud for instance was caused by the international banker Jacob Schiff who as administrator looted the Equitable of a couple hundred million dollars to finance the Japanese in the Russo-Japanese war of 1903-05. The Japanese could not have fought the war without that money. Thus Schiff and his people paved the way to Pearl Harbor.
While the Russians had their hands full in the East Schiff and his fellow Jews engineered and financed the First Russion Revolution. The signing of the Russo-Japanese Peace Treaty was done at Portsmouth, New Hampshire ostensibly by then US President Theodore Roosevelt but under the watchful eyes of Schiff and his fellows.
As I have said simply because a people emigrated doesn’t mean they renounced their original identity. Witness the Irish. As is clear from their intent to evacuate the Pale in favor of America the Jews retained their Eastern European interests. This would be even more manfest after the restriction of immigration at the end of the War.
Like the Irish who used American citizenship to negate the laws of England the Jews used their American citizenship to thwart the interests of Russians, or the Czar as they put it.
The Russians forbade Jewish traffic over their borders in an attempt to contain Jewish subversion. If you were in, you were in, if you were out you were out. In line with European concepts of nationality this was workable. But Jews resident in America using their US citizenship, in this instance, demanded to be treated strictly as US citizens but of the Jewish ‘religion.’ Thus, they said Russia could not refuse them entrance on the basis of their ‘religion.’
The US with its polyglot population all with US citizenship whether Irish, Jewish, Italian or whatever had to insist on the rights of all US citizens. Thus Jews were able to travel freely across Russian borders to coordinate Jewish actions to subvert the Russian State. As I have pointed out, after the Revolution the name Russia was dropped from the State name as it became the Union Of Soviet Socialist Republics governed almost exclusively by non-Russians.
The B’nai B’rith had been around since 1843. Then the American Jewish Committee was created in 1906. Within seven years Jewish influence had increased so signficantly that they were able to direct US policy to the extent that diplomatic relations were broken off between Russia and the US in 1913 the year the Liberal Coalition elected Woodrow Wilson as its first president. From 1913 to 1933 the US had no diplomatic relations with Russia/USSR. It is interesting that relations with a legitimate government were discontinued by Woodrow Wilson and resumed with an illegitimate government by his disciple Franklin Delano Roosevelt. On of his first acts as President.
In 1913 the B’nai B’rith created its terrorist arm the Anti-Defamation League. So there was actually a dual drive to acquire control of the USSR and the USA which one might add came very close to succeeding. And this be a very small but dedicated number of people.
As I point out in Part IV in 1919 the AJC contacted Burroughs undoubtedly amongst a host of others to endorse a Jewish Bill Of Rights. The program was in place by 1920 when this segment of my study ends.
As can be seen the unofficial role of the United States in world affairs was an unsettling and disturbing one of the inactive aiding and abetting of revolutionary movements from China to India, across the border into Mexico while actively aiding if not abetting the Irish against England and aiding and abetting if not supporting the Jewish war on Russia.
To the American Liberal all these revolutionary efforts were being conducted by victims. Hence Liberal efforts at directing American policy were in the interests of any revolutionary group which includes the Socialist and Communist parties. This Liberal attitude continues worldwide to the present time.
Within the United States these ‘victims’ were gathered together under the aegis of the Liberal Coalition. All dissenters whether anti-immigrationists, nativists or whatever were pathologized as mentally unstable people. Insanity then becomes a religious attitude complementary to terms such as heretic, infidel or anti-Semite; terms not to be taken seriously.
Liberalism is a religion thus assuming control over institutions of hgher learning. The University system of the United States was turned from one of educational insitutions into religious seminaries. The American university system of today is a religious system of Liberal seminaries. Only the correct religious view is permitted, any other is penalized.
Now, the Liberals who derived from the Puritans were an Old Testament biblical group who considered themselves the successosrs of the Hebrews as a Chosen People. Beginning in 1870 the original Chosen People began their invasion. It was like two Napoleons meeting in an insane asylum. Each considered the other an imposter. But the Jews had the whip hand over the Liberals as they quickly controlled the communiations media gradually eliminating anything seditious to its belief system. As I explained earlier any writing that casts doubt on the claims of Judaism is anti-Semitist. Americans were conditioned to view anti-Semitism as the worst possible crime deserving imprisonment or expulsion from the body social. What we really have is the reimposition of the medieval Catholic Church in the form of Judaism. Having seized control of the political system of the United States by 1920 the other important object was the discrediting of Science.
Hast thou not torn the Naiad from the flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?
And Poe might have added: God from his heaven/ pleasant summer dreams of chosenness from our minds. Yes, Science was the great enemy, the great anti-Semite. It is not particularly well known but Jews are more anti-evolution than even the Christian fundamentalists of Tennessee in the twenties or the Kansans of today. Evolution absolutely denies the fact that the world was created by god 4004 years before Bishop Ussher or the year 5778 or whatever of the Jewish calendar. Make no mistake the notion of the world having been created by god recently is fundamental to Semitic religions. Once it is disallowed the basis of the Semitic religions ends. You can see why they fight so hard against Science.
Science still being the problem religion was cloaked in its guise. The scienfific Socialism of Marx is little more than Talmudic Judaism. Freud’s exaltation of the subconscious is little more than an assault on the conscious rational thinking that makes Science possible. Einstein’s preposterous notion of the ‘fabric’ of Time and Space among others is a disguised attempt at imposing faith.
All of these movements came to fruition in the Second Decade. Einstein’s theories were supposedly proven during an eclipse of the sun in 1919 during which it was ‘confirmed’ that the light of distant stars streamed around immovable bodies. I mean, the Greeks said it: What happens when an easily resistible force meets an immovable object? It flows around it just like water around a rock suspended in a stream. Boy, you have to be a genius to figure that one out- wrap it up in the facric of Time and Space and send it as present to God.
So, the problem still remained what to do with the ‘pathological’ types who gave the lie to the Judeo-Liberal doctrine? Science and Religion cannot co-exist. This is a sea change in human consciousness comparable to the transition from the Matriarchal to the Patriarchal. Good will is not the problem and cannot solve the problem. In 1943 Gustavus Myers devised the current method of interpreting American history in his book The History Of Bigotry In The United States. He thus provided the means to pathologize the non-Judeo-Liberal people. They became irrational, insane, evil bigots. So then one has the people of the book the Judeo-Liberals on one side and ‘bigots’ on the other. So, Moslem-Infidels, Semites-anti-Semites, and Liberals-Bigots. It isn’t rational, it’s religious. Virtue goes with the one; criminality with the other. Once you are accused there is no argument. Confess your heresy and take your punishment. The role model is the Inquisition of the Catholic Church.
Myers began from the beginning hitting his stride with the Know Nothing Party of the 1850s. He essentially made all immigrants victims in the Liberal sense by depicting them as virtuous innocents insanely treated by American ‘bigots.’ Hence the title of his book. His school took root and flourishes today. Oscar Handlin, John Higham, Richard Slotkin.
Handlin’s stuff is irrational. John Higham’s Strangers In The Land is valuable but skewed. The skewing can be easily unscrambled. But Richard Slotkin’s Gunslinger Nation is of importance to Burroughs and our theme here. The first 225 pages of Slotkin’s book lead up to a denunciation of Burroughs as the premier bigot of American literature actually making him responsible for the My Lai massacre in Viet Nam. The first 225 pages are worth reading although you can throw the rest of the book away.
I’ll get back to the scientific aspects of the issue in a minute but, first, as Slotkin concentrates on the Western movie in American culture let’s take a look at one of the premier efforts in the genre, John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence. The movie was scripted by James Warner Bellah and Willis Goldbeck or, since this is Hollywood, men who would answer to those names. They are probably jewish. The film perfectly inllustrates the Liberal dogma.
John Wayne plays the Liberal lead as Tom Doniphon, strange name, along with his noble Negro sidekick, Pompey. Lee Marvin plays a deranged psychopathic Anglo named Liberty Valence. Jimmy Stewart plays the long suffering representative of the Law, Ransom- Rance- Stoddard. Rance is an adjunct to Tom Doniphon. Liberals = The Law, Bigots (Liberty Valence) = the outlaws.
Tom can be seen as the abolitionist, justice seeking Liberal aiding the victims. He is on the side of the victims of Liberty Valence (read, say, the KKK) which is the whole town except himself. Tom has his negro valet while he helps all the cute immigrants in town still being aloof from the Southwest town’s sizable but segregated Mexican population.
The scripters assigned the odd name of Liberty Valence to Lee Marvin. Liberty is a positive virtue while Valence means strong- strong for freedom. There is little positive about Valence. He is in fact a psychopathic killer who terrorized the town of law seeking innocent sodbusters. He actually becomes insane when he extends his whip handle just beating the tar out of his victims. Valence is employed by the evil cattlemen (read, say, The South) above the Picket Wire (a river). Why the cattlemen have sent Valence to the town isn’t clear.
As the representative of the Old South and also any stray anti-Semitic clans who may happen to be about, Valence is especially offended by the peaceable but effeminate Rance Stoddard, who at one point actually wears an apron, the man who is bringing THE LAW West of the Pecos or at least below the Picket Wire. Apparently the ranchers don’t need no law above the Picket Wire. Valence harasses and bullies Stoddard who is usually protected by the omnipotent Tom Doniphon but comes a time when Stoddard realizes he has to fight. After all a man’s a man for all that. Don’t know what for though, either his honor or life or maybe to move the plot along. Liberty is goading Rance into a gunfight that will be plain murder, as quite frankly, Rance don’t know how to handle a gun and Liberty does, oh boy.
As the gunfight is filmed from behind Rance it appears that he actually guns Liberty down freeing all the victims of his menace. (The Law vs. The Outlaw; The Liberal vs. The Bigot, The Semite vs. the anti-Semite.) Thus Rance brings the law to Shinbone, that’s the ridiculous name of the town. You can see why Liberty terrorized it.
Later we will see the same gun battle rotated ninety degrees to the right. Ol’ Tom isn’t going to let Liberty gun down Rance, and also he doesn’t want Rance to be guilty of bloodshedding so he takes the guilt on hisself as he knowed he would. He and his faithful Negro sidekick cum African gunbearer Pompey (This may be the reason Cassius Clay changed from his ‘slave’ name to Mohammed Ali, another slave name) are standing in an alley opposite Liberty’s left side. Tom is in the middle of the side street, Pompey bearing the gun, stands against the side of the building. With breathtaing precision just before Liberty shoots, Tom, in that awe inspiring quitet uncontradictable authority of his says like the Great White Hunter of Africa: Gun, Pompey. The ever faithful Negro flips the rifle across to Tom who snatches it from mid-air with is right hand, puts it to his shoulder and snaps off a head shot through the temple that killed Liberty Valence. (Evil disappears from the town.)
In order to kill Valence Tom had to shoot him in the left side of his head yet none of the dumbheads of the town wonders how Stoddard accomplished this miraculous feat.
At any rate Rance is known as the man who shot Liberty Valence. The old peace loving legalist is carrying his burden of blood guilt pretty well until he is nominated to be the new Congressman from the Picket Wire/Shinbone district (There’s a joke in there somewhere isn’t there?) and from whence he can put those damnable evil, bigoted ranchers in their place. But damn it, he’s got blood on his hands; how can he serve the people in Washington since he is impure? This mght have ruined a very promising and lucrative career and perhaps a good movie but Tom takes this moment to tell Rance the True story of the man who shot Liberty Valence. Rance had to be told this.
‘Hot diggity-dog!’ Exclaims Rance trampling over Tom in his hurry to be the next and first representative for Picket Wire. There may have been gold in them thar hills but it was as nothing compared to the gold to be found in Washington D.C.
Like a good myth the movie can viewed on several different levels. At face value the story is the story. It doesn’t take much to view the film as a satire while on another level as a black comedy, or a wry commentary on the difference between the way things appear and the way they really are.
But on the allegorical level in which I am viewing the story it allegorized the Judeo-Liberal vision of America. Tom/ Rance represents their vision of themselves while Liberty is ther vision of bigots/anti-Semites. I don’t know about the writers but John Ford was certainly able to see it that way.
As a religious metaphor the movie expresses the Judeo-Liberal vision of itself. That vision can only be realized if science can be disposed of because science, the truth, is the greatest anti-Semite of all. As Poe realized Science disposes of the idea of God. Without god there is no Judaism or Liberalism. One or the other has to go.
As I have said technological applications of science weren’t actually a threat but Evolutionists like Gall, Darwin and Dalton were. Gall was the man who first enunciated a theory that the different areas of the brain controlled different actions or responses. In Steven Pinker’s terms he discovered the brain was more than a meatloaf.
Darwin proposed the idea of evolution while Francis Galton proposed the idea of Eugenics. As I said before, revealed Religion arrives complete and entire being a product of the imagination no different than Tarzan Of The Apes. Science has to be built up step by step. Gall, Darwin and Galton took the first developmental steps and while true in their limited way were easy to attack.
Gall’s exploiters developed the theory of Phrenology which is of course unsupportable so If anyone has heard of Gall he is immediately discredited for Phrenology, something he didn’t do.
Going into the Second Decade Darwin and Galton had great credibility, if being in minority positions, although Eugenics was very well received by every shade of the political spectrum from far left to far right. Richard Slotkin bases his attempts to discredit Edgar Rice Burroughs and all non-Coalition writers over Evolution and Eugenics.
Edgar Rice Burroughs is usually considered a fantasy writer. One could hardly consider the writer of the Mars, Venus, Pellucidar and Tarzan series anything else. Fantay writers are not usually taken very seriously being relegated to the non-literary end of of the fiction spectrum. So then, one asks, why does a Myerian Judeo-Liberal like Richard Slotkin devote so much effort to prove that Edgar Rice Burrughs was ultimately responsible for the My Lai Massacre?
The simple answer is that Burroughs is one of the most influential mind forming writers of fiction, worldwide, of the Twentieth Century…and counting. There have been serious efforts to designate Burroughs as a bigot and an anti-Semitist. The editions of the copies you read have actually been bowlderized. Slotkin’s Gunslinger Nation is a serious attempt to pathologize Burroughs.
Gunslinger Nation Is the third volume of a trilogy on violence in America, a never ending tiresome concern of the Coalition. Slotkin is more at home in the nineteenth century of the two first volumes than he is in the twentieth century of this volume. He should have suspended his pen after the second volume.
He not only has a shallow appreciation of his theme but he admits it. The remaining 400+ pages succeeding those on Burroughs are based, I suspect, on one time viewings of several hundred Western movies. At least he says he’s seen them. His analysis of categories within the genre and individual films leaves much to be desired.
He admits that he read no, or very few, Western novels from 1900-1975 because the field is so vast no one could be expected to do it.
His nineteenth century material, if skewed in interpretation, is admirably presented. By rotating the images 180 degrees one can obtain a fairly accurate picture of his subjects. His presentation on Buffalo Bill and his Wild West was really quite good. His views on Fenimore Cooper and the Dime Novelists were attractive if prejudiced.
By the time he gets to Burroughs of whom he has cursorily read a dozen novels or so he is both uncomprehending and imcomprehensible. He has made no effort to understand the man yet he comes to preposterous conclusions. As Burroughs was of the Scientific Consciousness which gives the lie to the Religious Consciousness Slotkin attacks on the scientific level.
He attacks through Gall, Darwin and Galton. The Liberal Coalition using its religious mentality is able to condemn in others what it applauds in itself.
The mentality is quite capable of including Burroughs, Henry Ford and Adolf Hitler in one breath as though all three men were on the same level. What they call crimes in others they call virtues in themselves.
Thus, during the French Revolution a factory was organized in Paris to make footwear from the skins of murdered aristocrats. The fact has been suppressed while the story of the lampshades made from the skins of enemies of the Fascist State is held as inhuman.
The great hero of the Revolution, Victor Hugo, writing in his novel 1793 during the 1860s about the massacres in the Vendee quite bluntly states that those people were in the way of the realization of the Utopian Communist State and had to be removed. What was fact in 1793 was true in the 1860 mind of Victor Hugo, exercised by the Communists after 1917 and by extension is still applicable today. Yet all other exterminations are evil in the Coalition mind. Their own religion justifies their actions as justified sinners.
During the second and third decades Galton’s ideas on Eugenics had become the vogue. The use of Eugenics by Hitler and the Nazis is used to discredit the concept and yet Reds of all hues including H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw were enthusiastic Eugenicists.
Joseph Stalin, the greatest Red who ever lived, rather amusingly embraced Eugenics. (see: http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/print.cfm?id=2434192005 )
In the 1920s before Hitler, Stalin ordered his scientists to breed a new super warrior. “I want a new invincible human being, insensible to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat.”
You can see where this leading I’m sure. Apparently Stalin had been reading Burrughs’ Beasts Of Tarzan because he ordered the scientists to cross a human and an ape to create his New Order warrior. Imagine a couple divisions of these shaggy haired ape men trudging through the snow behind a line of tanks with a AK 47 in one hand and a frozen banana in the other.
At any rate Slotkin wishes to link Burroughs up with these ideas that Liberals themselves promoted. As the second decade wore on a number of writers dealt with these emerging problems of the age. The two most prominent American bete noirs of the Judeo-Liberals are Madison Grant and his Passing Of The Great Race of 1916 and Lothrop Stoddard and his The Rising Tide Of Color of 1920. As these men are scientists they were labeled ‘bigots’ which is to say heretics or anti-Semites by the Liberal Coalition.
It is not impossible that Burroughs may have read these books but there is no indication he did so so that there is no confirmed connection between he and Grant and Stoddard. As I read Slotkin he believes that Burroughs is complicit with both Madison Grant and Stoddard. Further there is no doubt Slotkin believes all three men are bad with evil intent. As the Scienfific findings of these men contradict the religious tenets of the Myersian Liberal Coalition I suppose Slotkin can do no other. How he manges to lump Burroughs in as an evil malicious bigot seems a stretcher.
In the first place although the findings of Grant and Stoddard are offensive to Slotkin and the Liberal Coalition they nevertheless show the honest unbiased scientific results of the research of honest scholars who are no less decent and honorable than any of the Liberal Coalition. Grant’s work is an essay into proto-genetics for which subsequent learning shows no fault. Stoddard’s work is an excellent faultless political analysis which has been borne out by subequent developments.
While the Liberal Coalition has chosen to pathologize and demonize all three of these writers their opinion should just be waved aside, disregarded as irrelevant. Their opinions should be marginalized. Grant and Stoddard are good and honorable men.
When I first read Slotkin’s analysis of Burroughs I was outraged and then baffled. I rejected the criticism but as Slotkin obvously believes this stuff although he poorly documents it his notions were filed in the bck of my brain while I began to search for his reasons.
From a scientific point of view Slotkin has no basis for his claims but when one lays the Judeo-Red-Liberal matrix over the science all becomes clear. This is a conflict betwen Arien Age religion and twentieth century science.
If one looks closely at Burroughs one will find he has embraced science and rejected religion thus immediately becoming classified as a bigot/anti-Semite in their eyes.
While Burroughs was from the North he is not in full sympathy with abolitionist and Liberal ideals. he appears to reject the harshness of their attitude toward Southern Whites. As in Marcia, John Hancock Chase from Baltimore living in New York City seems to be an attempt to reunify the country according to the ideas of Thomas Dixon, Jr. and his Reconstruction novels and D.W. Griffith’s movie The Birth Of A Nation. To merely be sympathetic to Southern Whites is to deny the victimhood of the Negroes which arouses the animosity of Liberals. Burroughs has thus identified himself as a ‘bigot, heretic, anti-Semite’. He is plainly the enemy of the Liberal Coalition.
And, then, while Burroughs didn’t join organizations like the A.P.A.- American Protective Association- still, like his fellow writers Jack London and Zane Grey he regretted the passingof Anglo-Saxon dominated America. He hated to see the Old Stock in decline. Thus in the Myersian sense he becomes pathologized as a ‘bigot.’ From the Liberal point of view Burroughs is clearly guilty and should be banned from literature. Put on the Liberal Index. However one has to accept the Liberal point of view to think so.
He rejects all religion but as to whether he specifically singles out Catholics, Jews or any other sect I don’t believe that there is a shred of evidence.
One can’t read with his contemporaries eyes so perhaps what isn’t so clear now leaped out of the page then. Burroughs ruminations on Eugenics, especially in the pages of Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar, may then have been more obvious to them than to us. But at the same time his opinions wouldn’t have been offensive to them. As the Liberals accepted Eugenics then as readily as anyone else it would seem that the present emphasis on Burroughs’ fascination with the subject arises primarily from the Liberal rejection of their own past although it is still possible that what contemporary Liberals accepted in themselves they rejected in others as they do today.
While I originally rejected the notion that there was any reason to suspect Burroughs of being an ‘anti-Semite’ I think that if one is looking for indications from the Coalition point of view one can find them. As I point out in Part IV the American Jewish Committee contacted him in 1919 while there are passages in Marcia Of The Doorstep that the Coalition could construe as anti-Semitism and for which Burroughs was possibly punished.
Finally Burroughs as a follower of Teddy Roosevelt rather than Woodrow Wilson might have been suspect. The period after the Great War when it became evident that a very large percentage of the immigrants did not really consider themselves American’s caused TR to remark that America had become merely an international boarding house. Quite true but who would have thought anything else was possible? Today the term ‘international boarding house’ might be interpreted as Diversity or multi-culturalism. TR was head of his times.
The period ending in 1919 also represented the changing of the guard. Buffalo Bill died in 1917 taking hs mythic Wild West with him to the grave. He also represented the end of the first America. The Anglo-Saxons who had won the West. Of course the winners of the West were not nearly so Ango-Saxon as represented but in general it was true. There are almost no non-Anglo-Saxon names in the novels of Zane Grey other than Mexican.
Also in 1919 TR himself passed away just as he was scheduled to be the Republican Presidential candidate for 1910. His loss was keenly felt by Burroughs and his friend Herb Weston. I doubt TR could have adapted to the new problems America was facing even as well as Warren G. Harding did. How TR might have interpreted the challenge to American Democracy of the Liberal Coalition isn’t too obvious.
In 1066 and succeeding centuries the Norman Conquerors enslaved the Anglo-Saxons of East Anglia which was an affront deeply resented. Take a lesson.
In the sixteenth century when the printed Old Testament became universally available the East Anglians identified with the enslaved Hebrews of Exodus. They elected themselves a Chosen People and developed the compensatory Utopian attitude of inherent virtue as the Chosen People Of God.
In the seventeenth century New England was settled by emigrants from East Anglia. Not just English but East Anglians. Virginia was settle by descendents of the Norman conquerors of 1066. The Virginians once again chose slavery as the method of labor. First indentured White people then Africans.
While Utopian ideals developed in New England the abolitionist movement began which resulted in the Civil War-War Between The States. War between regions or actually a war between ideologies. There was no chance the South was going to discontinue slavery anythime soon no matter what anyone says.
In revenge for 1066 the Cavaliers (Whites) of the South were absolutely crushed giving up all rights by surrendering unconditionally.
The nascent Liberal Party of Puritans elevated the Africans over the Cavaliers thus establishing their protectorship over the ‘victims’ which is characteristic of the faith while establishing their power over dissident Whites. Thus the Liberals ultimately aligned themselves with all colored revolutionary movements in the world against White European conquerors.
Within the United States they viewed immigrants as ‘victims’ of the Old Stock pathologizing the Old Stock as ‘bigots’ no better than the Cavaliers of the Old South or the Europeans. All opponents of of their Liberal religious ideology which included the intellectual mindset of Science thus became wrong headed vile ‘bigots’ who had no right to live. After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 the utopian Communist ideology became their politics; call it Socialism it comes out the same.
As Edgar Rice Burrough was not a Liberal, not a Communist and not Religious but Scientific he unwittingly placed himself in opposition to the Liberal Coalition. On that basis a serious attempt was made to abort his career while subsequently an attempt to erase his name and work from history is being conducted.
Thus the twenties ushered in a new changed era fraught with new adjustments which were misunderstood or not understood at all.
Burroughs career after 1920 has to be seen in the light of this concealed antagonism that he had to counter without being clear as to its causes.
Thus the contrast between The Mucker and Marcia Of The Doorstep can be seen as a response to two different challenges united by Burroughs personal psychological development.
Go To Part IV:of The Mucker And Marcia Of The Doorstep
The Low Brow And The High Brow
An In Depth Study Of Edgar Rice Burroughs’
The Mucker And Marcia Of The Doortstep
Background Of The Second Decade- Personal
Erwin Porges’ ground breaking biography Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Invented Tarzan is the basic source for the course of ERB’s life. John Taliaferro’s Tarzan Forever is heavily indebted to Porges adding little new. Robert Fenton’s excellent The Big Swinger is a brilliant extrapolation of Burroughs’ life taken from the evidence of the Tarzan series.
Porges, the first to pore though the unorganized Tarzana archives, is limited by the inadequacies of his method and his deference for his subject. His is an ideal Burroughs rather than a flesh and blood one. Matt Cohen’s Brother Men: The Correspondene Of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Herbert T. Weston has provided much fresh material concerning ERB’s character.
Bearing in mind always that Weston’s evaluation of Burroughs in his August 1934 letter in reply to Charles Rosenberg, whoever he was, about ERB’s divorce is one man’s opinion nevertheless his statements can be corroborated by ERB’s behavior over this decade as well as throughout his life. My intent is not to diminish ERB in any way. Nothing can take away the fact that Burroughs created Tarezan, but like anyone else he was subjected to glacial pressures that distorted and metamorphosed his character.
During the Second Decade as he experienced a realization of who he was, or who he had always thought he should be, or in other words as he evolved back from a pauper to a prince, he was subjected to excruciatingly difficult changes.
A key to his character in this period is his relationship to his marriage. It seems clear that he probably would never have married, stringing Emma along until she entered spinsterhood while never marrying her. He seemingly married her to keep her away from Frank Martin. As he later said of Tarzan, the ape man should never have married.
Rosenberg in his letter to Weston (p.234, Brother Men) said that ‘…Ed says he has always wanted to get rid of Emma….’ The evidence seems to indicate this. After ERB lost Emma’s confidence in Idaho, gambling away the couple’s only financial resources, his marriage must have become extremely abhorrent to him. I’m sure that after the humiliations of Salt Lake City this marriage had ended for him in his mind. That it was his own fault changes nothing. He may simply have transferred his self-loathing to Emma.
That Emma loved and stood by Burroughs is evident. that he was unable to regain her confidence is clear from his writing. The final Tarzan novels of the decade in one of which, Tarzan The Untamed, Burroughs burns Jane into a charred mess identifiable only by her jewelry show a developing breach. Probably the jewelry was that which ERB hocked as the first decade of the century turned. Now, this is a fairly violent reaction.
ERB states that he walked out on Emma several times over the years. In Fenton’s extrapolation of Burroughs’ life from his Tarzan novels this period was undoubtedly one of those times. There seems to have been a reconciliation attempt between Tarzan and Jane between Tarzan The Untamed and Tarzan The Terrible. Then between Tarzan And The Golden Lion and Tarzan And The Ant Men ERB’s attempt to regain Emma’s confidence seems to have failed as Jane chooses the clown Tarzan- Esteban Miranda-, one of my favorite characters- over the heroic Tarzan -ERB – in Tarzan And The Ant Men.
This undoubtedly began ERB’s search for a Flapper wife which took form in the person of Florence Gilbert beginning in 1927.
Weston says of ERB in his disappointment and rage over ERB’s divorce of Emma that ‘…the fact that Ed always has been unusual, erratic and perhaps queer, has been his great charm and attraction for me…’ (p.223, Brother Men) There’s a remote possibility that ‘queer’ may mean homosexual but I suppose he means ‘odd’ or imcomprehensible in his actions. The evidence for this aspect of ERB’s character is overwhelming while being well evidenced by his strange, spectacular and wonderful antics during the second decade. When Weston says of him that ‘…there is no woman on earth that would have lived with him, and put up with him, except Emma…’ there is plenty of reason to accept Weston’s opinion.
Part of ERB’s glacial overburden came from his father, George T. who died on February 13, 1913. Burroughs always professed great love for his father, celebrating his birthday every year of his life, although one wonders why.
Apparently George T. broadcast to the world that he thought ERB was ‘no good.’ His opinion could have been no secret to Burroughs. Weston who says that he always maintained cordial relations with George T., still thought him a difficult man, always dropping in to visit him on trips through Chicago said that George T. complained to him, ERB’s best friend, that his son was no good. While without disagreeing with George T. up to that point, Weston said that he thought there was plenty of good in ERB but that he just hadn’t shown it yet. Kind of a back handed compliment, reminds me of Clarence Darrow’s defense of Big Bill Haywood: Yeah, he did it, but who wouldn’t?’
Such an opinion held by one’s father is sure to have a scarring effect on one’s character. How exactly the effect of this scarring worked itself out during this decade isn’t clear to me. Perhaps Burroughs’ mid year flight to California shortly after his father’s death was ERB’s attempt to escape his father’s influence. Perhaps his 1916 flight was the same while his move to California in 1919 was the culmination of his distancing himself from his father. That is mere conjecture at this point.
Now, what appears erratic from outside follows an inner logic in the subject’s mind unifying his actions. What’s important to the subject is not what obsevers think should be important.
The scholars of the Burroughs Bulletin, ERBzine and ERBList have also added much with additional niggardly releases of material by Danton Burroughs at the Tarzana archives. One of the more valuable additions to our knowledge has been Bill Hillman’s monumental compilation of the books in ERB’s library.
Let’s take a look at the library. It was important to ERB; a key to his identity. Books do furnish a mind, as has been said, so in that light in examining his library we examine the furnishing of his mind. The shelves formed an important backdrop to his office with his desk squarely in front of the shelves. ERB is seated proudly at the desk with his books behind him.
How much of the library survived and how much was lost isn’t known at this time. Hillman lists over a thousand titles. Not that many, really. The library seems to be a working library. There are no the long rows of matching sets by standard authors. The evidence is that Burroughs actually read each and every one of these books. They found their way into the pages of his books in one fictionalized form or another. Oddly authors who we know influenced him greatly like London, Wells, Haggard and Doyle are not represented.
Most of the works of these authors were released before 1911 when Burroughs was short of the ready. Unless those books were lost he never filled in his favorites of those years. That strikes me as a little odd.
It is generally assumed that he picked up his Martian information from Lowell, yet in Skelton Men Of Jupiter he says: ‘…I believed with Flammarion that Mars was habitable and inhabited; then a newer and more reputable school of scientists convinced me it was neither….’ The statement shows that Camille Flammarion’s nineteenth century book was the basis for Burroughs’ vision of Mars while Lowell was not. Further having committed himself to Flammarion’s vision he was compelled to stick to it after he had been convinced otherwise. When that understanding was obtained by him we don’t know but at sometime he realized that the early Martian stories were based on a false premiss.
Thus, his Mars became a true fiction when his restless, searching mind was compelled by judicious reasoning of new material to alter his opinion. That he could change his mind so late in life is an important fact. It means that behind his fantasy was a knowledge of solid current fact. The results of his pen came from a superior mind. It was not the maundering of an illiterate but amusing boob.
Organizing the books of his library into a coherent pattern is difficult. I haven’t and I Imagine few if any have read all his list. Based on my preliminary examination certain patterns can be found. He appeared to follow the Chicago novel by whomever, Edna Ferber’s So Big is a case in point. Seemingly unrelated titles can be grouped aorund certain Burroughs’ titles as infuences.
In 1924 when Marcia Of The Doorstep was written ERB had already formed his intention of leaving, or getting rid, of Emma. He began a fascination with Flappers that would result in his liaison with Florence.
After the move to Hollywood in 1919 a number of sex and Flapper potboilers find their way into his library. The tenor of literature changed greatly after the War showing a sexual explicitness that was not there prior to the Big Event. To be sure the graphic descriptions of the sex act current in contemporary literature was not permissible but the yearning to do so was certainly there. Language was retrained but ‘damn’ began to replace ‘d–n’ and a daring goddamn became less a rarity.
Perhaps the vanguard of the change came in 1919 when an event of great literary and cultural import took place. Bernarr Macfadden whose health and fitness regimes had very likely influenced Burroughs during the first couple decades decided to publish a magazine called “True Story.” The magazine was the forerunner of the Romance pulp genre while certainly being in the van of what would become the Romance genre of current literature.
The advance was definitely low brow, not to say vulgar, indicating the direction of subsequent societal development including the lifting of pornographic censorship. Pornography followed from “True Store” as night follows day.
The magazine coincided with the emergence of the Flapper as the feminine ideal of the twenties. In literature this was abetted by the emergence in literary fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald. His Beautiful And Damned is a key volume in Burroughs’ library forming an essential part of Marcia. To my taste Fitzgerald is little more than a high quality pulp writer like Burroughs. I can’t see the fuss about him. He riminds me of Charles Jackson’s The Lost Weekend and vice versa. In fact, I think Jackson mined the Beautiful And Damned. Plagiarize would be too strong a word.
“True Story” caught on like a flash. By 1923 the magazine was selling 300,000 copies an issue; by 1926, 2,000,000. Low brow was on the way in. Vulgarity wouldn’t be too strong a word. Macfadden had added titles such as “True Romances” and “Dream World” to his stable. His magazine sales pushed him far ahead of the previous leader, Hearst Publications, and other publishers. Pulpdom had arrived in a big way.
Where Macfadden rushed in others were sure to follow. The sex thriller, the stories of willful and wayward women, which weren’t possible before, became a staple of the twenties in both books and movies.
ERB’s own The Girl From Hollywood published in magazine form in 1922, book form in 1923, might be considered his attempt at entering the genre. Perhaps if he had thrown in a few Flapper references and changed the appearance and character of his female leads he mgiht have created a seamless transition from the nineteenth century to the twenties. A few Flapper terms might have boomed his ales much as when Carl Perkins subsititued ‘Go, cat, go’ for go, man, go’ in his Blue Suede Shoes and made sonversts of all us fifties types.
Certainly ERB’s library shows a decided interest in the genre from 1920 to 1930. Whether the interest was purely professional, an attempt to keep up with times, or personal in the sense of his unhappiness in his marriage may be open to question. I would have to reread his production of these years with the New Woman in mind to seek a balance.
Still, during the period that led up to his affair with Forence ERB seems to have been an avid reader of Flapper and New Woman novels.
He had a number of novels by Elinor Glyn who was the model of the early sex romance. He had a copy of E.M. Hull’s The Sheik, that shortly became the movie starring Rudolph Valentine with its passionate sex scenes. A ‘Sheik’ became the male synonym for Elinor Glyn’s ‘It’ girl.
Of course, the influence of Warner Fabian’s Flaming youth of 1923, both book and movie, on ERB is quite obvious.
Just prior to this relationship with Florence he read a number of novels by Beatrice Burton with such sexy titles as The Flapper wife-The Story Of A Jazz Bride, Footloose, Her Man, Love Bound and Easy published from 1925 to 1930.
I would like to concentrate on Burton’s novels for a couple reasons; not least because of the number of her novels in ERB’s library but that when Burroughs sought publication for his low brow Tarzan in 1913-14 he was coldly rebuffed even after the success of his newspaper serializations. The disdain of the entire publishing industry was undoubtedly because Burroughs was the pioneer of a new form of literature. In its way the publication of Tarzan was the prototype on which Macfadden could base “True Story.” Not that he might not have done it anyway but the trail was already trampled down for him. In 1914 Burroughs violated all the canons of ‘polite’ or high brow literature.
A.L. Burt accepted Tarzan Of The Apes for mass market publication reluctantly and only after guarantees for indemnification against loss. Now at the time of Beatrice Burton’s low brow Romance genre novels, which were previously serialized in newspapers, Grosset and Dunlap sought out Burton’s stories publishing them in cheap editions without having been first published as full priced books much like Gold Seal in the fifties would publish paperback ‘originals’ which had never been in hard cover. Writers like Burton benefited from the pioneering efforts of Burroughs. G& D wasn’t going to be left behind again. Apparently by the mid-twenties profits were more important than cultural correctness.
As ERB had several Burton volumes in his library it might not hurt to give a thumbnail of who she was. needless to say I had never read or even heard of her before getting interested in Burroughs and his Flapper fixation. One must also believe that Elinor Glyn volumes in ERB’s library dating as early as 1902 were purchased in the twenites as I can’t believe ERB was reading this soft sort of thing as a young man. Turns out that our Man’s acumen was as usual sharp. Not that Burton’s novels are literary masterpieces but she has a following amongst those interested in the Romance genre. The novels have a crude literary vigor which are extremely focused and to the point. This is no frills story telling. The woman could pop them out at the rate or two or three a year too.
Her books are apparently sought after; fine firsts with dust jackets go for a hundred dollars or more. While that isn’t particularly high it is more than the casual reader wants to pay. Might be a good investment though. The copies I bought ran from fifteen to twenty dollars, which is high for what is usually filed in the nostalgia section. Love Bound was forty dollars. I bought the last but it was more than I wanted to pay just for research purposes.
There is little biographical information about Burton available. I have been able to piece together that she was born in 1894. No death date has been recorded as of postings to the internet so she must have been alive at the last posting which woud have made her a hundred at least.
She is also known as Beatrice Burton Morgan. She was an actress who signed a contract with David Belasco in 1909 which would have made her fifteen or sixteen. Her stage name may have been Beatrice Morgan. The New York Public Library has several contracts c. 1919 in her papers.
One conjectures that her stage and film career was going nowhere. In The Flapper Wife she disparages Ziegfeld as Ginfeld the producer of the famous follies.
Casting about for alternatives in the arts she very likely noticed the opening in sex novels created by Macfadden and the Roaring Twenties. The Flapper Wife seems to have been her first novel in 1925. The book may possibly have been in response to Warner Fabian/Samuel Hopkins Adams’ Flaming Youth.
As the motto for his book he had “those who know, don’t tell, those who tell, don’t know.’ The motto refers to the true state of mind of women. Burton seems to have taken up the challenge- knows all and tells all. Flapper Wife was an immediate popular success when taken from the newspapers by G&D. Critics don’t sign checks so while their opinion is noted it is irrelevant.
Burton apparently hit it big as the movies came afer her, Flapper Wife was made into a movie in 1925 entitled His Jazz Bride. Burton now had a place in Hollywood. Burroughs undoubtedly also saw the movie. What success Burton’s later life held awaits further research. As there is no record of her death on the internet it is safe to assume that when her copyrights were renewed in the fifties it was by herself.
There are a number of titles in the library having to do with the Flapper. The library, then gives a sense of direction to ERB’s mental changes. There are, of course, the Indian and Western volumes that prepared his way for novels in those genres. As always his off the top of his head style is backed by sound scholarship.
The uses of the various travel volumes, African and Southeast Asian titles are self-evident. I have already reviewed certain titles as they applied to Burroughs’ work; this essay involves more titles and I hope to relate other titles in the future. So the library can be a guide to Burroughs’ inner changes as he develops and matures over the years.
The amont of material available to interpret ERB’s life has expanded greatly since Porges’ groundbreaking biography. Much more work remains to be done.
The second decade is especially important for ERB’s mental changes as his first couple dozen stories were written beginnng in 1911. Moreso than most writers, and perhaps more obviously Burroughs work was autobiographical in method. As he put it in 1931′s Tarzan, The Invincible, he ‘highly fictionalized’ his details. For instance, the Great War exercised him greatly. From 1914 to the end of the War five published novels incorporate war details into the narrative: Mad King II, Beyond Thirty, Land That Time Forgot, Tarzan The Untamed, and Tarzan The Terrible as well as unpublished works like The Little Door. Yet I don’t think the extent that the War troubled him is recognized. The man was a serious political writer.
Thus between the known facts and his stories a fairly coherent life of Burroughs can be written. My essays here on the ERBzine can be arranged in chronological order to give a rough idea of what my finished biography will be like.
Burroughs was a complex man with a couple fixed ideas. One was his desire to be a successful businessman. This fixed obsession almost ruined him. He was essentially a self-obsessed artist and as such had no business skills although he squandered untold amounts of time and energy which might better have been applied to his art than in attempts to be a business success.
In many ways he was trying to justify his failure to be a business success by the time he was thirty rather than making the change to his new status as an artist.
As a successful artist he was presented with challenges that had nothing to do with his former life. These were all new challenges for which he had no experience to guide him while he was too impetuous to nsit down and thnk them out properly. Not all that many in his situation do. Between magazine sales, book publishing and the movies he really should have had a business manager as an intermdiary. Perhaps Emma might have been able to function in that capacity much as H.G. Well’s wife jane did for him. At any rate book and movie negotiations diverted time and energy from his true purpose of writing.
His attempt to single handedly run a five hundred plus acre farm and ranch while writing after leaving Chicago ended in a dismal failure. Even his later investments in an airplane engine and airport ended in a complete disaster. Thank god he didn’t get caught up in stock speculations of the twenties. As a businessman he was doomed to failure; he never became successful. It if hadn’t been for the movie adaptations of Tarzan he would have died flat broke.
Still his need was such that he apparently thought of his writing as a business even going so far as to rent office space and, at least in 1918, according to a letter to Weston, keeping hours from 9:00 to 5:30. Strikes me as strange. Damned if I would.
At the end of the decade he informed Weston that he intended to move to Los Angeles, abandon writing and, if he was serious, go into the commercial raising of swine. The incredulousness of Weston’s reply as he answered ERB’s questions on hog feed comes through the correspondence.
Think about it. Can one take such flakiness on ERB’s part seriously? Did he really think his income as a novice pig raiser would equal his success as a writer with an intellectual property like Tarzan? Weston certainly took him seriously and I think we must also. There was the element of the airhead about him.
A second major problem was his attitude toward his marriage and his relationship with Emma.
He appears to have been dissatisfied with both at the beginning and decade and ready to leave both at the end. According to the key letter of Weston ERB was an extremely difficult husbnad with whom Emma had to be patient. As Weston put it, no other woman would have put up with his antics. Unfortunately he doesn’t give details of those antics but the indications are that Emma was a long suffering wife.
ERB’s resentment of her apparently became an abiding hatred. Danton Burroughs released information about ERB’s third great romance with a woman named Dorothy Dahlberg during the war years of WWII through Robert Barrett the BB staff writer in issue #64.
After having been estranged from her husband for about a decade Emma died on 11-05-44, probably of a broken heart. ERB returned to Los Angeles from Hawaii to dispose of her effects. Arriving on 11/19/44 after visiting his daughter he met with Ralph Rothmund in Tarzana where he proceeded to get soused, apparently in celebration of Emma’s death.
To quote Barrett, p. 25, Burroughs Bulletin #64.
After Ed met with Ralph Rothmund, he opened a case of Scotch and took out a bottle after which he drove to Emma’s home in Bel-Air- where he and Jack “sampled” the Scotch a couple times.” From Bel-Air Jack drove Ed to the Oldknows, some friends also in Bel-Air, where they continued to sample the Scotch. After this visit Ed and Jack returned to Emma’s home at 10452 Bellagio Road, where Jack brought out a nearly full bottle of bourbon. Jack asked the maids to postpone dinner for 30 minutes, while they waited for Joan and Joan II. This evidently irritated the two maids as they both quit and walked out on them! Ed reported in his diary that after the two maids walked out, ‘we had a lovely dinner and a grand time.”
That sort of strikes me as dancing on the grave of Emma which indicates a deep hatred for her on the part of ERB. We are all familiar with the storyof ERB’s pouring the liquor in the swimming pool humiliating Emma in front of guests which she stood so Weston must have known what he was talking about.
There is a certain hypocrisy in Burroughs now getting blotto in celebration of Emma’s death. Between the two of them in the space of a couple hours ERB and his son, John Coleman, finished a fifth of Scotch and went ripping through a bottle of bourbon. I don’t know how rough and tough you are but that would put me under the pool table.
In this inebriated and hostile state they apparently had words with what I assume to have been Emma’s long time maids. Maids don’t walk out because you ask them to hold dinner for a few minutes. Being a maid is a job; they don’t respond that way to reasonable requests. So in his drunken state ERB must have been offensive about Emma or the maids causing their reaction.
Thus sitting totally soused in the ‘alcoholic’ Emma’s home they ‘had a lovely dinner and a grand time.’ The woman was both good to him and good for him but it isn’t incumbent on any man to see his best interests. There was a crtain dignity lacking in ERB’s behavior at this good woman’s death, not to mention the hypocrisy of getting thoroughly jazzed.
The decade also witnesses the unfolding of ERB’s psyche from the repressed state of 1910 to an expanded and partially liberated state at the end of the decade when he fled Chicago. Pyschologically ERB was always a dependent personality. He let his editors both magazine and book bully him and take advantage of his good will. He also needed a strong role model which is one reason his literary role models are so obvious.
From 1911 to 1916 he seemed to lean on Jack London as his role model. The problem with London is that we can’t be sure which of his books ERB read as he had none of his books in his library. It seems certain that he read London’s early Gold Rush books. ERB’s hobo information is probably based on London’s The Road and then he may possibly have read The Abyssmal Brute which is concerned with the results of the Jack Johnson-Jim Jeffries fight and a preliminary to The Valley Of The Moon.
It is difficult to understand how Burroughs could have read much during this decade what with his writing schedule and hectic life style. Yet we know for a fact that between 1913-15 he found time to read Edward Gibbon’s massive The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire.
At the same time additions to his library from this decade are rather sparse, the bulk of the library seems to have been purchased from 1920 on. Still, if one assumes that he read all the books of London including 1913′s Valley Of The Moon, then it is possible that his cross=country drive of 1916 may have been partially inspired by Billy and Saxon Roberts’ walking tour of Northern California and Southern Oregon in that book as well as on ERB’s hobo fixation. Certainly London must have been his main influence along with H.H. Knibbs and Robert W. Service. He may have wished to emulate London by owning a large ranch.
I suspect he meant to call on London in Sonoma during his 1916 stay in California but London died in the fall of that year which prevented the possible meeting. With the loss of London Burroughs had to find another role model which he did in Booth Tarkington. He does have a large number of Tarkington’s novels in his library, most of which were purchased in this decade. Tarkington was also closely associated with Harry Leon Wilson who also influenced ERB with a couple two or three novels in his library, not least of which is Wison’s Hollywood novel, Merton Of The Movies. Just as a point of interest Harry Leon Wilson was also a friend of Jack London.
ERB’s writing in the last years of the decade seems to be heavily influenced by Tarkington as in Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid, The Efficiency Expert and The Girl From Hollywood.
Burroughs was an avid reader and exceptionally well informed with a penetrating mind so that his ‘highly fictionalized’ writing which seems so casual and off hand is actually accurate beneath his fantastic use of his material. While he used speculations of Camille Flammarion and possibly Lowell on the nature of Mars he was so mentally agile that when better information appeared which made his previous speculations untenable he had no difficulty in adjusting to the new reality. Not everyone can do that.
I have already mentioned his attention to the ongoing friction between the US and Japan that appeared in the Samurai of Byrne’s Pacific island. In this connection Abner Perry of the Pellucidar series is probably named after Commodore Matthew Perry who opened Japan in 1853. After all Abner Perry does build the fleet that opened the Lural Az. Admiral Peary who reached the North Pole about this time is another possible influence. The identical pronunciation of both names would have serendipitous for Burroughs.
As no man writes in a vacuum, the political and social developments of his time had a profound influence on both himself and his writing.
The effects of unlimited and unrestricted immigration which had been decried by a small but vocal minority for some time came to fruition in the Second Decade as the Great War showed how fragile the assumed Americanization and loyalty of the immigrants was. The restriction of immigration from 1920 to 1924 must have been gratifying to Burroughs.
I have already indicated the profound reaction that Burroughs, London and White America in general had to the success of the Black Jack Johnson in the pursuit of the heavyweight crown. The clouded restoration of the crown through Jess Willard did little to alleviate the gloom. Combined with the sinking of the Ttitanic and the course of the suicidal Great War White confidence was irrevocably shaken.
Burroughs shared with London the apprehension that the old stock was losiing its place of preeminence to the immigrants. This fear woud find its place in Burroughs writing where he could from time to time make a nasty comment. His characterization of the Irish is consistently negative while his dislike of the Germans first conceived when he saw them as a young man marching through the streets of Chicago under the Red flag was intense. Their participation in the Haymarket Riot combined with the horrendous reports of German atrocities during the War reinforced his dislike almost to the point of fanaticism. While the post-war German reaction in his writing was too belated he had been given cause for misinterpretation.
Always politically conservative he was a devoted admirer of Teddy Roosevelt while equally detesting Woodrow Wilson who was President eight of the ten years of the Second Decade. When the Bolsheviks took over Russia in 1917 polarizing public opinion into the Right and Left ERB was definitely on the Right.
By the end of the decade the world he had known from 1875 to 1920 had completely disappeared buried by a world of scientific and technological advances as well and social and political changes that would have been unimaginable in his earlier life. The changes in sexual attitudes caused by among others Krafft-Ebbing, Havelock Ellis and Margaret Sanger would have been astounding.
The horse had been displaced by the auto. Planes were overhead. The movies already ruled over the stage, vaudeville and burlesque. Cities had displaced the country. The Jazz Age which was the antithesis of the manners and customs of 1875-1920 realized the new sexual mores so that the Flapper and Red Hot Mama displaced the demure Gibson Girl as the model of the New Woman.
When ERB moved from Chicago to LA in 1919 he, like Alice, virtually stepped through the looking glass into a world he never made and never imagined. A Stranger In A Strange Land not different in many ways from the Mars of his imagination.
Go to Part III- Background Of The Second Decade Social And Political
September 6, 2008
The Low Brow And The High Brow
And In Depth Study Of The Edgar Rice Burroughs Novels
The Mucker And Marcia Of The Doorstep
By the time Burroughs took up his pen to write at the age of 36 he had a lifetime of frustration and humiliation behind him. Born into an affluent family, their means had petered out by the time young Burroughs reached manhood. Thus he who had been born a prince had become a pauper. ERB felt this keenly. His problem became how to regain his position, his exalted destiny.
The most direct and possible approach was to become an officer in the Army. Burroughs closed that avenue early in life by botching his relationship with Colonel Rogers and Charles King of the Michigan Military Academ.
He began a promising career at Sears, Roebuck but he found success there would be of a very anonymous sort as the member of the team. Fearing to disappear into mercantile obscurity he aborted that career abruptly quitting his job with no prospects.
In what may have been one of the most important decisions of his career he joined up with a patent medicine manufacturer named Dr. Stace. This phase of his career has not been properly investigated. Reasoning from inferences in the Corpus it seems reasonable that he and Stace ran afoul of the law.
A Pure Food And Drug Act had been passed in 1906 which temporarily at any rate made the sale of patent medicines illegal. A few years later the Supreme Court would once again legitimize their sale provided the contents were properly labeled. For the time being there was a problem with the law. Erwin Porges’ Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Invented Tarzan briefly discusses the relationship in this manner. p. 105:
Stace, whom Ed found very likable, had grown ashamed of the patent medicine business and was casting about for a more reputable type of livelihood. His qualms may have been reinforced by the dubious attitude of the United States Government: “Alcola cured alcoholism all right, but the Federal Pure Food And Drug people tooke the position that there were worse things than alcoholism and forbade the sale of Alcola.”
The portion in quotes is presumabley from Burroughs although Porges fails to properly identify it if so.
Since the Pure Food And Drug people acted against Dr. Stace it is only fair to assume the police were involved and depending on how far Dr. Stace fought it, probably a Grand Jury. It is probable then that Burroughs’ seeming intimate knowledge of police methods and Grand Juries was learned at this time.
As Stace’s office manager it is possible that ERB bought into the company and was therefore more intimately involved. Certainly he did not sever his relationship with Dr. Stace as a result of these legal actions, but instead formed a corporation or partnership with him immediately after to sell courses in salesmanship. Hardly more respectable than patent medicines.
As one usually found advertisements for such courses in the back of pulp magazines one can conjecture the status of the enterprise and also its chances of success. The company bearing the name Burroughs-Stace did fail quickly. Notice that Burroughs name came before that of Stace.
Now, Alcola being an illegal product it could not have done ERB’s reputation much good to be associated with it. Continuing his relationship with Dr. Stace in another questionable business would only confirm ERB’s rputation for operating on the legal borderline. In later years Burroughs, while not denying that he had been associated with Stace, claimed to have never seen those people since the time thus attempting to dissociate himself from them.
Thus ERB’s prospects loomed shakily. As these events occurred in 1909-10 he was facing a lifetime of marginal jobs leading ever downward or taking the million to one chance of becoming a successful author. Not too long after terminating his relationship with Dr. Stace he took up his pen. Fate began to blow a strong wind into his sails, so to speak.
However, if I am correct, he was now looked at askance by ‘polite’ society.
His first writing efforts were a success. So successful that he could get anything he wrote into print. this began to bear fruit in 1913, two years after he began writing, when he could throw over his day job and become a self-supporting writer.
Thus he was able to realize his ambition to regain his status of a prince after an interim of nearly thirty years.
He still had to explain himself to himself and Emma as well as to Chicago in general. Much of his output of 1913 would attempt to do just that; especially the first of the two works under consideration here: The Mucker.
The psychological baggage Burroughs brings to his writing to exorcise is considerable. When H.G. Wells portrayed ERB as insane in Mr Blettsworthy Of Rampole Island there was an element of truth while the case was overstated. ERB was apparently able to disappear into himself whiie he was writing thus living an alternate reality which is what Wells was talking about.
The ability to do so is probably why Burroughs’ writing has such immediacy, why his improbabiities are so believable. One wonders what would have become of his mind if he hadn’t become a successful writer. Perhaps the pseudonym he adopted for his first book, Normal Bean, was more to convince himself than others. Bean as slang for head or mind. Certainly his reaction to his success appears to border on the irrational.
His psychological compression was so great that he nearly went off the rails in 1913 in his first blush of success. It is impossible that he wasn’t being observed by others. It is impossible that others didn’t consider him a phenom. The Mars Trilogy and Tarzan were such strange creations for the times that he had to be viewed with wonder. While one can never be sure when he is being referred to in the fiction of other writers it seems to me that there are resonances of Burroughs in such writers as John Dos Passos and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
If he had designed his actions to get talked about he couldn’t have come up with anything more spectacular than his trip to California mid-1913 after a successful half year. For the full year he would earn over ten thousand dollars. This sum in 1913 was reaching the lower limits of super affluence. You couldn’t add much to your comfort with more than ten a year, the rest was conspicuous consumption. It all depends on which multiplier you use but the one I use brings the income out in today’s dollars as between three and five hundred thousand dollars.
Sudden affluence after years of scrabbling for a living can do strange things to your mind. ERB’s was rocked to its foundations. He went crazy in his rush to spend his money. A clothes horse like his wife Emma came into her own. In his rush to spend ERB spent his income before it was earned. He was literally broke between checks from his publishers.
Then in mid-1913 an event occurred which might have triggered his flight from Chicago to California. The Black boxer, Jack Johnson was conceded his title in 1910 when he defeated the White favorite, Jim Jeffries. He had actually won the title in 1908 when he defeated then champion Tommy Burns. Whites were reluctant to acknowledge his claim to the title until he had fought Jeffries who the Whites thought was the ‘real’ champion because he had retired undefeated.
Having disappointed White hopes by defeating Jeffries, Johnson was then set up on a morals charge and convicted in what amounted to a kangaroo court. About to lose his appeal Johnson skipped the country in July of ’13 rather than go to jail as an innocent man.
The Affair Jack Johnson had had a tremendous effect on Burroughs who was an ardent boxing fan. Thus his novel The Mucker deals extensively with the Johnson Affair. I believe that since his assocition with Dr. Stace Burroughs was considered quasi-legit at best and hence in the same boat with a Johnson.
When Johnson split it seemed to cause an equal reaction in Burroughs. Johnson went East to Europe while ERB went West to California. In july of ’13 ERB began work on his realistic Chicago novel The Girl From Farris’s. This work was undoubtedly intended to explain his actions between 1899 and 1911. Once he got started he immediately ran into writer’s block being unable to continue the novel. Before he could continue he had to work out several issues. Thus he did what was for him a very unusual thing. He began the book in July of ’13 only finishing it in March of ’14. In between he wrote five other novels in his usual rapid fashion. the were, in order The Mucker, The Mad King Pt. 1, The Eternal Lover Ptl 1, Beasts Of Tarzan and The Lad And The Lion. The entire set of six stories then are all closely related and should properly be understood only as aspects of the same novel- The Girl From Faris’s.
We are going to consider only the first of the inner five, The Mucker, here. Thus the trip to California begins to work out the redemption or Salvation of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The whole set might be titled: Edgar Rice Burrougs In Search Of Himself.
One must not underestimate the influence of the two or possibly three central events in Burroughs’ life; his confrontatin with John The Bully in 1884-85, the 1899 trip to New york with the Martins and his dramatic relationship with Dr. Stace. One cannot devalue his relationship with his father or Charles King, nor the very influential visit to Idaho where he came under the influence of Lew Sweetser, but his first three seem to dominate his life and work.
A major consequence of his confrontation with John The Bully is that it declassed him. ERB’s Animus became part prince, part pauper; part outlaw, part orthodox as demonstrated in The Outlaw Of Torn. The trip in the private rail car showed him how far down the economic scale he was and how far he had to climb. Although he won the hand of Emma from Martin I think it very likely that when he and Emma returned from Idaho Martin renewed his attentions to Emma. He undoubtedly drove one of the big new automobiles with which the impoverished ERB could not compete. About all he could do if he thought Emma’s affection were wobbling was to get her pregnant. In 1908 and 1909 the couple had two children in rapid succession although they could afford them no more than in their first eight years of marriage.
Thus ten years after had taken Emma to Idaho, for reasons that are unclear to us, he took her to California. Always the wastrel he made the trip in the most expensive way possible. The family went first class.
As Porges quotes him ERB says: “I had decided I was too rich to spend my winters in Chicago so I packed my family, all my furniture, my second hand automobile and bought transportation to Los Angeles.
This was not the most rational move for a man who had written an “Ode To Poverty” not too long before. He had no assurance of being able to write or sell stories, without the sale of which he would be stranded, broke twenty-five hundred miles from his home. Of course he still had all his furniture. There was no one who could help him financially. It is interesting to speculate on what sort of job he would have applied for.
Why would a man do this? ERB had apparently bought his used car, a Velie, at the beginning of 1913 when for all practical acounts he was still broke. Why the urgent need to hop a train? I think the reason can be traced back to Frank Martin. The humiliation of the trip East in a private railcar in 1899 and the subsequent stay in the Bowery while the Martins lived on Riverside Drive had to be compensated. While ERB couldn’t afford a new car he rushed out to buy a used one which was apparently as much as he thought he could afford at the time. On the other hand as his characters always say of themselves: For me. to think is to act. if the Martins among other ‘plutocrats’ wintered in Florida then as ERB could still not compete with them financially he went West.
Arriving in LA he and family drove the second hand Velie down to San Diego with the furniture apparently entrained for the same destination.
During this period ERB’s behavior is absolutely zany. Unable to stay put in LA he moved to Coronado which is a sand spit on the west side of San Diego Bay. North Island Naval Air would be built on the North end of it. The Carriers used to be docked on the ocean side as their draft was too great for the Bay. Disliking Coronado he moved back across the bay to the first low ridge of hills that separates the city proper from the Bay. He apparently was near the crest as he said he could look over it to the East. When I was in the Navy in San Diego I thought this small ridge only a couple miles in length had the most deligthful climate on Earth. I still think it does. So, in 1913-14 before 101 became a major noisy highway at the base of the hill ERB was living in as close to paradise as anyone in this world can ever get.
It was here he explored his psychological problems.
Burroughs because of his encounter with John The Bully, had been rendered susceptible to ‘low brow’ influences. His subsequent life with its constant moving from school to school, from Illinois to Idaho, to Connecticut, to Michigan, to Arizona and back to Illinois had not put into contact with too many ‘high brow’ influences.
In constrast, his wife Emma Hulbert, had been trained to high brow avocations from childhood. I’m sure that one of the objections of her parents to ERB was that he was so detestably low brow. Emma, afer all, had been trained to the opera which is the epitome of high brow. Emma often referred to ERB as a low brow during their marriage which can be somewhat trying. If one contrasts The Mucker with Marcia Of The Doorstep it will become immediately apparent that the former is low brow and the latter is intended to be high brow. So the dominating theme of The Mucker is between the low brow Billy Byrne and the high brow Barbara Harding. The problem as it surfaces when the two come into contact is how Barbara is to turn the low brow mucker into a high brow or at least into a low brow with good speech and mannerisms. This may have been a daily conflict between ERB and Emma in real life.
The first question is how far ERB identifies with Billy Byrne. It is my contention that Billy is an alter ego conditioned by ERB’s confrontation with John The Bully.
I have explained elsewhere that terror may be used to introduce a hypnotic suggestion. Terror opens the mind to suggestion. In ERB’s case when he was in terror of John he accepted the suggestion that because John was terrorizing him he was an admirable person to be emulated. Of course this went against the teaching of his family so that ERB now divided his Animus nearly equally between his father/family and John. Even though his family training commanded his first allegiance, John declassed him so that he mentally assumed the traits of this hoodlum Irish boy. In a sense ERB split his personality.
As would be expected the assumption of John’s characteristics caused a personality conflict which it was necessary to resolve. One must assume that by 1913′s Mucker ERB was aware of his peronality conflict and began the attempt to write it out.
For those new to the term a mucker was one who wallowed in the muck of society, a low class person with very little or no redeeming social value. Thus Burroughs is dealing very harshly with both himself and Byrne/John.
It may be assumed beyond doubt that John was first generation immigrant. As he was twelve when he confronted ERB in 1884-85 he must have been born in 1872. He may actually have been born in Ireland or was at least the son of immigrants hence his Irish prejudices against the English would be very strong while the Irish at the time were considered on a social and racial par with the Negro or perhaps even below. Combining these social disadvantages he was raised in Chicago’s great West Side which ERB with undisguised horror describes.
He also very carefully indicates that Byrne was not an inherently bad person but was strictly a product of his environment. He could have been anything raised in a different social setting. Nurture over nature. An interesting liberal opinion in an age when heredity was accredited to a criminal type. By explaining Byrne as a product of his environment Burroughs was also justifying himself. Indeed, how could he have learned the social graces to which he was entitled by birth having been brought up viewing the underbelly of society. Probably ERB did not become acquainted with the social graces or high brow point of view until he married Emma.
If his social education began with his marriage to Emma then Byrne’s begins when he and Barbara Harding are brought into close contact on ‘Manhattan Island’ in the river of their Pacific island locale where they ‘play house.’ Thus there is more than sufficient evidence to indicate that Byrne and Burroughs are similar. Both names even begin with a B.
As he is part of Burroughs’ psyche ERB has to exonerate Byrne as well as rehabilitate him into someone at least that Burroughs can respect. This is the burden of the book.
After a youthful life in which Byrne makes the best of a bad situation, during which he became competent to survive and dominate in a difficult environment, Byrne takes a step up by becoming involved in boxing. Thus he goes from a no brow to a low brow. Already a fearsome street brawler Byrne becomes a formidable scientific boxer as well. He is good enough to be a sparring partner with the Big Smoke himself. This must have been before July 1913 but no earlier than say 1911.
Sometime in 1912 or early 1913 Byrne is falsely accused of murder by one Sheehan who Byrne had defeated in a fight when they were twelve. Billy had earlier saved a policeman’s life who was being savagely beaten by a rival gang on Byrne’s turf. The policeman now returns the favor by advising Byrne to get out of town which advice Billy take seriously not unlike Jack Johnson. Thus Johnson goes East, Byrne goes West at exactly the same time. Coincidence?
Billy bobs up in San Francisco about the same time that ERB shows up in the sunny Southland. They both reach California at the same time. Another coincidence?
Unfortunately for Billy he gets shanghaied by the guy he intends to roll. He is taken aboard the Half Moon. The ship on which Henry Hudson explored New York’s Hudson River was named the Half Moon so there is a little joke here as Barbara and Byrne reside on a Manhattan Island in their Pacific location.
Being shanghaied wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to Byrne for while he is aboard he is forced to learn discipline- putting a little organization into his chaotic mind. The Half Moon might also stand for the MMA in ERB’s memory. He was more or less shanghaied into attendance when his father made him return after he had run away from the school. Then, under the tutelage of Charles King who he respected he learned the rudiments of self-discipline.
Even though Byrne is a sort of wildman Burroughs shows the greatest respect for him.
Byrne’s next civilizing lesson comes when the Half Moon pretending distress captures the Harding yacht aboard which Byrne is transferred.
The yacht named the Lotus, perhaps after Tennyson’s poem ‘The Lotus Eaters.’ The Lotus Eaters sat around all day in idle forgetfulness which was a pretty good description of the Harding party and another joke. Burroughs had a copy of Tennyson’s poems in his library so the association is probable, besides which as Burroughs had a strong grounding in Greek mythology he would have been familiar with the Lotus Eaters from his Homer.
Burroughs, who had never been to sea, knew nothing of the ocean. His source for sea matters most probably was Jack London. ERB was a great admirer of London but as he had nothing in his library one can only guess at what he had read. There’s pretty good evidence for The Call Of The Wild and The Sea Wolf. He may have picked up his South Seas lore from London’s Son Of The Son (The Adventures of Captain David Grief in my edition). The last book was published in 1911 but Burroughs probably had read it. As he would project the making of Melville’s Typee into a movie in the ’30s it is possible that he was already familiar with that book and Melville’s other South Sea romance, Omoo at least as early as 1913.
Both myself and other researchers are pretty liberal about ERB’s reading list but as I have cautioned before the bulk of his reading for these early stories had to be done between 1900 and 1911 when he was a very busy man with troubles in mind not to mention excruciating headaches. Along with newspapers and magazines he surely couldn’t have read more than two or three hundred books if that many. He may have read a number of sea stories in various magazines at any rate, but his sea lore is second hand, unreliable and unknowledeable.
He has the Lotus tending Southwest toward the Philippines having begun in Hawaii. The Philippines is a large archipelago blending into the massive archipelago just South of it, the Lotus should have been in Equatorial waters where the trade winds blow. Most of your monster storms are further North or South. I was in the Navy making one tour from California in the East to China in the West, South to Australia and North to Japan. I had the terrifying experience of passing through a typhoon off Japan which if it wasn’t the storm of the millenium I can’t imagine a greater. Quite seriously, we all thought we were going to die. My only thought was that the water was going to be awfully cold when I hit it.
I do not jest when I say the waves were seventy-five feet high, you’re right, why not make them a hundred, maybe they were a hundred, two would be stretching it. I was standing on the bridge twenty-five feet above the water line looking straight up at the crest of the waves when we were in the trough. OK. A hundred twenty-five then. We were so far down in the trough there was no wind, nor did the waves break over us, they just slid under the ship raising us to the crests and then we slid down the other side. I kid you not.
Then, as we came down from the crest, way up there, at the bottom of the trough the ship slammed into a current bringing it to a complete halt left and right and fore and aft. These troughs were not rows of waves and troughs, no no, but huge bowls perhaps a mile or more long. Our ship was three hundred six feet long so there we were a speck, an atom, a proton sitting quietly in the midst of this huge bowl waiting for the swatter of fate to fall.
I had been thrown across the deck from port to starboard when we slammed into the current. I scrambled to my feet, noticed that the starboard watch, Engelhardt, was on the way over the side for a tete a tete with Davy Jones. I knew that Jones didn’t have the time for an ordinary Seaman like Engelhardt or me so I grabbed his belt and pulled him back aboard, then ran over to port to wait to die.
Now that was a storm. I don’t know how we rode it out, I thought the end had come, was past. So, why did I tell that? Because ERB’s storms are ludicrous and in the wrong place. A cloud appears, the next thing you know a few indeterminate big waves show up and the ship sinks but the lifeboats survive. All this in equatorial waters. Well, if you’ve never been in it, it might sound alright.
It doesn’t matter because those sudden squalls in ERB’s stories represent his confrontation with John The Bully. Within the twinkling of an eye ERB’s whole direction of life changed.
His had been for the worse but Byrne’s was for the better. This then reflected the change in Burroughs’ own fortunes.
Byrne and the crew are thrown up on an unidentified island somewhere in the South seas but a fairly large one. In those years one could believe that there were islands yet to be discovered. This one has a river big enough to allow for a largish island in the middle. It is here that Byrne will get his introduction to the finer side of life. However not before some very exciting and exotic adventures showing Burroughs at his best.
Apart from Jules Verne, who might also be an influence on this book through his The Mysterious Island that had a tremendous influence on Burroughs though the book was not in his library. ERB seems to be familiar with a number of French authors. He had The Mysteries Of Paris by the incredible Eugene Sue in his Library, while it is fairly obvious he had been suitably impressed by Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. The sewer scene in his next book, The Mad King, is indicative of that while Theriere in this book may be a variation on Thenardier. He was also familiar with Dumas’ The Three Musketeers as there are several references to that one including the sequel to The Mucker, Out There Somewhere, when he indicates an intent to create his own three Musketeers in Byrne, Bridge and Burke.
As indicated in my Only A Hobo, ERB was probably immersed in US-Japanese relations that were fairly hot at this time as well as remembering the Japanese exhibit at the Columbian Expo of 1893. He gets his facts right too.
In this case the island is populated by an indigenous population that has been blended with a group of Samurai warriors from Japan. Burroughs correctly indicates that the Samurai had come to the island just before Japan was closed to the world in the early seventeenth century. From about 1620 to about 1860- Perry opened Japan in 1853- no one had been allowed to enter or leave Japan so ERB has been doing his homework. Over the three hundred years a degenerate society of militant Samurai had combined with the indigenes to create a culture of savages. An interesting anthropological notion not too unlike The Lord Of The Flies that has been a literary staple for the last sixty years.
Byrne and Theriere engage in a terrific conflict to rescue Barbara Harding from the Samurai during which Theriere is killed and Byrne seriously wounded. Barbara Harding nurses him back to health in an idyllic glen by a babbling brook.
At this point Byrne is reunited with his Anima ideal. Barbara is going to rehabilitate this guy. He has made some few steps toward his own redemption but the following is the quality Barabara had to work with as described by ERB p. 17:
…Billy was mucker, a hoodlum, a gangster, a thug, a tough. When he fought he would have brought a flush of shame to the face of His Satanic Majesty. He had hit oftener from behind than before. He had always taken every advantage of his size and weight and numbers that he could call to his assistance. He was an insulter of girls and women. He was a bar-room brawler, and a saloon corner loafer. He was all that was dirty, and mean, and contemptible and cowardly in the eyes of a brave man, and yet, notwithstanding all this Billy Byrne was no coward. He was what he was because of training (conditioning) and environment. He knew no other methods, no other code.
As Burroughs says, up to this time Byrne had been an insulter of women, abusive to the whole female sex, probably including his mother. It is only now that his eyes begin to open to what Jack London would call the wonder of woman. How far Byrne reflects ERB’s general attitude toward women isn’t clear although by the end of his life his misogyny was becoming pronounced. He was certainly no ladies man prior to is marriage to Emma. I am not certain he would have married if it hadn’t been for the competition with Martin. The suddenness of his marriage after the Toronto incident indicates a Martin influence or else he was bonkers after the blow. When he later said Tarzan should never have married he was undoubtedly talking about himself. He certainly never placed Emma first, being always ready to accept an army commission, fight in Central America, seek a commission in the Chinese army or become a war correspondent all of which would have left Emma and the kids at home.
At the same time Barbara who had detested Byrne becomes softened to him preparing her to love him once they moved downstream to Manhattan Island. This may be some romanticized version of ERB’s relationship with Emma after Toronto although she seems to have been fixed on Burroughs from childhood. At any rate the relationship comes to fruition downstream where the high brow Barbara attempts so raise the brow level of Byrne.
If one takes high brow, low brow seriously being thought of as a low brow, that is inferior, can be annoying. Since Burroughs has chosen in his first novel within the cocoon of Girl From Faris‘s to write around the theme of a low brow hero I think it fair to believe it irritated him to be thought of as a low brow; especially so as in most instances he was much better educated than those who so named him. Chief among these was his wife Emma. Whereas she had been trained ot operatic arias ERB played the hillbilly tune Are You From Dixie? over and over again on his phonograph. Hillbilly music really irritates the operatic type. There must have been constant conflict in the household.
Emma especially looked down on boxing as low brow. ERB was an ardent boxing fan, while here he chooses a low brow boxer as hero. ERB could have some startling opinions on what was high brow. He thought auto races were high brow. I don’t know what the crowds were like back then but I’ve been to the stock car races where I found high brows conspicuous only by their absence.
But, to the Mucker. Moving downsteam after his recovery on this rather large river coming closer to the estuary they hit an island. Being bounded as it were by a Hudson on one side and East River on the other they named the island Manhattan. There’s a nice Expo twist and joke here as in Chicago on the Wooded Island one came upon a Japanese settlement in the middle of the city; here on a Samurai Island in the Pacific one comes upon a Manhattan Island of Americans. Kind of cute reversal, don’t you think?
As Billy has to know some details about Manhattan to keep the story moving, Burroughs rather lamely invents a couple trips Billy had made to New York with the Goose Island Kid. As the boxing scene Burroughs describes, with the exception of the Big Smoke is entirely Irish one might note the origin of the name of The Goose Island Kid. Goose Island was an area in the Chicago River inhabited by the poorest of the Irish, so the Kid comes from the bottom of the social scale even below Byrne’s origins. One should contrast this with Burroughs prized English ancestry.
Burroughs is writing from experience either psychological or real. Thus one asks when was ERB in New York to acquire his knowledge of the city. Well, let’s see: He had an extended stay in 1899. That was the trip when he got bashed in Toronto. Then he had a short stay at the the invitation of Munsey. Most of what he knew must have come from the 1899 trip.
On their desert Manhattan Island Barbara, who up to this time had been repelled by Byrne makes an attempt at deconditioning Byrne from a Mucker and reconditioning him as an upper class New Yorker. the conditioning consists of ridding him of the horrific characteristics attributed to him by ERB while teaching him to speak in an educated manner. As there was no tableware she couldn’t teach him which fork to use.
Possibly this scene may reflect on the first couple years of Burroughs’ married life. Remember that ERB hadn’t been much around polite society from the years of twelve to twenty-five during which he was conditioned to his low brow attitudes. Emma had been brought up in a high brow environment so that she may have felt the need to isntruct her new husband in some of the finer points of good manners.
When Frank Martin (see my Four Crucial Years) asked ERB to go to New York with him in 1899 he did so with a heart full of malice. He was competeing with Burroughs for Emma Hulbert’s favors and, as is commonly believed, he felt all’s fair in love and war.
The evidence points to the fact that he intended to have ERB murdered in Toronto to clear his path to the woman. Along the way he must have done his best to humiliate his rival- the mucker Ed Burroughs.
ERB was moving in much faster company than he was used to. While coming from a once affluent family his people had fallen on hard times. ERB’s income was little more than sixty dollars a month while Frank Martin the son of a millionaire could blow that much on dinner every night of the week.
Riding in Martin’s father’s private railcar one imagines that ERB’s suit compared to the fabulous duds of Martin was laughable. The contrasts between their two stations must have been even more laughable and very satisfying to Martin. Martin would have considered himself a high brow to Burroughs’ low brow.
Once in New York Martin’s hospitality didn’t extend to living quarters. ERB gives no indication of how much money he took along or where he got it. I should be surprised if he had so much as two hundred dollars, certainly no more. However much he had there was no way he could have kept up with the Martins.
His address while in New York was down on the Bowery while the Martin’s was in a better part of town, perhaps Riverside Drive. Danton Burroughs has a picture of the three of them- Burroughs, Martin and Martin’s other companion, R.H. Patchin, on Coney Island. One hopes Danton will release the photo to ERBzine along with any other information he may have. Coney Island would be good low brow entertainment to offer Burroughs, something he could afford.
A possible account of how Burroughs felt during his dependency on Martin can be found in one of the volumes in ERB’s library: The House Of Mirth by Edith Wharton. The reading of it must have brought pangs of recognition to ERB.
In The Mucker Billy Byrne speaks of Riverside Drive and the Bowery in this way:
“Number one, Riverside Drive,” said the Mucker with a grin, when the work was completed: “an’ now I’ll go down on the river front and build the Bowery.”
“Oh, are you from New York?” asked the girl.
“Not on your life,” replied Billy Byrne. “I’m from good old Chi but I been to Noo York twict with the Goose Island Kid, so I knows all about it. De roughnecks belong on de Bowery, so dat’s what we’ll call my dump down by de river. You’re a high brow, so youse gotta live on Riverside Drive, see?’ and the mucker laughed at his little pleasantry.
In 1913 the only real experience Burroughs had with New York was the 1899 trip so that one can guess that when the Martin party detrained Burroughs as a ‘roughneck’ went to the Bowery while Martin and his group went to Riverside Drive or its equivalent. Surely Burroughs realized he had been duped at this point and felt it keenly. Or, perhaps, he didn’t catch on until much later having thought about it for a while. Referring to the Irish Martin as The Goose Island Kid who took him to New York may be a belated disguised slap in the face. If Martin read the book I’m sure he would have understood.
At this point is the novel Barbara begins Byrne’s deconditioning teaching him the Riverside patois thus giving him true English as a second language to his native Muckerese. Thus Byrne is to some extent rehabilitated as a human being; this follows fairly close that of Jean Val Jean of Les Miserables, however as Billy ruefully learned there is more to reconditioning than language.
At this point Byrne has a dual personality. He is the low brow mucker and a high brow mucker in that he has learned certain mannerisms and he can speak both forms of English.
If the scene on Manhattan Island to some extent reflected the relationship between ERB and Emma then the seeds of his discontent which will result in divorce have already been sown. The parting from Barbara at the end of the story may be the first prefiguration of his divorce.
On the other hand Byrne has been temporarily reunited with his Anima figure somewhat in the manner of Eros and Psyche in Greek mytholotgy which makes him a complete being, his X and Y chromosomes being reconciled. They are soon split apart again as he and Barbara find their separate ways to NYC.
Upon Byrne’s return to NYC Burroughs begins to wrestle with the problem of the displacement of a White heavyweight boxing champ with a Black one. In our age when boxing has become a totally Black sport it is difficult to see the real significance of Jack Johnson’s assumption of the championship for both Whites and Blacks. The success of Johnson also came at a time when in competition with immigrants the Anglo ‘old stock’ was being displaced from a feeling of rightful preeminence in a country it had made.
This displacement by immigrant’s also occured at the time when the ranks of the European conquerors of the world had reached their limitations and the conquered began to roll them back. Thus one has such volumes of the period as Madison Grant’s The Passing Of The Great Race and Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide Of Color. The world was mysteriously changing slipping from beneath the White Man’s feet.
Complementary to the works of Grant and Stoddard, but not influenced by them, was the world of such writers as Zane Grey, Jack London and Burroughs. A common thread in the world of all three is the displacement of the ‘old stock’ by immigrants. London has a telling phrase in his excellent and highly recommended Valley Of The Moon when his character Billy Roberts is told that the ‘old stock’ had been sleeping and that now like Rip Van Winkle they were awakening to a new world that had changed while they slept. This theme would reappear in such works as Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Amerberson’s and Burroughs’ own The Girl From Hollywood of the next decade.
The social conflicts are treated almost identically by all three authors.
Richard Slotkin in his Gunslinger Nation attempts an exhaustive treatment of the problem from the Gustavus Myers’ immigrant/unskilled labor point of view which may be contrasted with that of our three masters. I will discuss this a little later.
Great changes were in progress. To try to characterize them from a single point of view as the Myers’ school does is both foolhardy and pernicious. While the immigrants and unskilled labor have their story it is only their story, a small part of the whole. While one can sympathize with anyone, anywhere, one cannot necessarily accept their point of view as definitve on which point they do insist. My heart goes out to everyone but does not rule my head.
The argument then breaks down broadly between the Liberal Coalition and what name is appropriate for the other side? -the rational? the realistic?, the conservative?. Why not settle for the Conservative with all its limitations. Yes, I am unapologetically conservative. No more limitating actually than calling the irresponsibility of the Coalition liberal. I fail to see the liberality.
The argument devolves into the two factions of the ‘old stock’ with the convervative wing being hopelessly outnumbered when the liberal wing aligned themselves along national and racial lines with the immigrants and Blacks and along poltical and religious lines with the Judaeo-Communists or more conveniently- the Reds. Reds is shorter.
That writers of the bent of Burroughs, London and Grey have survived at all, let alone remained popular, in such an environment is remarkable indeed.
From 1910 to 1919 major events that affected our writers occurred and typified the decline of Euroamerica from its pinnacle of self-satisfaction. The Great War which ran from 1914 to 1918 shattered the image of Euroamerica before the rest of the world Successful resistance not only appeared possible to the defeated peoples but probable. Note the advantage Japan took of the debacle.
A second event almost prefiguring the Great War was the sinking of the great ship RMS Titanic in 1912. Billed as unsinkable it represented the peak of Euroamerican scientific and technological skill. When that Grat Ship went down on its maiden voyage it took a great deal of the West’s confidence down with it. While the West watched in dismay and horror the rest of the world cheered the West’s discomfiture. Unsinkable indeed!
But perhaps the single most disastrous blow to the pride of Euroamericans was when the Black Jack Johnson laid the pride of the Whites, Jim Jeffries, down in the fourteenth on July 4, 1910. The might Casey, Jim Jeffries, had struck out. The much despised Negro, Jack Johnson, walked away wearing the world heavyweight championship belt.
The Whites howled, they rioted but they had shot their best shot and there was no backup. No contender. No hope.
Jack London actually reported the fight. He was there. Ringside. Nor was he charitable toward Jack Johnson. He said things that might better have remained unsaid. We have no indication as to what Burroughs thought at the time. By the time he spoke publicly in The Mucker he had had time to mature his thoughts.
The effect on London was traumatic. In 1911 he published his book The Abyssmal Brute, his first thoughts on the fight. The fight not yet out of his system London expressed himself still further in his 1913 novel The Valley Of The Moon. I’ve said it before. I’m no Jack London fan. I’ve only read him more or less at the insistence of ERBzine’s Bill Hillman. If I had gone to the grave without reading The Call Of The Wild or The Sea Wolf I wouldn’t have considered it a loss. Not the same with Valley Of The Moon. This book along with ERB’s Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid is one of the neglected masterpieces of twentieth century American literature. It alone justifies London’s excellent reputation.
The story is that of two Oakland, California young people, Billy Roberts and his sweetheart Saxon Brown. While lamenting the displacement of the ‘old stock’ by the immigrants London also makes this a boxing story along the same lines as The Mucker.
In fact the stories are quite similar in conception. If one didn’t know that the authors were writing at the same time 2500 miles from each other one would think they may have written on the same theme as a bet. London, too, must have been influenced by the midnight flight of Johnson from Chicago. London makes Roberts an outstanding boxer in the Bay Area. Roberts gives up boxing because of the fate of boxers and because of the low brow fans. Later in the book London says that Roberts sparred with both Jim Jeffries and Jack Johnson.
After a long period of unemployment in an attempt to win a hundred dollar prize to relieve his and Saxon’s poverty he agrees to go back in the ring, the squared circle, as Burroughs always refers to it. The fight with the Chicago Terror is very reminiscent of the Jeffries-Johnson battle. Like Jeffries Roberts hadn’t fought for a long time. Like Jeffries he was out of condition. After retiring in 1905 Jeffries had taken up farming, blossoming out to three hundred pounds. When the call came to redeem the honor of the White species sometime after 1908 Jeffries had to quickly get into condition losing all the extra tonnage.
He had certainly not regained his top form, timing and mental focus when he climbed into the ring to face Johnson. I make no excuses for him but as Jeffries said he saw his openings but his unconditioned reflexes didn’t allow him to take advantage of them. His failure broke the hearts of his followers.
The battle between Roberts and the Chicago Terror, johnson must have been intended, is probably a replay of the 1910 fight as seen by London. Out of condition and rusty Roberts gets mauled from start to finish. In an attempt to salvage special pride London has Roberts at least stay on his feet till the twentieth unlike the fourteenth round fall of Jeffries.
Toward the end of Valley Of The Moon London has Roberts climb nto the ring again, this time against a Big Swede, sort of polar to the Big Smoke. In the second of two bouts Roberts has difficulty putting the Big Swede away until the fourteenth. Also a replay of the Jeffries-Johnson fight with Roberts/Jeffries winning this one, if only in Jack’s dreams.
Thus the anguish of the loss surfaces three years after. Now, that the two events, the Titanic and fight get confused in this shuddering defeat of Euroamerica is interestingly made evident in the song Jack Johnson and the Titanic. In the song Jack Johnson goes down to the steamship line in England to buy passage for his White wife and himself. He is told that no Black Folks are allowed on the Titanic. As some sort of divine punishment for refusing him the Great Ship sinks.
Obviously Jack Johnson couldn’t have been refused as in 1912 he was still in Chicago fighting to stay out of jail. But the two White disasters became mingled in imagination.
While London was wrestling with the Johnson Affair in Valley Of The Moon, Burroughs was doing the same in his Mucker. One wonders what a further seach of popular literature would reveal.
In The Mucker Burroughs has gotten Byrne back in New York City. Broke and with no means of a livelihood the big man-beast turns to the only thing he can do which is boxing. While London, who had witnessed the fight essentially retold it in Valley Of The Moon, Burroughs who didn’t prepares Byrne to redeem the Whites by fighting and defeating the Big Smoke. Burroughs doesn’t mention Johnson by name. He uses Big Smoke, big dinge.
Burroughs immediately places Byrne in the role of the next hope. At the time these Whtie boxers were known only as hopes, the term Great White Hope in the completely derogatory sense evolved later. Like London Burroughs minces no words about Jim Jeffries being his favoirte. Not only does Byrne imitate Jeffries by fighting from a crouch but ‘Professor’ Cassidy his trainer says:
For a few minutes Billy Byrne played with his man, hitting him when and where he would. He fought, crouching, just as Jeffries used to fight, and in his size and strength, was much that reminded Cassidy of the fallen idol that in his heart of hearts he still worshipped.
Winning the fight Byrne went on to meet the #1 contender who he handily defeated. Having evoked the ghost of Jim Jeffries Burroughs brings in his other hero, Gentleman Jim Corbett.
The following morning the sporting sheets hailed “Sailor Byrne” ( tribute to Jack London whose hobo moniker was Sailor Jack) as the greatest white hope of them all. Flashlights of him filled a quarter of a page. There were interviews with him. Interviews of the man he had defeated. Interviews with Cassidy. Interviews with the referee. interviews with everybody, and all were agreed that he was the most likely heavy since Jeffries. Corbett admitted that, while in his prime, he could doubtless have bested the new wonder, he would have found him a tough customer.
Jeffries, Corbett, Byrne, a combination with so much magic in the names couldn’t help but win back the title to salve the wounded pride of the White species.
Cassidy wired a challenge to the Negro’s manager, and received an answer that was most favorable. The terms were, as usual, rather one sided but Cassidy accepted them, and it seemed before noon that the fight was assured.
Assured in dreams, of course, as this is only a novel.
It would be quite easy to pass over this part of the tale without realizing its significance but it shows the pain and suffering, the loss of pride that occurred when the championship went Black. While Burroughs has no difficulty invoking the names of the fallen idol, Jeffries and Corbett, he cannot bring himself to name Johnson referring to him only as The Big Smoke, the big dinge, or the Negro. The White world was in a deal of pain.
One can only guess how Burroughs intended to resolve his dilemma of having the fictional Byrne fight the living Johnson or perhaps the story was only a magic incantation to arouse the true hope. At any event when Byrne next appears in story in 1916′s Out There Somewhere, Jess Willard had already taken the championship back although under dubious circumstances. By 1916 Byrne’s boxing career is forgotten; there is no mention of it in the sequel.
Having solved the problem of the championship Burroughs returns to his Anima problem in the romance with Barbara Harding. Billy remembers she lives in New York City and decides to call on her. But…
…a single lifetime is far too short for a man to cover the distance from Grand Avenue to Riverside Drive…
While the above words were spoken about Billy, Byrne too came to the same conclusion:
But some strange influence had seemed suddenly to come to work upon him. Even in the brief moment of his entrance into the magnificence of Anthony Harding’s home he had felt a strange little stricture in the throat- a choking, a half-suffocating sensation.
The attitude of the servant, the spendor of the furniture, the stateliness of the great hall and the apartments opening upon it- all had whispered to him that he did not “belong.”
So Byrne feeling his inability to fit in walks away in bitter pride forswearing his love for Barbara Harding. Still, he could remember her saying back on that other Manhattan Island:
I love you Billy for what you are.
Thus the epic of the low brow Billy ends as he walks down the street a study of dejection with Barbara’s words ringing through his mind.
The question here is how much the relationship between Byrne and Barbara is a ‘highly fictionalized’ account of ERB’s own relationship with Emma. We can’t know for sure how hurt Burroughs may have been by Emma’s calling him a low brow. Perhaps he longed to hear her say: I love you, Ed, just the way you are.
Certainly the stories enveloped by The Girl From Faris’s all deal with his relationship with Emma as his Anima ideal. The Mad King which follows this story details the problems of the hero getting on the same wave length with the Princess Emma. He even uses his wife’s real name. The following title – The Eternal Lover – speaks for itself, Beasts Of Tarzan features a wild chase with Tarzan trying to find Jane who is lost in the jungle, while the last of the series, The Lad And The Lion, details the troubles of the Lad finding his desert princess. After the Lad he got past his mental block being able to close The Girl From Faris’s.
So if these stories are read consecutively they record the struggle going on in ERB’s mind to reconcile Emma to his Anima ideal and his Anima to his Animus. This is a task for not any but the most dedicated Burroughs scholar but I would interested in learning the opinion of any who might attempt it.
Read only Book One of Mad King and the first part, Nu Of The Neocene, of Eternal Lover in this context.
Ten years later ERB tackled the problem from the high brow point of view in Marcia Of The Doorstep.
Go To Part Two
Background Of The Second Decade- Personal
September 4, 2008
In Pursuit Of Youth
Edgar Rice Burroughs And Samuel Hopkins Adams
A Review Of Warner Fabian’s Flaming Youth
As It Pertained To Edgar Rice Burroughs
Texts And Web References:
Warner Fabian (Samuel Hopkins Adams) Flaming Youth, 1923
ERB Personal Library Shelf: A1, ERB Personal Library: Shelf F! @ ERBzine
F. Gwynplaine McIntyre’s Review of the movie Flaming youth, 2002
R.E. Prindle, Tales Of Space And Time #2&3
As the 1920s dawned ERB was becoming increasingly restless in his marriage. That he wished out and was looking around is evidenced by 1918′s Tarzan The Untamed in which he had Jane murdered and burnt beyond recognition, identifiable only by her jewelry. Late in the novel he has Tarzan eyeing another woman. Perhaps ERB’s constant moving contained a notion of losing Emma.
While societal changes had been stirring for a few decades it seemed that they all matured under cover of the Great War emerging like a phoenix in its aftermath. Most importantly sexual attitudes had changed dramatically. Representative of the changes was the appearance of the flapper. Thought of as a devil-may-care anything goes girl they were enough to excite any man in his mid-life crisis.
In 1920 ERB at forty-five would have been in the midst of his. Life was passing while he was evidently in a marriage he was finding unsatisfactory. Perhaps it had been unsatisfactory since 1902-04 when he had committed the faux pas which shattered his wife’s confidence in him. He was never to regain it during their marriage.
While in this state of mind a book was published followed by its movie which lustfully inflamed his imagination. In 1923 Samuel Hopkins Adams, using the pseudonym Warner Fabian, published his very successful novel, Flaming Youth. While the book doesn’t show up on the best seller lists of either 1923 or 24, from January to June it had gone through nine printings of which my copy is of the ninth, for the year perhaps fifteen or more. Still couldn’t reach the top ten of the charts, must have been a great literary year. Before the year was out the movie had been made and was in the theatres.
ERB both had a copy of the the book in his library and had seen the movie at least once, possible, even probably, several times. If his search for a hot number had been latent before it certainly flamed after. In 1927 he found his flapper ideal in Florence Gilbert Dearholt.
While Flaming Youth was a major success in 1923-24 reading it today makes understanding why difficult. It is not a particularly good book nor really very well written. Adams appears to have dashed it off taking no pains with it. Thus rather than being a literary novel it is more of a pulp romance of the type Bernarr Macfadden was making famous in his pulp magazines like True Romance.
Samuel Hopkins Adams had an interesting career. Four years older than ERB he lived eight years longer. He began his career as a journalist writing several articles in 1906 about the patent medicine business which were instrumental in the passage of the Pure Food And Drug Act of that year. The articles were later issued in book form as The Great American Fraud. Burroughs’ own life would be seriously affected by the Pure Food And Drug Act through his relationship with Dr. Stace. It was perhaps then he learned about the police and Grand Juries of which he wrote so eloquently.
Adams’ own career prospered as he was very proficient in writing for the movies. In Flaming Youth he had a double-barreled hit.
While his title Flaming Youth has entered the vocabulary even as modern youth attempt to ‘flame’ I found the title somewhat misleading and far better than the story.
Perhaps Adams proves the adage of H.L. Mencken who flourished at this time when he said ‘No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.’ Actually the story reminded me a great deal of Grace Metolious’ 1954 novel, Peyton Place. Adams’ book was definitely aimed at the erotic zone of America. In a rather clever framing device worthy of ERB’s best efforts Adams palms Warner Fabian off as a family physician. I’ll quote the frame in its entirety:
A WORD FROM THE WRITER TO THE READER
“Those who know will not tell; those who tell do not know.”
The old saying applies to woman in today’s literature. Women writers when they write of women, evade and conceal and palliate. Ancestral references, sexual loyalties, dissuade the pen.
Men writers when they write of women do so without comprehension. Men understand women only as men choose to have them, with one exception, the family physician. He knows. He see through the body and soul. But he may not tell what he sees. Professional honour binds him. Only through the unaccustomed medium of fiction and out of the vatic incense-cloud of pseudonymity may he speak the truth. Being a physician, I must conceal my identity, and not less securely the identity of those whom I picture.
There is no such suburb as Dorrisdale…and there are a score of Dorrisdales. There is no such family as the Fenrisses…and there are a thousand Fenriss families. For the delineation which I have striven to present, honestly and unreservedly, of the twentieth century woman of the luxury-class I beg only the indulgence permissible to the neophyte’s pen. I have no other apologia to offer.
To the woman of the period thus set forth, restless, seductive, greedy, discontented, craving sensation, unrestrained, a little morbid, more than a little selfish, slack of mind as she is trim of body, neurotic and vigorous, a worshipper of tinsel gods at perfumed altars, fit mate for the hurried, reckless and cynical man of the age, predestined mother of- what manner of being? To her I dedicate this study of herself.
Whether ERB got sucked in by such persiflage is open to question. A writer using such flim-flam himself he certainly should have seen through it. Having been a victim of Samuel Hopkins Adams once when the Pure Food and Drug Act drove he and Stace out of the patent medicine business it is kind of a joke that Adams got him a second time with such drivel under the pseudonym of Dr. Warner Fabian. It is mind-boggling that Adams did it posing as a medical quack.
Adams must have learned something along snake oil lines by investigating the patent medicine business. His ‘Word To The Reader’ is certainly a lesson in promising much and delivering little. It appears to be a conscious atempt too. One must ask if the term Writer in his headline is meant to refer to himself or his alter ego Warner Fabian. I rather think Fabian as a ‘neophyte’ would refer to himself as an author while Adams considered himself a professional writer so that Adams may be speaking in his own persona to the reader when he says ‘Those who know will not tell…’ so that if he does know he won’t tell which alerts the perceptive reader to the fact that what he is about to read is a fraud or a put on; ‘…those who tell do not know.’ or alternatively he doesn’t know so what you are about to read isn’t authentic.
Further along he says that there is one exception to the rule, as why not? there’s always an exception to the rule. That one exception is the family physician. He knows. The only problem with that is that Adams is lying- he is neither the Dr. Warner Fabian he purports to be, while he does admit that Warner Fabian is a pseudonym in any circumstance, nor is he a family physician. This book is a total medical fraud no less than the patent medicine dealers Adams shut down. Adams carries the fraud further using the purple prose he employs throughout the book- ‘…only through the unaccustomed medium of fiction and out of the vatic-incense cloud of pseudonymity may he (the doctor) speak the truth.’
Anybody here know what vatic means? Our old friend Mr. Webster says that it relates to the seer and prophecy. So much for the concept of medical science. I haven’t figure out what the phrase ‘vatic incense-cloud of pseudonymity’ means yet or maybe we weren’t supposed to. If anyone knows let me know. However, it sounds not only good but spectacular. Fabian is only pseudonymous, whatever that means, still he must conceal his identity. A careful reader understands the pseudonymous doctor is not really Warner Fabian so one wonders why he stresses the point so.
Adams does tell you that he is not telling the truth as he frankly admits that there is no Dorrisdale but in the metaphoric sense there are twenty of them. Only twenty in the whole US? Or twenty in the immediate vicinity of wherever. Anyway we are to imagine twenty is an infinitude, something like the stars in a clear cold night sky.
Adams tells us these are very decadent times. He doesn’t compare them to any former times like pre-war Dorrisdales but the times are definitely more decadent than they ever have been before. There is no actual Fentriss family, closer to the truth, but there is an allegorical thousand of Fentriss families in the twenty Dorrisdales. Figure it out, do the math. Twenty goes into a thousand fifty times. There are fifty such families in each of these small Dorrisdales the population of which is what? Two thousand. Fifty families times six members is three hundred. As lessers ape greaters we now have twenty totally decadent Dorrisdales. The whole universe as it were. Since all these families are apparently having nude parties by their swimming pools as in the story so where’s the news? Who is there left to be shocked?
The book went through nine printings in six months so somebody didnt get an invitation to these orgies. I don’t know who. Oh well, not everyone can be in the luxury-class. Proto Jet set. Andy Warhol’s Factory. People need orgies for mental health, don’t they? Or do they?
Let’s just say the vatic incense-cloud must have been the devil weed itself burning which sent Adams off on this flight of fancy that captured the imagination of a nation. Poor old prurient America. Oh Dr. Freud, please turn off the sex spigot.
I found the masterful title a misnomer. The title purports to reveal the antics of modern youth but the only Flaming Youth in the story is Patricia Fentriss- she’s a fast one but not that fast, she doesn’t go all the way. Adams is good at setting things up then not delivering. Robert Heinlein must have sat at his feet. In perhaps the book’s most famous quote on page 13- 13?, Adams dips his pen into his purple ink well to write:
“That’s the measure they dance to, the new generation. Doesn’t it get into your torpid blood, Bob? Don’t you wish you were young again! To be a desperado of twenty? They’re all desperadoes, these kids, all of them with any life in their veins; the girls as well as the boys; maybe even more than the boys. Even Connie with her eyes of the vestal! Ah!”
So who’s Adams writing this tripe for?
The title may be Flaming Youth but the story is about Sputtering Age. This is a May-September romance. Burroughs was forty-eight in 1923 Adams was fifty-two. What yearning for a younger woman occurs in those ages. Anything to stave off the march of time. Both men had been raised essentially in the nineteenth century; they must have been thouroughly aroused by the short-skirted flapper of the post-war era. What lusts did these girls call forth? Sam may as well have been standing next to ERB at the dance asking: ‘Doesn’t it get into your torpid blood, Ed? Don’t you wish you were young again?’
Darn right Ed wished he was young again, but as that wasn’t about to happen the next best thing for an oldtimer to do to revive that torpid blood was to get next to one of those young red hot flappers.
That is what Adams does for himself in Flaming Youth. The book is not so much about Flaming Youth as to return to the flame of youth. Adams acquaints Pat Fentriss with a forty-or-so-year-old ultra sophisticate hyper intelligent man of the world named Cary Scott. Obviously a simulacrum of himself. As Scott carefully explains to Pat, a good looking body may be good enough for ‘the First Dreaming’ but she will soon tire of that and her mind in ‘the Second Dreaming’, this is the family physician who knows the interior working of the female mind talking, will require something more stimulating -like himself.
The story then actually concerns the trials and tribulations of this romance until it comes to a happy fruition in the end.
ERB as he was entering the Second Dreaming reached out for a hot young firebrand which he found a short three years later in 1927.
That was the book. Hardly a great or even a very good novel but successful enough to cement Adams’ reputation.
The movie which was rushed out by year’s end was apparently somewhat different from the book. The movie made the career of Colleen Moore with whom ERB was to have contact a decade later when he wrote the minature book Tarzan, Jr. for her miniature library in her doll house.
In researching the movie the consensus was that no copy of the movie had survived. Then I read that one reel survived. And then I came across a review of the whole movie on www.imdb.com/title/tt00145045/usercomments by F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre, a London based journalist, who seemed to have seen the movie.
I contacted him and he advised me that a print did exist. He advised me by email that: ‘I have viewed a partially deteriorted nitrate print of Flaming Youth in Europe, in the private collection of an individual who does not wish to be publicly identified. The partly deteriorated film includes a few frames of a faded image that appears to be a British exhibition certificate.’
As an example of what ERB saw Mr. MacIntyre describes the action:
“Moore plays Pat Fentriss, the spoilt daughter of well-to-do (luxury class in the book) parents who are the 1920s equivalent of “swingers”. Pat’s parents are always throwing wild parties, with jazz bands and (Illegal) Prohibition booze and orgies. Pat wants to join in on the fun, even though she’s just barely at the age of sexual consent. One young man at the parent’s pool party shows a sexual interest in Pat until he finds out her age, then he curtly tells her: “Baby must go back to her cradle.”
“The high point of the movie is a scene at the pool party which shows the male and female guests undressing together for the nude swimming. The film makers probably wanted to show the guests in full nudity, but didn’t dare, so we get a lot of indirect lighting and camera angles, with everybody dressing in half shadow.”
That part more or less follows the book. The movie apparently doesn’t concentrate on the May -September romance between Cary Scott and Pat. The nudity would have been enough to get one’s torpid blood flowing like Niagara.
According to Mr. MacIntyre in the movie Pat runs away with a fiddler, hopping a yacht for Europe. When the violinist, to be culturally correct, makes his move young Pat leaps overboard to escape his advances. Pretty flaming huh? With rare good fortune a sailor passing by fishes her out of the briny deep.
In the book Pat meets a violin player or ‘artiste’, Leo Stenay. Adams shows his distaste for the Bohemian style by having Pat reject him because she feared he wore dirty socks. As with most writers of the period Adams shows his respect for the Diversity by including and referring to many different typs of the Diversity.
Thus the stimulating part of the movie for a revivifying ERB would have been the nude swimming party. One would think they would have been much easier to find in Hollywood than in the score of Dorrisdales with their fifty families of the luxury-class, but not for Ed, even though he had just written The Girl From Hollwyood dealing with just such licentiousness.
Combining the movie version with Cary Scott of the book ERB became a lonely hunter until he met Florence Gilbert Dearholt, a married woman, at which time he discovered the perils of the Second Dreaming.
One wonders what course his life would have taken if there had been no Samuel Hopkins Adams, no Great American Fraud and no Flaming Youth. It is strange indeed that a man we have no reason to believe he ever met could have had such a profound effect on his life. First with his articles condemning the patent medicine manufacturers which may have introduced ERB to the police and Grand Juries and secondly with Flaming Youth that undoubtedly completed ERB’s dissatisfaction with his marriage.
I wonder if ERB ever gave Samuel Hopkins Adams a second thought.