April 12, 2012
Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Accreted Personality
The Sea In Which He Swam
“I will tell you my history!
And you, excellent agnostic as you are,
‘Shall minister to a mind diseased,
And pluck out the memory of a rooted sorrow!’
What a power of expression there was in Shakespeare,
The uncrowned but actual King of England!
Not the rooted sorrow alone was to be ‘plucked out’;
But the very memory of it.
The apparently simple here holds complex wisdom;
No doubt the poet knew,
Or instinctively guessed
the most terrible fact in the universe…’
“And what is that?”
“The eternal consciousness of Memory,…God cannot forget- and, in consequence of this, His creature, may not!”
Marie Corelli- The Sorrows Of Satan
There can be no mind without memory. While I personally believe that the unborn infant does have inchoate memories obtained in the womb, let us just say that the memory banks begin to fill with birth. With memory comes an ability to analyze, that is compare, memories. As an example when I was lying on my back in my crib looking at the room for a long time (read, a couple months ) and all I saw were incoherent geometrical forms, angles and triangles, circles and whatever one moment as I looked on in amazement these geometric forms cohered into three dimensional objects forming walls and ceilings, While I didn’t know the names for lamps and lampshades, the lamp in the corner became one. And that was by unaided instruction.
Then they stood me on my feet and my education began in earnest. From that point an infant has to memorize vast amounts of information while somehow learning how to manipulate it for use. By the time you get to school they’re cracking your brain with masses of information.
The basis of mind is memory, that is to say the mind is nearly vacant at birth like an unprogrammed computer. The matrix for memorization is there but the content has yet to be loaded. While loading a computer is a matter of minutes filling a mind takes a lifetime with the crucial years being the first twelve. Zeus in the Iliad had a mind of infinite power and it is the duty of every individual to develop the power of his mind to as close an approximation as Zeus according to his ability.
Strangely the psychologists of the period failed to realize this, although the philosopher Carus came close. Freud himself seems to ignore the basic role of memory while some novelists of the last quarter of the century grasped it. George Du Maurier’s wonderful novel, Peter Ibbetson, is a marvelous exposition on the nature of Memory. Marie Corelli’s Sorrows of Satan is likewise built on the nature of memory. In short, without memory we are nothing, without the ability to remember as a child we can amount to nothing, while in old age if we lose our memory we become a vegetable without any purpose. Our existence is really a story of how we accumulated our memories and what we did with them.
There are also kinds of Memory. Experiential memory forms the basis of which much of the content is what the nineteenth century American sociologist Graham Sumner called Folkways. The ways one’s people do and see things that we begin to acquire at birth naturally, or perhaps unconsciously. This memory is supplemented at age five or six with organized education- school. Education is a very hard and painful thing requiring periodic restructuring of the brain when enough knowledge is acquired to demand a change of scale. No wonder fair numbers of people fail this rite of passage. Education gives or should give one a means of interpreting one’s acquired knowledge and experience, hence the importance of reading, writing and arithmetic.
Matters have changed a great deal since the nineteenth century with the development of various forms of media so that the child is bombarded with propaganda that he probably can’t evaluate properly so that the pre-school years have become very dangerous to him. Burroughs didn’t have that problem.
Ed was born into the world in 1875 so that his youth and young manhood was lived in the horse and buggy world shaping his ideas of reality. This would force a severe adaptation to the changes of scale, folkways and technology after 1900. In the sense of H.G. Wells’ novel Men Like Gods the world passed through an interface into a parallel universe where horses and buggies disappeared to be replaced by motor cars and an unparalleled wonder- the airplane. I get ahead of myself. Ed’s mind had assumed its form by 1900 so let’s see, if we can, what he saw, as his memory received its input.
Today we look at his novels of lost world after lost world and sneer at it as an overused literary device. But consider:
To give it a convenient date, the Western consciousness went through a change of scale about 1795. Philip Farmer, the American sci-fi writer picked this date to begin his fictional Wold Newton Universe. The change was the beginning of what might be called speculative fiction. Mary Shelley’s influential book, Frankenstein, would possible be the earliest or very early example.
Oddly enough this very period saw the introduction of the historical novel in the works of the Scotsman, Walter Scott, perhaps the greatest novelist who ever lived. In my book he is. Thus we have a sense of the past and vision of the future emerging as the Western mind set. The historical novel itself is an exercise of racial memory so that along with the change came a realization of the racial self as well as the individual self, an expanded consciousness.
The Western mindset was changed, had been changing, the changes of which took shape during the French Revolution, preceded by the Age of Reason which melded into the scientific outlook.
Hence, when Napoleon, for whatever quixotic reason , invaded Egypt in 1799, he took along a contingent of scientists, who did not exist before that time, to catalog the wonders of that ancient civilization. This was the first of the Lost Empires to be discovered by Europeans only 76 years before Ed was born. And what a Lost Civilization. All had been hidden from Western eyes by the veil of the Moslem occupation of what were traditionally Western lands. But now, the Pyramids, Luxor, the Great Sphinx! The last was celebrated by Shelley’s mind in his great poem Ozymandias nineteen years later:.
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert…Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And whose wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my work , ye Mighty and despair!’
Nothing besides remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
The European mind was astounded, dumbfounded, amazed beyond measure. This was also the time that the Arabian Nights or alternatively The Thousand And One Nights of Scheherazade was placed in the European canon of literature. And the Egyptian hieroglyphs, so inscrutable, concealed the mystery of this amazing ancient people that preceded the Israelites of the Bible. Yet thirty years later Champollion of France decoded the hieroglyphics and revealed their meaning to the amazement of the world.
So vast were the Egyptian treasures of memory that year by year more astounding tombs were opened, hundreds and hundreds of mummies were discovered, legend after terrifying legend revealed this amazing past until the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in the 1920’s more or less put an end to this terrific hundred and twenty year voyage through mankind’s memory. The curse of the Pharaohs haunted the Western imagination well into the thirties with many movies, the technology unheard of in 1799, exploited the fantasy. Marvel of marvels. The curse of the Pharaohs.
Nor did archaeology stop in Egypt. Heinrich Schliemann, a German enthusiast, defied the experts and uncovered the site of Homer’s fabled Troy, the lost civilization of the Iliad. The Iliad that incredible legend of 800 BC turned out to be based on fact. The Greek Myths themselves shape shifted from incredible fantasies to be myths based on actual events. So actual that Schliemann leaving Troy traveled to the Argolid of Greece and unearthed the marvelous lost civilization of Mycenae, revealing a shaft tomb containing what might have been a death mask of the fabled King Agamemnon of the Iliad.
Oh yes, this is old hat to us now but imagine the gasp of astonishment then. And, it didn’t stop with Schliemann’s discoveries either. The walls of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire too were exposed to the light of day with their thousands of cuneiform tablets that once again were almost miraculously translated to reveal that amazing civilization thought to be a figment of the imagination of the Jews but now found real.
These discoveries went on an on and on. Even impoverished Africa contributed the memory of the Malagasy Empire of South Africa with its remains of Zimbabwe.
The British captains returned from India bearing tales almost too marvelous to be comprehended. Read General Forlong’s magnificent Rivers Of Life. The jungles of Southeast Asia gave up many incredible remains including Angkor Wat.
Burroughs is thought to have taken the concept of the lost civilization from that great English author Rider Haggard and while he read Haggard’s works, definitely influenced by them, he really only needed his newspaper to be astonished on, shall we say, a daily basis?
Thus year by year Ed’s memory banks filled with truths made even more incredible by having been the stuff of repressed memory for centuries even millennia.
And then there was the War Between The States and Reconstruction. The Indian Wars post States Rights. How to take all this in. This was not a static period or a simpler happier time as many so fondly imagine.
Ed’s father George T. was an officer in the Civil War serving from the first Bull Run to Lee’s surrender at Appomatox. While soldiers don’t like to talk about their experiences surely little Eddie must have gotten some stories while the Grand Old Army of the Republic, the GAR, would have been prominent marching in parades and having a general political presence at a time when the politicians waved the bloody shirt as having fought.
Ed himself was born two years before the crime of Reconstruction, with all it attendant horrors for the Southerners, so while not having any real memories of the period he would have been aware of it as the following Jim Crow period developed. Romancing the South was prominent through the First World War dissipating in the twenties and thirties and disappearing after WWII. On his 1916 cross country auto tour on which Ed took a portable record player along one of three songs he played over and over was Jack Yellin’s Are You From Dixie?, a favorite of mine. Yellin himself was a Lithuanian Jew who came to the country at five in 1900 and by 1915 was able to write a song reflecting the feeling of the country such as this:
Hello there Stranger, how do you do,
There’s something’ I want to say to you,
You seem surprised that I recognize
I’m no detective I just surmise,
You’re from the place that I’m longing to be,
Your smiling face just seems to say to me,
You’re from my homeland, my sunny homeland,
Tell me, can it be?
Are you from Dixie, I say from Dixie, where the fields of cotton beckon to me,
I’m glad to see you, tell me, I’ll be you and the friend I’m longin’ to see.
Are you from Alabama, Tennessee or Caroline
Any place below that Mason-Dixon line.
Are you from Dixie, I say from Dixie, ‘cause I’m from Dixie too.
It was way back in old ‘89,
When I first crossed that Mason-Dixon line,
Gee, but I long to return
To those good old folks I left behind.
My home was way down in ol’ Alabam’
On a plantation close to Birmingham,
And there’s one thing for certain, I’m surely flirtin’
With those southbound trains.
Pretty incredible for someone who probably still spoke with a Jewish accent. Goes to show how pervasive the sentimental vision of the South was. The Uncle Remus stories of Joel Chandler Harris kept the vision alive until it ended shortly after WWII when Walt Disney produced his remarkable Song Of The South. That movie is now banned because Negro objectors wish to deprive us of our cultural heritage even though the movie presented Blacks as so adorable you just had to love them running counter to all the facts as evidenced today.
Ed’s attitude is probably best expressed in the War Between The States/Reconstruction novels of the great Thomas Dixon Jr. and reinforced by D.W. Griffiths’ great movie The Birth Of A Nation.
Because Dixon points out several unpalatable facts about Northern conspirators who fomented the War and almost certainly conspired to assassinate Lincoln after the War because he wouldn’t crucify the Southern Aryans and attempted to impeach Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson for the same reason, who also resisted their villainous genocidal schemes. Dixon has been slandered to the point of being a veritable non-person, however he wrote very good novels. His diptych The Southerner and The Victim about Lincoln and Jefferson Davis respectively is really must reading for the period.
So John Carter of the Mars series was a Virginian as well as most of Ed’s heroes while he also translates his ’father’ from the Union ranks to those of Virginia. Probably based on memories of Massachusetts’ Phillips Academy he invariably excoriates New Englanders.
Ed’s memories of the War and Reconstruction while learned second hand were a very important part of his mental furniture.
Not inferior to Lost Civilizations and the Civil War to Ed’s mind were the very exciting events of the Scramble For Africa of the last quarter of the century. The Scramble of the European States for colonies in Africa also involved the stories of the searches for Livingston and the sources of the Nile, H.M. Stanley, Richard Burton, and King Leopold of the Congo Free State and many, many exciting stories, real life adventures and adventurers that wouldn’t be believable is they weren’t documented. The imaginary adventures of John Carter on Mars pale before them. I’m sure the character of Carter owes more to them than has been recognized. Certainly the Tarzan adventures couldn’t have been written except for the memory of these great explorers and the events of the Scramble which ended only a few years before Ed began writing.
The incredible story of King Leopold of Belgium is certainly one of the most amazing stories of all time. Originally the Congo was not a colony of Belgium but the personal property, private domain of Leopold, thus Tarzan’s claim to hegemony of all Africa. In addition to the Congo Leopold annexed Katanga while also acquiring Rwanda-Burundi and almost the whole of the Southern Sudan otherwise known as the Anglo-Egyptian province of Equatoria. Unlike most of the other colonies, once the bicycle and its wheel was developed, the discovery of rubber in the Congo made the Congo a cash cow.
Rubber at that time was collected in the wild, later grown on plantations in various locations, then replaced by synthetic rubber made from garbage during WWII. The methods of collecting the rubber were brutal as the Negroes were forced to search the wilds and punished in they didn’t make their quota.
While it’s true that Leopold sanctioned this, Whites anywhere in Africa regressed from civilization to the level of native cannibals. Kurtz of Heart of Darkness was based on a real person. Thus the French in what became French Equatorial Africa were guilty of as heinous crimes as those in the Congo but Leopold took the brunt of the criticism. The Congo Free State was given to Belgium as a gift after the turn of the century. The Tarzan series thus is a memory of the period. The attitude prospered until the thirties when realities obviated the colonial past.
In the post-MGM series of Tarzan pictures filmed by Sol Lesser all the stories take place in Lost Civilizations while the actors, savages and all are White, no Black Africans at all.
Another building block of memory not inferior to the others was the development of science in the nineteenth century. The key event for Ed Burroughs was the introduction of Evolution by Charles Darwin in 1959. Ed uses several strands of biology in his corpus. He knows the earlier work of Lamarck as well as that of Darwin and later evolutionary contributions of Gregor Mendel and the germ theory of August Weismann and his contribution of the Weismann Barrier that Ed apparently rejected.
Thus contrary to the popular conception that Burroughs was some sort of idiot savant. He kept up on current developments well aware of the Curries’ discovery of radium when he began to write. The awareness of radium poisoning was not yet known as he seems to be unaware of it.
Although it is not generally accepted he was also very well informed on the development of psychology. There is no reason that he couldn’t have known of Charcot while he was well up on hypnotism, an essential part of Charcot‘s method. Psychology before Freud preempted the discipline which was a fairly broad loosely defined subject. The field was also open to any and all investigators not yet preempted by the medical profession.
While it is generally believed that Freud discovered or invented the unconscious, this is not so; he merely defined the unconscious to suit his purposes and then by dint of shouting loudly and continuously managed to impose his view as orthodox driving all other understandings off the field. In fact he managed to make his interpretation, almost fabrication of psychoanalysis, the gold standard of psychology.
Psychology was split off from philosophy rather late gaining momentum only during the eighteen eighties.
The most significant aspect of psychology that Ed exploited was that of the split personality which
he embraced to an astonishing degree. He seems to have gotten the notion from Robert Louis Stevenson’s great little novelette, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Stevenson got there before H.G. Wells or otherwise Wells would likely have appropriated the genre as well as interplanetary warfare, vivisection, invisibility, time travel and futuristic dystopias, all of which were of inestimable influence on the plastic memory of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
While Ed certainly tried to out-wow these amazing writers perhaps the closest he came was the little recognized story, The Eternal Lover, the title of which is often changed to the Eternal Savage, which completely misses the point. This story was even answered by Kipling and Haggard in their Love Eternal. Eddie was moving in fast company.
He was familiar with many novelists writing in psychological genres including George Du Maurier with his three incredible novels, William Morris of Notes From Nowhere fame and several other interesting but not compelling novels, as well as, I believe, some few novels of Marie Corelli who was working the psychological memory games.
Thus, by the time Ed began writing in earnest in 1911-12 he had a well defined notion of contemporary psychology. One must always bear in mind that Ed read continually and was omnivorous in his choice of reading material. While not of the University he had the more random reading habits of the autodidact.
Having two remaining topics of memory to cover, literature and immigration I think I’ll deal with that of literature first saving immigration for last.
The nineteenth century was the unfolding of the Aryan mind, an age of self-realization and the beginning of the effort to attain full consciousness. This is the story of psychology from then to now. The search for awareness was carried on in medical circles, philosophical circles and literary circles. Psychology was transferred from philosophy into medicine and science in the last half of the century. The quest for awareness was no more prominent than in literature. The German Romantics were the first in the field to explore the nature of the mind. Men like E.T.A Hoffman, La Motte De La Fouque and Charles Nodier represented psychological ideas in their fiction. These are significant but overlooked works.
There have always been stories and storytellers. First in poetic form then evolving into prose. The Greek novels of the Hellenic period are just great. Papryus was expensive and copying by hand was laborious and also expensive. With the invention of paper and moveable typeface and the printing press, books became more economical and multiple copies into the hundreds or thousands feasible. This meant that more people of diverse backgrounds could find their way into print. The key form of expression was poetry but prose gained ground. Then in the mid-eighteenth century the modern novel form took shape to explode after 1795.
Perhaps the first great novelist was Walter Scott who, himself began as a poet. His long poems such as The Lady Of The Lake and Marmion are still great reading although out of style along with Scott himself. What do I care about what’s out of style? Do you? Nevertheless Scott became the model for such mid-century greats as Alexandre Dumas, Balzac and Eugene Sue.
Scott and the great French novelists were also influenced by the Gothic novelist Mrs. Ann Radcliffe who wrote her romances in the last quarter of the eighteenth century.
There are a myriad of authors, now forgotten except by the scholar or enthusiast who seeks their charm. George Borrow while an eccentric turned out a few worthwhile novels, Thomas, Peacock, Pierce Egan, G.W.M. Reynolds Mysteries Of The Court Of London is a fabulous five thousand page, ten volume novel of the period. Everything you’ll ever need to know. Charles Dickens and all the great novelists of the mid century wrote scores of interesting worthwhile novels now nearly slipped through memory. Of course there is only time and room in the mind of we moderns who are bombarded daily by radio, songs, film and TV plus tens of thousand of books appearing annually, for so many old books. The need for selection is paramount while the changing social and political situations are relegating the world of pre-9/11 to the historical dust bin. Still the treasures are there buried like Long John Silver’s gold for those who care to dig. Let’s hope you’re one.
As I have noted, after Darwin in 1859 and the rise of psychological sensibilities, of which Darwin was ignorant, changed for the upcoming generation who took the stage in the eighties. The great modern genres were in embryo. Jules Verne had already begun his scientific romances that were influential while he continued writing into the twentieth century. His books are now heavily bowdlerized because his acute observations of the reality he perceived are no long thought proper by our modern social Mrs. Grundys.
Camille Flammarion, the very great French scientific neo-romantic writer made the space travel and planetary romance popular beginning in the sixties at the same time as Verne.
In 1880 Percy Gregg published Across The Zodiac which is erroneously credited as the first Martian romance beginning the long fascination with the Red Planet for which Burroughs was for so long credited. It was in the mid-eighties that a major influence of Ed’s began to publish and continued to publish at the rate of two or three volumes a year for nearly forty years, the great, wonderfully imaginative Henry Rider Haggard. A most versatile writer now known mainly for his African novels as the Scramble was in process. Haggard also wrote a half dozen great ancient Egyptian lost civilization romances that are well worth reading along with a couple Hebrew volumes of the Roman wars that are exceptional. It appears that Ed read most or all of Haggard.
The year after Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines, Stevenson published his great scientific psychological thriller, Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde. A key fact for Ed’s mental development is that these novels that are considered classics today were published during Ed’s lifetime or the decade or two before his birth so these really startling and amazing novels were as fresh in their impact as, say, a Rolling Stones record in the sixties and seventies. One imagines schoolboys gathering in knots and talking about them excitedly, much as we did about the latest sci-fi pieces in the fifties. While we know that Burroughs read these books we can’t be sure when but I imagine that to have read these books he must have done most of them close to the publishing date or they couldn’t have been part of his mental furniture by the time he began to write in 1911-12. And he had a lot of reading to do.
The Sherlock Holmes of Conan Doyle who began his career in 1886 also which continued intermittently for twenty-five years or so dazzling Ed’s mind. Doyle as I see it was also dealing with a split personality. Holmes and his alter ego are essentially two aspects of the same personality. Watson belongs to the pre-scientific past while Holmes is the scientific thinking machine devoid of sympathy. Watson takes the sentimental side. In addition Doyle introduces a third personality element in the criminal mastermind Moriarty who is a sort of Hyde to Holmes Jekyll, hence his is the social negative to Holmes positive.
Jekyll and Hyde and Holmes and Watson were introduced in the same year of 1886 as Marie Corelli’s Wormwood that also deals with the splitting of personality. As these books couldn’t have been influenced by each other one has to assume that the notion of split or multiple personality was being bruited about. Corelli seems to have attended Charcot’s demonstrations so that all psychological roads lead back to the Salpetriere.
There is no clear evidence that Burroughs read Corelli but as she was among the best selling and most sensational authors of the period I have little doubt myself that Ed followed his unerring instincts at least sampled her work.
Another author plowing the same furrow that Burroughs read for sure was George Du Maurier whose first novel, once again dealt with a split personality. In his novel, Peter Ibbetson of 1891, his character has a childhood in France which was very happy. Through the death of his parents he was sent to an uncle in England who while providing generously for Peter’s education nevertheless was cold while being disgusted at Peter’s rejection of his ideas of manhood. Peter’s glowing childhood expectations were dashed throwing him into a deep depression. Now let’s catch up on Burroughs’ development and I’ll return to Du Maurier later in another context.
Now, Burroughs’ loved three novels that he read and reread six or seven times by 1920. They were Mark Twain’s The Prince And The Pauper, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy and Owen Wister’s The Virginian. Ed was led unerringly to the three novels that dealt most explicitly with his mental fixations. The first two were published during Burroughs’ childhood while the last was published shortly after the turn of the century in 1902.
Two of these three books relate to Burroughs life from birth to age twenty in 1896 with the last relating to the next period. One’s favorite books, songs or music are always going to relate to psychological needs developed during your early years. You may or may not have realized their psychological importance. It can’t be said whether Ed knew why the books were his favorites or not. All three relate to the blighted hopes of his youth. As far as I can recall all of Ed’s books tell the same story as these three in variation.
All three tell of a young prince who is disinherited and then after a series of adventures comes into his own again. In Twain’s Prince And The Pauper we have the double, or split personality of the Prince and the Pauper. Identical in appearance. By some literary magic the two exchange places with the Prince trading roles with the Pauper. In the end the Prince reassumes his proper role.
In Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy one has the boy who is the son of a Lord, thus being a little Prince, growing up in America in straitened circumstance who then is discovered and comes into his inheritance and true identity. He has a sort of double in a newsboy who follows him to England before moving to California where he becomes the successful manager of a ranch thus foreshadowing Ed’s flirtation with and move to California where he bought the Tarzana estate.
The Virginian of 1902 does not properly belong to his childhood but follows the same theme with the addition that the hero meets his true love and has an idyllic wilderness honeymoon. Shortly after reading the book he took his young wife Emma West to Idaho in what seems like an attempt to live the book. Emma was the wrong girl and the wilds of Idaho the wrong place.
It would seem then that Ed was highly influenced by what he read. He was also able to retain an accurate remembrance of the stories in his memory. The period from 1896 to 1911 was also filled with literature that furnished his mind for the literary tasks ahead of him.
So, in addition to the truly great literature of Dumas and Sue, Verne and Haggard, he was drawn to the interplanetary adventure. Like Freud who appropriated the long history of the Unconscious to himself so Burroughs absorbed and transcended the thirty years or so of previous interplanetary adventure to himself. Just as one erroneously thinks Freud invented the unconscious so one thinks Ed Burroughs invented the Martian interplanetary romance. No so. Earlier examples are constantly being discovered. At this time the earliest Martian novel is considered to be the one by Percy Gregg entitled Across The Zodiac published in 1880.
Greggs’s novel is written in the high Victorian style reminiscent of Anthony Trollope or just any of the crop of English writers of the 1820 or so generation so that the emphasis is sort of pre-scientific and stuffy unlike Burroughs’ writing which began after the invention of cars and airplanes, movies, phones and the whole works. Probably for that reason Burroughs displaced all other Martian writers with the exception of H.G. Wells’ War Of The Worlds. Even that which was on the edge between the Victorian and Edwardian periods relates more to the past than to the future.
There is a question as to which of these books Ed may have read. I think it not improbable that if he had heard of them he would have sought them out. Nor would, say, Percy Greg’s Across the Zodiac be as obscure in Ed’s day as it is now. There would have been not a few people who were familiar with such a book to refer Ed to it. As an inveterate magazine and newspaper reader there is no reason he might not have come across a reference. After all he did read Popular Science and Popular Mechanics both of which originated in the last quarter of the century. So, while it cannot be said for certain I think it probable that he was familiar with most of the Martian literature so that when he began A Princess Of Mars he knew what the landscape should and shouldn’t look like and knew what to avoid.
He was early introduced to the idea of the double and multiple personality through Jekyll And Hyde. The book was a clear cut example of split personality. The puzzle of a divided personality fascinated Ed while the literature of the subject is fairly extensive with numerous writers discussing it in various manners of doubling. From 1886 to 1900 many outstanding examples appeared that given Ed’s attraction to the sensational he would definitely have heard of while when reading those works and Ed’s works the same themes and even details are recurrent in both. Thus, while I have never read of Marie Correli’s name being mentioned in connection with Ed’s work she manages that same dark, murky sensibility in connection with personality dissociations. She was one of the best selling authors from 1886 to 1900 so there is no chance Ed hadn’t heard of her.
While he may have read Corelli it is certain that he read all three of the novels of George Du Maurier- Peter Ibbetson, Trilby and The Martian.
The first, Peter Ibbetson, 1891, follows Ed’s usual formula of a happy childhood disrupted by an untoward event. In this case having been brought up in France, his parents died and he was sent to an uncle to be brought up in England, thus a personality divided by French and English identities with the latter unhappy.
Now, Du Maurier concentrates on the need for memories. As he says, quite rightly, without memories what is a man. Nothing. Just a vegetable. Ibbetson, then, chronicles his childhood French memories while abhorring his current English situation. The crisis comes when Uncle Ibbetson insults Peter’s mother; Peter then murders his uncle.
Before he did Peter meets his childhood sweetheart, Mimsy, now married as Mary, the Duchess Of Towers. The childhood affection was sincere but she is now a married woman. Peter would have been hanged for the murder except for the intervention of Mary and her powerful friends and then is given life without parole.
Before Freud appropriated the topic for his own ends the Unconscious was thought to be a source of great intellectual riches with incredible paranormal, that is to say supernatural powers. At the same time dreams were improperly understood while also thought to have paranormal powers attached to them. Du Maurier invented something called Dreaming True while at the time Lucid Dreaming was a hot topic. Lucid Dreaming is when you consciously invade your dreams without waking and direct the dream’s course. Robert Louis Stevenson, who died in 1894, said that he wrote many of his stories while dreaming lucidly. They read like it too. Ed Burroughs, also, was interested in Dreaming True and Lucid Dreaming and said that he too took his stories from his dreams. If you read Burroughs with Lucid Dreaming in mind you can trace those influences too.
So, and now this seemed possible at the time and may seem possible to some today, Peter and Mary agreed to establish mental contact and Dream True. That is to say that they would each enter into one another’s dream together. This they succeeded in doing thus each led a double life. Now, in the very nature of things, they could not dream of anything that was not in their memories. Thus, they could only dream for instance of chairs they had seen, places they had been, only that of which they had memories. Du Maurier intuited that mind was wholly memory. Nothing comes out that didn’t go in.
As they had read of prehistory they could travel back through time into prehistoric situations. Everything went well for twenty-five years until one day the dreamgate was closed. Peter couldn’t enter from his end. His worst fears were realized. Mary had died.
His disappointment unbalanced his mind so that he went insane. He was removed from the prison to the asylum, his memories in disorder. I suppose Du Maurier meant shizophrenic in which one’s memories are so painful they became confused, working against each other so that the mind can’t function properly.. Over time he became reconciled to the reality and regained the use of his memories. And then one night while Dreaming True he sat by a dream river when Mary, released from heaven as a very special dispensation, appeared to him, explained the situation and told him they would meet in heaven.
The second novel, Trilby, one of the most celebrated of its time deals with the iconic hypnotist, Svengali, evil but potent, who exploited Trilby, a memory creation Du Maurier borrowed from the novel of the same name by Nodier, the Romantic. Hypnotism will play a significant role in Ed’s work. And finally the third novel, The Martian, inspired Ed, and his mind focused on Mars.
Du Maurier’s Dreaming True meshed with Stevenson’s Lucid Dreaming as a source for obtaining material unconsciously. It is clear that Ed was heavily influenced by Stevenson having read most if not all his fiction. It seems probable that he would have read articles about his hero who spoke freely of his Lucid Dreaming technique. Thus when Ed said he found his stories in his dreams there is no reason not to believe that he was familiar with these dream theories and their source in the unconscious.
Lin Carter believed and I concur that Ed also read novels by William Morris of News From Nowhere fame who writes dreamlike stories bearing some relationship to those of Ed.
I intend to pause at 1900 continuing on with Ed’s life experiences to 1911, but to close on this theme, this next book appeared shortly after 1900 but is very much a product of the pre-industrial period before 1900 so I include it here.
In England during the last quarter of the century the spiritualist movement gravitated from the US to England and even Germany where it was treated as a science to be investigated, hence the plethora of novels like those of Du Maurier and Marie Corelli.
Not only was the unconscious thought of as a repository for multiple personalities but even the fantastic notion of past lives. Thus people sprang up who believed, or said they did, that they could remember previous incarnations. This notion was also helped along by the appearance of Hindu and Buddhist missionaries in Britain and the US with their notions of reincarnation.
Among these imposters was a Swiss woman using the name of Helene Smith whose supposed lives were recorded by the psychologist Theodore Flournoy. Now, he conducted a serious scientific investigation of the woman’s claims. That Flournoy could allow himself to be so deluded demonstrates the psychological novelty of the Unconscious.
Miss Smith was a shop girl who was much displeased with her situation so she began to fantasize. Using the spiritualist movement as a stepping stone Flournoy made her famous. She would have done much better to turn her fantasies into novels much like Ed would but she enjoyed the attention her past lives claims got her. She chose three past identities, one as an Indian Princess, another as a Martian and the third as Marie Antoinette. Of interest here is that she invented a Martian vocabulary that only she could translate. Burroughs himself followed a few years later with his own vocabularies of various provenance including African Ape, the first and once universal language.
There is no reason to go into the details of her debunking, the point here is that it is thought that Ed read Flournoy’s account: From India To The Planet Mars. Certainly he would create three ‘past lives’ as identities to explore his own fantasies- Mars, an imaginary Africa and the Earth’s Core. The late life Venus stories can be discounted. By c. 1900 then the foundations of his novels had already entered his memory banks where they bubbled under his conscious mind where he could work on them both consciously and unconsciously letting them slowly ferment.
Terminating the nineteenth century were two works by the deviser of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. The first was his Interpretation Of Dreams and the other, The Psychopathology Of Everyday Life. The true significance of these books are overlooked but they both deal with the primacy of Memory as the basis of mind. Reminiscences as he would say.
As Freud noted that the problem hysterics suffered was not biologic but the distortion of memories or reminiscences, so both his two volumes deal with the distortion of Memory in ‘normal’ people. Freud must have thought he was normal as he used himself as a subject in both books.
As Freud grasped, dreams are based not only on memories but the distortion of memory by one’s fixations. That is, a fixation of a memory too hurtful to face so that it is fixated in the form of the hurt from which point it constellates similar subsequent memories and even shapes them and one’s actions to conform to its fears. So, from reminiscences of hysterics Freud had moved on to the memories of dreams and parapraxes.
Even more prescient was the study that followed a couple years later: The Psychopathology Of Everyday Life. The book is ill-titled, being somewhat off putting although very easy reading, but of even more significance than his dream book. This was the study that gave rise to the term ‘Freudian slip’. It is a study of parapraxes and how one’s memory interferes with another memory to blot it out. Strangely Freud missed the import of the significance of Memory taking it more or less for granted.
Freud’s analysis of parapraxes such as forgetting a word you commonly use was superb. He demonstrates significantly, from his own example, how unpleasant memories that one might associate with a word cancels out the ability to recall the word. In other instances one means to say one thing but let out one’s true intent by saying another.
Thus the subconscious whether in dream distortion or waking distortion affects one’s life, clashing with the conscious. The memories one has, the subconscious, one’s true desires emerge against one’s will. Of course, practice can eliminate or reduce word substitutions which is done by sharpening one’s conscious efforts to deny entrance to the sub- or Unconscious. In the struggle to unify one’s consciousness, that is, as Freud would put it, have your ego fill the space occupied by the Id- a later name for the Unconscious one must eliminate the interface. The only successful method is to integrate one’s consciousness so that the mind functions as one unit however perfectly or imperfectly. This is rare but it can be done by searching for and recognizing the significance of one’s fixations. Forget the term Depth Psychology; that’s a misnomer.
Barring that the choice is to recognize the influence of the unconscious and try to pose an impervious barrier to its influence in the sense of W.E. Henley’s famous poem, Invictus (The Unconquerable) Henley wrote the poem in 1875 although the title was added later by an editor, so that one may be sure that Ed knew the poem and used it as bedrock as so many of us have. There are interpretations, I give mine:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance,
My head is bloody but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul.
There is a temporal interpretation as well as a psychological one. I am interested in the latter. D.H. Lawrence is quoted by Rudiger Gorner in his essay ‘The Hidden Agent Of The Soul’: “The novels and poems come unnoticed out of one’s pen.” This is true. One has conscious intentions but as one writes trancelike, hidden meanings emerge from the pen allowing for different interpretations of the words. Whether Henley had a conscious understanding of the unconscious psychological meaning of his words, the psychological interpretation fits. That’s all I can say.
‘Out of the night that covers me…’ In Greek mythology the night is construed as female, that is, the unconscious, the unknown, as with the depths of the sea, another female symbol. Daylight was considered as conscious and male as one can clearly see. The Night, is uncertainty and darkness when the goblins come out. It was feared. Henley clearly interprets night that way: …black as the pit from pole to pole. In other words he is in the grip of the unconscious with not a glimmer of light from one end to the other, he might have added, and from East to West.
But Henley is defiant of the darkness. He thanks whatever gods may be for his unconquerable soul. In other words, come what may he will not tamely submit. ‘Black as the pit…’ In my own hour of darkness, one of them, in my own hour of need, sometime in my teens, I gathered courage from Henley’s pen to fight that mountain of despair. I’m sure that Burroughs did too.
‘In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeoning of chance, my head is bloody but unbowed.’ I’m not sure of the wincing but I have been strong enough not to cry out loud. Henley had his problems. He contracted tuberculosis of the bone and at seventeen had a leg removed at the knee. The doctors wished to take his other leg too but Henley stoutly refused. Thus he lost a leg but rather than succumb to despair his ‘head was bloody but unbowed’ under the ‘bludgeoning of chance.’
The first two stanzas were all there was of significance for me at the time while, for myself, I have considered it a two stanza poem but it continues with Henley’s rejection of the gods and of heaven and hell, both subconscious projections. ‘Beyond this place of wrath and tears, looms but the horror of the shade’. I interpret shade as nothingness. ‘And yet the menace of the years find, and shall find me, unafraid.’ A fine show of bravado just in case. Henley certainly spoke for Burroughs and I suspect for a great many of you, us.
And then a dismissal of consequences: It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll… It don’t bother me none, he says. And why? Here comes the clincher, that line that gets ya, because: I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. Damn right! And that’s called Positive Mental Attitude. Life isn’t worth living without it.
So Ed hangs in there, head bloody but unbowed, waiting for the turning of the tide. As the proverb goes: It’s a long road without a turning.
In closing this part let me remark that Ed was very fond of popular poetry of the Kipling kind. For those interested, I’m sure someone may be, there is a compilation called The Best Loved Poems Of The American People compiled by Hazel Felleman first published in 1936, in print since then, of which every poem I am sure was known to Burroughs. A poem couldn’t be too schmaltzy for him, he even has the collected Edgar A. Guest in his library. These bits of poetry were as essential to furnishing his memory as anything else he read.
The history of immigration in the US is the least understood and most misrepresented topic in US history. The history of immigration has invariably been written by Liberals or immigrants themselves so the story as taught in schools is rather one sided. The Key text is Gustavus Myers The History Of Bigotry In The United States. If you’ve read that you’ve got the official story. Just for the record, on my mother’s side I’m Polish and Pennsylvania Dutch; on my father’s side solid Scotch-Irish from the Kentucky hill country, both grand parents. I’m a hillbilly boy with a Polish accent. My name, Prindle, is usually thought of as English so I have the field covered. I have been subject to the all the discrimination currently employed against the English.
In discussing Ed’s point of view he thought of himself as pure English while on his father’s side he was English with an Irish admixture and on his mother’s side, Pennsylvania Dutch. Amusingly in the twenties he wrote his mother-in-law asking for Emma’s genealogy. Mrs. Hulbert, aware of Ed’s vanity on the issue, sniffed that Emma was English on both sides.
The first immigration problem was, of course, the Irish and if I may say so, with good reason. I rather favor the Know Nothing side of the argument. The animosity during Ed’s youth between English and Irish was intense. Apropos of Ed and John the Bully who was Irish I think the following probable. The Burroughs had two Irish maids, young women, before whom I suspect Ed put on airs about being English and therefore superior to the Irish. I think this got on the girls’ nerves so that they got an Irish kid to terrorize Ed and put him in his place. Otherwise I don’t see John waiting on a corner for a kid four years his junior who he couldn’t possibly have known. The consequences were more than the girls could have imagined.
After the Irish came the Socialists of the failed Revolution of ‘48- The Forty-eighters, another of Ed’s bete-noirs. Mostly German they contributed to Ed’s disgust of Germans when he saw them marching through Chicago under their red flag. The Haymarket Riot of 1887 also made a big impression on him especially as his father attended their execution.
Up to 1871, post-Civil War immigration had been Northern European which was thought to be compatible with the Old Stock, at least in retrospect. Prior to the Civil War, industry in the US had been more or less of the cottage variety, recalled by Longfellow in ‘Under the spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stood…’ But, with the invention of the steam engine on steel rails in 1830 a much larger scale of industry was required. Bessemer process steel, rolling mills and what all that also called for a greater concentration of labor.
To obtain that the industrialists moved further East into Europe recruiting from other than Nordics. At the same time the Jews of the Pale (the prototypical ’Eastern European’) discovered America quickly advancing from a trickle of immigration to a flood. Thus during Ed’s youth the character of Chicago changed year by year, unnoticeable consciously until the Great War. Then in the nineties the Italians added the US to their migratory circle. For at least a hundred years the Sicilians had been migrant labor in Europe, going North during the summer and returning South in winter.
Their first Western addition was Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. In the days of sail the circuit lasted a year or two as they could follow the sun North into Brazil, and Central America. With the reliability of steamships it was possible for them to return home more frequently and cheaply in steerage. Then in the nineties the Sicilians discovered New York and the US, which they added to their circuit.
They were never true immigrants being more of what were disparagingly called Birds Of Passage. They came for the money. In most years prior to the Great War nearly as many returned to Sicily as arrived. The Great War stranded them in the US but post-war Mussolini still considered them Italian citizens and so did they.
The Americans, never a very realistic people, believed that all these immigrants were on the same political and psychological wavelength as themselves, hence that the immigrants would assimilate overnight. The world war was an eye opener when all loyalties overrode American sympathies. A howl of pain went up from Teddy Roosevelt when he realized the reality and exclaimed against the ‘American boarding house.’
Of course, the history books tell it quite differently but, in fact, there was as much sympathy as not for Germany. Not everyone saw the English as innocent. The Irish who sided with the Germans in both wars were on the side of whoever was fighting England, hence if the US officially sided with England they were less than loyal to the New Island.
Chicago itself during Burroughs’ time as now had a remarkably low percentage of Old Stock, on the order of only 15 to 20%. So the babel of other tongues and accents must have offended him more than they did John Rocker of our time who was sent back to the minors for observing the fact in New York City. The second Black List one might say, but unbacked by a rehearsed voice of objection such as the Communists had in the forties and fifties.
Ed had his prejudices as every man must, Old Stock, immigrant or what. He observed the Revolutionary activity in Eastern Europe with a wry eye taking the side of neither the Jews or Russians. He definitely added the Russians to the Germans as objects of distaste. The villains of the first four Tarzan novels would be Russian. The early novels have been heavily censored so his attitude toward the Jews requires early editions to unravel. There appears to be no animosity to them but as an anti-religionist he had to find their religious beliefs as ridiculous as any of the three Semitic religions. There doesn’t seem to be any problem with the Jews until they caused it in the aftermath of the War but that’s slightly in the future and will be dealt with at that time.
It is enough to say that Ed was proudly Anglo-Saxon as he should have been and that whatever his beliefs on immigration he endured the immigrant nations stoically. At present there is no evidence that he took an aggressive stance toward them as many of his countrymen did. But, listen, I was in the orphanage and I have a very good idea of what aggression is and it didn’t just come the Old Stock. My immigrant brothers were in there too. We were told to take the alleys and stay off the city streets or take a beating. These were seven, eight and nine year kids these grown men were threatening and some of the kids did take a beating although I never did. I know where discrimination is at. So what.
Part IV will continue Ed’s temporal life from 1886 to 1911-12. Part V will review his reding from 1900 to 1920. Part VI will pick up from where Burroughs Rides the Rocket Pt. I left off. There will probably be four or more additional parts but I don’t have blocked out yet.
April 3, 2012
Only The Strong Survive
An Examination Of Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid
As Created By Edgar Rice Burroughs
(Alternate Title: The Oakdale Affair)
Into The Mysteries
(Some capitalization appears in the text that has no significance. For some reason it just showed up. I didn’t do it)
Burroughs does a good job in the Holmesian sense in this book enclosing mysteries within mysteries. The central mystery is who is committing the crime wave in Oakdale. Having learned from his mentor, Conan Doyle, Burroughs skillfully withholds details to enhance the suspense then disclosing them to reveal the mysteries. The organization of the scheme of crimes gradually unfolds to show that the real Oskaloosa Kid is one of the perpetrators. So we have a clever doubling of a sweet girl posing as the vicious criminal The Oskaloosa Kid. This is obviously a transfer of his Anima identity from the male De Vac/Oskaloosa Kid to the resumption of a female identity for his Anima through the fake Oskaloosa Kid/Gail Prim.
The girl who was seen with the criminals could have been Gail since she had disappeared without a trace never having arrived at her destination. Gail was not the girl seen with Reginald Paynter, who was robbed and murdered, and the crooks. That person was Hettie Penning who was ejected from the car speeding past the abandoned Squibbs place by the real Oskaloosa Kid. Thus symbolically De Vac/Oskaloosa Kid returns his Anima to Bridge/Burroughs.
As indicated Hettie Pening represents the dead early Anima of Burroughs who has here been resurrected. As in all cases of Burroughs representation of his failed Anima she appears to be a ‘bad’ girl but in reality is merely misunderstood. He compensates for himself.
Bridge himself is a mystery man and double. He is a hobo but with great manners and an excellent education. He is definitely a member of the Might Have Seen Better Days Club. The real club was organized by Burroughs when he served as an enlisted man in the Army in 1896.
In this case Bridge is in actuality the son of a wealthy Virginia aristocrat who has left home because he prefers a life on the road. In the framing story of a Princess of Mars Burroughs portrays himself in his own name as a Virginian. In reality Burroughs was declassed at eight or nine by John the Bully and by his father’s subsequent shuffling of him from school to school finally sending him to a bad boy school that Burroughs describes as little more than a reformatory for rich kids.
If one looks at his career he was on the move quite a bit. During his marriage he seldom lived in one house for more than a year or two then moved on.
Just as Bridge will assume his proper identity at the end of the novel so through his writing Burroughs has abandoned the shame of his hard scrabble years from 1905-13. In a sense he is assuming his proper identity with this novel.
Bridge and the Kid joining together at the fork in the road, one is reminded of Yogi Berra’s quip: When you come to a fork in the road, take it, in this case the less traveled dirt road.
I read word for word frequently dwelling on the scenes created. Burroughs is a very visual writer. Standing at the fork in a driving Midwest summer lightning, thunder and deluge storm they can hear the pursuing hoboes shouting down the road. Ahead of them is a dark unknown and a house haunted by the victims of a sextuple murder.
Indeed, Burroughs describes almost a descent into hell, or at least, the hell of the subconscious.
Over a low hill they followed the muddy road and down into a dark and gloom ravine. In a little open space to the right of the road a flash of lightning, followed one imagines by either the crash of deep loud rumbling of the thunder of perhaps if over head the sonic boom of the air splitting and closing, revealed the outline of a building a hundred yards (that’s three hundred feet, a very large front yard) from the rickety and decaying fence which bordered the Squibb farm and separated it from the road.
There are those who say Burroughs doesn’t write well but in a short paragraph he has economically drawn a verbal picture which is quite astonishing in its detail. The house is a hundred yards from the road. In the rain and muck that might be a walk or two or three minutes or more.
A clump of trees surrounded the house, their shade adding to the utter blackness of the night.
That’s what one calls inspissating gloom. One might well ask how any shade can add to utter blackness but one gets the idea. There is some intense writing thoroughly reminiscent of Poe but nothing like him.
The two had reached the verandah when Bridge, turning, saw a brilliant light glaring through the night above the crest of the hill they had just topped in their descent into the ravine, or, to be more explicit, the small valley, where stood the crumbling house of the Squibbs. The purr of a rapidly moving motor car rose above the rain, the light rose, fell, swerved to the right and left.
“Someone must be in a hurry.” commented Bridge.
There isn’t any better writing than that. Another writer can say it differently but he can’t say it better. Just imagine the movie Frankenstein or Wolf Man when you’re reading it. Burroughs did as well in less than the time it takes to show it.
A body is thrown from the speeding car a shot following after it. Bridge goes to pick up the body.
Thus the mystery and horror and terror of the dark and stormy night has been building. Bridge carrying the body which may or may not be alive asks the Kid to open the door.
Behind him came Bridge as the youth entered the dark interior. A half dozen steps he took when his foot struck against a soft yielding mass. Stumbling he tried to regain his equilibrium only to drop fully upon the thing beneath him. One open palm extended to ease his fall, it fell upon the uplifted features of a cold and clammy face.
Yipes! What more do you need? Cold and dripping, half crazed from fear, overwhelmed by the thought he might be a murderer the Kid’s hand falls on cold and clammy dead flesh. Bridge is standing there with maybe another dead person in his arms. The Kid is also aware that the murderous hoboes are hot on his trail.
If that doesn’t get you then somehow I think you can’t be got.
Not yet finished Burroughs builds up the tension. Striking a match from the specially lined water proof pocket of Bridge’s coat they find a dead man wearing golden earrings. Obviously a gypsy but while staring in unsimulated horror they hear from the base of the stairs of a dark dank cellar the clank of a slowly drawn chain as a heavy weight makes the stairs creak.
This is too much for the nerves of the Kid. Burroughs brilliantly contrasts the terror of the unknown in the basement with the fear of the dark at the top of the stairs. You know where that’s at, I’m sure, I sure do. In a flash the Kid chooses the unknown at the top of the stairs to the horror in the cellar.
What do you want?
The hoboes are still slipping and sliding down the descent into the ravine of the subconscious. Horror in front, terror behind. There is absolutely no place to hide. Nightmare City, don’t you think? How could anyone do it better? What do you mean he can’t write? Put the scenes in a movie and everyone in the theatre would be covering their eyes. Itd\ would be that Beast With Five Fingers all over again. Maybe worse. Never saw that one? Check it out. Peter Lorre. Terrifying. Of course I was a kid.
The clanking of the chain recreates an incident in Burroughs’ own life when he had a job collecting for an ice company. He called on a house and while he was waiting he heard the clanking of a chain coming slowly up the driveway. Waiting with a fair amount of trepidation he saw a huge dog dragging the chain appear. ERB backing slowly away forgot about the delinquent bill.
In this case the chain is attached to Beppo the dancing bear but Bridge and the Kid won’t know that until the next day.
They retreat into an upstairs bedroom. Here what Burroughs describes in capital letters as THE THING and IT pursues them. I remember two movies one called The Thing and the other It.
Just when the thing retreats the murderous gang of hoboes enters the house. Wow! Out of the frying pan and into the fire in this night of terrors as the lightning continues to flash and the thunder crash.
Discovering the dead man and as the bear begins moving again four of the hoboes flee while two who were on the staircase being trapped in the house flee into the same bedroom as Bridge, the Kid and the girl, Hettie. Shortly thereafter a woman’s scream pierces the lightning and the thunder then silences as the storm settles into a steady drizzle.
The rest of the night is one tense affair between the murderous hoboes and the Bridge and the girls. Not a moment to catch your breath.
In the morning when they go downstairs the mystery increases when they find the dead man gone and nothing in the cellar. If they’d had Tarzan along he would have not only been able to smell the bear but to tell whether if was black or brown.
After a brief confrontation Dopey Charlie and the General are driven off. Bridge’s relationship with the Kid is then deepened. Even though all the Kid’s reactions are repulsive to the manhood of Bridge he feels his attraction to the seeming boy growing stronger.
Not since he had followed the open road with Byrne, had Bridge met one with whom he might care to “pal” before.
This brings up an interesting hint of latent homosexuality. My fellow writer, David Adams has objected that in my analysis of Emasculation as applied to ERB is that he should have been a homosexual but wasn’t.
There are degrees of emasculation and there are various degrees of psychotic reaction to it. I don’t say and I don’t believe that ERB was a homosexual but there was a degree of ambiguity introduced into his personality by his emasculation. I have touched on this in my ‘Emasculation, Hermaphroditism and Excretion.’
Here we have another example of it as Bridge is experiencing some homoerotic emotion which is very confusing to him as he has never wanted a ‘pal’ before. In hobo lingo I believe a ‘pal’ has a homosexual connotation.
If Burroughs took his ‘inside’ information on hoboes from Jack London’s The Road then Bridge is the sort of hobo London describes as the ‘profesh’, the hobo highest in the hierarchy of hobodom. London always thought of himself as a quick learner, so one doesn’t have to award his statement too much credibility but Burroughs apparently took him at face value.
As London describes the ‘profesh’ he has been on the road so long he knows all the ropes. Unlike the unkempt bums he realizes the importance of a good front and always dresses neatly. But he is hardened and capable of committing any crime.
While Bridge is obviously intended to be a ‘profesh’ he is neither criminal nor does he dress to put up a good front.
Another category of hobo London lists is the ‘road kid.’ These are young people just starting on the life of the road. The ‘profesh’ would often take one of more of these road kids under his wing as his fag, as the British would say, or in Americanese, a ‘pal.’ In other words a homosexual relationship. Thus this displays ERB’s sexual ambiguity which David couldn’t locate in my psychological analysis of ERB’s emasculation. In this case the ambiguity will be resolved and explained when we learn that the Kid is the beautiful young woman, Abigail Prim, and both Bridge and Burroughs heave a sigh of relief.
Nevertheless ERB is discussing homosexuality in an open and natural way that couldn’t be missed by the knowing and which may be unique for its time. But then, remember that one of ERB’s hats in this story is that of the Alienist, so that in these pages we are deep into the psychological abstractions and Doyle’s mystery stories as influences.
Now comes the time for breakfast. Someone has to ‘rustle’ grub. We have already learned in ‘Out There Somewhere’ that Bridge doesn’t rustle food, he rustles rhyme. Nothing has changed. The Kid goes out to get breakfast and when she comes back with the goods, true to form Bridge bursts forth with several snatches from H.H. Knibbs which surprisingly the demure Miss Prim recognizes. What has she been reading?
How might this apply to Burroughs’ own life. Let’s look at it. Burroughs was enamored of How to books but in his heart he must have considered them a fraud. Willie Case will soon pick up his copy of How To Be A Detective which he finds completely inapplicable to his circumstances. He also has the good sense to throw the book away reverting to his native intelligence which may be a subtle comment on How To books by Burroughs.
ERB always considered himself of the executive class. After his humiliating experience trying to sell door to door he never attempted it again. Instead as a master salesman he preferred to write how to sales manuals for others to use as they went door to door selling his line of pencil sharpeners or whatever while he sat in the office waiting for orders. Hence in his own life he was the ‘rustler of poetry’ or manuals while others rustled grub in the door to door humiliation of the actual selling. Here the Kid will do the door to door gig. ERB always makes me smile.
In this case in what may be a joke the Kid just buys the goods from the homeowner reversing the roles.
There are those who insist Burroughs can’t write but I find his stuff wonderfully condensed getting more mileage out of each word than anyone else I’ve ever read. Just see how he describes breakfast.
Shortly after, the water coming to a boil, Bridge lowered three eggs into it, glanced at his watch (an affluent hobo) greased one of the new cleaned stove lids with a piece of bacon rind and laid out as many strips of bacon as the lid would accommodate. Instantly the room was filled with the delicious odor of frying bacon.
“M-m-m-m!” gloated the Oskaloosa Kid. “I wish I had bo- asked for more. My! But I never smelled anything so good in all my life. Are you going to boil only three eggs? I could eat a dozen”
“The can’ll only hold three at a time,” explained Bridge. “we’ll have some boiling while we are eating these.” He borrowed the knife from the girl, who was slicing and buttering bread with it, and turned the bacon swiftly and deftly with the point, then he glanced at his watch. “Three minutes are up.” He announced and, with a couple small flat sticks saved for the purpose from the kindling wood, withdrew the eggs one at a time from the can.
“But we have no cups!” exclaimed the Oskaloosa Kid, in sudden despair.
Bridge laughed. “Knock an end off your egg and the shell will answer in place of a cup. Got a knife?”
The Kid didn’t. Bridge eyed him quizzically. “You must have done most of your burgling near home,” he commented.
The description of the breakfast between the time Bridge looked at his watch and when the three minutes were up was delightfully done. I could smell the bacon myself while I especially like the detail of swiftly and deftly turning the bacon with the knife point. The knife seemed to have disappeared between the bacon and knocking the end off the egg.
Nice details aren’t they? You’d almost think Burroughs had actually done things like this for years. There’s enough blank spots in his life that he may have had more experiences of this sort than we know about. Take for instance the three days in Michigan between the writing of Out There Somewhere and Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid. He says it took him twelve hours by train on four different lines to return to Coldwater from Alma. It is not impossible that he was hoboing back for the experience. He knew that he was going to write Bridge And The Kid next; might he not have been picking up local color?
Likewise in Bridge And The Kid he mentions the road from Berdoo to Barstow with seeming familiarity. Had he met Knibbs and the two embarked on a few days road trip as the expert Knibbs showed him some of the ropes?
I don’t know but there is something happening in his life which has not been explained.
Perhaps also the hoboism which appears in 1915-17 in his work when by all rights his success should have permitted him entry into more exalted social circles symbolized a rejection by so-called polite society. If so, why? Certainly the serialization of Tarzan Of The Apes in the Chicago paper must have raised eyebrows when people said something like: Is that the same Edgar Rice Burroughs who’s been tramping around town for the last several years?
After all people live in a town where a reputation is attached to them whether earned or not. In reviewing the jobs Burroughs had after he left Sears, Roebuck there is a certain unsavory character to them. Indeed, one employer, a patent medicine purveyor was shut down by the authorities while ERB then formed a partnership with this disgraced person. Where was Burroughs when the authorities showed up to shut the business down? I make no moral judgments. I’m of the Pretty Boy Floyd school of morality: Some will rob you with a six gun, some use a fountain pen. Emasculation is the name of the game.
It is certainly true that many, perhaps most, of the patent medicines of the time were based on alcohol and drugs therefore either addictive or harmful to the health. Samuel Hopkins Adams was commissioned by Norman Hapgood of Collier’s magazine to write a series of articles exposing the patent medicine business in 1906.
http://www.mtn.org/quack/ephemera/oct7.htm . A consequence of the articles may very well have been the shutting down of Dr. Stace. I think it remarkable that Burroughs didn’t distance himself from Stace at that time.
Even as Adams was presenting his research on patent medicines Upton Sinclair was exposing the hazards of the Chicago meat packing industry whose products were no less hazardous to the public health than patent medicines. Sinclair’s book, The Jungle, as well as perhaps Adams’ articles resulted in the Pure Food And Drug Act of 1906.
The products of meatpackers were so bad the British wouldn’t even feed them to their Tommies. That’s pretty bad.
So, if the Staces of the world were criminal and ought to be put out of business then by logic so should have the Armours and Swifts but what in our day would be multi-billion dollar industries don’t get shut down for the minor offence of damaging the health of millions.
One can’t be sure of Burroughs’ reasoning but his writing indicates that he was keenly aware of the hypocrisy of legalities. Perhaps for that reason he stuck by Dr. Stace.
However Stace was put out of business and the Armours and Swifts weren’t. While I applaud ERB’s steadfastness I deplore his lack of judgment for surely his reputation was tarred with the same brush as Dr. Stace.
When society figures may have asked who this Edgar Rice Burroughs was they were given, perhaps, a rundown on Dr. Stace and patent medicines as well as other employments that seem a little murky to us at present. I’m sure the ERB was seen as socially unacceptable. Thus Bridge who has lived among the hoboes has never partaken of their crimes so there is no reason for society to reject him especially as he is the son of a millionaire.
In any event ERB left Chicago for the Coast returning in 1917 then leaving for good at the beginning of 1919. Life ain’t easy. Ask me.
As Bridge, the Kid and the putative Abigail Prim were finishing breakfast the great detective Burton pulls up in front of the Squibbs place. Burton is obviously a combination of Sherlock Holmes and Allan Pinkerton. We have been advised of the Holmes connection in the opening paragraphs of this book. ERB describes Burton thusly:
Burton made no reply. He was not a man to jump to conclusions. His success was largely due to the fact that he assumed nothing; but merely ran down each clew quickly yet painstakingly until he had a foundation of fact upon which to operate. His theory was that the simplest way is always the best way. And so he never befogged the main issue with any elaborate system of deductive reasoning based on guesswork. Burton never guessed. He assumed that it was his business to know; nor was he on any case long before he did know. He was employed now to find Abigail Prim. Each of the several crimes committed the previous night might or might not prove a clew to her whereabouts; but each must be run down in the process of elimination before Burton could feel safe in abandoning it.
That’s a pretty good understanding of Doyle’s presentation of Holmes. ERB did learn Holmes’ dictum that it was necessary to read all the literature on the subject to understand the mentality of one’s subjects. Burton did demonstrate some acumen in his arrest of Dopey Charlie and the General. He deployed an agent fifty yards below and fifty yards above to converge on the two criminals while he approached from the front. Either Burroughs had been doing some reading of his own or he picked up some experience or information from elsewhere.
Another keen point was when Burton went back to where the hoboes had been hiding to dig up the evidence they had concealed that would lead to their conviction for the Baggs murder.
It’s little details like these that always make me wonder where Burroughs picked up this stuff. He does it all so naturally but one can’t write what one doesn’t know. He must have been a curious man, good memory.
So Burroughs has a a pretty good understanding of the methods of Sherlock Holmes. It must be remembered that ERB was reading these stories as they first appeared not as we do as part of literature. Holmes, O.Henry, Jack London, E.W. Hornung, these were all fresh new and extremely stimulating with a great many references and inferences which are undoubtedly lost on us. Even in Bridge And The Kid ERB’s reference to the Kid’s bringing home the bacon is a direct reference to a quip the mother of the ex-heavyweight champion of the world Jack Johnson made just after he won the championship from Jim Jeffries: He said he’d bring home the bacon and he’s done it. I don’t doubt if many caught it then but I’m sure the phrase has become such a commonplace today that only a very few catch the reference and share the laugh.
Doyle’s stories such as A Study In Scarlet dealing with the Mormons and The Valley Of Fear dealing with the Molly Maguires would have had much more thrilling immediacy for ERB than they do for us. Also Burroughs has caught the essence of Holmes which was not so much the stories as the method of Holmes.
I have read the canon four times and while I could not reconstruct any of the stories without difficulty, if at all, maxims like- When you eliminate the impossible whatever remains no matter how improbable must be the truth. – have lodged in my mind since I was fourteen guiding my intellect to much advantage. So also the dictum to read all the literature. Not easy or even possible, but the more one has read the or read again the more things just fall in place without any real effort. You have to be able to remember, remembrance being the basis of all mind, of course. Holmes has been like a god to me.
If you wish to learn a source of Burroughs’ stories then all you have to do is apply the above methods; it will all become clear.
Burton moves the story forward as his appearance causes Bridge who isn’t sure what the status of the Kid and the putative Gail Prim is, elects to avoid the great detective even though they are friends.
The trio slip out the back into the woods following a track leading to ‘Anywhere’. Burroughs in a masterful telling catches the feel of a Spring day on a recently wetted trail littered with the leaves of yesteryear. Ou sont les neiges d’antan?
They come upon a clearing where a gypsy woman is burying a body. By this time Bridge has solved the mysteries of the previous evening.
The girls make noises upon hearing the clank of a chain in a hovel causing the gypsy woman to look around. Rather than spotting the trio she spots Willie Case hiding in the bushes who she drags out.
The gypsy woman, Giova, is as good a character as Bridge, the Kid, Burton and the hoboes, but my favorite of the story is Willie Case, the fourteen year old detective. While to my mind ERB presents Willie as a thoroughly admirable character, he nevertheless vents a suppressed mean streak not only on Willie but on the whole Case family.
ERB doesn’t let his mean streak show very often, it lurks in the background, but he lets it loose in this book. He must have been under personal stress.
He describes Willie as having no forehead and no chin, imbecilic traits, literally beginning with the eyebrows and ending with the lips. A freak of nature, a real grotesque. That means that Willie was a real ‘low brow’ as Emma accused ERB of being, even a no brow. Is it a coincidence that Emma called ERB a low brow or that the literati thought ERB wrote ‘low brow’ literature?
In point of fact Willie strikes me as an intelligent boy. He analyzes the situation always being in the right place at the right moment. Burton himself pays him a high but sneering compliment then cheats him out of the promised reward of a hundred dollars but in the manner McClurg’s published his books Burroughs was cheated out of a large part of his reward.
I don’t say that’s the case but if so it fits the facts.
In any event ERB treats the Case family meanly; they might almost be prototypes of Ma and Pa Kettle of the Egg and I or the meanly portrayed characters of Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road. Jeb Case behaves very reprehensively at the lynching although once again he merely reported the facts that the Kid gave Willie. The Kid did tell Willie that he had burgled a house and killed a man. So, perhaps ERB created some characters that he could kick around as he felt himself being kicked.
And then we have the gypsy woman, Giova. She and her father are not only pariahs in general society as gypsies but because of her father they even have been cast out by the gypsies. Her father was a thief from both general and gypsy society. The former may have been laudable in gypsy terms but the latter wasn’t. They make, or made their living by thieving and cadging coins with Beppo, their dancing bear. Beppo of the evil eye.
Burroughs presents Giova as being sexually attractive with lips that were made for kissing, in echo of the refrain from Out There Somewhere. Here we may have a first inference that Emma was in trouble; the kind of trouble that would have ERB leaving her for another woman a decade or so hence. There are numerous rumblings indicating the trend not least of which was ERB’s fascination with Samuel Hopkin Adams’ novel, Flaming Youth of a few years hence and the subsequent movie starring Colleen Moore.
Bridge is now on the run with three women and a bear and he hasn’t done anything wrong to get into such hot water. One woman his emergent Anima, one, his rejected Anima, and the last a longing for a woman whose lips were made for kissing. Wow! This is all taking place in a ravine that opens into a small valley too.
All this has been accomplished in a compact one hundred pages. One third of the book is left for the denouement that Burroughs scamps as he usually does.
Giova decks them all out as gypsies which must have been an amusing sight to the Paysonites as this troop of madcaps complete with dancing bear in tow troop inconspicuously through town. Surprised they didn’t call out the national guard just for that.
As the story draws to a close ERB contributes a wonderful vignette of low brow Willie dining out at a ‘high brow’ restaurant called the Elite in Payson. The idea of Willie being conspicuous in a burg like Payson which we big city people would refer to as a hick town good only for laughs is amusing in itself. You know, it all depends on one’s perspective:
Willie Case had been taken to Payson to testify before the coroner’s jury investigating the death of Giova’s father, and with the dollar which the Osklaloosa Kid had given him in the morning burning in his pocket had proceeded to indulge in an orgy of dissipation the moment that he had been freed from the inquest. Ice cream, red pop, peanuts, candy, and soda water may have diminished his appetite but not his pride, and self-satisfaction as he sat down and by night for the first time in a public eatery place Willie was now a man of the world, a bon vivant, as he ordered ham and eggs from the pretty waitress of The Elite Restaurant on Broadway; but at heart he was not happy for never before had he realized what a great proportion of his anatomy was made up of hands and feet. As he glanced fearfully at the former, silhouetted against the white of the table cloth, he flushed scarlet, assured as he was that the waitress who had just turned away toward the kitchen with his order was convulsed with laughter and that every other eye in the establishment was glued upon him. To assume an air of nonchalance and thereby impress and disarm his critics Willie reached for a toothpick in the little glass holder near the center of the table and upset the sugar bowl. Immediately Willie snatched back the offending hand and glared ferociously at the ceiling. He could feel the roots of his hair being consumed in the heat of his skin. A quick side glance that required all his will power to consummate showed him that no one appeared to have noticed his faux pas and Willie was again slowly returning to normal when the proprietor of the restaurant came up from behind and asked him to remove his hat.
Never had Willie Case spent so frightful a half hour as that within the brilliant interior of the Elite Restaurant. Twenty-three minutes of this eternity was consumed in waiting for his order to be served and seven minutes in disposing of the meal and paying his check. Willie’s method of eating was in itself a sermon on efficiency- there was no waste motion- no waste of time. He placed his mouth within two inches of his plate after cutting his ham and eggs into pieces of a size that would permit each mouthful to enter without wedging; then he mixed his mashed potatoes in with the result and working his knife and fork alternatively with bewildering rapidity shot a continuous stream of food into his gaping maw.
In addition to the meat and potatoes there was one vegetable side dish on the empty plate, seized a spoon in lieu or a knife and fork and – presto! The side dish was empty. Where upon the prune dish was set in the empty side-dish- four deft motions and there were no prunes in the dish. The entire feat had been accomplished in 6:34 ½ , setting a new world’s record for red headed farm boys with one splay foot.
In the remaining twenty-five and one half seconds Willie walked what seemed to him a mile from his seat to the cashier’s desk and at the last instant bumped into a waitress with a trayful of dishes. Clutched tightly in Willie’s hand was thirty-five cents and his check with a like amount written upon it. Amid the crash of crockery which followed the collision Willie slammed check and money upon the cashier’s desk and fled. Nor did he pause until in the reassuring seclusion of a dark side street. There Willie sank upon the curb alternately cold with fear and hot with shame, weak and panting, and into his heart entered the iron of class hatred, searing it to the core.
The above passage has many charms. First, it is an excellent piece of nostalgia now, although at the time it represented the actuality, thus, as a period piece it is an accurate picture of the times. And then it is excellent comedy as well as a a parody as I will attempt to show.
One has to wonder if ERB really thought the Elite was a pretty fine restaurant. If so, one wonders where he took Emma and kids for a night out. Not too many gourmet Chicago restaurants served breakfast for dinner. Ham and eggs with mashed potatoes? Reminds me of the Galt House Hotel in Louisville where a ‘starch’ is served as a side dish. What exactly was this side-dish Willie wolfed- stewed tomatoes? The dessert prunes- dessert prunes?- was a nice touch too. Dessert for breakfast? Another nice quality touch at the Elite was the cup of toothpicks. Of course, those were the days cuspidors were de riguer so what do I know, maybe the Palmer House had a cup of toothpicks on the table too. I know they had cuspidors.
It does seem clear that little Willie was far down the social scale of little rural Payson. They had electric street lights, though. I’m not even from New York City but I would find the Elite, how shall I say, quaint and charming? Of course, New York City is not what it used to be either. Can’t fool me in either case; I’ve dined out in Hannibal. Good prices. Bountiful. Plenty of side dishes something that I’d never seen before.
I’m sure I’ve been in Willie’s shoes, or would have been if he’d chosen to wear them, too, so I have a great deal of sympathy for the lad. A man with a dollar has the right to spend where and as he chooses. Damn social hypocrisy!
In addition to the charm and light comedy ERB interjects a little parody of Taylorism and mass production into the mix.
For those not familiar with Frederick W. Taylor and his methods I quote from
Taylor wrote “The Principles of Scientific Management in 1911. These principles became known as Taylorism. Some of the principles of Taylorism include (Management for Productivity, John R. Schermerhorn, Jr. (1991)):
Develop a ‘science’ for every job, including rules of motion, standardized work implements, and proper working conditions.
Carefully select workers with the right abilities for the job.
Carefully train these workers to do the job, and give them proper incentives to cooperate with the job science.
Support these workers by planning their work and by smoothing the way as they go about their jobs.
Taylorism which led to maximum efficiency also give the lie to the unconscious of Sigmund Freud, or at least puts it into perspective. If the twentieth century has been the history of the devil of Freud’s unconscious it has also been the century of the triumph of the god of conscious intelligence. The question only remains which will triumph.
One of the recurring themes in ERB’s writing of the period is efficiency. Indeed, a couple years hence he will write a book entitled The Efficiency Expert.
It was the age of efficient mass production which required standardized motions and produced terrific results where applied as at Henry Ford’s marvelously efficient factories. Ford brought the task to the worker in well lighted clean factory spaces at a level which required no time consuming, fatiguing and unnecessary lifting or bending. Plus Henry Ford blew the industrial world away by doubling the going wage for unskilled labor. He changed the course of economic history singlehanded. He achieved more than the Communists or IWW could have accomplished in a million years earning their undying enmity. He may in one fell swoop have defeated the Reds. They sure thought so.
But, go back and review how Willie organizes his repast for consumption. Taylor-like he eliminated all non-essential motions then with maximum assembly line speed-up he gets production into one continuous stream.
A comic effect to be sure but there is even more comedy in the parody of the assembly line and Taylorism. I’m sure ERB intended it just that way.
Willie may be a joke but there is a certain flavor to be obtained by filling a continuum of food, mouth and time. Such an opportunity for enjoyment may present itself once in ten years or so. Willie saw his opportunity and seized it which he does throughout the story. Willie is OK with me.
I have eaten that way but I now reserve the method for ice cream and highly recommend it. My last opportunity, they present themselves but rarely and can’t be forced, was several years ago when I was insultingly offered a half melted Cherries Jubilee. The dish was of a perfect consistency for assembly line consumption. I saw my chance and like Willie, I took it. I kind of distributed cherries and ice cream chunks in the creamy stew, got mouth in the right position and cleaned the bowl in sixty seconds flat, reared back gripping the bridge of my nose, honked a couple times as the freeze seized my brain and then took a few minutes for consciousness to return. One of the great natural highs in this drug infested time. I tell ya‘, fellas, they was all lookin’ at me but I am much beyond the iron of class hatred. If they can’t take a joke…well, you know the finish. So I think Willie Case did the right thing.
Clumsy waitress to get in his way anyway. Fourteen hours on the job was no excuse.
Willie didn’t feel guilt for too long though, for what ERB calls a faux pas, it put him in the right place at the right time to see Giova and her dancing bear fresh from Beppo’s own slops. How could ERB be so cruel to a dumb animal- the bear, not Willie-, one that was going to save the heroine’s life- both the bear and Willie.
After having had dinner and refreshments Willie still had 20 cents left from a dollar of which he spent 10 cents for a detective movie and had ten cents left over for a long distance phone call to Burton in Oakdale after he spotted Giova and her dancing bear when he came out of the movie theatre.
He followed Giova to Bridge and the girls, fixed their location then called Burton. Not only did Willie spot the fugitives but so did the four leftover bums. Dopey Charlie and the General were impounded for the Baggs murder while we will learn that the real Oskaloosa Kid and the putative Gail Prim remain as well perhaps as the true identity of L. Bridge.
Burroughs is full of interesting details. The hoboes are gathered in an abandoned electrical generating plant which had formerly served Payson but had been discontinued for a larger plant servicing Payson from a hundred miles away. We don’t know when that might have happened but electrical generation and distribution was relatively new. The consolidation into larger generating units was even newer. Samuel Insull, whose electrical empire collapsed about1938 had begun organizing distribution in 1912 when he formed the Mid-West Utilities in Chicago absorbing all the smaller companies such as this one in Payson obviously.
I find details like this the exiting part of reading Burroughs.
The murderous hoboes set out to rob and kill Bridge and the Kid while Sky Pilot and Dirty Eddie elect themselves to return the putative Gail Prim who we will learn is actually Hettie Penning, thus doubling ERB’s Anima figure and connecting the latter to the former.
One is put in mind of the Hettie of H.G. Wells’ novel In The Days Of The Comet. Both Hetties exhibit the same traits. While it may seem a slender connection, still, ERB has so many references to other authors and their works that the connection is not improbable. For obvious reasons ERB always insisted he had never read H.G. Wells. Wells? Wells, who?, but how could he not have?
Bridge and the girls would have met their end except that Willie Case’s call brought Burton on the run who arrives in time to save their lives. Unfortunately Beppo of the evil eye meets his end after having done Burton’s job for him much as Willie always did.
In between the girls, the ‘boes, Bridge and the coppers Burton has a full load so he drops Bridge and Kid at the Payson jail. Willie Case had not only solved the case for the ingrate Burton but saved the life of Gail Prim posing as the Oskaloosa Kid. In a heart wrenching scene little Willie seeking his just reward is cruelly rejected and cheated by the Great Detective. I don’t know, maybe I read too closely and get too involved. Or, just maybe, ERB is a great writer.
It’s all over but the shouting and along comes the mob howling from Oakdale for the blood of Bridge and the Kid. I tell ya, boys, it wuz close. Burton arrived in time but not before Bridge with a well aimed blow broke Jeb Case’s jaw. What did those Cases ever do to ERB I wonder?
In the end Hettie Penning is identified, clearing up that mystery. Burton is able to tell Bridge’s dad who has spent $20,000 looking for him that he is found. It may even have cost less for Stanley to find Livingston. Of course there was a lousy rail system in the Congo in Livingston’s time. Bridge is united with Gail obviously prepared to renounce the roving life. Thus the promise of Out There Somewhere is redeemed. Bridge has found his woman.
Thus on paper, at least, Burroughs is reunited with his Animus in gorgeous female attire. No more men in women’s clothes or women in men’s clothes.
Bridge And The Kid is a very short book, only 152 pages in my Charter paperback edition of 1979 (Septimius Favonius BB #24. Charter didn’t see fit to include a date.) Although first issued in book form so late as 1937, it was reprinted in 1938 and 1940 so there must have been some early readers however when reprinted in 1974 there could have been few who remembered it.
My fellow writer, David Adams wrote a short review in the same issue #24 of the Burroughs Bulletin, October 1995, in which he also recognized the importance of this book to the corpus:
It may come as a surprise that anyone could possibly think of calling the novelette, THE OAKDALE AFFAIR, a major work of such a prolific writer as Edgar Rice Burroughs, but I found it to be such an animal…
I am unaware that any other than Mr. Adams and myself have reviewed the book. To sum up:
There seems to be an obvious connection to Jack London in the Bridge Trilogy (I prefer Bridge to Mucker because the latter draws reproving stares and no one today knows what a mucker is. It sounds slightly obscene.)
Mr. Adams, who is more of an authority on Jack London than myself, I’ve only begun to read London as a result of Bill Hillman’s series of articles in ERBzine, which posits a strong connection between Burroughs and London, and not the other way around, feels the novels have a great deal to do with London. The connection seems to be there but I have only begun to read London’s relevant or major works.
What ERB’s attitude towards London may have been which seems ambiguous isn’t clear. Burroughs never wrote about London and never mentions him explicitly. There are many points of disagreement between the two politically and socially. Burroughs does seem to have liked London and his work although what he read or when he read it isn’t clear. There are no London titles in his library.
The second major influence in the novel is the problem of hoboism connected with the IWW and labor unrest.
In the background Burroughs is working out his Anima/Animus problem.
The whole is framed in the form of a rather magnificent detective story patterned after Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories with a dash, perhaps a soupcon, of E.W. Hornung thrown in.
Attention should be paid to the psychological aspects.
Many of ERB’s favorite themes such as the efficiency expert are also thrown in. Nifty historical details like Samuel Insull’s electrical empire are added to the mix as well as Taylorism.
If anything ERB was too efficient, too economical in his use of words. The Book could easily have been fleshed out another sixty or hundred pages with no loss in the marvelous immediacy of the telling. If anything the story is too condensed. I found myself pausing over each description to recreate a mental image of the depiction. I was willing to do so and the personal reward was great. How much ERB was the creator of my vision of the story and how much my own as collaborator isn’t clear to me. Perhaps ERB just outlined the story ‘suggesting’ the scenario, expecting the reader to ‘customize’ the story as he reads along. This may be the first ‘inter-active’ novel. If so, Burroughs may be an even more innovative and greater writer than he is commonly thought to be.
March 6, 2012
Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Accreted Personality
The post-French Revolution period begins the rapid development of the Aryan mind. The Enlightenment laid the foundation of that development. Shortly after mid-nineteenth century the French astronomer, Camille Flammarion, was able to announce that Astronomy and Psychology would be the key disciplines of the future. The break with the religious consciousness of the past ten thousand years or so would be fraught with immense dangers, dangers which we are still combating.
The social ideology of the present asserts that all people are of the same stage of mental development. This is, of course, absolute nonsense. There are still hundreds of millions if not a billion or two who still maintain a stone age view of the world. Nor are all of them in other parts of the world, a vast number are here in the Americas and Europe. In addition there are billions still enmeshed in a religious consciousness while only perhaps a hundred million or two have actually evolved into the scientific consciousness. Hence we have the terrifically repressive attempted subversion of science by the Semitic religions.
So, it should be clear at first glance that not all people are equally developed or endowed nor are all cultures of the same value.
The French scientist and neo-romantic novelist Camille Flammarion noted mid-nineteenth century that the two most important intellectual disciplines for the future would be Astronomy and Psychology. I think that has proven true.
A major discovery of the century was the notion of the split or multiple personality. A term currently in use is Dissociation. Neither is accurate. I advance the term Accretive Personality. That is one’s personality is made up of many personality variations as a result of growth and experience. In periods of stress it is quite easy to escape oppressive reality by slipping into what is essentially an alternate reality or a parallel personality, if you will.
This was not a new phenomenon, merely the shock of recognition. In Greek mythology, for instance, when the stress of the mid life crisis hit, the hero went through a period of madness, that is to say he adopted a parallel personality until he was able to reorganize his mental attitude to new realities.
In Europe, under the stress of an insane quasi-Semitic religion in which Satan took a prominent role, it was common for the stressed to become ‘possessed’ by demons or, in other words, to split the personality. That is the person showed a parallel personality. The transition point to the beginning of secular understanding came when Dr. Anton Mesmer matched his secular method of exorcism against the ecclesiastical method of exorcism and won. So one might say that modern psychology derived from the problem of the dual personality- the Jekyll and Hyde effect. However dual or multiple personality was not recognized as such until announced in Jean-Martin Charcot’s clinic at the Salpetriere hospital in Paris in the mid-eighties.
Charcot studied hysterics. Hysterics are dealing with a lot of stress, hence escape through an alternate personality would be an easy choice. Charcot and the Salpetriere aren’t exactly household words so let’s take a moment to explain the situation in which modern psychology was born.
It is also necessary to bear in mind changes in scale. What is good for one stage of growth is not good for another. As the scale of things progresses from tiny to small to medium to large to huge to gigantic new forms have to be adopted to suit the new circumstances. These transition points are difficult to adjust to but once adjusted to are considered so normal that those who resisted the old change are equally resistant to adapt to the next level. Of course the young of each scale is born into it and has no adaptation to make although they will at the next change of scale.
Thus the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era masked to a very large degree a major change of scale so that after Waterloo a seemingly complete break with the past had taken place. It was a new world in the morning. So in the years leading up to the Great War another change of scale had taken place that masked the new world that popped into place in the twenties. I picked up the concept from that astute observer, H.G. Wells, who noted the emerging change in scale at the turn of the century. That great ship, the Titanic, that went down in ‘12 may be considered as representative of that change.
Thus with the change of consciousness that actually took place in 1795 the new consciousness became clear after Waterloo. Gone was the religious notion of ‘possession by evil spirits’ to be replaced soon by the concept of multiple personality. Thus whereas in the past the insane had been treated as raving beasts, chained to walls and whatever a Dr. Pinel at Paris’ Salpetriere began a more humane treatment with an attempt to understand the causes of insanity. The approach was parodied amusingly by Edgar Allen Poe in his story The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether in which the inmates revolted and took over the asylum.
The Salpetriere was a large compound of several acres with thousands of residents, mainly women from whom the subjects who became the hysterics that the great Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot began to study as a neurologist, as the early psychiatrists were known. The field of Psychology is divided in two. On the one side psychiatrists who must be MDs and who believe mental ailments are biologically derived and hence to be treated medically with drugs or, one shudders to think of it, operations like pre-frontal lobotomy or electric or insulin shock ‘therapy.’ Psychologists, who are PhDs with little or no medical training treat neuroses and psychoses as malfunctions of reason caused by experiential traumas.
Charcot as an MD originally sought biological causes for the hysteria he studied although he was coming around to a psychological viewpoint just before he died in 1893. Thus from being chained before Dr. Pinel released them these women, hysterics, while being confined to the Salpetriere were given freedom of movement within the hospital with its flowers and walkways making for a much more pleasant environment for them and one unobtainable to them on the outside.
Now, the great Dr. Anton Mesmer introduced hypnotism to Europe as a discipline in the years just before the Revolution. Naturally something so new and seemingly revelatory did not find immediate acceptance, indeed, it was treated as nonsense. Nevertheless people of learning, doctors, persisted in experimenting with it. Thus, when Charcot came to be the director of the Salpetriere, to the dismay of his profession he introduced the practice in his treatment of his hysterics and thus legitimized its use. Hypnosis, too, was new and little understood.
The essence of hypnosis is suggestion and Charcot did not understand suggestion. The rival hypnosis school led by Auguste Liebeault and Hippolyte Bernstein at Nancy to the East of Paris was aware of the effect of suggestion but not necessarily the nature of what it was. Actually suggestion is whatever enters the mind and is accepted. If one wakes to a beautiful sunny morning it is suggested to oneself that the day will be a good day. Acting on that suggestion, post-hypnotic one might say, one will try to make the day a great one to hang onto that feeling. The mind is naturally open to suggestion as it must be; in an active mind one can discriminate to some extent as to what suggestions will be accepted and which rejected. Under hypnosis in which the mind has been put into a passive state the ability to discriminate and reject has been greatly reduced so that a hypnotist can plant a suggestion that then becomes what Charcot’s associate, Pierre Janet, called an idee fixe, or in other words, a fixation that will remain in your mind until executed. This notion may be imparted by a human agent, books, movies, radio or any medium that is capable of influencing the mind. One must be aware of this. It isn’t necessary to have a hypnotist standing in front of you saying ‘look into my eyes.’
As I say, Charcot was convinced that hysteria was biological, that is to say caused by a lesion to the brain, so that while he hypnotized his female subjects at the Salpetriere he wasn’t aware of the nature of suggestion.
Now, the eighteen seventies and eighties were terrifically exciting at all levels. They did things differently then. As has been said: The past is another country; they do things differently there. The past is never to be judged by current standards although the latter are useful for comparison. Thus when Lister suggested that antiseptics ought to be used in the operating room his suggestion was stoutly resisted although true and nearly universally accepted today. On the other hand Evolution although true is more stoutly resisted today in a religious reaction than it was in the last quarter of the nineteenth century so don’t feel all that superior.
While Charcot was arguing with himself as to whether hysteria was biological or mental, in the mid-eighties two of his associates easily grasped that hysteria was a mental problem. These two were Sigmund Freud and Pierre Janet.
Freud at that time, 1886, was making the transition to psychology from medicine. He was an MD. Charcot was not alone in dealing with mental matters. The understanding of dreams for instance was developing rapidly. When Freud published his Interpretation Of Dreams in 1900 he cited dozens of competent researchers dating as far back as the 1860s. In 1886 alone two novels dealing with the subconscious and split personality were published, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde and Marie Corelli’s Wormwood. Corelli cites Charcot as an influence so she very likely had attended his semi-public presentations of hysterics under hypnosis at his hospital.
Going back further, Freud, a German Jew, was undoubtedly familiar with the psychological work of the German romantics. At any rate he spent about four months at the Salpetriere studying Charcot’s work and methods. It is likely that the foundation of his psychoanalysis was laid there. While Charcot was struggling to determine whether hysteria was biological or mental, Freud, himself a neurologist, was able to perceive that, as he later put it, hysterics were suffering from reminiscences. In other words they fixated on past experiences which dominated their minds and behavior.
Pierre Janet, Charcot’s student and associate, came to the same conclusion probably at the same time. He expressed the problem more accurately when he determined that hysterics suffered from one or more idee fixes, that is a fixed idea or, in other words, a fixation centered around a specific past event or events.
Indeed, all the women at the Salpetriere had been battered and brutalized by life with no means of self-assertion or resistance. Unable to express their own will they retreated into ineffective hysterics finally ending up as semi-insane in Charcot’s hospital.
Now, split or multiple personality. No one, especially these women, have the personality they are born with. Over the course of our lives circumstances require us to respond in different ways, sometimes a personality is overwhelmed with a consequent personality adaptation or change and in extreme cases, insanity.
All very well, but what happens to the original and/or various personalities that were submerged. It is impossible for them to vanish from the mind so they must live on submerged by a more powerful personality impulse. Depending on the individual then, everybody must have at least one alternate personality. Stevenson and Corelli were demonstrating this in their novels.
The good Dr. Jekyll had had a wild streak in his youth that he forcefully repressed to become the totally respectable man of medicine. But, he longed for his rough and rowdy days so in Stevenson’s story he invents a potion, I’m sure whisky would have been just as effective, that allows him to free his original personality. In the course of his experiment the earlier personality suppresses the later one assuming control of Jekyll’s mind. Much the same thing happens in Corelli’s novel. Thus we have personality accretion.
Charcot’s hysterics, because of the side show atmosphere the Good Doctor created, became world famous, a sort of show people. Charcot even took them on the road for demonstrations and, heaven forbid, loaned them to other doctors for experimentation.
It was during one such loan in 1888 that Jules Janet, Pierre’s brother, made a startling discovery. He was experimenting on Blanche Wittman, the Queen of Hysterics, when having hypnotized her into what Charcot called the first state, instead of progressing to the second state, he decided to put her into a deeper trance. At that point Blanche was able to dissociate her personality from her normal state to what I assume was her original personality. She turned into a happy effervescent bubbly girl. In other words she had stripped every accreted personality adjustment to return to the period before society violated her womanhood.
One might ask where this personality came from? It is not necessary to assume either the supernatural or the paranormal. The personality did not come from outside her but was merely an early personality that had been submerged and denied existence by repeated abuse. If Jules Janet had pressed on he might have found three, four or more variations of Blanche Wittman. Indeed, when Charcot died in 1893 Blanche ceased having hysterical attacks and became quite normal assuming yet another personality although it was not recognized as such. She then took responsible employment at the hospital until she died under tragic circumstances.
Thus during one’s life one assumes many variations as one’s personal circumstances dictate. And one expresses them in many different ways. As an example of personality accretion I am going to use the history of the American fantasy and science fiction writer, Edgar Rice Burroughs. He has especial value as his biography is well developed and he has talked voluminously about his mental states through his large body of fiction which is all autobiographical in nature.
Part II follows.
May 8, 2011
Tarzan And The River
Edgar Rice Burroughs In Aspic
When ‘Omer smote his bloomin’ lyre,
He’d heard men sing by land and sea:
An’ what ‘e thought ‘e might require,
‘E went and took- the same as me!
The market-girls an’ fishermen,
The shepherds and the sailors, too,
They ‘eard old songs turn up again,
But kept it quiet- same as you!
They knew ‘e stole, ‘e knew they knowed,
They didn’t tell, nor make a fuss,
But winked at ‘Omer down the road.
An’ ’e winked back= the same as us.
I want a dream lover,
So I don’t have to dream alone.
First published in the Burroughs Bulletin
Spring 2003 issue.
As an author Edgar Rice Burroughs belongs to the generation of writers who wrote between the wars. He is or should be placed beside Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Faulkner, Aldous Huxley, P.G. Wodehouse, H.G. Wells, John Dos Passos and John Steinbeck, among others. Further, of all those authors ERB was the best selling writer in the entire world. His reign came to an end in 1939 and then only after his talent was dissipated. This is a remarkable achievement against some very qualified and important writers. One doesn ‘t often hear of Steinbeck societies. Hemingway or any of the others but Burroughs societies exist in many countries around the world.
I consider myself an intellectual and literary snob, yet I acknowledge ERB as important an intellectual and literary figure as any of the savants mentioned above. ERB did not parade his knowledge and savvy as most writers are wont to do. He incorporated a fairly deep understanding of many contemporary issues without a hint of the lamp. Tarzan Triumphant is a case in point. Obviously the two religious groups in the novel refer to Jews and Christians, but there is no reference to either sect. One is left to infer that the Old Testament crowd led by Abraham, son of Abraham, is of the Old Testament while their rivals are New Testament. In so far as ERB allows the story to involve religious discussion, the moral is ‘a pox on both your houses.’
Even more remarkable is that over the writing of the published twenty-one Tarzans before 1940 all the novels are interrelated. ERB was able to keep his Tarzan facts in order over a twenty-seven year period of writing while being involved in the writing of dozens of other books. In point of fact the Tarzan oeuvre is a roman a fleuve- a river novel.
A River novle is a series of novels which traces the course of a nation, people, a family or an an individual over a period of at least decades. The first novel ever written was a River novel, that was the story of the Greek invasion of Troy.
The two surviving complete books of this remakarble story are Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Moreover, many fragments exist predating the events of the Iliad and after.
Perhaps the most prodigious of all River novels is the Vulgate Lancelot chronicling the adventures of King Arthur and his knights. The story runs on for thousands of pages.
In modern times Alexander Dumas’ five volume epic concerning the adventures of the Three Musketeers constitute a River novel. Trollope wrote two, that of the Pallisers and the Barchester series. The model for the twentieth century was Remembrance Of Things Past by Marcel Proust.
Edgar Rice Burroughs has always been treated frivolously, yet the Tarzan oeuvre is a work of some magnitude which does not compare unfavorably with Proust.
Proust’s work looks backward as he relives his life trying to make order of his psychology. Burroughs’ Tarzan oeuvre records his psychological development on a current basis as it evolves year by year.
ERB’s work is characterized as imaginative fiction while Proust’s is considered realistic fiction. In other words, realistic fiction builds on real life experience in real life situations, while the imaginative writer is compelled to ‘invent’ incidents.
Thus while the realistic writer draws primarily from personal experience and observations, the imaginative writer has to draw from published sources of either fiction or nonfiction or convert real life experiences into symbolic form. The latter is more true of science and fantasy fiction. If the science fiction writers of the forties and fifties hadn’t had a couple thousand years of esoteric literature to draw on there would have been little science fiction. Of course the writers so disguise their sources that without an extensive education in esoteric writings oneself the stories seem incredibly original.
Borrowing from every source is extensive. For instance, Arthur C. Clarke’s Childhood’s End is the same story as H.G. Wells’ Food Of The Gods with different detailing. Wells himself extrapolated his story farom Darwin’s Origin Of Species and The Descent Of Man. Darwin of course turned to nature, the ultimate source of suggestion, for his story.
That Burroughs borrowed extensively and sometimes blatantly is of little consequence, especially as his original contributions were so extensive and satisfying. As the opening poem by Kipling indicates, at least he was honest enough to admit of outside influences.
The Russian Quartet, or first four novels, is a tentative beginning to the Tarzan oeuvre. It is possible that the first novel, Tarzan Of The Apes, was just an attempt to express certain ideas about heredity and such related topics that ERB wanted to say with no thought of sequels. The story itself is absurd enough that it seems a miaracle that it was accepted and published. It is perhaps less surprising that it was so readily accepted by the reading public as the great figure of Tarzan rises shining from the pages. One ignores any story telling flaws to get a glimpse of the bronzed forest giant, the great Tarmangani, the jungle god, the Lord of the Jungle, Tarzan. A writer should be so lucky to come up with such an archetypal figure.
Return and Beasts find Burroughs groping for a direction. Beasts is is heavily influenced by H.M. Stanley’s writing on Africa as well as that of Mungo Park, not to mention Edgar Wallace’s Sanders Of The River. The story of Paulevitch’s experience in the jungle was obviously taken from Mungo Park’s Travels In The Interior Of Africa. Beasts itself which also has a lot of Defoe in it, is absurd to the extreme yet somehow redeems itself as one becomes entranced by the outrageous notion of apes and men row-row-rowing their boat down the stream. Somewhere either before the beginning of Beasts or after the end, ERB interweaves the story of Barney Custer and the Mad King and the Eternal Lover to bring his own psychology into the Tarzan character. Thus ERB pictures himself as the Son Of Tarzan in the novel of that name.
Having resolved, after a fashion, his conflicts with this father and somewhere in that tremendous gush of writing having integrated his personality, ERB then turns to himself as the conflicted Animus of Tarzan the Hero and Tarzan the Clown to resolve that psychological dilemma over the next seventeen volumes published during his lifetime.
The Russian Quartet was written over a period of three years. The eight novels between Son and Lost Empire were written over fourteen years. Whether the ‘Lost Empire’ refers to Emma and Opar is open to conjecture. In any event Lost Empire signifies a terminal junction in ERB’s psychology.
Then as the problems of his Animus and Anima resolve themselves ERB rapidly turns out six volumes over four years.
He had difficulty writing Tarzans while struggling with his psychology but wrote quickly once he had made up his mind.
From 1934 in psychologically related volumes to 1938 he published the three additional novels of Quest, Forbidden city and Magnificent. The psychologically relevant Madman was discovered and published in 1964, fourteen years after his death. Perhaps the thought the novel was too personal and painful to publish himself.
As noted “Foreign Legion’ is a propagandistic after thought to the oeuvre.
As ERB didn’t begin writing until he was thirty-six it is fair to say that his writing represents the effort of a mature mind. This is even more evident when one reflects that the majority of the Tarzan oeuvre was written between the ages of forty-one and fifty-eight. Lion Man, which is the culminating volume of ERB’s psychological odyssey was written at the last age.
The novels written between 1930 and 1934 which I consider excellent work and the best of the Tarzan oeuvre are the ones most often dismissed as repetitious. One of the very best, Tarzan And The Leopard Men, is, oddly enough, often dismissed as ‘hack work’. Very strange.
But to return to Opar and move forward from there. From 1912 or 1911 if you consider from the first moment ERB put pen to paper to 1915, things developed very rapidly in ERB’s mind. The rich experience of his lifetime, all his opinions, thoughts and fancies were so compressed within his skull that as I say he erupted with more than the force of Spindletop. It took him three years to cap that gusher and then the flow was strong and steady until 1934 when he realized himself.
Return was written in 1913 when his Anima, La of Opar, first pops up. She then disappears until 1916 when wife Emma apparently sneered at the wealth ERB had laid at her feet. She would not so soon forget the first twelve years of her humiliation.
Her rejection of ERB the Hero must have hurt Burroughs to the quick. Following Return he wrote The Mad King in which after numerous trials and tribulations and after he had disposed of Custer’s inept doppelganger, the Mad King, Barney Custer and the Princess Emma were reconciled. In all likelihood the story was a day-dream of wish fulfillment in the Freudian manner because in The Eternal Lover which followed quickly Barney Custer goes to Tarzan’s Equatorial estate but with his sister Victoria and not the ‘Princess Emma’. His marital relationship is obviously still very troubled. As noted, The Eternal Lover is a myth of the nature of Pysche and Eros, the Anima and Animus.
Interestingly, Boy Jack’s wife, which is to say ERB’s at the end of Son of Tarzan is no longer a princess but the daughter of a general. Emma had apparently been demoted in ERB’s emotions.
In a psychological quandary ERB has Tarzan leave Jane in 1916 to return to Opar and La for more gold to lay at Jane/Emma’s feet. This story is crucial for the rest of the oeuvre. ERB’s dream lover, La, spares his life and offers to marry him or in other words take him away from Jane/Emma. At this point in his life ERB is faithful in body if not in spirit. He declines her offer having his faithful Waziri stagger back to Jane under a load of one hundred twenty pounds of gold each.
Apparently the wealth of Opar of which tons of gold remained to be tapped as well as bushels of the very largest of diamonds (move ahead to the Father of Diamonds in the Forbidden City) is not enough to assuage Jane/Emma’s anger at Ed’s failure for the first twelve years of married life. She rejects ERB’s present income. This must have been a staggering blow for Burroughs who at this point in his life wanted to abandon his clown role for that of the hero.
He had already begun Jungle Tales Of Tarzan, which he managed to finish, otherwise from Jewels of Opar to Tarzan the Untamed there is a hiatus in Tarzan novels for thirty-nine months. For over three years he and Emma were apparently at a stalemate making it impossible for him to write further Tarzan adventures.
When Tarzan returns it is as The Untamed and he and Jane have been separated, possibly for good as Tarzan has no idea where she is; common report is that she is dead.
One may infer that the marriage is all but over. It takes another twenty-three months before Tarzan The Terrible appears. Tarzan goes from Untamed to Terrible. Apparently ERB and Emma are now temporarily reconciled as Tarzan finds Jane in the forgotten land of Pal-ul-don (paladin?) and he, she and Jack go swinging down the jungle trails to return to Equatoria. the family is reunited. But is it?
After the passage of twenty-two months Burroughs follows Terrible with Golden Lion. Now the title Golden Lion is somewhat misleading as the Lion doesn’t play that large a role in the story. The Lion seems to have sprung from Burroughs’ subconscious as a defense against the Lion of Emma. In this story Tarzan leaves Jane for a fairly extended visit to his dream lover, La in Opar. They are together for some time as they adventure into the adjacent lost valley called The Valley Of Diamonds. (Once again, see Tarzan And The Forbidden City.) Possibly the Father of Diamonds represents the Jewel of Great Price which turns out ironically to be a piece of coal. This was after ERB left Emma for Florence.
Golden Lion introduces the great doppelganger of Tarzan, Esteban Miranda. I am absolutely fascinated by this character. Miranda looks, talks and walks so much like Tarzan that not only can’t Jane/Emma tell them apart but Miranda even fools the faithful Waziri.
Golden Lion is paired with Tarzan And The Ant Men. You have to read both to get the whole story.
Esteban Miranda is a London actor, a clown and a cowardly fool. ERB goes to great lengths to deliniate the character of this unpleasant but goofily amiable alter ego.
In the confusion Miranda is captured by a savage tribe of Blacks where he is spared because of his resemblance to Tarzan. He escapes finally although he is a blithering idiot who has lost his memory. Get that! Even Tarzan’s doppelganger loses his memory. I haven’t been able to fugure out ERB’s problems with his memory yet.
He is discovered by the Waziri where he is once again mistaken for the real thing. He is taken to the ranch house where Jane nurses him back to health. Still mistakes him for the real Tarzan, he is about to be embraced lovingly by Jane when the terrible, untamed Tarzan appears through the French windows. Tarzan himself had been off having incredible adventures with the Ant Men returning just in the nick of time.
Here apparently Jane rejects Burroughs the Hero in favor of Burroughs the Clown of the first twelve years of her marriage. This is something which ERB can’t forgive. His resentment turns into a divorce about ten years later.
There is then another long hiatus of approximately forty months before Tarzan returns as Lord of the Jungle with Jane in a very subsidiary role. So in twelve years Burroughs wrote only about five Tarzan novels. Then between 1929 and 1934 he whipped out an additional seven.
The change of pace was caused by the quickening resolution of ERB’s psychological dilemma. He was obviously living his life vicariously as Tarzan.
It is this development of his psychology recorded through Tarzan that makes the oeuvre the most fascinating of River novels.
Let us understand that a writer, any writer, is always discussing his own psychology. this applies both to so-called non-fiction as well as fiction. Properly speaking there is no such thing as non-fiction. The difference between the two is that in non-fiction a writer describes actual events through a prism of so-called objectivity. In other words in writing about Edgar Rice Burroughs I am bound to adhere to the facts of ERB’s life and I cannot invent details to improve the story. However, in actuality I see what my own psychology has prepared me to see. My psychology, that is, in conjunction with my intelligence and emotional perspicuity.
Anyone who has read the autobiography of Frank Harris knows that his favorite adage is that no man can see over the top of his head. Therefore it behooves every man to broaden and develop his experience so that he can stand as tall as possible. In that way he can at least hopefully see over the heads of all his fellows. I was once fortunate enough to try this on a crowded street in Hong Kong where I stood head and shoulders above my fellow Chinese pedestrians. You could see the heads and shoulders of all the American sailors inching slowly along like icebergs in a sea of Chinese.
But seriously, one must develop one’s intelligence and that is exactly what Edgar Rice Burroughs did throughout his life. ERB was an avid reader both of fiction and non-fiction. He makes frequent allusion to Poe, Wells, Doyle and who I think he respects most, Rudyard Kipling. If you have read the great African explorers you will have no difficulty identifying sources. ERB was quick in picking up new titles also. Forbidden City was, I believe, based partially on Digging For Lost African Gods by Byron Khun de Protok published in 1926.
ERB was also forced to respond to hectoring outside criticism. I’m sure he little knew the effect that the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 would have on him personally, but by 1933′s Leopard Men he was thrown on the defensive by what H.G. Wells called the ‘Open Conspiracy’ or the Red Revolution. I will deal with it in the last essay in our series called ‘Star Begotten.’
All of Burroughs stories are many layered if you care to look beyond the surface details. After Golden Lion ERB develops a whole jungle family of attendant animals which follow him through all the stories. Each novel is merely one episode in the life of Tarzan/Burroughs and each leads to the next novel in true River fashion.
This is wonderful stuff. There is no difficulty understanding why Burroughs was the best selling author of his time.
After recording the difficulties of reconciling himself with Emma from 1916 to 1928 ERB reluctantly threw in the towel when he wrote Tarzan And The Lost Empire. The double entendre of the lost empire is explicit in between the lines. It is not only the Lost Empire deep in the Heart Of Darkness but also his dream of building a great empire with Emma. The dissolution of his marriage and his search for a real live La of Opar begins with the book.
At this point he has also come under attack by the Reds who cannot tolerate the success of a Conservative writer. Consolidating rapidly from 1917 to 1923, by this time the Revolution was in control of publishing. They could deny access to new conservative writers, creating the myth that all the best new writers were Communist in faith, but they still had to destroy the reputations of older, non-conforming writers.
I don’t know that any studies have been made of literary or journalistic attacks on ERB, but he responds as though there were many. In 1929 he took time out from his personal psychology to write a major counter-attack against the Revolution with Tarzan At The Earth’s Core.
While this may appear to be simply a critique of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, in fact Einstein was as much a political figure as a scientific one. Both he and Freud were prominent agents of the ‘Open Conspiracy’ along with that literary political agent, H.G. Wells, so that Earth’s Core is a counter-attack on his detractors.
Then in quick succession ERB turned out Tarzan the Invicinble, (watch the titles) Tarzan Triumphant, Tarzan And The City Of Gold, Tarzan And The Leopard Men and Tarzan And The Lion Man.
After a long struggle Burroughs quickly resolved his psychological dilemma. He rectified his Animus, disposing of the clown side of his nature while at the same time reconciling his Anima. He divorced Emma while marrying what he fancied was a La of Opar in Florence. The final conflict with Emma is recorded in City Of Gold. The basic idea for City was probably borrowed from Bulfinch’s The Legends Of Charlemagne. In Legends, an enchantress has captured many of the leading palladins of Charlemagne which she has imprisoned in a city of gold. The medieval writers borrowed the story of Odysseus and Circe from Homer.
In Burroughs’ story the enchantress Nemone has ‘captured’ a bemused Tarzan who may escape any time he chooses but he elects to stay around to see what will happen.
Lion Man is notable for the way Burroughs blends psychology, fiction, the movies and how the movies affect the perception of reality of movie-goers. Film, which was developed during Burroughs’ young manhood, had a profound effect on the movie-goer’s ability to distinguish real life from movie fantasy. Burroughs was qite precocious in understanding this. There are earlier references to the matter in his work but here he gives it a full scale examination, both as when the fictional Tarzan replaces the even more fictional Obroski in Africa and when as a Burroughs doppelganger Tarzan mixes on set with the movie people in Hollywood where they fail to recognize him as the real thing, Lion Man is perhaps the most interesting of all the Tarzan novels.
After Lion Man, which both rectifies his Animus and reconciles his Anima, his motive for writing fast and furious disappeared. In fact, his subject matter disappears. He had in effect run out of material. Tarzan’s Quest and Tarzan And The Forbidden City record his lingering problems with his two ladies at the age of sixty-three. You can see why he wrote it as a farce.
Tarzan And The Madman caps the story of his pschological development although he did not publish the novel during his lifetime.
At the end, as is not unusual, he returned to the beginning as in The Mad King. The totally farcical Forbidden City is an example of what his writing might have turned into if he had been allowed to publish under his pseudonym, Normal Bean. As a comic novel, Forbidden City is actually very funny, if absurd, as Tarzan is driven from pillar to post by his two women. This undoubtedly reflects his real life situation. In the end, he says, the fabulous diamond he and everyone else is seeking, the Jewel Of Great Price, is merely a mirage turning out to be as worthless as a piece of coal.
Both Lion Man and Forbidden City seem to have influenced Aldous Huxley, one of the major intellectual writers of the period. His novel, After Many A Summer Dies The Swan (1939), has allusions to Burroughs’ two novels. The theme of ‘Lion Man’ of the mad scientist, God, who reverts to a half-ape, half-man creature is replicated in Swan in which an English nobleman who has lived for two hundred years reverts to an apelike existence.
That the theme may be more than coincidental is the fact that Huxley incorporates an imaginary University of Tarzana into the story. Thus one of the great intellectuals of the period found much of deep interest in ERB’s novels while also reacting to Wells.
Edgar Rice Burroughs was in fact a great literary artist, if a trifle coarse. He is, in fact, a great talent which if the critics fail to realize it, the people don’t.
Surviving a hundred years is no small matter, it takes some talent to do that. Yet, after those hundred years ERB is still an active force in the literary coal mines. Well, it’s not like coal doesn’t burn with a pure blue flame and under pressure turn into diamonds.
April 11, 2011
Tarzan Meets Einstein Somewhere In Time
Burroughs, E.R.: Tarzan At the Earth’s Core, 1929
Burroughs, E.R.: Tarzan The Invincible, 1930
Gott, J. Richard: Time Travel In Einstein’s Universe, 2001
Wells, H.G., The Time Machine, 1895
Time travel seems strange because we are unaccustomed
to seeing time travelers. But if we saw them
everyday we might not be surprised to meet a man
who was his own mother and father.
– J. Richard Gott, Time Travel In Einstein’s Universe
When you eliminate the impossible whatever remains,
no matter how improbable,
must be the truth.
All possible universes exist.
Unfortunately you are
in the wrong one.
– J. Richard Gott
Upon time and space is written, thoughts,
the deeds, the activities of an entity
in relationship to its environs,
its hereditary influence and its judgments
drawn according to the entity’s ideal.
Hence, it has often been called
The reward of God’s book of remembrance.
– Edgar Cayce, 1 February 1946
Somewhere in time, let’s say 1905, a man named Levi Dowling says, in all seriousness, that he traveled out to the belt of stars girdling Earth known as the Zodiac. There at the cusp of the departing Age of Pisces and the arriving Age of Aquarius he was met by celestial beings who allowed him to examine the Akashic Records to learn the shape of things to come in the Age of Aquarius.
Wouldn’t it have been nice if he had taken Madame Blavatsky and Albert Einstein with him? They might have taken folding chairs and a card table along and read the Tarot cards or cast the I Ching. Madame B who had already examined the Akashic Records in the mystical land of Tibet could have guided Mr. Dowling through the Records while Albert Einstein offered a useful comment from time to time on how better to order all the possible universes. By the way Mr. Gott should know that it is not necessary for all the possible universes to exist simultaneously. Some might be in the garage for repairs, so to speak. Tweaked a little.
Perhaps J. Richard could have traveled back through Time and Space to 1905 to be present out
on the cusp and serve as the trio’s Ganymede to roll their Tea behind a cloud where we can’t see as they played celestial Rummy or read each other’s Tarot using the Akashic deck.
Levi Dowling returned with gleanings he had picked up from the fabled Akashic Records which he placed in his book The Aquarian Gospel Of Jesus The Christ. Madame B had already given us the results of her study, so she would have little to add, perhaps a few corrections. Albert Einstein undoubtedly learned what he needed to know from the Records to write his own Special Theory Of Relativity which upon mature reflection he expanded to the General Theory Of Relativity. There is a certain similarity in style in the writing of all three time travelers as they rolled around heaven if only for one day.
While I have found no evidence that Edgar Rice Burroughs ever read Dowling, or indeed the Akashic Records, who, I might add has made more of an historical impression than you might thnk, even than Blavatsky, there is proof that he wrestled with the ideas of the Special and General Theories of Relativity of Einstein.
In Chapter 9 of Tarzan The Invincible Burroughs says: …but though time and space go on forever, whether in curves or straight lines, all other things must end…
You can’t refer to curved space without being aware of Einstein’s Theory Of Relativity. What Burroughs read of Einstein’s is not clear but that he was familiar with the notion of relativity is clear.
What a time it must have been in those fifty years from 1870 to 1920 when literary greats literally strode the Earth like giants: Haggard, Doyle, Wells, Freud, Kipling, Einstein, Burroughs. The most earth shaking fiction writers the world has ever seen. None were so marvelous as Freud, Einstein and Burroughs, super charged, they flashed across the skies like bolts from the mighty arm of Zeus.
Einstein is one part of a triumvirate of the ‘three greatest geniuses’ of the twentieth century by some people’s reckoning: that is Marx, Freud and Einstein. Marx was dead by the time Einstein and Freud flourished. Both of the latter men claim to have been scientists but one should note that they were both deeply inolved in religious matters of one group of the Semitic peoples. Both were promoting their religious beliefs through their ‘sciences.’ They were even so close they collaborated on a book, Why War?
Marx, Freud and Einstein are colossal frauds. These three men based their life’s work on false
premisses no less egregious than that Tarzan existed and was guardian of Africa. ERB in a mind boggling way sports with the notions of all three men in his oeuvre. One has to admire his audacity as no one has ever accused him of being a genius on the order of the three ‘greats.’
Central to Einstein’s relativity thesis is that Time is a Fourth Dimension. Just as the discussion of the Unconscious was appropriated by Freud from the literary atmosphere dating back to Edgar Allan Poe and the German Romantics, so as Richard Gott points out in his 2001 book Time Travel In Einstein’s Universe, subtitled ‘The Physical Possiblilites Of Travel Through Time,’ old Herbert George introduced the notion of Time as a Fourth Dimension in his 1895 novel, The Time Machine.
Are these things coincidences? Well, I don’t know.
Wells takes credit for having introduced the notion of Time as a Fourth Dimension but I rather imagine that the idea had been bruited about for several years before Wells gave it literary expression. Just as Freud developed a scientific notion of the Unconscious from discussions floating about, so Einstein elaborated on the existing notions of Time as a Fourth Dimension.
It is my contention that Burroughs was absorbed in the ideas of these three men exploring their possibilities over the course of the oeuvre. At the Earth’s Core is apparently when the nettle of Time jarred ERB into a full scale examination of the problem. In Earth’s Core ERB was on the right track that Time has no independent existence but he backed off in apparent frustration for he says, once again in Chapter 9 of Invincible:
The beasts of the jungle acknowledge no master, least of all the cruel tyrant that drives civilized man throughout his headlong race from the cradle to the grave- Time, the master of countless millions of slaves. Time, the measurable unit of duration, was measureless to Tarzan and Tantor. 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 could 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 was 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, therefore, were wasting no time as they communed together in silent meditation; but though Time and Space go on forever, whether in curves or straight lines, all other things must end.
I’ve read a little bit here and there and I find the above a remarkably profound passage. At the last Burroughs contradicts himself for on the one hand he says ‘Time and Space go on forever,’ while on the other hand he says that ‘Time is a measure of duration.’
That latter is correct. A measure of duration implies that Time has no independent existence; it is merely a convenient way devised by the mind of man to measure duration from point A to point B. It has been said that the progress of man is the improvement in the ability to measure. A nanosecond is a vast advance in measurement over the crude second just as the ability to measure a billionth of an inch is a refinement of the measurement of the inch. However neither the second or the inch have an independent existence in reality on that account. As an alternate measure of distance there is also the centimeter which in itself can altered ad infinitum.
‘Time, the measurable aspect of duration’ is what At The Earth’s Core is all about. What ERB should have said is that Time is only the measureable aspect of duration. The implication of Earth’s Core is that time cannot exist without periodicity and the question is whether Time is merely a function of periodicity when conceived by sentient beings or does Time exist independently in and of itself. Einstein’s Theory Of Relativity hangs on that question. My own answer and the unresolved answer of ERB is that it does not.
When Burroughs says that Time and Space go on forever, he gives in to Relativity Theory on the one hand and denies it on the other. Einstein thought that both the Universe and Space were bound by limits. In saying that Space goes on forever Burroughs attacks a main thesis of the theory.
Also, if Wells expressed the notion of Time as the Fourth Dimension, as the scientist Gott acknowledges, does that give him priority over Einstein? It should. One sort of fiction has no greater claim to legitimacy than another.
What then is Burroughs’ relation to Wells and Einstein? That Burroughs read and was heavily influenced by Wells’ Time Machine seems self-evident. Not only is there a seeming reference to the Eloi and Morlocks in Jewels of Opar, but Wells also says: ‘Are you so sure we can move freely in Space? Right and left we can go, backward and forward freely enough. But how about up and down?’
It seems that Tarzan anweres that question by his use of the lower, middle and upper terraces. Burroughs merely incorporates answers posed to others’ questions but he never refers to the questions. My own opinion is that Wells’ Time Machine posed troubling questions to Burroughs which he tried to resolve over several novels.
At the beginning of Invincible he says quite starkly: ‘…it seems to me not unethical to pirate an idea occasionally…’ Admittedly the quotation is taken out of context but it is consistent with Burroughs’ practice. As it was, one might note Shakespeare, Homer, Chaucer, Milton and a host of others down through time did the same. Complete originality has only been demanded in modern times and never met.
As Time has no independent existence. I believe that ERB undestood the idea of time travel to be impossible, hence, even though he covers many different time periods from the prehistoric to the ‘modern’ post-Atlantean society of Opar, he never uses the method of time travel. Those various ages still exist fossilized in Time and Space. I have to believe that Opar is an early reflection on the notion of time travel as posed by Wells, as the Oparians reflect Eloi and Morlocks so closely. But still puzzled by what he thought about it, ERB merely placed Opar in a place similar to where the Time Machine stopped in 802701 and played with the notion of Eloi and Morlocks.
ERB does have an instance of actual time travel in The Eternal Lover in which the Lovers move back and forth in time.
As The Jewels Of Opar was written before Einstein achieved world wide notoriety, Burroughs could only critique and reflect on the notion of Time as a Fourth Dimension from Wells, and also actually Camille Flammarion who was a major influence on him. It would be a little later that the notion put into scientific language by Einstein exercized his thought processes.
Just as when Jason Gridley and the O-220 pass between two time periods when it leaves the crust for the core, the O-220 has really traveled through Time but it has never left the present. The prehistoric Core exists as a parallel world.
Whereas the crust is ruled by Time or periodicity as measured as Time, the Earth’s core exists in a perpetual high noon in which there is no periodicity to measure the passage of Time. Thus, the inhabitants have all the Time in their world for the period of their lives. Periodicity is determined by their existence rather than years, months, days, hours and minutes as Burroughs pointed out in the communion of Tarzan and Tantor quoted from Invincible above.
The life span of a Pellucidarian cannot be measured except as biological unit.
A charming epression of the notion is presented in the lyrics of the song Tumbling Tumbleweeds:
I know when day is done,
That a new world’s born at dawn;
But I’ll keep drifting along….
As I understand the lyrics in relation to Einstein and the Fourth Dimension of Time is that the Earth makes one complete rotation between sunups. When the sun ‘rises’ each morning the planet has not only rotated a full turn on its axis but revolved around the sun a notch of the three hundred sixty-five rotations that comprise one revolution around the sun. Thus, a new world’s born at dawn. There is no time involved at all but there is periodicity.
Each rotation is a fact in and of itself. There is no way to recover it or travel back to it. It is done. It had no existence before its occurrence and it has no existence after it. To retrieve the irretrievable is impossible. To occupy space before arriving there is equally impossible. Time is not a continuum, therefore Time travel is impossible.
As the cowboy in Tumbling Tumbleweeds says, the duration of is life is not governed by the periodicity of the earth cycle. One day is done and a new world begins the next dawn but his biological existence drifts along quite independent of another measurement.
This is what Burroughs says in At The Earth’s Core. In the eternal noon of Pellucidar men and women have no way of ageing themselves; they drift along from birth to death unconscious of birthdays. There are only two phases to life: birth and death.
As Bob Dylan put it, ‘If you’re not busy being born you’re busy dying.’ Thus the Pellucidarians go through life conscious only, if that, of the process of life. There is no need for time. Nature has given them all they need and more to live their lives.
Time, then, is an illusion created by the periodicity of the daily rotation of earth on its axis and its yearly revolution around the sun. However the Earthly year would have no meaning on the planet Uranus which takes more than a hundred earth years in its revolution around the sun. The majority of earthlings would never be more than a year old. Neither would the Earth hour have any meaning on Jupiter which consumes less than twenty-four hours in its rotation. Time is certainly no absolute but in a parody of Einstein it is relative. What indeed does Time mean from the perspective of the Sun which controls the different periodic revolutions of nine planets in its course through Space? It’s all relative until you triangulate the center and then it’s absolute.
In a joke as elegant as any that I have read, Burroughs depicts the frustration of Robert Jones, the cook aboard the O-220. ERB expects the reader to get the joke, which he stretches out over the length of the novel,even though he calls no direct attention to the fact that he is making a joke. Jones is the cook of the expedition. On the crust, our active and passive periods are determined for us by the natural periodicity of night and day. We, or most people, are active during the day and sleep at night. Our eating periods are determined by the position of the sun in the sky. At daybreak (in theory) we break our fast and have breakfast, at noon we have lunch and at day’s end we have supper or dinner (which one depends on your social class.)
At the Earth’s core the sun is at perpetual noon. One eats when hungry, one sleeps when tired. As the cook, when Jones looks outside to see what time it is, it is always lunch time. He has a clock, not even a twenty-four hour military clock, but apparently a twelve hour alarm clock, which he checks against the sun. As it is always noon outside, he can’t even tell if its AM or PM which his clock reads simply as 7:00. He can’t tell whether it is night or day, breakfast time or dinner. He doesn’t know which end is up, quite literally, as everything at the core is reversed. At every stop, he writes in his journal: ‘Arrived here at noon.’
His frustration increases because he doesn’t know which meal to serve- except…lunch. Finally in complete exasperation he throws the clock overboard, or he throws time out the window or to the winds. This really funny shaggy dog story took Burroughs the whole book to develop.
So, really, Burroughs is saying that time is dependent on periodicity or its relevance and is only a measure of that periodicity. Time has no independent existence, which is correct. Burroughs thereby disproved Einstein’s Theory Of Relativity which is dependent on a continuum of both Time and Space.
Without a continuum of Time and Space there can be no time travel. There is no time travel which is a staple of science fiction, in Burroughs’ work. There might easily have been but rather than following Herbert George’s example, which seemed impossible to him, he effectively refutes Wells and the notion of Time as a Fourth Dimension.
To retrieve the irretrievable which is that which has ceased to exist or to obtain the unobtainable which is that which has no existence is a mere conundrum created by Einstein and Wells not unlike the ancient Greek story of the Fox that nothing could catch and Laelaps, the dog that nothing could outrun
In that story, in brief, the citizens of the area in which a man called Cephalus had antagonized a god who in anger sent a Fox that could never be caught to ravage the countryside. Earlier Cephalus had acquired Laelaps, the dog which could outrun everything, from a goddess.
Keep your eye on the bouncing ball- god/goddess.
The citizens implored Cephalus to turn Laelops loose on the Fox to rid the country of the menace. Thus we have the scene of the Fox that nothing could catch being chased interminably by the dog that nothing could outrun.
The Greeks, too, were fond of conundrums such as what happens when an irresistable force meets an unmoveable object. Thus the problem posed by time travel, whether in Einstein’s universe or any other, is how to retrieve the unretrievable, which is: That which has cesed to exist, or how to otain the unobtainable which is that which has no existence.
As these problems have no resolution, the Greeks solved the problem of Laelaps and the Fox by having them both turned to stone in mid-run. And there they remain today as all conundrums must.
So until you run into a Time Traveler who is both his own mother and father, be content to live in this universe while you await transportation to any of the other ‘possible universes.’ Check the Akashic Records before you book. Unlike Tarzan who could board the O-220 to Pellucidar at the Core of the Earth where the sun was at perpetual high noon, we’ll all have to watch the sun come up in the East and set in West for all the days of our time.
In the meantime, credit ERB as a man of great common sense.
April 8, 2011
Normal Bean: A Case Of Identity
Originally published in the Summer 20o2
Issue of the Burroughs Bulletin
A certain selection and direction must be used in producing a realistic effect and this is wanting…when more stress is laid perhaps upon the platitudes…than upon the details, which to an observer contain the vital essence of the whole matter.
- Arthur Conan Doyle
What’s in a name?
A rose might smell as sweet by any other name but would it be as desirable if it were called a Smudge Pot? There is in a name what there is not in a scent. Sherlock Holmes by Artie Doyle? Allan Quatermain by Hank Haggard? The island of Dr. Moreau by Herb Wells? Or, even the The Island of Sid Jones by Herbie Wells?
No, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lends a dignity to the fantasy of Sherlock Holmes. Even Arthur Doyle is not enough. It’s the ‘Conan’ that makes it, and later the ‘Sir’ that adds final legitimization.
Even Henry Haggard is pale stuff compared to H. Rider Haggard. How about Herb Wells? George Wells? Herbert George Wells? Nah. ‘H.G.’, although more anonymous, carries weight, even though he never won the recognition of society by gaining a Sir.
The Island Of Dr. Moreau? Sinister. The Island Of Sid Jones? Not only banal but laughable. The Abominable Dr. Phibes, The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari. There is something in the betrayal of the calling of doctor that raises the short hairs. What’s a good book without a good title? Gone with the wind.
A good pseudonym is important. I don’t know how disappointed ERB was when his editor changed the l to an n and attributed the story to Norman Bean but that one small detail may have changed literary history.
There is a playful humorous promise in the pseudonym Normal Bean but, at the same time, it promises a certain clownishness which, in the end. would have turned Burroughs’ precarious premises into burlesque.
Perhaps the editor said to himself: ‘Oh, he made a typo; it should be Norman not Normal.’ Or perhaps he said; ‘Nah, that’s just stupid; I’m changing it to Norman.’ Whatever the case, it prevented Burroughs from using the pseudonym again. Who wants to be known as Norman Bean. (My apologies to the lost list of Norman Beans on the internet. I didn’t have a computer when I wrote this.)
His joke over, he wisely chose a more somber approach along the modes of H. Rider, Arthur Conan or H.G. Altough he professed to dislike the name of Edgar, it was, after all, the first name of his idol, Eddie Poe. Ed Poe also wisely went for dignity by calling himself Edgar Allan Poe. Ed Burroughs, whose mother or father had given him very nearly a perfect literary middle name,chose to use it in Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Now there’s a nice wedding of names. There’s magic in the Rice. Edgar James or Edgar William Burroughs? I don’t think so. But Edgar Rice? That’s the ticket.
The dignity of the name Edgar Rice Burroughs also balanced off the daring imaginative nature of the literary creation of his life, Tarzan. It had the necessary weight to counterbalance the impossibility of Tarzan, or the spectacular flights of fancy of the Moons of Mars, or the timelessness of Pellucidar. The name added credulity to his themes and variations: evolution, dinosaurs, the Theory of Relativity, Marxism, Freudianism and speculative science, among others.
Burroughs might have been distressed when he picked up his copy of The All Story to see his novel attributed to plain old Norman, but his editor may very well have made his reputation down to today and into the foreseeable future. Somehow I can’t envision Buroughs’ oeuvre surviving as well under the name of Norman Bean.
On the other hand, if an editor had changed M. Francois Marie Arouet back from the pseudonym Voltaire, the writer would probably be unknown today.
The above was written in response to my editor, George McWhorter, deciding on his own that I didn’t need a pseudonym. George is a very good guy and I’m within a decade or two of forgiving him. In recognition of his guilt George appended the following postscript to my essay.
An Editorial Postscript
“Rice” was a family name traced through the Burroughs family tree to Dean Edmund Rice who was born in England in 1594 and settled in the American colonies in 1639 at Sudbury,Massachusetts. Six generations later, his descendent, Mary Rice, Married Abner Tyler Burroughs and became ERB’s grandmother.
Surnames seem to carry more dignity and historic recognition than Christian names, probably because they are less used today and are patently more interesting. Familiar middle names such as Makepeace, Wadsworth, Fenimore and Orne, make fine literary middle names, and Rice fits right into the pattern. Could this be why the British are fond of omitting the Christian names when citing famous authors such as ‘Bernard Shaw’ and ‘Rice Burroughs?’ Only this year (2002), a British paperback was published referring to ‘Rice Burroughs’. The middle name is the clincher.
Burroughs enjoyed creating fictional names and often spoke them out loud, with variations, before deciding which name sounded best for his purposes. ‘Vomer’ comes to mind; it’s a name he gave to his Myposan fish-man in Escape on Venus, and I was delighted to see it listed in a standard dictionary as the name of the common moon fish.
’Anoroc’ is also an interesting island name in At The Earth’s Core, but the casual reader probably wouldn’t recognize it as the name of ERB’s typewriter spelled backward. Burroughs had fun spelling words backwords. He created ‘sak’ to mean ‘jump’ on Mars…and then spelled it backwards to mean the same thing in his Ape-English Dictionary: ‘kas.’ The ‘O-220′ which carried Tazan and Jason Gridley to Pellucidar happens to have been ERB’s phone number, Owensmouth 220. He liked to create gutteral names for his villains (Skruk), soft palatal names for his ladies (Dejah), and noble sounding names for his heroes (Valthor).
The sum total of a man’s accomplishments validates and immortalizes his name. It becomes a unique label. Shakespeare was right on target when he wrote: ‘That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.’ If Burroughs had kept the name Norman Bean after his first story was published, I would probably regard it today with reverence. But he didn’t and his three names are a unique symbol of many happy hours of reading his imaginative tales. I’m glad he dropped the Bean. …Ye Editor.
Thank you for publishing me, George, but I think I have the better idea of who I am.
Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.G. Wells
Wold Newton Mythology
It Came From Outer Space
For some decades now I have been struggling with the problem of a new mythology for the scientific consciousness. When the old mythopoeic mythology was invalidated by science it left sort of a void in the human psyche. In the Arthurian sense we had entered the Wasteland of disappointed expectations, otherwise known as depression.
Over the last twenty years of unremitting labor I have been either trying to discover or create such an existing scientific mythology. Perhaps my efforts have been rewarded. I modestly offer the following for your approval.
When The Student Is Ready…
Unlike the internet where I get most of what passes for news by current standards, this day I was reading the newspaper. I hadn’t come to that, it was just lying handy and I had the idle moment. owever I read that our giant combined new and used Pulsar Book Store had laid off a couple dozen employees, or workers as they are sometimes amusingly described, because of declining in store sales. I further read that sixty percent of Pulsar’s sales were over the internet.
I’ve been doing all my book buying over the internet and hadn’t been in the Pulsar store for years. Casting about for a reason for a decline in sales, apart from a growing illiteracy in the body politic, it occurred to me that on line electronic transmission of books was cutting into book sales deeply. I mean, Amazon offers oodles of older books free, many of which you will never see in books stores but are offered by Print On Demand publishers over the internet. Ask yourself when you last saw a Charles King? Lots of them for free on Amazon. That has to hurt sales. I then reasoned that Pulsar’s shelves must be groaning. I might be able to find a superb selecion at good prices, and I was right.
I was rewarded with an armful of books at my first stop in the Bs. I picked an armful of hard to find Balzac titles dirt cheap, thousand page nineteenth century omnibus volumes for six dollars and ninety-five cents each, Good God Almighty. As close to heaven as you can get without taking the chance of dieing.
Then I bethought myself to check the H.G. Wells section. I have a complete collection of Wells’ fiction but I’m still missing a few titles of the non-fiction. The Wells shelf was loaded and with cream, titles that I had had trouble finding over the year were now there in profusion. I had to laugh to see nearly a whole shelf loaded down with copies of Wells’ Seven Science Fiction Novels in many editions. I bought my copy of that at sixteen when it became the foundation of my psychic reality. There were a number of editions I had never seen before. In a fit of curiosity and affection I pulled a copy out just to fondle it. As I did a small slim volume concealed between thetwo larger ones tumbled out and fell to the floor.
I picked the paperback up. It was by one Garrett P. Serviss titled Edison’s Conquest Of Mars and sub-titled as the Original 1898 Sequel To The War Of The Worlds. I laughed at what seemed ludicrous and slid it back on the shelf. I must not have been adept because it fell out on the floor again.
I stood looking at it for a few seconds then decided that a mysterious power was bidding me to read it. I know how ridiculous that sounds but it happens to me often and always with an important book for me to read. Call it serendipitous, call it destiny, I follow my star. They wanted nine-ninety nine for a paperback of two hundred pages. I had an armful of thousand page, hundred year old, hard backs on really good paper for six ninety-five each. I wavered. But then I rememberd the mysterious way it had been concealed between two books destiny knew I would look at. I thought of the old esoteric adage, when the student is ready the teacher will appear. This same thing had happened to me many times before. Often when my mind had been prepared a book had suggested itself. Here it was, deja vu all over again. Was I going to let a little literary bigotry stand between me and my obvious destiny? Not I. I begrudged the ten dollars but when I got home and examined the tiny volume I saw that I had discovered the missing link. I can now make a case for a new scientific mythology.
When It All Comes Down, I Hope It Lands On Me
The search for a new mythology goes on apace. Perhaps the catalyst in the organization of the search was a sci-fi writer named Philip Jose Farmer. Back in 1972 he formulated a scheme in his fantasy novel Tarzan Alive called the Wold Newton Universe. He provides a very rigorous framework for the search. Farmer posited that a meteorite fell to Earth near Wold Newton in the North of England in 1795, which is true, a meteorite did come down. He further posits following the lead of H.G. Wells novel In The Days Of The Comet that this 1795 comet produced a change in men’s minds, and in point of fact there was a change of consciousness that occurred at this exact time.
Several years ago, decades now, I bought a collection of the British magazine The Monthly Review, a run from 1781 to 1795. Isn’t this spooky? These volumes reflect a late medieval consciousness. As an example the volumes use f for s internally in a word- paf try for pastry for instance while beginning and ending esses are the convention letter s. After 1800 this form disappears. I wondered at what precise time The Monthly Review changed its orthography. Through the wonders of the internet I was able to determine that precise date. It was at the beginning of 1796, the volume following the last I own. Thus 1795 is, in fact, a very good date for the change to the modern consciousness.
After 1795 then Euroamerica looked at reality with different and fresh eyes. Also a new literary style arose that led into the genre literatures of the present. A magic generation of writers then arose with one foot in the medieval world and the other in its successor, with modern orthography of course. Shelley and Byron, Peacock and the greatest of all, the father of modern fiction, Walter Scott. Scott has lost nearly all his glamor now but he was the presiding genius of nineteenth century fiction. I mention only the great French Bohemians Honore De Balzac and Alexandre Dumas. Toss in Edgar Allan Poe.
Searching For The Thread
Thus in Tarzan Alive Philip Jose Farmer began a classification system for the new approach to mythology. Currently there are two Wold Newton systems- The French Wold Newton Universe and the Anglo-American. Generally speaking a Wold Newton author’s whole work, or the major part of it, is a series of novels, a roman a fleuve, built around a character or a theme, thus Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Baums Oz stories or Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan and John Carter/Mars stories. All the Wold Newton novels develop the new scientific mythology. Some themes are developed by several hands such as the Vampire corpus or that of Frankenstein/artificial life.
A major writer falling somewhere between literary and Wold Newton fiction is H.G. Wells. He neither created a great fictional character nor works that fit easily into nor works that are exactly genre literature. Still, Wells is at the center of the Wold Newton mythology.
There are three novels of Wells that I think can fit into and define the Wold Newton Universe. These are The War Of The Worlds, When The Sleeper Wakes and Tono Bungay. With the exception of the Seven Science Fiction novels, of which only four have made an indelible impact, the rest of Wells’ novelistic corpus is today disregarded having apparently no relevance to the modern world.
Of course I like Wells and I have read the entire fiction corpus. There are a few novels that I think merit attention but in the hundred years since they first began appearing the body of fiction that has been written obscures all but the brightest stars of novels so that vas amounts of meritorious fiction is only read by the specialist or literary enthusiast exploring the past.
War Of The Worlds is what got me started on this investigation, isn’t it? I’ve read War Of The Worlds three or four times now and each time it’s a new book and not the one portrayed on the screen or what I perceived from my childhood reading. I’ve come to the conclusion that the book isn’t really all that good although it has set the world on its ear. It must have played into the fears of a society desperately grappling with a sea change in history. Every conventional way of viewing the world was falling into the dust as the old mythology vaporized as before the Martian tripods and a new mythology was as invisible as Griffin in Wells’ Invisible Man. When you removed the wrappings of Griffin there was nothing there but the invisible power of the past.
Perhaps Wells’ Martians symbolized the all too visible power of the new scientific reality destroying the old magical religious vision of reality. At any rate the book was received with startling avidity at its publication in 1898. An nowhere was this book seized upon with such voracity as in America. The effect has also been enduring including the radio broadcast of Orson Wells in 1938 and a number of movie treatments. We often think Wells created this genre but not so.
In fact the space opera centered on Mars was an exciting new genre that developed rapidly during the nineties and the first decade of the new century. Burroughs with his great Martian Trilogy was merely taking advantage of an established theme which he epitomized so well that his books are a culmination of Martian writing to that point. His were the apex of the nineteenth century Martian theme, a new starting point for the future.
He was apparently well read in the genre although apart from a few obvious titles one can’t be sure how deeply he had read.
Robert Godwin explains in the introduction to Edison’s Conquest Of Mars:
Late in 1897 the great H.G. Wells struck gold when he submitted for publication- in Pearson’s Magazine of London- the future-war story to end all future-war stories, The War Of The Worlds. It was not the first story of aliens coming to Earth, Edgar Allan Poe had done that sixty years earlier. It was not even the first to involve humans fighting Martians, that had been done by Percy Greg in 1880, while German author Kurd Lasswitz had brought Martians to Earth to wage war with the British earlier that year. It was Wells who brought this novel idea home with star realism. The War Of The Worlds has little dialogue and few characters but is literally dripping with paranoia. His invading Martians were completely alien and they had the technology to rampage right across the capitol city of the most powerful nation on Earth. The War Of The Worlds soon appeared in America through the pages of Hearst’s Cosmopolitan Magazine.
Will This Nightmare Never End?
Perhaps the dripping in paranoia was the key to Wells’ American success. America is a very paranoid ountry and the paranoia is shared equally by both the Right and the Left. If War Of The Worlds dripped with paranoia it was as nothing compared to Wells’ next book, When The Sleeper Wakes. Sleeper is all bombs, sirens and searchlights playing across the dark night skies. Sleeper is the masterpiece of paranoia. I just love it. Wells must hav been going through a period of deep anxiety when he wrote it. Sleeper is one great long anxiety attack wich he translated into a fear of being buried alive. The hero, Graham, is actually buried alive although above ground. He’s placed in a glass case where he sleeps for a couple hundred years until one day he awakes to find himself in possession of all the wealth in the world. His money had been in trust gathering interest for all these centuries until his estate equalled the world’s wealth. Of course he is more dangerous awake than asleep so he begins running scared.
But that fear or paranois also characterized The War Of The Worlds which is one long flight from danger. Godwin continues:
Cosmopolitan was not cheap and so it would not be until the following January that the impressionable and imaginative young inventor Robert Goddard would first encounter Wells’ Martian war machines. Copyright laws in America were still somewhat tenuous and newspapers were at liberty to do as they pleased. Obtaining permission was often the last thing a newspaper editor would worry about and this modus operandi was especially prevalent in the smaller newspapers such as the New York Evening Journal, The Milwaukee Sentinel and the Boston Post. Many of these newspapers decided to jump on Wells’ bandwagon.
In the Boston Post, a Sunday, January 9th 1898, an entirely revised version of The War Of The Worlds appeared under the title Fighters From Mars- or, The Terrible War Of The Worlds, as it Was Waged in or Near Boston in the year 1900. What is particularly remarkable about this is that the story is completely transposed from London to Boston. All of the familiar scenes which take place in south London are suddenly taking place in Concord Masschusetts. The Boston Post was fairly well circulated in the New England area and Robert Goddard soon learned of the remarkable serial. The Post certainly did their part to stoke the fires of enthusiasm, they repeated the first chapter the next day in Monday’s newspaper and then not a day went by for the next few weeks without another installment appearing. On the 3rd of February the serialization was complete and Wells’ great story was soon destined to appear in America as a full fledged book.
Then something altogether unexpected happened. The editors of the Boston Post revealed that they had acquired a “sequel” to Wells’ story, the advert in the Post read. “Edison’s Conquest Of Mars- A Sequel To ‘Fighters From Mars’… written in collaboration with Edison by Garrett P. Serviss the well known astronomical author.”
A truly astounding development. Here was immediate impact to be followed forty years later by the even more astonishing reaction to Orson Wells radio script of the novel which was accepted as fact, real by the radio listeners who grabbed their shotguns and ran into the streets to repel the Martian invaders. Obviously the novel answered a deep seated psychological need of Americans which would be reflected in a series of movies such as The Day The Earth Stood Still with Gort an Klaatu as well as such later developments as Roswell, New Mexico and Area 51. Aliens and space were united to the New Mythology. Of course such aliens are only God thinly disguised. After all such characters as Klaatu are always preaching to us to mend our misbegotten ways or else. Religion or no religion.
A Giant Leap For Americans
The remarkable thing is that the Boston Post or one or more of its editors got a British copy in their hands, or the Cosmopolitan reprint, read it had his mind transformed on the spot immediately beginnning the transposition from London to Boston while at the same time beginning he process to create a sequel that was ready to begin publishing as soon as the original finished. Plus Edison had to be immediately amenable to the idea so as to give his permission to use his name.
Now, all this is transpiring during the Spanish-American war and the insurrection in the Philippines. Also as if one phenomenon weren’t enough this was also the moment that Kipling’s poem The White Man’s Burden appeared. Kipling’s poem was, of course, a commentary on the Philippine insurrection.
Serviss then had probably no more than a month to draft his sequel. Serviss himself had a scientific background which he fully employs in his sequel. He was up to date on Martian theory. As incredible as it may seem the book could have been a pilot for Star Trek. He got it all in one book. The Boston Post serialization ran and then the story disappeared. It never made book form at the time. In 1947 it was unearthed and published in a truncated form so unless by a miracle the Post episodes were seen by Edgar Rice Burroughs they had no influence on him although it seems like they could have. However Percival Lowell the astronomer who is often mentioned as an influence on Burroughs was from Boston. By 1899 he had already established his observatory in Flagstaff and written the first of his three Martian books, ‘Mars.’ He might then have had an influence on Serviss. Lowell’s other two Martian books Mars And The Canals and Mars As The Abode Of Life written in 1906 and 1908 respectively might have been influenced by Serviss. As a budding Mars expert it is likely that he might have had his attention called to both Wells’ and Serviss’ efforts. If Burroughs read Lowell he would have been indirectly influenced by Serviss. Anyway Serviss has a full discussion of how the water imagined to be on Mars flowed from the South to the North because the South Pole was thought to be elevated over the North and water, of course, flows down hill. Serviss doesn’t explain how the water gets back to the South Pole.
Serviss and undoubtedly Lowell have the water flowing on the surface so Burroughs has it flowing underground somehow.
At the time Edison’s reputation was at its zenith as a technologist. He was the epitome of the American can do attitude. Serviss was pretty fair at this first attempt at sci-fi. One has to assume that all the scientific ideas were in the air but Serviss skillfully blends them together in that can do attitude within virtually days.
Edison creates a fleet of anti-gravity ships within thirty days. The anti-gravity ship is a plausible way of inter-planetary travel while the ships are designed in the projectile shape of current rockets. The disintegrator guns Edison designs, also within thirty days, eliminate the bonds between atoms also in a plausible manner thus scattering the stricken entity to the winds.
Thus a few years before the Wrights not only does Edison have heavier than air craft but the Martians have huge air fleets along the line of Burroughs. So, as I say, Burroughs was stepping into an established genre not originating anything.
Serviss merely makes the Martians giants so we essentially have a Gullivar and the Lilliputians story reversed. It’s a reasonably good story while being a very proper scientific novel. There is nothing really for future writers to add, just rearrange the details. And that was in 1899.
The Boston response to the invasion from Mars was to ‘organize’ its own invasion of Mars and annihilate them as a psychological projection. Very interesting.
From One Dark Spot To Another
I have found no response from Wells to this rewrite of War Of The Worlds and its sequel. H.G. got busy writing another fantastic futuristic sci fi effort title, When The Sleeper Wakes. This book can actually be bundled with 1909′s Tono Bungay. Both wonderful paranoid books. These two books plus War Of The Worlds form the core of my psyche and if the truth were known probably a large part of the psyche of Edgar Rice Burroughs; most especially he was influenced by Tono Bungay which can be readily traced.
Sleeper is a wonderfully paranoid tone poem. By 1898-99 Wells was realizing his ambition of rising above his origins while his Anima-Animus problem was becoming paramount. Wells was born into the lower social level of society with almost no hope of realizing his considerable potential. He was seemingly condemned to a life as a Draper’s Assistant which was little above servitude or even slavery. On his own efforts he rebelled seeking a way out through education. He achieved this after enduring several years on the razor’s edge uncertain as to what his future would be. Combining his scientific background with his literary skills he began to rise above his origins financially although he was never to escape the psychological stigma of his lower class origins.
Thus through his short stories which were sensational at the time and some still are he got a foothold in the literary scene. Wells wrote at least two or three masterpieces. His The Time Machine put him in the writer’s top notch class. War Of The Worlds and When The Sleeper Wakes, close to a diptich, written out of acute anxiety as to his future put him over the top. He was a force to be reckoned with.
Thus both novels pit his heroes against overwhelming forces that they must defeat. In the War Of The Worlds the enemies fade away through natural causes. In Sleeper, Graham the Sleeper, awakes to find himself the richest man in the world only to discover that all is to be taken away from him. This is normal anxiety for someone on the rise. The new man is always resented and his way made difficult. He is to be prevented if possible. Hence the intense fear and paranoia of Sleeper. In the denouement Graham takes to the air in the last remaining airship to single handedly drive back the Negro police summoned from Africa. Prescient really. The Sleeper’s plane spirals into a crash but then Wells takes the copout that it is only a dream. At any rate in real life he wakes up to find that he is now a guru. His non-fiction Anticipations- a guide to the future- published two years later in 1901 established him irrevocably as a ‘futurist’. All he had do then was write passable books.
Both of his masterpieces Worlds and Sleeper also dealt with Wells’ troubled sexuality. As in the life of all men his Anima became estranged from his Animus which Wells was never able to reconcile as he developed a rather bizarre sex life as he searched for a way to recover his Anima.
In WOW as the populace was fleeing the Martians his hero was driving a cart along with his Anima figure. The two became separated when a crowd came between them and she was lost. In Sleeper Graham finds his Anma but once gain events separate them and he is about to crash his plane alone.
And then ten years later Wells crowned his work with the very wonderful Tono Bungay. Not close to the finest story ever told it is nevertheless one of the world’s great novels. The book had a profound influence on me. I first read it when I was twenty while I have subsequently read the book three times. I cherish my first reading because I projected myself into the story so much that I rewrote the book in my imagination to suit my own needs. Tono Bungay was an entirely new book in my last reading. I hope to show that the book had a profound influence on Edgar Rice Burroughs as his and Wells lives touched as the 1930s arrived. It’s always a strange world.
Wells seems to have been interested in the patent medicine businss in the US during the first decade of the century. Strangely it is not impossible that the story refers to the situation of a Dr. Stace of Chicago. I’m just guessing now. Stace’s partner was a young man named Edgar Rice Burroughs. So it may be coincidence that Edward Ponderevo, the inventor of the tonic Tono Bungay, and George Ponderevo his nephew, may have been based in part on Stace and Burroughs. I mean, the patent medicine stories are identical. Probably a coincidence though but I’m just guessing.
During the first decade of the twentieth century the patent medicine business had developed in the United States to magnificent proportions. As great national magazines arose the potential of the business rose accordingly. The active ingredient in the patents was usually alcohol although drugs, which were unregulated were frequently used. It is well known, for instance, that the Coca in Coca Cola referred to the cocaine with which the drink was laced. Coke was a real pick me up back then. Amphetamines were isolated in 1897 so imagine Methedrine Cola. Quite an idea.
The US government saw the dangers of these patent medicines, not a few of which used the opium based laudanum. I mean, these were loose times, they used to give infants opium based laudamun to keep them quiet. Better than TV. So, during the teens the government was forced to conduct a campaign against patent medicines. First they came for the patent medicines then they came for the alcohol and then they came for the cigarettes. Now they’re working on sugar and salt and caffeine. You’re next, you miserable user you. Wells was watching this fascinating activity from Britain. In one instance Edward Ponderevo remarks that six or seven go-getter Americans would wake England up. Then he invented Tono Bungay, the patent medicine par excellence.
Strangely, leading the anti-patent medicine campaign in the US was Samuel Hopkins Adams who would affect Stace-Burroughs then and sixteen years or so later would upset Burroughs’ life when he published his very successful novel, Flaming Youth. Strangely, strangely how many people who have never met can be so influential on others. Almost paranormal.
So, Burroughs took up with Stace in the sale of patent medicines just as the government was cracking down on them, putting them out of business, filing legal complaints, doing the double nasty. Stace and Burroughs developed a close relationship, almost as close as father and son or, uncle and nephew. Even after the two were put out of business they continued in another line of business before parting. Erwin Porges in his biograpy of ERB doesn’t go into a lot of detail over this relationship, maybe from a mistaken sense of delicacy, but this was a big event in Burroughs’ life perhaps straining his marriage with Emma. I believe it was here that he gained his personal experience of sheriffs and grand juries.
Stace may have been a big enough operator to come to Wells’ attention so that he was captivated by this story of the older man and his younger acolyte.
At any rate Edward Ponderevo goes bust in a provincial town through his aggressive business practices removing to London where he develops the idea of Tono Bungay. Wells then diverges from the patent medicine story as Ponderevo, who was a real go-getter, develops an empire based on legitimate products, like soap, so that Tono Bungay takes a back seat in his success story.
Interestingly Ponderevo buys a huge estate not unlike Tarzana around which he begins to build a ten foot high wall some eleven miles in length. Then, of course, he overextends himself and goes bust.
In reading this story, as I’m sure Burroughs did, he must have really related to the patent medicine story while probably rewriting the story in his mind to suit his circumstances. In this story too, Wells finds his perfect soul mate or Anima who once again he loses.
If by chance Wells was aware of the Stace story and did know he had a junior partner, Burroughs, he undoubtely forgot about him and the patent medicine business in the turmoil of the years to come.
The story of Ponderevo, his large estate and the eleven mile ten foot high wall must have stuck in Burroughs’ mind. The story may have been instrumental in his decision to buy Tarzana while it appears spectacularly in 1933′s Tarzan And The Lion Man.
Let me say that this whole group of writers who would nearly all find a place in the Wold Newton Universe read each other. While Kipling, Haggard, Wells and Doyle were reading Burroughs after he became famous as well. Indeed, Wells in Sleeper mentions three stories that had a profound effect on all these writers: Kipling’s The Man Who Would Be King, Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness and Henry James’ The Madonna Of The Future. Writers appearing after ERB’s fame appear to have been universally influenced by his, too. Haggard and Kipling’s Love Eternal was a response to ERB’s The Eternal Lover and unless I’m oversensitive they talked to him in it, too.
In a way then this was a form of telepathy, so controversial a topic at the time- true long distance communication and this would continue through the thirties if you’ve read enough and thought about it.
Anyway Burroughs read extensively incorporating almost everything that impressed him into his stories one way and sometime or other. I’m sure he was unconscious of using most of the sources. Thus the story of Tono Bungay, Ponderevo and the ten foot fence entered his subconscious.
In 1919 he left Chicago for LA for good. His intent was to buy twenty acres or so to raise hogs. This he could easily have afforded avoiding all the subsequent economic pain. However Harrisons Gray Otis, the publisher of the LA Times had died in 1917 and his 540 acre estate, Rancho Del Cabrillo, was on the market. ERB made an abrupt about face and bought it. I’ve often wondered why, what was the impetus? If one reads of Ponderevo’s estate in England one has a pretty good match of Tarzana. Burroughs has been quoted as saying he would have liked to have a large estate that he could build a ten foot high wall around. Of course he had the estate and lost it. But the Ponderevo estate seems to have been on his mind.
This may sound completely conjectural but let’s move ahead to 1933 when ERB penned what I consider his magnum opus, Tarzan And The Lion Man. He includes a novella in the story that might be entitled, Tarzan And The City Of God. This is a pretty good story. By 1933 the talkies had been in existence for five years. Many of the more magnificent early horror stories had already been filmed. I may be a sucker for these early horror films but given the limitations of the industry at the time they have never been equaled. So, in addition to all the books stored in ERB’s mind, fifteen years or so of silent films, he now added a full catalog of talkies. Himself a virtual father of all B movies with his own catalog of novels all these B horror films reinforced his imagination. Even though he had little to do with the filming of his own movie starring Herman Brix as Tarzan, The New Adventures Of Tarzan, the movie was nevertheless perfect of the B genre. Sort of an a correction and example to MGM.
Tarzan And The City Of God is perfect in the Pulp genre which is the literary counterpart of the B movie but now ERB seamlessly joins the Pulp to the B genre.
Tarzan And The Lion Man mocks the making of MGM’s film, Trader Horn. As I have pointed out in other reviews in 1931 ERB signed a contract with MGM that removed the Tarzan character in the movies from his control to MGM. MGM then proceeded to mock the Tarzan character on the screen in an attempt to destroy ERB’s creation. Of course, the mockery failed, Tarzan going on to greater glory and an immortality he might not have attained otherwise.
At the same time ERB was locked in a battle with Joseph Stalin and, at the risk of seeming preposterous, the Soviet Union. This war was brought to the surface n 1930′s Tarzan The Invincible. Now, Stalin and the Communists of all countries were attempting to discredit all pre-Revolutionary writers who rejected the Communist program. ERB was one of these while, oddly, Tarzan was one of Stalin’s favorite characters, especially in the MGM movies.
H.G. Wells who accepted the Revolution in substitution for God in about 1920 was one of Stalin’s literary hatchet men. During this period Stalin assigned State prostitutes to service certain Western literary men to report back to him on their doings. Moura Budberg had been assigned to H.G. Wells. Amazingly Wells fell deeply in love with her although he had to have known that he was her job. One of Wells’ targets was Edgar Rice Burroughs. Thus beginning in the twenties Wells began parodying and vilifying Burroughs in various books to which Burroughs replied in other of his own books. Thus, in a sense, there was telepathic communication.
In 1933 the combined attack of MGM, one imagines Louis B. Mayer, Wells and Stalin had overwhelmed Burroughs.
In 1930′s Tarzan The Invincible Burroughs had been forced to abandon the valley of Opar and La to Wellsian and Soviet interference. The Communists invaded Opar destroying ERB’s imagined paradise. So now, in a masterful creation he attacks Wells, MGM and the Communists in the City of God, London, England transposed to the Mutia Escarpment in Africa The Mutia Escarpment was MGM’s imaginary location for the Tarzan movies named after an African actor who appeared in Trader Horn. We do have telepathic communication here if you’ve got your radio turned on and tuned in. So there is layer after layer of mockeries in what is actually a titanic combat involving film and literature carried on right before the eyes of an unseeing world. Stalin, Burroughs, Wells and L.B. Mayer knew but virtually no one else. I might never have caught on but for the internet and the availability of films on DVD and flat screen TVs programmed through my wireless computer network. I have a complete collection of ERB’s novels, nearly all of Wells, and a nearly complete collection of Tarzan DVD’s. There’s always one or two that elude you. So I can read and watch at will. Rather amazing really. All one’s intellectual influences on one shelf while every library and film archive is only a click away. Isn’t God good to us?
So, Tarzan scales the Mutia Escarpment which at his point of attack is a sheer wall of granite. this probably indicates the difficulties ERB was facing. As usual there is an easier ascent for the ladies but Tarzan knows nothing of it. In real life, the location of Van Dyke’s Trader Horn was Murchison Falls on the Nile and the plateau would have been the land around Lake Victoria.
On the plateau Tarzan approaches the City of God/London which is surrounded by a, guess what, ten foot high wall. The circumference must have been at least eleven miles. Thus we have a replica of Ponderevo’s estate as imagined by H.G. Wells of London, England. Instead of Ponderevo’s modern ‘castle’ we have a replica of what might be Frankenstein’s castle or some othe horror film castle with the requisite village at its base.
Now, ‘God’ who was a ‘formerly handsome Englishman’ had come to this country in 1859. This is now 1933 so 74 years previously. As God will tell Tarzan shortly he was a biological scientist experimenting in evolution and creating artificial life a la Frankenstein, when his studies involving corpses brought the authorities down on him forcing him to flee England but not before he had removed, essentially DNA, which ERB calls ‘germs’, from the corpses of Henry VIII and his court buried in Westminster Abbey. In London, Africa God had forced the evolution of a tribe of gorillas turning them into barbaric replicas of Henry VIII and his court. Still having the appearance of gorillas they have more or less human minds speaking and acting as archaic Englishmen.
Tarzan having scaled the impossible cliffs of the plateau is now faced with a ten foot wall with sharply pointed wooden stakes pointing downward making a leap and hoist impossible. ERB has left out the overarching tree in this instance so Tarzan does his strongman act. The body builders are never far from ERB’s imagination. Tarzan pulls off an impossible stunt. Leaping up he grabs a couple stakes lifting himself over his wrists until he was above the wall then rolled forward. Only time that trick’s ever been performed. Thus ERB enters that ‘sacred city.’ The sort of Troy that refused Achilles.
The scaling of the cliffs, the clearing of the wall might have been suggested to ERB by his struggle to achieve success which he had done for one brief moment. Lifting himself by his bootstraps, as it were, he had gained entry into that sacred city. His success was to be shortlived and almost as tragic as Tarzan’s visit to the City of God or ERB’s Tarzana or Ponderevo’s estate.
While Wells was born to poverty ERB’s course in life had been different; he was a Golden Child with the highest expectations. And then in his teens it was all taken from him as he was plunged into poverty although not as abject as he makes it out to be. Thuse he had a different personal myth than that of Wells. He identified with Mark Twain’s Prince And The Pauper in which the Prince changes places with his impoverished doppelganger, then regains his position. His other favorite book of this type was Little Lord Fauntleroy in which a British heir lives a normal life in America until he inherits his English title. Thus these two books combined with Tono Bungay suggested a course to his life that he actually realized and as the three titles suggest lived his life in a boom and bust fashion. as though compelled to gain and lose, lose and gain his fortunes until he died in bed a comparatively well off man. ERB was a very suggestible guy. At this point in his life he was heading into a major bust part of the cycle and this story tells of it.
Once inside the walls there sits the castle, The City of God, the City on the Hill, the sacred city of Achilles, his goal. Tarzan mounts a very long flight of steep stairs as ‘God high above on the castle ramparts watches with grim satisfaction. the fly has come to the spider. Just like L.B. Mayer and MGM he’s got his man all but trapped.
Having just been trapped by his enemies ERB belatedly has it all figured out. Tarzan enters a oyer faced by three doors. At this point all decisions are Tarzan’s. He can go back or he can go forward. He elects to go on. Two of the doors are locked while one is ajar. This scene of Tarzan and the doors is repeated several times in the corpus. I’ve tried to figure it out. The nearest I can come is a short story of 1898 by Frank Stockton titled The Lady Or The Tiger.
Since this was a very famous story I, for myself, have no doubt that ERB read it and was suitably impressed. This is arbitrary, I know, however there is a great deal of similarity between this story and the story of Queen Nemone and Tarzan in the arena from Tarzan And The City Of Gold. Now, in the Lady Or The Tiger the story hinges on two doors, behind one of which is a tiger and the other a gorgeous lady. This is the trial by ordeal that Stockton’s king has chosen to decide his criminal cases. In his story a young lowly man has dared to love the king’s daughter. She is inn attendance but displeased because the lover will possible marry another. She indicates to him to take the right hand door. The question is left unanswered whether the lady or the tiger was behind the door by Stockton leaving it to the reader whether the one or the other was the man’s fate.
In the city of God, of course, the choice has been made for Tarzan as the middle door is left unlatched. Tarzan enters descends some steps, passes through another door that latches behind him to find himself facing…the lady. Well,I don’tknow, could be unrelated to Stockton’s story, but then, again….
At any rate it relates to ERB’s obsessions with tigers. As we all know the magazine story of Tarzan Of The Apes had both tigers and lions that public opinion forced Tarzan to change as the literalists pointed out that there were no tigers in Africa. ERB changed the tiger to a lioness he called Sabor so that female lions can be thought of as tigers. I think most of the lions Tarzan kills are females. If tigers and ladies are associated in ERB’s mind then in City of God Tarzan got both the symbol and the real thing, who was his preferred Anima figure Rhonda. I’m pretty sure that’s how ERB’s mind worked.
Speaking of tigers, for those lovers of the Pulp and B movie genres, a perfect of its kind, the grande finale of the genre so to speak is Fritz Lang’s Indian diptich The tiger Of Eschnapur and The Indian Tomb of 1959. Set in India but pure Burroughs with plenty of tigers, as there are no lions in India as everyone knows. Stunning color and the perfect pulp story of the twenties and thirties. Three or four hours of bliss.
So Tarzan/ERB is in a cage with his other half, his Anima. He’s been in tight spots before but this is it, the real thing, the place that’s a leap too far. Rider Haggard all over again. While the Big Guy and Rhonda are talking things over their captor, ‘God’, makes his appearance. A jolly fellow, a formerly handsome Englishman, now piebald, who might go by the name of H.G. Wells.
As I said Wells is one of my favorites and when I was younger and slightly more obtuse Wells struck me as he probably did ERB as a stunning writer. Later as I learned of Wells’ politics and other failings he lost much of his gitter but the glory pretty much remains although resented. Burroughs had much more reason to consider Wells a ‘formerly handsome Englishman’. Thus he takes a certain malicious pleasure in making his God character half black, half white, half ape and half human. There’s a lot more to analyze in the character of God but I’m working this side of the track right now.
The reason God is half and half is because as he aged he took germ cells from the apes to rejuvenate himself thus slowly adopting ape characteristis, regressing as it were in an evolutionary sense and making a fine joke on the Stokes Trial in Tennessee of a few years earlier. God is delighted to have captured two such fine White DNA specimens as he hopes their germ cells may restore him to his former splendor.
We’ll never know now because while God absents himself, in the best pulp/B movie fashion Tarzan feels a breeze stirring. This leads to what is hopefully an escape oute but merely tuns into an avenue leading to Tarzan’s Gotterdamerung. A fire starts rising up through the flue Tarzan found and ascended so that the whole City of God on the hill perishes in flames.
While Burroughs may have said back in the teens that he had never read Wells, that may be dismissed. Actually when one delves behind the obvious facts one finds a fairly intimate connection with their careers contacting on the psychological level, that is to say ‘telepathically’, several times. Between Wells and Burroughs almost continuously from, say, 1908 to the thirties.
If one assumes that Wells was aware of the Stace-Burroughs situation, which is only a possibility, then Wells formed part of Burroughs subconscious with his Tono Bungay. That influence probably surfaced when Burroughs purchased Tarzana and then became continuous through the twenties and thirties when Wells became Stalin’s literary hatchet man.
Wells eludes the Wold Newton because he never created a mythic character or series of novels although the psychological situations of the seven science fiction novels and Tono Bungay along with many of his short stories give him a significant place in the Wold Newton mythos. The WNU is of course a state of mind giving mythological form to history since 1795 when the meteor landed altering consciousness.
November 1, 2010
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#14, Tarzan The Invincible
Part 9: Politics
The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.
–L.P. Hartley- The Go Between
I would like to take a moment to organize the content and direction of the Tarzan oeuvre within the context of Tarzan The Invincible and Tarzan Triumphant.
It is close onto a century now since Edgar Rice Burroughs burst onto the international literary scene. He was not literarily well regarded by the intelligentsia. In the language of the time he wrote adventure novels. They were thought of as sub-literary. In our times after literature has evolved from Burroughs’ time into its various genres that didn’t exist as such back then he would more properly be designated as a fantasy or sci-fi writer.
Even though very great minds wrote ‘adventure’ stories their efforts are usually classified as sub-literary, relegated to the teen section. There has certainly never been a more profound writer than H. Rider Haggard nor is his literary style inferior in any way to the pretensions of literary fiction. Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs all had a great deal to offer. If it is necessary to say so their work has remained popular while most literary heavyweights of the past are unknown and unread in non-specialist circles today.
Edgar Rice Burroughs is not usually accorded the dignity of being ranked with even the above adventure writers. It pains me to say it but I think the literary consensus is that Burroughs is a semi-literate lightweight trash writer with no other value than ‘entertainment’ or a diversion for men and women who haven’t quite grown up yet. I receive sniggers and raised eyebrows whenever I am forced to admit I write what I hope are scholarly essays on Edgar Rice Burroughs. I have to scramble to find any scrap that will give me a little dignity. But that’s not the way I see it myself. The way I see it is that there are two groups of people who do take Burroughs seriously. The small group of which I am a member that sees something of value lying like a huge diamond in the tall grass and a much larger group of Left-Liberals who quite correctly see Burroughs as a threat to everything they wish to believe.
Burroughs’ publishing career has not been well researched or examined. The research I have done leads me to believe that ERB was exploited while his career was sabotaged by McClurg’s from the start. Although MClurg’s seem to have had no intent to promote his work from the beginning they nevertheless tied him up with a contract that went on forever. Compare it with MGM’s contract twenty years later.
Ten years after ERB’s death with the firm of McClurg’s on the edge of bankruptcy ERB, Inc. had to buy out the contract. This is all so contradictory it boggles the mind. Rather than attempting to maximize sales and therefore profits McClurg’s took the opposite approach of minimizing sales while reducing profits both for themselves and ERB to the lowest possible level. If it hadn’t been for the movies Burroughs’ benefits from his efforts would have been minimal, a fraction of what they should have been.
From 1914 to 1919 politics do not seem to have been involved; there is some other reason for McClurg’s behavior. Then from 1919 to 1924 ERB’s relationship to the Liberal Coalition took form. His Under The Red Flag of 1919 let the Reds know where he stood politically. Also in 1919 he was felt out by the American Jewish Committee for his stance on Semitism. He failed this test by taking an insubordinate stance. So from 1919 to 1924 he seems to have been under attack from the Left. He remained defiant through his Marcia Of The Doorstep with its very reasonable criticism of Semitism but then he seems to have been ovewhelmed by economic pressures that were exacerbated by his own poor decisions.
While McClurg’s should have been supportive of their, or what should have been their walking gold mine, they strangely continued to get in his way.
Burroughs wanted his reissues to be sold at a dollar but G&D and McClurg’s adamantly insisted on 50 cents which gave ERB a very small return. Why McClurg’s should have resisted higher prices that would have doubled their own income must remain a mystery. A dollar doesn’t seem unreasonable to me but there seems to have been the intent to restrict Burroughs’ income as far as possible.
By the late twenties the Liberal Coalition was also actively interfering in Burroughs’ career. There seems to have been a blacklist against making Tarzan movies from 1922 to 1928. As Hollywood was controlled by the Coalition it was possible to restrict Burroughs’ income from movies to zero.
The blacklist was broken in 1927 when Joseph Kennedy’s FBO Studios made a Tarzan film. ERB also began searching for another publishing arrangement. Not finding anything satisfactory he took the last ditch recourse of self-publishing. He established the Burroughs imprint. As this act was taken just as the stock market crash took place the move was fraught with dangers.
Now freed from publishing restraints does it seem like a coincidence that the first title under the Burroughs imprint was Tarzan The Invincible? Or, with its success it was followed by Tarzan Triumphant? Perhaps taking vengeance for 1919′s snub of Under The Red Flag, Tarzan The Invincible is a full scale attack on the Communism in general and Uncle Joe Stalin in particular.
Perhaps also responding to 1924′s rejection of Marcia Of The Doorstep the succeeding novel, Tarzan Triumphant parodies the Jewish religion while making some not so subtle comments about big noses and receding chins. Either book would be difficult for the Liberal Coalition to misunderstand.
While Burroughs would publicly proclaim that he undertook self-publication because he was too greedy for high royalties, certainly tongue in cheek, privately he complained that McClurg’s refused to promote his books, turning them over immediately to reissue houses depriving him of his just royalties. I’m sure the industry understood the irony of his first reason while the second is true.
Tarzan The Invincible is both a defense and a counterattack. Burroughs himself said that defensive wars could never be won. One must take the offensive. With Invincible he was doing just that in what was in fact a literary and cultural war.
The power arrayed against him was terrifying. The Reds could prevent the publication of his books through regular channels. I believe they did. ERB publicly said he took up self-publication in the relentless pursuit of the dollar. What else could he say? One doesn’t go around saying people are out to get you. That’s giving your enemies ammunition.
Ask, is it a coincidence that the first novel under the Burroughs imprint is a direct attack on Liberal Communism? A work that almost certainly would not have been published by any mainstream publisher, including McClurg’s. There isn’t a Freudian in the world who believes in coincidence. I sure don’t. Burroughs launched his publishing effort in 1930 the year after the depression began in 1929. The guy was either crazy or knew something other publishers didn’t wish to acknowledge.
When he met his former publisher, Joe Bray, of McClurg’s afer the crash he sneeringly told Bray who was complaining about business that he was doing very well with the Burroughs imprint and he was. In the height of the depression Burroughs’ books turned a profit. That was a profit no publisher seemed to want. McClurg’s certainly never exploited this literary gold mine.
Was it political? Well, Burroughs’ first publishing venture certainly was. And remember that Tarzan The Invicincible must have caused a reaction. The Reds had to say among themselves omething like ‘Don’t worry we’ll get that bastard yet.’ It had to be, nor did his even more sneering Tarzan Triumphant smooth anything over. Think about this for a moment; let it sink in, this is open warfare. There must have been a retaliation. What was it? The Reds did not cease their campaign of vilification during his lifetime nor have they ceased to this very day nor will they cease until either the Reds or Tarzan is triumphant.
I have discussed Richard Slotkin’s Gunfighter Nation several times previously. Slotkin in his book tries to pin responsibility for the My Lai massacre in Viet Nam on Burroughs. He uses nearly seven hundred pages of fine print to try to prove that My Lai was the inevitable result of Burroughs’ writing. The guy’s got a job at a prestigious university too.
While one can discount the hysteria of Liberal academics heavily no one necessarily attacks someone they do not consider a threat. So what Bibliophiles have to ask themselves is whether there is a basis for the Liberal reaction or not?
I think my analyses of Tarzan books so far shows that Burroughs had a much more serious political intent than is commonly thought. Underneath the buck and wing, the old soft shoe of the entertainer is some very serious thought and reflection. Also his means of expression itself is the very antithesis of Liberalism.
Burroughs’ writing does reflect the sea change in world history noted by such academic analysts as Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard. Whether ERB ever read these thinkers or not there is no conflict between their conclusions and his own. ERB is of the same mindset so on that basis Slotkin is correct. None of the three writers is eiher wrong or evil it’s just that Liberals think any opinion but their own is inherently evil in intent and ought to be censored. I say censor the censors.
Liberalism is a religious reaction to the Scientific Consciousness. Their core constituent, Judaism’s sole purpose is to defeat Science and reimpose the religious yoke of absolute conformity to its religious ideal. As I’ve noted, American Liberalism which evolved from the quasi-Hebrew sect of Puritanism is in complete accord. Combined of fundamentalist Christians, who pursue an Old Testament program not much different from the Liberal agenda and the insurgent Moslem fundamentalists, the challenge to Science and all that Burroughs represented is formidable.
The determined effort to plow the concept of Evolution under is a supreme threat to the whole Scientific Consciousness. Of course, the Liberals talk peace, while as the Old Testament proclaims, peace, peace, everyone talks peace but there is no peace. There is no peace anywhere on earth and there never will be.
Burroughs realized that war was inevitable. He decried the disarmement movement and applauded preparedness. In Triumphant he makes the wry comment that the Chicago underworld gunner, Danny Patrick, and his fellow criminals believed in pareparedness, always having a gun with them.
Burroughs was brought into a world of conflict, nor so far has the world disappointed his expectations. As he says the only good defense is a terrific offense. Defensive wars cannot be won. I believe he has been proven right there too. Whether you’re looking at John Carter, Tarzan or any of his protagonists you will see that they never barricade themselves. They are always on the offensive, nor do they hesitate to kill as part of that offense. My god, Tarzan ripped a man’s head off in Ant Men. His Beyond The Farthest Star posits a world of never-ending war. Prefigures the Cold War in its way. Any concept of ‘peace’ is merely a temporary cessation of hostilities; war by other means. The Liberal, Slotkin, may lament such a reality but being a man of ‘peace’ making endless appeasements and concessions to belligerents can end only in disaster to oneself. There aren’t any Americas left to bail civilization out; that possiblility ended with WWII.
I think it fair to say that in today’s war situation versus the Moslem and Mexican invasions ERB would take the aggressive position of throwing them out. As the Shona state explicitly, and believe me the Mexicans and Moslems are no different from them, if you need to hear it from an African there are those who dominate and those who are dominated, which is another way of saying perpetual conflict. Either Americans will dominate Mexicans and Moslems or they will be subservient to them. Need anyone go further than to look at the condition of both Matabele and European in Shonaland? It is a given that Burroughs would rather dominate as Tarzan does at the end of Invincible. If you’ve got to fight you might as well win.
Let us never forget that Burroughs participated in the opening of the frontier and he saw its closing. He lived through the two most devastating wars in history. One must fight or die was the lesson he learned. Tarzan still lives.
And then we must deal with the persistent charge of racism brought against ERB. One finds it difficult to understand what Liberals mean by the term ‘racism.’ There is nothing more inherent in human nature than pride in one’s own kind. In that sense all peoples are racist. What then? Racism is the natural state of affairs. Certainly Liberal heroes like Robert Mugabe and the Shona are as racist as could possibly be, yet, he and they are Liberal heroes. There must be something else going on.
Liberals themselves are responsible for passing racial laws that would have staggered the imagination of Adolf Hitler. Someone who they say they despise. Whereas Hitler called his laws what they were, Liberals are more adept at disguising their intent, still they appropriately call their laws ‘hate’ laws which is exactly what they are. The unspoken assumption behind them is that ‘White’ males ‘hate’ everyone who is neither White nor male, excluding homosexuals, and that they therefore have to be socially isolated and denied.
The apparent belief is that only White males are capable of ‘hating’ while the rest of the world is a loving brother and sisterhood. Of course such a notion leaves the Moslem attack on the Twin Towers unexplainable as well as the Shona extermination of Black brothers like the Matabele.
Hey fellas, it’s the exception, even multiple exception that proves the rule, isn’t it?
I have no doubt that ERB would have been opposed to such ridiculous racial laws no matter what language was used to disguise them. He does seem to have been aware of the dangers of the evolutionary collision of the human species. ERB was an evolutionist. His novels explore evolutionary possiblities in enormous variety and detail. While much of his speculations and jokes seem ridiculous in the light of current knowledge, at the time of composition most if not all of the speculations would have appeared to be not that far fetched, even possible.
At the least Burroughs was on the side of Science at that time when the controversy really raged, while even today over fifty percent of Americans reject evolution in favor of religious explanations, that’s one hundred fifty years after Darwin, while the Moslem invasion of the world is rapidly spreading the slime of superstition over scientific knowledge. As I understand it, it has progressed so far that I could be put in jail in France, Germany or Austria for blaspheming the prophet and Allah by referring to their atavistic religion as ‘the slime of superstition.’
Within just a very few years since 9/11 an intolerant superstition like Moslemsism has overturned the scientific attitude of the Enlightenment. May Georges Chirac burn in hell forever and a day. If President Obama doesn’t back off, him too. Don’t any of these guys listen to what people are saying about them?
As I have noted, by the second decade of the twentieth century more sensitive minds perceived the sea change in the relationship of the various human species. Among these, in fiction, were Sax Rohmer with his Fu Manchu stories and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Prominent in non-fiction were Madison Grant with his Passing Of The Great Race and Lothrop Stoddard ‘s Rising Tide Of Color.
At the risk of repeating myself, I flatter myself that at least some Bibliophiles have been reading my stuff for the last few years, let me place a quote from Darwin here that clearly explains what happens when similar species compete for the same territory on the same economic basis. Darwin: On The Origin Of Species, Chap. III, Para. Struggle For Existence- Struggle for life most severe between individuals and varieties of the same species:
As species of the same genus have usually, but by no means invariably, some similarity in habits and constitution and always in structure, the struggle will generally be more severe between species of the same genus, when they come into competition with each other, than between species of distinct genera. We see this in the recent extension over parts of the United States of one species of swallow having caused the decrease of another species. The recent increase of the missal thrush in parts of Scotland has caused the decrease of the song-thrush. How frequently we hear of one species of rat taking the place of another species under the most different climates! In Russia the small Asiatic cockroach has everywhere driven before it itx great congenor. One species of Charlock will supplant another, and so in other cases. We can dimly see why the competition should be most severe between allied forms, which fill nearly the same place in the economy of nature; but probably in no one case could we precisely say why one species has been victorious over another in the great battle of life.
As we are certain that Burroughs read the Origin Of Species we can be sure that he read the above passage. If it struck him as forcibly as it strikes me then we share the same basic outlook on life and the passage shaped his way of looking at the intra-genus conflict between Homo Sapiens species.
As most agree that Homo Sapiens has an African history of 150K to 200K years, most assume, and this is only an assumption, that the First Born of Homo Sapiens were black because the indigenes of Africa today are black. This may or may not be true, we have no way of knowing, but let us assume it is. There are no people in Africa today who can absolutely trace their descent unbroken from the Last Hominid Predecessor or the first specimen of Homo Sapiens. No one knows what the individual looked like or what his mental constitution was compared to the various African races of today.
It therefore follows that over that course of a very long history peoples have been exterminated to make way for others innumerable times. One wave of rats, one wave of cockroaches after another have succeeded for a moment only to be replaced by another in due time. This is how evolution and nature work. Homo Sapiens is not outside either history or nature and it is foolish to act as though it were. One must understand the natural process and adjust one’s actions to it.
To use the Shona example. The Shona are not indigenous to the soil. At one time they must have exterminated and displaced a predecessor people in what they now consider ‘their’ territory. Beginning about 1830 the Ndebele Zulu as an incoming wave of new people began to exterminate and displace them. There is no difference between this Ndebele invasion of Shonaland and the Moslem and Mexican invasion of the United States. Nature is red in tooth and claw. What can one say?
Had the Matabele, to use the Ndebele’s other name, not been interrupted by another wave of incoming people, the Europeans, (color and race have no real bearing on this issue of Nature and evolution) the Zulus, (the Matabele were Zulus) would have completed the process and today the Shona would be at best a memory. But the succeeding wave of Europeans did come crowding after the Matabele. So far Darwin’s thesis is correct. One species of rat drives out another. Had the Europeans behaved normally they would have exterminated their predecessors and driven them before them.
But then evolution throws in a clinker. The Europeans were evolutionarily more advanced than the Blacks. While the fact that the evolution of the human species is continuing is clear from the visual physical evidence, scientific research has proven it beyond any quibble. So, even though those at the turn of the century lacked the evidence to prove their case they were right. The most obvious evolution is taking place in the brain and it is not taking place in all human species. Only one species is evolving while the others are now sterile. Hard thing to accept but it’s true. Thus Europeans had developed consciences that prevented them from doing what Nature commanded them to do. Instead they set themselves up as a parasite class believing they could control the Blacks without special intermixture forever.
As Burroughs would have noted this put them on the defensive and no defense outlasts a good offense as the Shona have proven. Thus the Shona having been given a breathing space reorganized, regained the initiative and won the dominant position. They are now doing the natural thing exterminating or driving out both the Ndebele Zulu and the Europeans. If you won’t fight or can’t, you lose everything.
So, you have the Darwinian struggle for existence presented to you in plain terms in a human context that cannot be misunderstood. No rats or cockroaches as necessary examples. One must be intolerant of other species. One must be a ‘bigot’ as the Shona are or go under.
Now, not having the will and perhaps no longer having the power to do as Nature commands Europeans attempted to retreat, to withdraw within their own territories. As anyone knows they all come out at the first sign of weakness. One would have to be stupid or utopian not to realize that. As a sonsequence Europe and America are being invaded by the other human species in the Darwinian sense. I mean, folks, they call evolution science. Science means knowing. Anyone who does not act on certain knowledge is foolish or, perhaps, too religious.
However in the first two decades of the twentieth century the Liberal ideology was formed by the weakest and lamest members of Western civilization. Not understanding actual differences between the human species, even denying them on religious grounds, they used conscience as a weapon to first emasculate themselves, and I mean this in the literal sense, and then they shamed those who knew better into silence.
Among those silenced were Grant, Stoddard and Burroughs. Although all these men were initially very influential telling Americans the nature of evolution and its consequences their reputations were dismantled. By the beginning of WWII Grant and Stoddard were regarded as mere ‘racist’ cranks.
It is time to debunk the debunkers. The wheel has turned. Bunk is bunk and shouldn’t be tolerated by anyone.
Burroughs who hadn’t left himself quite so open was provoked into acts of defiance so that sanctions could be applied against him as much as had been done to Henry Ford. Ford is another whose reputation should be rehabilitated much as Khruschev rehabilitated the reputations of various Communists after the death of Stalin. The tool preferred by the Liberal Coalition to discredit someone was the charge of ‘anti-Semitism’, a religious charge be it noted.
The most potent weapon in the Liberal religious armament is the term ‘anti-Semite.’ It is used liberally usually combined with Fascist to defame and control an opponent. Oddly enough they couldn ‘t make it stick on Burroughs. Even Slotkin in Gunfighter Nation only hints that ERB might have anti-Semitic tendencies.
I know it is unpleasant to discuss the Semitic issue but I think the time has come to discuss the issue head on especially as Burroughs was and is involved to a much more serious degree than might be apparent at first blush. The problem of Asia, from whence the Semites come, and Europe has roots in prehistory. Indeed it is a tale of two species. This is one of those eternal conflicts that will not be settled until one side annihilates the other much as the Shona are doing in Zimbabwe to their competitors.
In ancient days both the European Greeks and the Mediterranean Egyptians were in a constant conflict with what the Egyptians referred to as ‘vile Asiatics’, the Greeks as ‘barbarians.’ The Asiatics were vile not on the basis of race but because of the differing view of life of the two species. As regards the Egyptians and the Semites one or the other had to be exterminated. If you know anything of Egyptian history you will know that few true Egyptians still survive. The Semites have exterminated the true Egyptians.
Thus the related species of HSII, the Egyptians and HSIII, the Europeans found the Semitic species unassimilable. We are back to Darwin’s competing species of rats and cockroaches. In the religious terms in which the problem is usually stated one says the animosity is racial or in other words, moral; in scientific terms one says that it is genetic or special. In other words, the problem is much deeper than mere surface appearances. It extends to the genetic development of the brain. The Semite cannot understand as any other human species understands and vice versa.
Thus the current problem in the Sudan between Negroes and Semites which is genetic or biological can only be resolved by the extermination or expulsion of the other. The whole course of this new African conflict can be projected historically and scientifically. It may be delayed but it cannot be stopped. Compare it with the Shona in Zimbabwe. There is no question as to what course the conflict will take.
Why Liberals choose to make an issue of Darfur while they ignore the South Sudan and Zimbabwe and South Africa where genocide is also going on is known only to themselves. It is absolutely necessary to analyze the matter in scientific rather than emotional or religious terms. These are not matters of race but species. The mental capabilities of the Negro, the Semite and the European are different and irreconcilable. An unpleasant fact, perhaps, but true.
The conflict between Europe and Asia or the Semites and Indo-Europeans began according to legend with the Semitic abduction of the European woman Io from Argos. The history of the Mediterranean in ancient times was the perpetual warfare between Europeans and Asiatics or Semites. At one time the Semites seemed to be besting Europeans and then turn about. For the long Hellenic and Roman period the Europeans seemed to have won. But, and this is a big but, they failed to exterminate or drive the Semites out. A very bad mistake.
Two things happened. The Jewish Semites began a peaceful infiltration into Europe which came to a head in the long Jewish Wars that lasted from 66 AD to 135 AD. The Jewish Semites were militarily defeated in their homeland but came to spiritually dominate Europeans through the Judaeo-Catholic religion.
None of this struggle went unobserved by the Semitic peoples of the Arabian penenisula. In the seventh century the Arab or Ishamelite, to use the Jewish term, branch of the Semitic peoples led by Moslem ideology which had its base in Jewish ideology overran North Africa, large parts of the Eastern Mediterranean into the steppes of Asia and over the Hindu Kush into India. More or less following the path of Alexander. The Indo-European Persians, now known as Iranians, were Islamized or Semitized which they remain today. They were stultified hence their ridiculous position today.
The southerly Egyptians, the native Copts, are on the verge of extinction or what the modern world fondly describes as genocide. There are few surviving true Egyptians today.
Thus the Hellenic-Roman hegemony was reversed.
The Semitic Arab incursion into Europe which was a continuation of the multi-thousand year conflict between Europeans and Semites was defeated by Charles the Hammer at Tours in the heart of Europe. Over the next nearly thousand years the Moslems were expelled from Western Europe but they advanced in Eastern Europe.
From the expulsion of the Moors from Spain in 1492 the southern Med if not the Med itself was controlled by the Barbary pirates. During that period Europeans supinely submitted to a slave trade that greatly resembled that of sub-Saharan Africa. Even as Negroes were being transported to the Americas countless Europeans were captured on European soil, transported to Africa and enslaved. So, the Africans have no cause to complain of Europeans. Some people whine some people don’t.
No one European State was strong enough or determined enough to clear the seas of the Moslems while they were unable to concert a united attack. The piracy and enslavement continued until France annexed Algeria in 1830. Rightfully so.
In Darwinian terms it is quite clear that the struggle was one of the replacement of one population by another. Thus when France conquered Algeria it behove them to either exterminate or drive out the existing population replacing it with Europeans. They ought to have relentlessly warred on every North African people until North Africa was once again European.
The attempt to coexist was a defensive war that could only end in defeat. The defeat was adjudicated by General De Gaulle in the nineteen sixties. The French stupidly and erroneously thought the war was over, but in reality the momentum shifted once again to the Semites.
As noted by Lothrop Stoddard the Wahabi Moslems went onto the offensive. No longer able to comptete militarily with Europeans they resorted to guerilla warfare, something the West now chooses to call terrorism, combined with an infiltration of Europe using their reproductive capabilities as a weapon. The situation now is a replica of the 3000 BC infiltration of Sumer. Hence the balance of power of the age old war between the Semites of Asia and Europeans has once again shifted toward the Asiatics.
As the Libyan, Moamar Qadaffi gloated in May 2006 there are fifty million Moslems in Europe. Europeans have the option of fighting or submitting. He knows whereof he speaks. As the war will now be conducted on European soil with the certain loss of the entire cultural superstructure of the last two thousand years there seems little chance of any European resistance. Notre Dame will be renamed and become a mosque.
If there is resistance then Burroughs’ prophecy of a flattened Europe turned Black over the centuries is a distinct, nay, certain probability. In addition to their submission to the Wahabi Arabs, Europeans seem incapable of resisting the Black Moselm invasion from sub-Saharan Africa. Thus once Blacks and Moslems have the strength they will undoubtedly follow the ancient plan of killing the men and keeping the women. Need I point to Haiti after the slave rebellion as an example? Within three or four generations both Arabs and Europeans will be absorbed into Black Africa.
Any discussion of the problem is now impossible in Europe as the blackest censorship has been imposed on dissent. Astonishing that the enlightenment could disappear just like that, isn’t it? Anyone who dissents from the Semitic program is liable to imporisonment, heavy fines or both. The term Semite includes both the Jewish and Arab branches.
Once the Moslem are powerful enough to direct the European military it will mean the end of Israel as that State will be completely encircled by Moslem powers with irresistable might and control of all land, sea, air and satellite communications.
With European technological war materiel at their disposal the Moslems will be able to isolate the United States by depriving it of oil or with the huge and growing population in the US sabotage any war effort if threatened. Let’s have a round of applause for the brilliant leadership of Chirac, Blair, Bush and Obama not to mention the morons of the US Senate.
Burroughs foresaw the results of the West’s waffling before the Communists, the Moslems and perhaps the Africans but he was prevented from examining the problems too openly for fear of bringing the Liberal Coalition with its charges of anti-Semitism down on his head. Both he and Henry Ford were having a tough fight for survival. W.R. Hearst.
Burroughs had already called attention to himself by questioning a survey sent him by the American Jewish Committee in 1919. It seems apparent the survey drew his attention to Jewish matters which he had ignored up till that time. This resulted in the character of Bluber in Tarzan And The Golden Lion as well as several characters in 1924′s Marcia Of The Doorstep. As the AJC would have considered these characterizations ‘anti-Semitic’ the publication of the book was prohibited. Censored as it were.
Probably as a result of questioning the AJC survey he was put under surveillance. While a number of movies had been made from his books, in 1921 movie making from his novels ceased reducing his income potential drastically at a very critical time in his finances. For whatever reason there was a hiatus in the production of Tarzan films that lasted until 1928. It is only fair to assume that Tarzan had not lost his box office appeal which is the usual Hollywood cover for blacklisting. One also imagines that Burroughs would have leapt at any movie money. Indeed, in 1922 the Stern Bros. and Louis Jacobs, a trio of Jewish movie makers, tied up the rights to Jungle Tales Of Tarzan and Jewels of Opar for $40,000. This was a very decent sum to spend yet the movie makers made no effort make the movies, they were content to tie up the titles. Whether Burroughs was being disciplined for being ‘anti-Semitic’ or not can’t be determined for certain at this time.
Hollywood was notorious for being a Jewish industry. W.R. Hearst was one of the few goys making movies. D.W. Griffith was being increasingly marginalized. In the interim then, the noted ‘anti-Semite’ Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of the future president John F. Kennedy, formed or bought FBO Studios. The story of this multi-cultural struggle for dominance has never been adequately researched for obvious reasons, but what with the Ford conflict with the Semitic Jewish culture flaring in the foreground it is not unlikely that there was a great deal of maneuvering in the background. It will be noted that when RKO was formed which incorporated FBO Studios the R for Radio came from RCA and KO for Keith Orpheum were retained while FBO was deleted. The R and KO were Jewish concerns while FBO had been a great goyish disrupter.
Nevertheless, as Burroughs was blacklisted by Hollywood which the Hollywood historian Neal Gabler describes as a Jewish empire, it is noteworthy that an ‘anti-Semite’ broke the blacklist making Tarzan movies again. It would have been the equivalent of Dalton Trumbo being allowed to script movies under his own name again in the 1960s.
The blacklist broken, the Stern Bros. and Jacobs then decided in 1928 to exercise their rights to the two Tarzan novels to release Tarzan The Tiger and Tarzan The Mighty. Calling Tarzan a tiger may have been a slam at Burroughs who erroneously introduced tigers into Africa in the magazine version of Tarzan Of The Apes.
The silent era of movies over, MGM produced the first talkie of Tarzan in 1932. Watch the dates.
Now, in both Tarzan The Invincible and Tarzan Triumphant Burroughs takes undisguised hits at Communism, pointing fingers and naming names; in Triumphant he continues his open attack on Communism and covertly ridicules the Jews in his portrayal of Midians with their enormous noses and receding chins. Both attributes are well known caricatures of Jews. Was this a gratuitous insult or was he responding to insults to himself?
If he had been given courage by the presence of Joseph Kennedy and FBO Studios then he might have relaxed his vigilance a little. However his open and blatant attack would not have been unresented by Judaeo-Communists. While Hollywood had always been run by Jews, by 1930 Communists had also made much more serious inroads than is usually admitted. In other words, ERB’s well being in this multi-cultural war zone depended on his sworn enemies. As both a goy and counter-revolutionary ERB was an odd man out. It could not possibly be any other way.
There can be no question that he would have to be gotten for what could only be seen as egregious insults to both Communists and Jews. In fact, the two were nearly one. The question then was how best to get Burroughs short of outright assassination. The blacklist had already been broken by Kennedy but possible a movie could be made to make ERB’s great creation ridiculous. Destroy him in that way, you see.
Thanks to technological marvels like DVDs it is now possible to study old movies at will. I have a sets of most of the films. I have viewed Tarzan Of The Apes a number of times.
Bearing in mind that Burroughs was in a struggle with both Communists and Semites as exemplified in 1930′s Tarzan The Invincible and 1931′s Tarzan Triumphant while being surreptitiously listed as an anti-Semite by the American Jewish Committee, I think it worthwhile to speculate on the intent of Louis B. Mayer and Irving Thalberg’s productions.
Having watched the movie a number of times while bearing books Invincible and Triumphant in mind I have come to the conclusion that the movie’s ulterior motive was an attempt to ridicule the Big Bwana into oblivion. We all know that ridicule is a most effective weapon, especially when it can’t be answered. It was undoubtedly thought Tarzan could be destroyed in this manner.
MGM did not negotiate to obtain rights to any particular story but, and this is important, they bought the right to use the characters as they thought fit. Thus as the movie poster picture in Bibliophile David Fury’s book Kings Of The Jungle on p.63 published by McFarland, it is stated that the movie is ‘based on the characters created by Edgar Rice Burroughs.’ In other words, this is not the Tarzan of Invincible and Triumphant. Oh no, no. This is Tarzan The Defeated, Tarzan The Buffoon.
The vision is no longer Tarzan Of The Apes but Tarzan, The Ape Man. A subtle but important shift in emphasis. Tarzan is no longer a man raised among apes he is a man who is an ape. The fabulous brain of Tarzan which allowed him to master reading and writing with the aid of only a picture book, that allowed him to learn new languages instantly has now been replaced by an inarticulate moron who does five minutes of ’me Tarzan, you Jane.’
This was free love in the jungle between a hunk and a babe. Apparently it slipped by unnoticed at the time until it was picked up thirty years later by an astute librarian. Tarzan and Jane are no longer married in the movies, Jane just began cohabiting with Tarzan because he was such a handsome hunk. Fortunately she, he, or both were infertile. Thus Tarzan was subtly defamed, his universality removed. His audience constricted by that much.
Having slipped this bit past the censors, as incredible as it may seem, in the next movie, Tarzan And His Mate, not wife but mate, you know, a live in, MGM included the famous nude swimming scene that did not get past the censors.
Both these items would have had the effect of defaming Tarzan and constricting his audience. A certain type of viewer would be offended by these items and refuse to see the movies while another type would gratified by such items and drawn to the movies but lower the quality of the audience moving Tarzan toward porn. Thus by degrees Tarzan movies would gain the reputation as porn flicks. Porn is porn even if it is Tarzan so you aren’t going to let your kids eat popcorn in front of dirty movies nor are legitimate first run theatres going to show them. At least, not then.
Thus MGM was well on their way to making Tarzan porn before the censors forced a change in plan. There was nothing Burroughs could have done about this as he, or rather his office manager signed away all his rights to his character.
The MGM poster then portrays Tarzan as a criminal freak:
Mothered by an ape- He knew only the law of the jungle- to seize what he wanted.
The ‘to seize’ is in attention grabbing italics.
Mothered by an ape is ambiguous and meant to be repulsive. It could mean that Tarzan was fathered by a human on an ape or it could be so obscure as to be meaningless. If you were familiar with the books you could probably guess what was intended but if you weren’t who knows what it could mean to you. Remember the first volume, Tarzan Of The Apes, was no longer in print even in 1930 so the original story couldn’t even be bought. The later volumes don’t recapitulate his birth and raising so there may have been actually few who knew the whole story. We are led to believe that the MGM Tarzan is completely lacking in morality. If he wants something he just steals it. Not the Tarzan I would want to emulate.
The director was W.S. Van Dyke who had just had a major success with his Trader Horn, another African picture. That one had been phenomenally successful and Tarzan is billed as “Another Miracle Picture directed by W.S. Van Dyke, Creator Of “Trader Horn.” Van Dyke was certainly not the creator of Trader Horn as the movie was adapted from the book by Trader horn, there was such a man, thus in a way Tarzan, The Ape Man is subordinated to W.S. Van Dyke and Trader Horn.
What is called ‘the adaptation’ is done by someone called Cyril Hume. As the dialogue was written by Ivor Novello I presume that both the storyline and the alterations to Tarzan’s character can possibly be attributed to Hume.
There is little on Hume on the internet but a New York Times review that was cribbed from All Movie Guide. It says ‘…During the 1920s, Hume proved a worthy rival of Fitzgerald with such lost generation novels as Wife Of The Centaur and Cruel Fellowship.’ An interesting couple of titles in relation to this Tarzan movie. The review then goes on to say ‘…During the 1930s , he was the principal writer of MGM’s “Tarzan ” films, bringing prestige to these escapist exercises by treating them with dignity and respect…’ That’s one man’s opinion anyway.
As we all know the attributed movie writer frequently has very little to do with the finished script so we will assume that Hume’s script went through many revisions by many minds with perhaps different agendas than his. One wonders why Ivor Novello, who was a well known playwright of the time was broght in to do dialogue. Apart from the Tarzan yell, with which Novello is given no connection, that seems to be the major portion of the dialogue along with the famous ‘Tarzan-Jane’ sequence, there seems to be little dialog that an amateur couldn’t have written.
The net result is a movie that seriously demeans Tarzan as conceived and portrayed over fifteen novels. In order for their ridicule to be successful MGM did have to produce a movie that someone would go see. They were apparently successful beyond their wildest hopes or fears as the movie was described as a ‘surprise’ hit and an enormous grosser. Now MGM was stuck with the character.
If it was a surprise hit then one can discount the publicity that the movie cost a million dollars to produce. There are no well-known stars in the movie, while much of it is footage left over from Trader Horn which had already been amortized with the rest being shot on lot. If the movie cost MGM a quarter million I would still be astonished.
In their attempt to ridicule Tarzan they were too clever by half. The character of Tarzan may not have that of the books but audiences still found it satisfying, especially the yell.
Those of us who have read the books have always been uneasy with those MGM movies although Johnny Weismuller was perfectly cast in the role of the Ape Man.
So, while the NYT reviewer may believe Cyril Hume brought ‘prestige to these escapist exercises by treating them with dignity and respect’ there are dissenting opinions other than mine.
Another interpretation was that of the first movie Tarzan, Elmo Lincoln, who commented to ERB “the house seemed to think it was a comedy. Why do they portray Tarzan without dignity?…with the right treatment and portrayal, Tarzan could a romantic, thrilling character, and still have the sympathy of his audience…I don’t like to see him treated as a clown…”
Elmo Lincoln and I both see the MGM version in the same light, while I have to question the interpretation of the NYTimes writer. I think Lincoln was right, the movie was a comedic effort meant to defame the persona of ERB’s great creation and thus destroy Edgar Rice Burroughs. After all ERB, Inc.’s publishing arm was dependent on sales of Tarzan’s.
By 1932 the troublesome ERB had learned which side his bread was buttered on so he publicly endorsed the MGM movies, after all this was big money, bigger than any other souces of income combined. It may be said then that just as Henry Ford recanted and apologized for offending the Jewish Cultural entity in the ongoing culture wars so Burroughs bent the knee to Liberal suzerainty.
As ERBzine reports, privately Burroughs had other thoughts:
Daughter Joan Burroughs revealed: “Dad found it hard to reconcile himself to the movie versions of the Tarzan stories and never did understand the movie Tarzan. He wanted Tarzan to speak like an educated Englishman instead of grunting. One time we saw a movie together and after it was over, although the audience seemed enthusiastic, my father remained in his seat and kept shaking his head sadly.”
So Burroughs and Lincoln both resented the screen adaptation based on the Tarzan ERB had created.
There was nothing Burroughs could do about it. His rights had been signed away by his agent Ralph Rothmund. Rothmund must have been aware of the tension between Burroughs, Communists and Jews, yet he essentially gave the courthouse away. He placed Burroughs in the hands of his enemies. He gave Tarzan to MGM stripping Burroughs of his only weapon and asset. Why? Did he contact MGM or did MGM contact him? Why did he negotiate behind Burroughs’ back presenting him with a fait accompli? Why not tell his employer, ‘I’ve got this deal worked out with MGM. Do you want to take it?’
Presented instead with a check, Our Man seduced by vain desires went out and bought five Packard automobiles. Ah, ERB…
Did he repent of this deal? I believe so. Trapped by the contract his only way of retaliation was a futile one through his novels.
Can it be a coincidence that Tarzan And The Lion Man written over February to May of 1933, published by ERB, Inc. in book form on September 1, 1934 (Septimus Favonius BB#55 p. 34) ridiculed MGM, Irving Thalberg and Trader Horn. The second MGM movie Tarzan And His Mate was released on April 16, 1934. Bear these two dates in mind, the movie was released five months before the book leaving time for a revision of the book text.
Certainly severely wounded by the MGM adaptation of Tarzan Burroughs had been beaten. He had lost the culture war between himself, the Communists and the Jews. Having lost control of his character in the vital field of movies his only recourse was to lampoon MGM in a book which he did in Tarzan And The Lion Man. Strangely his illustrator St. John chose this book to experiment with an unrepresentative cover that was believed to have killed sales. Thus this magnficent achievement was undersold.
Lion Man recounts W.S. Van Dyke’s movie making in Africa, telling it in a ridiculing manner. MGM’s version of Tarzan is portrayed by a character named Stanley Obroski, perhaps a takeoff on Johnny Weismuller, who is a pale imitation of the real Tarzan. Burroughs makes a careful comparison showing what a joke the MGM Tarzan was. In a fit of pique he kills the fake Lion Man off.
One of the more interesting characters is Balza- The Golden Girl. After escaping from the Valley of Diamonds she joins the movie company where she cavorts about in the nude. This scene has baffled me but if one remembers that in Tarzan And His Mate Maureen O’ Sullivan is stripped by Tarzan followed by the nude swimming scene, the novel makes sense. ERB had seen the movie in April of 1934 possibly an earlier studio screening and incorporated the changes in his text for the 9/1/34 release date.
So his retort against MGM while ineffective made for what must rank as one of his very best efforts.
Just as an aside note that while this struggle was going on in Hollywood Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany in January of 1933; Franklin Delano Roosevelt became President of the United States in March of ’33.
One of FDR’s first deeds was to recogtnize the USSR regime of Joseph Stalin. In late 1933 a chubby little ex-draper’s assistant acted as a go-between for Stalin and Roosevelt. Having first visited Stalin, H.G. Wells carried his messages to Roosevelt. Thus under the very eyes of the world some very important communications were passed back and forth. Nineteen thirty-three was also the year the former draper’s assistant wrote his Shape Of Things To Come.
These things can’t be stated with absolute certainty but the character of God– the formerly handsome Englishman in Lion Man, is certainly based on the pompous little H.G. Wells.
Thus while I at first objected to Slotkin’s accusations against ERB, barring the My Lai stuff, I think I am beginning to see ERB’s relation to the cultural wars between Communists, Jews, Liberals and Conservatives. there is more going on here than meets the eye.
But let us look at some of the religous aspects of this interesting situation. The religious war between Semitism and the Astrological Religion as represented by Tarzan Of The Apes.
Pt. IV: H.G. Wells, Sigmund Freud, Edgar Rice Burroughs And The Development Of Contemporary Sexual Attitudes
September 15, 2010
H.G. Wells, Sigmund Freud, Edgar Rice Burroughs
And The Development Of Contemporary Sexual Attitudes
Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Contribution
That Edgar Rice Burroughs is one of the, if not the most, influential writers, America has produced goes without saying. The only question is in how many different ways did he do it and was an attitude toward sexual mores one of them. I think it can be shown that that is true. Was Burroughs an ideologue in sexual matters. At this point I can’t say yes or no although his attitudes seem consistent throughout his career.
A first hurdle we have to get over is whether Burroughs was some sort of idiot savant who just had the knack for writing adventure stories or was he an auto-didact who educated himself in exemplary fashion. The consensus is more along the idiot savant line which I hope I have shown in my by now voluminous writings that ERB was very well read, had a sound if not spectacular education while being an intelligent man with at least a 120-130 IQ.
I think I have shown that he was a full participant in the intellectual culture of 1875-1920 which influenced the first phase of his writing career. We know he was well read because he references hundreds of books that he read in his own pages. He tells us he read Gibbon’s Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire which is an essential for a liberal education. He tells us he read and reread Plutarch’s Parallel Lives which also is no mean achievement. Those may be isolated instances or, as I think, they are the tip of the iceberg. He was near expert on Evolution while being deeply read in esoteric and exoteric religion. The guy was a virtual marvel. His learning shows up in his writings although in a fantastic manner for enterainment purposes.
For our purposes here we can begin when his father placed him in the Harvard Latin School of Chicago. He was to spend what we would call his Junior High years there. It was there he learned Latin and possibly some Greek. He was to complain later that he learned Latin before he learned to write in English which he thought affected his style and it may have as some of his writing reads like he was translating from Latin. While he may not have qualified as a Latin scholar I’m sure that for the rest of his life he could find his way through an extensive Latin quotation. When I was in school that was considered an achievement of a high order. So ERB had a pretty decent founding in the Classics.
Now, there has been a pretty fair controvercy on ERBzine recently over how nude Martians were. I don’t think there is any question but that both men and women hang out, that is ventral and dorsal nudity. One might therefore infer that in Burroughs’ vision of an utopia the style was to be au naturel.
Was this original or did ERB, as usual, borrow from the culture, have his sources?
Let’s start at Harvard Latin School. At the time the Patriarchy was in full control of the culture. There were grumblings from both the Matriarchy and the Hetaerarchy but those were in the beginning stages of the revolt. As late as the 1960s when I was an Ancient History major you would have been thrown out of school for challenging the Patriarchal version of Ancient History, that is to say Greek and Roman. ERB then couldn’t have been given less than a 110% Patriarchal education.
Any illustrations of Greek statues he would have seen showed the genitals fully exposed unless a fig leaf had been placed over them. The Greek vases he may have seen would have shown Greek men at play or leisure with fully exposed genitals, any weapons belted on would look exactly like his Martians. They might have a wrap thrown over the shoulder for protection from inclement weather.
The phallicism, the pride in manhood, runs all through Greek art and literature. At the time men were liberating themselves from the Matriarchy with its cruel attitude toward the males. It had been discovered that the male inseminated the female so men claimed the child as theirs while the women were mere incubators or storehouses rather than the fecund goddesses of creation. Man was the creator. That was the answer the riddle posed by the Theban sphinx to Oedipus was, Man. So the psychological reaction must have been if you’ve got one, show it. Meanwhile as the man was the progenitor of a woman’s offspring, a man’s wife had to be secluded so that another man couldn’t impregnate her. Whereas in the past women were more or less commonly available to the certified they now became the exclusive possession of one man, except for prostitutes or hetaerists. The children were his.
How much, if any, of this ERB understood he at least saw a society where the men went fully nude. As the Martian children were hatched from eggs incubated in the Martian sun it sounds as though he had read Plato where Socrates expatiated on the old days when men and women were hatched from eggs. Indeed, Leda impregnated by Zeus in the form of a swan hatched two eggs that produced Castor and Pollux and Helen and Clytemnestra as two sets of twins. It’s not too far from there to Mars, don’t you think?
Around the turn of the century the Nudist movement took form in German. We tend to think of these earlier times as staid when in reality the modern world was in its birth throes. The nudity thing since the French Revolution had been slowly growing. For the Medieval Free Spirits and Anabatists nudity was a key point as it was for the Libertines and as it was adopted by the Communist offshoots of the Revolution. Men want to look at the female nude.
In Germany at the turn of the century the nudity movement jelled, an actual movement taking shape in conjunction with the Wandervogel movement. This is turn led to the development of the Nature movement resulting in the incredible Nature Boy scene in the US of the thirties and forties which in turn evolved into the Beat/Hippie phenomenon of the fifties, sixties and seventies and into today.
Burroughs would have been aware of this whole phenomenon up to 1950 endorsing it enthusiastically. Tarzan was the ultimate Nature Boy and Burroughs developed the character with that in mind. The ideal. I have no douts that Burroughs intended him as the exemplar of this growing movement. Hence the development of the Nature movement was aided, abetted and intentionally forwarded by ERB clearly linking him to the scene in Bohemian NY of the sixties and the whole Beat/Hippie scene.
So Burroughs’ writings actually promote nudism and the Nature movement throughout his career. John Carter arrives, born again, nude on Mars where he would have been unnoticeable on that account, completely blending in. Indeed, the only difference was that he was white instead of red which was a curiosity. Thus, as soon as he leaves Earth he become a nudist in what was a sort of utopian society to Burroughs.
Tarzan necessarily practiced nudity for his first twenty years, only donning his ‘fig leaf’ or G-string when he came in contact with civilization.
Burroughs always refers to Tarzan’s ‘adornment’ as a G-string in the early novels. A G-string only cover the genitals with a flap and not the rear so Tarzan was essentially nude in the jungle. He was a Nature Boy and that is the way most of his readers have perceived him.
The MGM Tarzan is the exemplar of the Nature Boy living on fruit and nuts. The MGM movies regularly show bowls of fruits and nuts while Tarzan, unless memory fails, is never shown squatting over a haunch eating the flesh raw as in Burroughs’ novels. As with Burroughs and the Nature Boys Tarzan rejects all the appurtenances of civilization except for some mechanical engineering at which Tarzan was apparently a genius. Might even have been a Nuclear Physicist even though he could barely grunt in the MGM movies.
It seems clear that there was vitually no one who hadn’t heard of Tarzan or Burroughs. Nearly everyone was influenced by the two. It therefore seems probable that the Nature Boys, the nudists took Tarzan as an avatar.
Certainly John Derek directed his movie, Tarzan, The Ape Man of the 1980s, concentrating on the sexual and nature aspects of the image. No argument there, I hope.
Now, the Bohemian scene in NYC was among other things a return to the primitive. The crowd surrounding Andy Warhol in his Factory was a bunch of savages stripped of all but the rudiments of civilization. They were the Tarzans of the asphalt jungle. The more affluent savages, the Haute Boheme lived a life of sexual abandon that Burroughs, Wells and Freud could only have dreamed of, and they did dream of it.
Once the attitude was institutionalized at Studio 54 the world Burroughs, Wells and Freud longed for was realized. It was Hetaerism and Matriarchialism on wheels, a complete overthrow of Patriarchalism. Our three musketeers would have gained easy admitance and found each in his own particular utopia. From 1880 to 1980 was only a hundred years. A short time indeed to overturn civilization.
Burroughs was a leading figure in this revolution.
Pt. II: H.G. Wells, Sigmund Freud, Edgar Rice Burroughs And The Development Of Contemporary Sexual Attitudes
August 22, 2010
H.G. Wells, Sigmund Freud, Edgar Rice Burroughs
And The Development Of Contemporary Sexual Attitudes
To put our three protagonists into perspective: Sigmund Freud The eldest of the three was born in 1856, Wells in 1866 and Burroughs, the youngest in 1875. All three were heavily influenced by Charles Darwin and the various theories of Evolution. While today Darwin is touted as the sole source of evolution he was in fact one of many voices as the theory of evolution developed. Thus all three spent their formative years in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Freud was 44 as the century turned in 1900, Wells 34 and Burroughs 25 each neatly spaced 10 years from his predecessor.
Wells was the first to make the leap into prominence followed by Freud and then Burroughs. All three men were desperate to find fame and fortune. Freud even advtertised he’d sell his soul to do it.
Wells came from close to the bottom of the social ladder. His parents eked out a living as shopkeepers without commercial abilities on the edge of London. Wells’ father was an able cricket player who gained his self-esteem from that sport. The parents split up. His mother went into domestic service. She placed young Wells as a Draper’s assistant- a clerk in a dry goods shop. As one might well believe Wells rebelled at this dead end destiny in life. Possessing a good brain Wells began a series of educational maneuvers that led to his being a student of T.H. Huxley, an apostle of Evolution. A science career seemed to be opening for Wells but he was led away by his sexual needs. He married a cousin with whom he was a boarder in her mother’s house only to discover her Victorian notions of male-female sexual relations differed widely from his. He divorced her taking up with a fellow student. She was an able financial manager so he put her in charge and began chasing skirts. It didn’t seem to bother his wife Catharine who he renamed Jane. After a series of hairy but educational employments Wells began to find success in journalism and writing. With his story The Time Machine he broke into the bigtime giving Jane some real work to do. Quickly following The Time Machine up with his succession of sci-fi novels by 1900 he was assured of a lifetime income.
It was well because his work after 1906 while prolific was unlucrative except for 1922′s Outline Of History. There was a winner. The Outline was his second great break setting him up for the rest of his life along with the science fiction. Ah, those Seven Science Fiction Novels. And, of course, his close to amazing collection of short stories. There was another gold mine. Jane raked in the cash and Bertie, for that was how he wished to be called, spent it.
He associated himself with the socialist Fabian Society of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century with their ‘advanced’ sexual notions. Why the old Hetaerist notion of promiscuity is considered ‘advanced’ is beyond me. At the same time Bertie claimed to be a Feminist. The women’s Matriarchal movement was very active from mid-century on. His Feminism, however, was concerned only with eliminating chastity thereby allowing any man access to any woman at any time, anywhere. Purely Hetaeric, although Wells wouldn’t have understood his ancient roots in that manner.
It was when Wells turned to his sex novels that he put his reputation in jeopardy. After his intial spate of sci-fi his reputation slid, the only bright spot being The Outline Of History. While his later novels, tend toward the tedious and require a certain determination to read through they are almost always redeemed by the social context. I like Wells and don’t mind the stuff too much but I can’t recommend it very strongly. It’s a matter of taste, either you like Wells or you don’t.
Wells major themes are outlined in the last of the Seven Sci-Fi Novels- In The Days Of The Comet- when he shades into the sex novel. In my estimation this is a very fine book as utopian novels go. After Tono-Bungay and When the Sleeper Wakes it may be my favorite. The turn of the century was a hey day of the utopian novel with the dystopian novel being introduced. If you like the genre many fine ones were written: News From Nowhere by William Morris. I came to Morris late in life but if you like the mystical utopian or quasi-utopian novel Morris has a lot to recommend himself including several utopian forays. I’m sure he influenced both Wells and Burroughs; Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward is another fine example of the period. They’re all bushwa but fun to read. Utopian novels are usually a projection of the author’s own needs and desires into which all humanity is to conform. Usually by some miracle all humanity becomes reconciled to living in universal harmony with no unseemly disturbances of the temper. Museums and lecture halls flourish while dance halls and crime atrophy. Culture is much more elevated. To the most casual observor such an utopia is impossible without an alteration of the human brain. Only one utopianist I have read has addressed that problem and that one is H.G., our Bertie.
In The Days Of The Comet was published in 1906 at the time that Halley’s Comet was due to make its scheduled seventy-five year fly-by in 1910. It was projected to pass very close to the earth which it did unlike its 1985 appearance when you had to know where to look for it. Indeed, the comet came with trails of glory so bright you could read newsprint by it at night.
Thus Wells uses the comet as his agent to change the physical structure of the human brain. Wells fails to mention any change to the brains of the lesser animals and insects. Perhaps the lion really did lie down with the lamb. Before the comet, or the Big Change as the passing was referred to, people’s brains were as ours are now; after the Change they all resembled that of H.G. I am in sympathy with Wells; I fancy that one morning I will sally forth, flick my finger tips a couple times, say abracadabra and the people of the world will be tranformed into clones of myself. What’s holding me back is that I don’t know which will be the Big Morning and I don’t wish to be seen as an eccentric or worse who failed to take his medicine by repeatedly trying and failing. You know, out there flicking my finger tips into the empty air.
But, Wells had it worked out. The comet came trailing this tail of green gas. As the comet passed the gas enveloped the earth much like a magnetar, I suppose, knocking people out for several hours while the gas did its work. When England came to the world was changed and everyone thought like Wells. Sort of the same thing that was thought would happen when Obama was elected. The Magic Negro would save us all.
Actually the Comet reflected a change in Wells own circumstances. In 1898 when Wells published The War Of The Worlds he was balanced between hope and despair. He was close to financial independence but not quite there. Thus in WOW the tone is between hope and despair. The world is invaded by Martians who destroy everything in their path, themselves being destroyed by a virus taken in through their beastly habit of drinking human blood. One neglected detail is that the projectiles they arrived in trailed some green clouds. The last projectile had a larger one so that perhaps Wells was going to develop the notion but then couldn’t work it in. He did have the Martians project a black gas that killed people though.
By 1906 his success was assured, he was shooting his pistol off around London having several sexual affairs so his outlook was brighter and, hence, that of the planet, so the novel describes the transition from the evil old world to the brave new one In other words, Wells had passed from poverty to affluence.
Sex is the issue here.
Before the Comet Willie, the hero, was courting his childhood sweetheart Nettie from whom he expected to be her sole sexual companion. In the weird old world sex was exclusive. They had committed themselves to each other as children which remained a claim in Willie’s mind.
However Willie is a poor boy with no prospects. Nettie is courted by the rich guy’s son, Verrall with whom she runs off. Willie treks 16 miles to see her only to find she has abandoned her parents’ home in company with Verrall. Well, Willie’s not going to endure such treatment from Nettie or take that from Verrall so he steals some money, buys a revolver and a train ticket to track them down and shoot them dead. You see, in the days before The Big Change that was the way things were done.
In the meantime the Comet is getting closer, C-hour is near, and war breaks out between England and Germany, this is eight years before 1914 so Bertie exhibits his prescience. The details are well handled so we have the increasing color of the green cloud and the flash and boom of the big navel guns as the climax takes place by the seashore. This was really nicely handled.
Willie tracks the couple down to a Bohemian enclave on the East Anglian coast. Nettie and Verrall had gotten married so it seems rather odd that they searched out a Bohemian enclave. So, as the battle rages and the green cloud descends on the earth Willie is chasing the couple down the beach firing his pistol wildly. This is the moment of the Big Change. Everybody gets gassed for a few hours then arise, born again, in a new heaven and a new earth. Utopia!
The same device is used a few decades later in the great movie The Village Of The Damned. A good device. It won’t go stale.
In the new world, new rules and reasonings apply. Nettie no longer has to choose between Willie and Verrall. She can have both…and more.
As Willie comes to he hears groaning. The groaning is coming from a prominent politician who was out bicycling at two in the morning when the green fog descended and fell off his bike as he conked breaking his ankle. Thus Willie makes a connection changing the direction of his life allowing him to become prominent in the establishment of this brave new world. Thus he later meets Nettie and Verrall on equal terms.
Nettie informs Verrall that she wants a menage a trois with Willie to which, in this best of all impossible worlds, Verrall compliantly agrees. Later Willie marries making the arrangment a menage a quatre. Neato! Was this all? No…
In the frame for the story it turns out that the story teller is Willie. In the Frame Wells comes upon this white haired old dude, Willie, writing this memoir. He has pages clipped in fascicles of fifty that Willie allows the editor, H.G., to read.
Finishing the last fascicle the author asks if Nettie had sexual relations with others. The white haired dude replies somethng like this: ‘Oh, heavens, yes. Hundreds. You don’t think a beautiful girl like Nettie wouldn’t attract numerous suitors do you?’
So there you have it. In the brave new world the woman of Wells’ dreams is a mere sex object who spends her life being pawed by, shall we say, all comers. A Hetaerist’s dream. This is Wells’ sexual program. At this point he began to lose readers. Too avant garde; you don’t want to get too far out in front of the pack. In addition to the sexual proselytizing of his novels he carried his didacticism to extremes advancing educational theories for instance. For over a hundred years we’ve been told our educational system is faulty. New systems have succeeded new systems. After over a century of tinkering are people better schooled? No. They’re worse. There’s only one way to learn and that’s the drudgery of study. Not every mind is prepared to do that, somebody’s going to be left behind. Wells’ notions as everyone else’s is what they think they would have liked. No study. Lots of play.
At any rate carrying all these utopian notions Wells passed through the horrific war years to have all his expectations disappointed. Not surprisingly his mind broke and he went into a deep depression. First he tried the God trip and when that failed he embraced the Communist Revolution in Russia. He essentially became an agent of Moscow. As a very prominent writer he was a desirable acquistion for the Revolution. As a major theorist and propagandist he had an entree first to Lenin and then after 1924 when Lenin died, Stalin.
In 1921 he interviewed Lenin and received his instructions. the Soviets had a system of State prostitution. These women were assigned as agents to service writers while spying on them for Moscow. In 1921 he met Moura Budberg for whom he fell. At that time she had been assigned to manage a consular agent, Bruce Lockhart, who along with the agency was in process of being expelled. Wells became intensely jealous of Lockhart because of this connection badmouthing him from then on. In any case Moura Budberg was assigned to Maxim Gorky then living in exile in Italy with whom she stayed until Gorky was enticed back to the USSR at which time she was reassigned to shepherd Wells.
Now Wells became a Soviet literary hatchet man. It was his job to interfere and discredit writers who refused to propagate the Party line. Among these was Edgar Rice Burroughs who had proclaimed his anti-Communism with a tract or study titled Under The Red Flag of 1919. Publishers refused the piece. Wells anti-Burroughs campaign was so discreet that my discovery of it three or four years ago was the first mention of it. I repeat the story here for those who have not read my earlier essays.
In the first place all these writers read each other. Kipling and Haggard for instance read each other as well as writers like Wells and Burroughs and vice versa. They could pass disguised messages in their novels. As Burroughs was the last of these writers to begin writing and that in US pulp magazines in 1912 that may never have reached Europe while his book titles only reached print in 1914 after the Great War began and were only the Tarzan titles until the end of the decade Wells may not have read Burroughs until 1918 or slightly after. Nevertheless Burroughs influence shows in Wells’ 1923 effort Men Like Gods. This book also ridicules Burroughs.
Men Like Gods takes place in a parallel universe. There is some resemblance to the Eloi of The Time Machine. For the first time Wells’ characters are nearly nude. This was the only time he ever did this so he was probably under the influence of Burroughs whose characters never wore clothes or only minimally.
Burroughs apparently picked up the references or had them pointed out to him. In any event in 1926 he wrote The Moon Maid in answer to Wells, The First Men In The Moon. Wells’ book was pretty clumsycompared to that of Burroughs who demonstrated his imaginative superiority by running circles around Wells. The second part of the story was a rewrite of Under The Red Flag that was a direct challenge to the Soviets. By 1926 of course Stalin was directing the USSR.
Wells then countered with an undisguised attack that portrayed Burroughs as insane. This was Mr. Blettsworthy On Rampole Island. Here Wells parodied a pulp magazine story not yet in book form, The Lad And The Lion, and the last third of The Land That Time Forgot. Burroughs returned the fire with Tarzan At The Earth’s Core and Tarzan The Invincible that featured Stalin himself as a character.
At about this time Moura Budberg was assigned to Wells as a concubine as Gorky had returned to the USSR. This was to cause a falling out between Wells and Stalin while perhaps leading to Stalin’s assassination in 1953.
Burroughs’ entire series of novels from Tarzan At The Earth’s Core to Tarzan And The Lion Man deals with Wells and the Reds. The Communists attacked unrelentingly on several fronts probably robbing Burroughs blind in royalties while trying to squeeze off his sales. His British publishers did just that. Although it appears that they refused or were reluctant to keep his titles in print Alan Hodge and Robert Graves in their history of the twenties and thirties, The Long Weekend, twice refer to Burroughs’ great popularity, once in the twenties and once in the thirties.
In Germany the Communists attacked ERB for his anti-German comments in books written during the war
years thereby destroying that lucrative market. The Soviets never paid royalties anyway so there was no monetary effect from that market. In the US Burroughs had troubles with his publishers McClurg’s and Grossett & Dunlap who seem quite hostile to in the correspondence in the archives at ULouisville. ERB left McClurg in the late twenties going through two more publishers before winning the battle by publishing under his own imprint. Thus by 1930′s Tarzan The Invincible, note the title, he seemed to have won the battle if not the war.
However sound had come to the movies in 1927-28 which rearranged the playing field. Rather than just being ‘flickers’ they were now more on a par with literature while being even more influential. With sound the movie version of a story took pecedence over the book, heck, it took precedence over history. Thus the movie version took precedence as the canon over the book, the latter became an adjunct that few read in comparison to those who saw and heard the movie. As the movies paid in one lump sum what it might take years to dribble in as royalties authors were willing to give the devil a cut to have their novels produced. Books could be issued in their thousands of titles a year but there were only a couple hundred movies released in a year. The number of producers had been consolidated from many to a few after the shakeout of the twenties, hence combines like Metro, Goldwyn and Mayer, Radio-Keith-Orpheum- RKO- and the combine of Twentieth Century Pictures and William Fox.
MGM was of course top dog by far. There was no vacuum there but the Commies moved in anyway soon taking over de facto control. When Burroughs published his own books, quite profitably, he had slipped the noose but only temporarily. As a strategist he did poorly. In 1931, because Burroughs didn’t ever bother to dread his contracts, MGM finessed his meal ticket, Tarzan, from him thereby making him financially dependent on them. Even though they might have exploited the Tarzan character by making two or three movies a year and zillions of dollars they chose to make only six movies between 1931 and 1940 thereby keeping Burroughs on a short financial lease while depriving him of hundreds of thousands of dollars in income. Remember that at the same time Roosevelt after 1933 drove the income tax rate as high as 90% so there was some difficulty forcing a grin in those trying times.
This is a good story and I covered it in some detail in my ten part review of Tarzan And The Lion Man, expecially parts 6-10 to which I refer you if you’re interested. Wells and Burroughs bickered back and forth although it appears that Burroughs lost heart after Tarzan And The Lion Man. By that time he knew he had been had. He did concede defeat in the issuance of a book version of The Lad And The Lion in 1935; a notice to both Wells and Stalin. The story was a short one so while leaving the old story as a notice to Wells who had mocked him and the story in his Blettsworthy novel, Burroughs interpolated chapters with a story mocking the Communist Revolution in Russia. Then he retired from the field.
However he gives Wells a grand slam in the story of ’God’ in the middle of Lion Man. That is a great story within the story however I wasn’t clear on its relation to Wells at the time so I will give a modified version here.
Now, Burroughs had a remarkable mind. He was able to carry the story lines of hundreds of books he had read in his head retrieving details whenever they suited his needs. He was always conscious of what he was doing but he wrote pastiches anyway.
The story of Tarzan and God mocks Wells’ The Island Of Dr. Moreau. Burroughs had already used Moreau in his 1913 novel The Monster Men plus he wrote around the theme repeatedly. Moreau itself plays around with the Frankenstein theme which also figures prominently in Burroughs’ literary antecedents.
Remember that Burroughs is able to combine numerous details of other books into one composite figure so that Wells is only one source for the character of ‘God’ in Lion Man. For our purposes one may assume that when Tarzan talks to God (smirk) it is equivalent to Burroughs talking to Wells. Gone is the transcendant confidence of Tarzan The Invincible and Tarzan Triumphant. However the coup of the capture of Tarzan in 1931 when Burroughs signed away his rights to the movie representation of Tarzan to MGM had stripped Burroughs of all defences and he himself was now trapped in a cage at the mercy of MGM, Wells and Stalin. During Tarzan’s movie history dating back to the late teens Burroughs had always complained, making a nuisance of himself because the studios weren’t following his stories closely. Now, he had given MGM the right to create their own stories. ERB was dissatisfied with the representation of Tarzan but the character was so good that even though MGM tried they couldn’t destroy it.
Nevertheless they were in a position to substitute the movie Tarzan for the literary Tarzan in the public mind and they did. For me and many others the discovery that there was a literary Tarzan came long after we had been viewing Tarzan movies. We invariably found the literary Tarzan superior. For now Tarzan/ERB was imprisoned in a cell. The best ERB can do is to come up with a better Moreau story than Wells.
So, ERB creates a mock London, England in the wilds of Africa with a replica of the court of Henry VIII peopled by mutated gorillas. By 1930 when this story was written ERB was probably as well informed about evolution as anyone. He had kept up his reading becoming as knowledgeable concerning genetics as any but researchers. Thus while thirty years earlier Moreau had been clumsily experimenting with vivisection ‘God’ had used the lastest genetic techniques that ERB can devize to convert gorillas into a cross between apes and human beings. The apes of God are human in all but appearance. There are many jokes concealed in this episode, apes of God perhaps being one. Wyndham Lewis used the term apes of God as a synonym for writers so he may be calling Wells as God and writer an ape. ‘God’ himself who has exchanged ape genes with himself is now half ape. See, a joke. Whether Wells recognized his portrait isn’t known.
Tarzan sets about to escape but as there is no escape from his real life situation ERB merely burns God’s castle down disrupting one supposes the USSR. Perhaps gratifying to the imagination but futile for changing his situation. No longer in control of his creation Burroughs creative powers begin to atrophy.
Thus Stalin triumphed over his literary adversary. Perhaps Stalin despised writers for he set out to humiliate Wells after the defeat of Burroughs. As noted the State prostitute Moura Budberg had formerly serviced Maxim Gorky while after his return Budberg was assigned to Wells. H.G. had fallen hard for Budberg apparently seriously in love with her. Stalin called Wells to Moscow in 1936 when Gorky was on his last legs, about to die. Budberg was also in Moscow but when Wells asked to see her she told him she was called out of town. In a rather malicious ploy Stalin arranged for Wells to see Gorky and Budberg together as, of course, she wasn’t out of town.
Wells was completely destroyed unable to penetrate Stalin’s duplicity, or at least believe it, at the time. However when it finally sank in he had no more means to retaliate than Burroughs so he wrote a book too- The Holy Terror. In that book, the ruffian leader of the revolution, or Stalin in real life, has lost the ability to lead the revolution and has to be discreetly removed. A conspiracy is set afoot. A doctor’s plot in which the leader is artfully removed by medical means. I am unaware of how much influence Wells may have had to incite others to achieve his result. At any rate the War intervened making it inexpedient to dispatch Stalin while Wells died in 1946 before he could reactivate the plan.
It may be coincidence but Stalin discovered a doctor’s plot in the early fifties that he was able to foil. However Khruschev and Beria and others poisoned Stalin at a dinner in 1953 thus removing this singularly successful but troublesome dictator.
The turmoil of the thirties may have derailed Wells sexual program somewhat but sexual matters were still moving in his desired direction. Sexual matters had been loosened a great deal but there were still miles to go.
In Part III I will deal with the key mover in sexual matters, Sigmund Freud who was the second of the three to reach prominence. Thus Burroughs the third to arrive on the scene and the last to leave will be saved for the last part.