Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Accreted Personality
Hours In The Library
As the fabulous Twentieth Century dawned virtually a new world different than anything that had gone before came into existence requiring a new consciousness. As usual some could adapt and some couldn’t. In an evolutionary sense those that couldn’t adapt disappeared, those that could survived while those born into the new world accepted it as normal.
Many authors who were very successful in the old world faded from importance not because what they had to say was necessarily irrelevant but because it was no longer relevant to a changed consciousness. Even if their message was universal it had to be expressed in new terms. Some like Rider Haggard and Conan Doyle trundled right along until they died two or three decades later. Some like H.G. Wells whose contemporary novels lost significance and sales potential even though in Wells case his sci-fi output of the nineties has survived strongly until today. His omnibus volume Seven Science Fiction Novels has been a strong seller for nearly a hundred years. A dozen or so handsome editions adorn the shelves of second hand dealers where they turn over at a quick rate.
Still, around 1900 a new generation of writers began to move onto the literary field; the next wave after the crop of the eighteen eighties. The new writers were mainly in the age cohort of 1865 to 1876 as was Ed but he would make a late start in 1912. Memory is the key to psychology. If nothing goes into the memory nothing comes out so it is important to include only the beneficial as much as is possible. It is for that reason that pornography is pernicious. It has little social value; its main function being to stroke one’s fixations. In these crucial years Ed filled his memory banks with the works of the current crop of writers. He unerringly went, as we all do, to those writers and books that talked around his own fixations thus being capable of being incorporated into his own writing.
While he seems to be almost plagiarizing his sources, by the end of the nineteenth century the body of work available had grown to significant proportions. He was not alone in incorporating his reading into his own work. The reading had become part of the social fabric not much different than trolley cars and the soup cans Andy Warhol would later make famous. Burroughs now is part of our mental furniture and while it may not be pertinent to our writing, images and phrases from what we have read may come out of our pen without our realizing it. Almost like saying for dinner I opened a can of Campbell’s tomato soup.
The thousands of movies and records we have seen and know cannot be excluded from our mental processes. So, just as George Du Maurier named his novel Trilby after that of Charles Nodier of the turn of the nineteenth century patterning his story based on that novel that he admired greatly, why shouldn’t Burroughs in his turn do the same. Such referencing was quite common if you read enough and look for it.
It is difficult to know where to begin in listing Ed’s post-1900 reading but as the South formed such a large part of his consciousness it may be well to start with the apostle of the Lost Cause, Thomas Dixon Jr.
Thomas Dixon Jr. (1864-1846)
Dixon’s social views differed quite wildly from those of his contemporary H.G. Wells. Indeed, Dixon was of the class that Wells said must not be allowed to express their views lest they cloud those of the Revolution in the minds of the proletariat which must be forced to accept the official views of Wells’ Open Conspiracy version of socialism. No dissent was to be allowed. In keeping with this dictum Anthony Slide gave the scare title American Racist to his 2004 biography of Dixon published by the UKentucky Press in an attempt to make sure Dixon was buried and doesn’t rise again.
Be that as it may Dixon was extremely popular in the years before the Bolshevik Revolution going into eclipse after his 1919 movie Bolshevism On Trial. So he was both a Southerner, although not a Virginian, and an anti-Communist giving him special appeal to Ed.
Born in 1864 he was old enough to have been aware during the last years of Reconstruction, hence an eyewitness. The grand tragedy of the Civil War for him was that Aryans exterminated Aryans over a worthless cause like Negro slavery. During Reconstruction the Puritan bigots of the North oppressed the Southern Aryans mercilessly so that Dixon made it his goal to reconcile Northern and Southern Aryans, thus the title of his and Griffith’s 1915 movie titled The Birth Of A Nation, in other words, The Birth Of The Aryans as a Nation.
While slavery was the proximate cause of the war the issue takes a subordinate place in the minds of romanticists of the South such as Ed. Dixie is the home of courtly manners and magnolia blossoms, decency and self-respect.
That notion of a Utopia is still shared by many of us today.
The men who settled Virginia were the displaced younger sons of English aristocrats who gave their flavor to the Cavalier State. They were the epitome of desired manhood, the quality versus the equality- hence John Carter of Virginia. Carter is not only a man but the apex of what a man should be.
Dixon wrote several Civil War and Reconstruction novels, all rather good literature. His most famous trilogy of the conflict was composed of The Leopard’s Spots (1902), The Clansman (1905), and The Traitor (1907). As The Traitor is found in Burroughs’ surviving library it is not unreasonable to believe he read all three and that before he began writing. Dixon wrote two further volumes, The Southerner: A Romance Of The Real Lincoln and The Victim: A Romance Of The Real Jefferson Davis of 1913 and 14 respectively. I’m sure Ed read them both but they were too late to be formative for his writing. I recommend them both highly for a near contemporary history of the events from the perspective of both sides. While it doesn’t seem to be Dixon’s purpose his presentation leaves no doubt in my mind that the assassination of Lincoln was plotted by a cabal of Northern bigots who really wanted to exterminate Southern Aryans replacing them with what they believed to be a pure Negro Republic.
As the Negroes were not welcome in the North these Northern loonies may have believed with Lincoln that Negroes and Aryans could not live together. They probably believed that by ceding the South to the Negroes they had solved the problem. I’m sure it goes much deeper than current research cares to deal with.
Fortunately that didn’t happen. Reconstruction was overturned and the Jim Crow period took form resulting in the current Negro revolution with the threat of a San Domingo Moment.
In addition Dixon wrote an anti-socialist trilogy composed of One Woman (1903), Comrades (1909) and The Root Of Evil (1911). Other than reflecting the attitude of Ed’s thoughts they don’t seem reflected in his own work before 1919 although they may appear in his 1926 novel The Moon Maid.
After the rejection of Ed’s own 1919 anti-Communist tract Under The Red Flag by publishers another work of Dixon’s, The Fall Of A Nation (1916, both book and movie) seem to have been read and seen by Ed. The work would greatly influence Ed’s 1926 novel, The Moon Maid.
So, Thomas Dixon has to be considered a major influence of Ed‘s.
L. Frank Baum (1856-1919)
A second major influence, not inferior to Dixon, was the great creator of the Wizard Of Oz series, Lyman Frank Baum. Although chronologically belonging to an earlier age cohort of writers he only began writing at the turn of the century, turning out his fabulously successful The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz in 1900. It is said that Oz was based on the White City of the Columbian Exposition of 1893 and most likely was. In those days before movies successful books were turned into equally successful plays as was the case with The Wizard; thus at forty-four Baum was launched on a successful literary career. As with so many writers he squandered his millions ending up virtually broke. He didn’t live long enough for the movies to come to the rescue.
The original Wonderful Wizard Of Oz was written as a political satire which content went missing in 1939’s movie, indeed, it was no longer relevant. Baum should have lived so long.
The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz (1900) was followed by The Marvelous Land Of Oz (1904), Ozma Of Oz (1907), Dorothy And The Wizard Of Oz (1908), The Road To Oz (1909) and the Emerald City Of Oz (1910). These were published before Ed began to write so they highly influenced his Martian Chronicles while subsequently issued titles influenced his later work.
Baum grew tired of the series trying to kill it off in 1910’s Emerald City Of Oz but the clamor urging him to write more resulted in the series being resumed in 1913. These titles in order where The Patchwork Girl Of Oz 1913), Tik Tok Of Oz, 1914, The Scarecrow Of Oz (1915), Rinkitink In Oz, (1916), The Lost Princess Of Oz, (1917), The Tin Woodman Of Oz (1918), The Magic Of Oz, (1919) and Glinda Of Oz (1920). There are an additional dozen or so Oz titles but they were commissioned (pastiches) after Baum’s death to Ruth Plumly Thompson and another writer after her. Nice enough but don’t have the spark.
On might say the Wizard far exceeds John Carter in the American consciousness while matching or even, possibly, exceeding that of Tarzan. Without the Tarzan movies the reputation of the Wizard would be as great while that of Tarzan would be significantly diminished.
Baum also wrote a comic strip of stories in 1905 and The Woggle Bug Book in 1905 that Ed may have seen but I haven’t.
One imagines Ed greatly anticipating each Oz book as it was released, stunned by both the stories and the W.W. Denslow and John R. Neill artwork. Always remember that Ed was a failed artist or cartoonist, so the illustration always remained important to him.
Baum like Ed, after having created, an original framework, unmercifully plundered past literature to give substance to his stories. As Ed would follow in his own Symmes’ Hollow Earth stories Baum wrote an entire Oz novel around a version of the Symmes’s theory.
Ed so completely ingested the Baumian parallel universe that it is impossible to conceive of either Helium or Opar without reference to the Emerald City and hence back to Chicago’s White City. John Carter may be conceived of as a male Dorothy off to see the Wizard except that Helium was on Mars. Carter’s accession to the Warlord of Mars may even be seen as a replacement of the Wizard. One suspects that for Ed Baum was the transcendent imagination.
Another important point, as David Adams points out, is that Baum was a theosophist versed in esoteric lore. Baum was among the writers of his day that Ed went out of the way to meet, to introduce himself. It may even be said that he had a relationship with Baum. Ed first introduced himself to Baum in 1913, driving up to Ozcot in Hollywood. The two men were reunited in 1916 during Ed’s stay in LA and again in 1919 for the few remaining months of Baum’s life. He died in May of that year.
So Baum was a central figure in Ed’s career.
George Barr McCutcheon (1866-1926)
Anthony Hope (1863-1933)
The third major figure of the decade succeeding 1900 was one George Barr McCutcheon and his Graustark series. Not so well known today he was a major figure in the early years of the century. Reminiscing in the forties in the midst of the disappointment of a second world war in his lifetime Ed remarked that the people then lacked a Graustark so that Ed added that imaginary land to the Oz in his literary memories.
Born in the same year as H.G. Wells, McCutcheon’s first published title Graustark: The Story Of A Love Behind A Throne appeared in 1901 as the century began. Graustark was some Ruritanian paradise located in some imaginary middle European land of wine and waltzes. While a fine imaginary setting I find the novels unappealing. As usual one has the enterprising American lad among torpid European lumpkins.
Of the six Graustark novels three were published before 1912- Graustark (1901), Beverly Of Graustark (1904) and Truxton King: A Story Of Graustark (1909), and three after- The Prince of Graustark (1914), East Of The Setting Sun (1924) and the Inn Of The Hawk And The Raven (1927). Thus only the first three were part of the formation of Ed’s memories when he began writing.
These three were however buttressed by two novels of Anthony Hope the man who invented Ruritanian romances and on whom McCutcheon undoubtedly based Graustark. Hope began his three dozed novel career with the The Prisoner Of Zenda in 1894 followed by the sequel Rupert Of Hentzau in 1898. It would be truly astonishing if you’ve heard of any of the rest of his oeuvre. I certainly never had.
The content of these novelists was directly incorporated into Ed’s two Ruritanian novels The Mad King and HRH The Rider.
The Mad King was a re-courting of Emma that apparently failed.
Booth Tarkington (1869-1946)
A man who Ed thought was the greatest American writer when interviewed in the teens was the enchanting Booth Tarkington, one of the favorites of my childhood. I was enthralled by Tarkington’s Tom Sawyer figure Penrod (1914) Scholfield and Penrod and Sam of 1916. The other titles I read back when were Seventeen (1916), The Magnificent Ambersons (1918), and Alice Adams of 1922.
Tarkington was a prolific writer turning out four dozen or so novels during his lifetime, some in collaboration with Harry Leon Wilson of Merton Of The Movies and Ruggles Of Red Gap fame along with several other significant titles of the day. Burroughs had Ruggles and couple others in his library.
Born between Wells and Ed, Tarkington’s first novel, The Gentleman From Indiana appeared in 1899 followed by his Monsieur Beaucaire in 1900. A whole series of novels followed up to 1912 including The Two Vanrevels so Ed probably had imbibed a lot of Tarkington before and much after 1912. Tarkington was a major influence on Ed’s novels such as The Oakdale Affair and the Efficiency Expert of the teens while The Ambersons and Alice Adams influences show up in Ed’s 1924 novel Marcia Of The Doorstep.
Jack London (1876-1916)
Robert Service (1874-1958)
H.H. Knibbs (1874-1945)
Certainly not to be neglected as an influence is the still well known and often read Jack London. The making of London as a writer was the great Klondike Gold Rush beginning in 1896. In 1897 London packed his gear and went North. His experiences in the land of ice and snow provided the material that made his name. A stream of short stories and adventure novels erupted through his pen beginning in 1898 while the novels began in 1902. The Call Of The Wild of 1903 spoke to the wanderlust in Ed’s soul. London did everything that Ed wanted to do, he ranged freely over the entire world in his yacht The Snark, interestingly named after the great poem of Lewis Carroll…beware lest your Snark be a boo…. He was an eyewitness reporter of the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, like Ed he was a boxing aficionado, he was ringside as a reporter when Jack Johnson put down the great Jim Jeffries to become the first Negro heavyweight champion.
Ed’s fascination with hoboing had never abated since he mingled with them on Madison, Chicago’s Main Stem, on
which his father’s factory was located. London’s 1907 memoir of his cross country trip with Kelley’s Army, a part of Coxey’s Army in 1894 must have excited Ed enormously. But, Ed was tied to Emma and unable to roam.
In many ways London’s and Ed’s views were in synch as part of the same age cohort. A Negro’s winning of the boxing championship was really too much for either man to bear. London himself was an amateur boxer. The failure of a White man to appear to wrest the championship from the Negro Johnson drove him to distraction as it did Ed. Although living on either side of the country both expressed their anguish at the same time.
London wrote a preliminary study titled The Abysmal Brute following it with a full scale concerning the championship, The Valley Of The Moon in 1913. Ed set down and wrote The Mucker about his own hobo boxer, Billy Byrne also in 1913. One can only wonder how many other stories were written about an imaginary White boxer recapturing the crown.
The second novel of the Mucker Trilogy all but named London as its inspiration. The Return is a very good novel that celebrated the golden age of hoboing.
The novel tied in a number of Ed’s literary hobo sources. In addition to London the poet H.H. Knibbs provided a sort of framing device as Ed wove verses of his great poem Out There Somewhere through the story, essentially basing the novel on the poem. He also included snatches of verse from the Kiplingesque Robert W. Service of The Cremation Of Sam McGee fame.
The Return then might be said to be a celebration of the road based on London’s The Road and poems by Knibbs and Service. Byrne was also probably an attempt to create another series based on The Road to supplement Tarzan but it didn’t take.
Zane Grey (1972-1939)
Grey might be one of the weaker influences before 1910 but Ed was destined to be thought a rival by his publishers. Grey had the magic touch in being able to pitch his is stories toward women thus garnering the big money of the slick magazines. Grey thus earned enough to buy himself a yacht making him the envy of Ed.
Grey began in 1903 with his story of Betty Zane. This was followed three years later by The Spirit Of The Border, then in 1908’s Last Of The Plainsmen. Nineteen nine brought The Last Trail and The Shortstop. The earlier titles were on small imprints while The Shortstop was publishing by McClurg’s, the future publisher of Burroughs. From McClurg’s Grey went to Harper And Bros. who remained his publisher from then on. One wonders if McClurg’s sold his contract to Harper’s or whether they signed him to a one book deal. They certainly tied Ed up contractually so he couldn’t get away.
Grey’s first book for Harper’s in 1910 is the only story to indicate Ed’s readership, The Heritage Of The Desert concerning the Mormons. That influence showed up in 1913’sThe Cave Girl.
I could never get into Grey as a kid although I was given a copy of The Shortstop that I didn’t read then and never have. Still have it though. Grey broke through in 1912 with Riders Of The Purple Sage. The Rainbow Trail and The Mysterious Rider are found in Ed’s library.
I’ve only read Ed’s two Western novels once so I would have to read them again to see how influenced they were by Grey.
Grey’s stuff is alright I guess but the guy’s a real dud writer as far as I’m concerned.
In addition to these major influences Ed also stuffed his memory with reams of poems and magazine articles. The newspapers which were much different then also provided much grist for his mill.
In the background, of course, was Ed’s interest in mythology. He did read Howard Pyle’s four volume version of the Vulgate-Lancelot that appeared after the turn of the century. The two and a half years he spent at Harvard Latin School undoubtedly gave him a good background while in those formative years conditioning his mind to deal with difficult thought processes. After all the mind has to be trained to manage the mass of memories that make the person.
The question during this period is whether or not he read ancient Greek mythology or learned any Greek. I think not. He may have some familiarity with Homer especially the Odyssey on which many of his stories may be based. He was probably familiar with The Labors Of Hercules but I don’t see any evidence of understanding of The Iliad.
The Iliad is important for psychology as Homer introduces the notion of the infinitely powerful mind of Zeus. Zeus could remember everything while having such a powerful mind that he could order the whole of it in sequence while finding his way through any number of conundrums. The only thing he couldn’t do was set aside what was fated.
What goes into one’s memory or mind is of cardinal importance. Trash goes in, trash comes out. Ed filled his memory banks with useful information and wonderful speculative literature. The question, then, is what does one do with those memories now transformed into knowledge. Remembering is the sine qua non but organization is equally important. The mind must be trained. Remembered and organized, then what? Then comes intelligence and application. A flexible intelligence is probably known as imagination. One can combine, rearrange, and recombine one’s memories into new uses. Make meaningful what was formerly incoherent.
Ed well-satisfied with himself remarked that only one in a hundred thousand had a good imagination in which number he obviously included himself among the elite. I don’t know where he got his stat but I’m sure a mind such as his was rare enough. There really aren’t many who can use their mind as he did. One only has to read the Martian writers who preceded him to see the astonishing distance between their work and his. Wells’ War Of The Worlds for instance is a fairly pedestrian work. A missile shot from a cannon on Mars arrives on Earth and some spindly creatures get out who then mount some tripods that begin walking through London spewing some black gas. Fresh at the time but not wildly imaginative. Ed would challenge Wells when he wrote the first third of The Moon Maid. That book was so imaginative, superior to Wells’ First Men In The Moon, as to be the work of a master taunting an obstreperous pupil.
So, when Ed Began 1912 his memory banks were full of experience and stuffed with literature and scientific knowledge that he was able to use so imaginatively that most people were completely unaware of the amount of learning incorporated into his stories.
Part VI chronicles Ed’s life from the beginning of his success to 1920.
May 8, 2009
The Novels Of George Du Maurier
Peter Ibbetson, Trilby, The Martian
Singers and Dancers and Fine Romancers
What do they know?
What do they know?
Review by R.E. Prindle
Table of Contents
II Review of Trilby
III. Review of The Martian
IV. Review of Peter Ibbetson
Peter Ibbetson is the first of the three novels of George Du Maurier. As elements of the later two novels are contained in embryo in Ibbetson it would seem that Du Maurier had the three novels at least crudely plotted while a fourth dealing with politics but never realized is hinted at. Actually Du Maurier has Ibbetson who writes this ‘autobiography’ write several world changing novels from inside the insane asylum to which he had been committed. In the Martian Barty Josselin wrote several world changing books while ‘possessed’ by an alien intelligence, in a way, not too dissimilar to the situation of Ibbetson. Du Maurier himself comes across, as I have said, as either a half demented lunatic or a stone genius.
He has Ibbetson and the heroine, The Duchess of Towers write in code while they read encrypted books. Du Maurier says that Ibbetson and hence the two following books deal with weighty subjects but in a coded manner that requires attention to understand.
On page 362 of the Modern Library edition he says:
…but more expecially in order to impress you, oh reader, with the full significance of this apocalyptic and somewhat minatory utterance (that may haunt your fever sense during your midnight hours of introspective self-communion), I have done my best, my very best to couch it in the obscurest and most unitelligible phraseology, I could invent. If I have failed to do this, if I have unintentionally made any part of my meaning clear, if I have once deviated by mistake into what might almost appear like sense, mere common-sense- it is the fault of my half French and wholly imperfect education.
So, as Bob Dylan said of the audiences of his Christian tour: Those who were meant to get it, got it, for all others the story is merely a pretty story or perhaps fairy tale. The fairy tale motif is prominent in the form of the fee Tarapatapoum and Prince Charming of the story. Mary, the Duchess of Towers is Tarapatapoum and Peter is Prince Charming. It might be appropriate here to mention that Du Maurier was highly influenced by Charles Nodier the teller of fairy tales of the Romantic period. Interestingly Nodier wrote a story called Trilby. Du Maurier borrowed the name for his novel Trilby while he took the name Little Billee from a poem by Thackeray. A little background that makes that story a little more intelligible.
Those that watch for certain phobias such as anti-Semitism and Eugenics will find this story of Du Maurier’s spolied for them as was Trilby and probably The Martian. One is forced to concede that Du Maurier deals with those problems in a coded way. Whether his meaning is derogatory or not lies with your perception of the problems not with his.
Thus on page 361 just above the previous quote Du Maurier steps from concealment to deliver a fairly open mention of Eugenics. After warning those with qualities and attributes to perpetuate those qualities by marrying wisely, i.e. eugenically, he breaks out with this:
Wherefore, also, beware and be warned in time, ye tenth transmitters of a foolish face, ye reckless begetters of diseased or puny bodies, with hearts and brains to match! Far down the corridors of time shall clubfooted retribution follow in your footsteps, and overtake you at every turn.
Here we have a premonition of Lothrop Stoddards Overman and Underman. The best multiply slowly while the worst rear large families. Why anyone would find fault with the natural inclination to marry well if one’s handsome and intelligent with a similar person is beyond me. Not only is this natural it has little to do with the Eugenics Movement. Where Eugenics falls foul, and rightly so, is in the laws passed to castrate those someone/whoever deemed unworthy to reproduce. This is where the fault of the Eugenics Movement lies. Who is worthy to pass such judgment? Certainly there are obvious cases where neutering would be appropriate and beneficial for society but in my home town, for instance, no different than yours I’m sure, the elite given the opportunity would have had people neutered out of enmity and vindictiveness. that is where the danger lies. There is nothing wrong with handsome and intelligent marrying handsome and intelligent. How may people want a stupid, ugly partner?
Du Maurier had other opinions that have proved more dangerous to society. One was his belief in the virtues of Bohemians, that is say, singers and dancers and fine romancers. On page 284 he says:
There is another society in London and elsewhere, a freemasonry of intellect and culture and hard work- la haute Ashene du talent- men and women whose names are or ought to be household words all over the world; many of them are good friends of ine, both here and abroad; and that society, which was good enough for my mother and father, is quite good enough for me.
Of course, the upper Bohemia of proven talent. But still singers and dancers and fine romancers. And what do they know? Trilby was of the upper Bohemia as was Svengali but Trilby was hypnotized and Svengali but a talented criminal. What can a painter contribute but a pretty picture, what can a singer do but sing his song, I can’t think of the dancing Isadora Duncan or the woman without breaking into laughter. And as for fine romancers, what evil hath Jack Kerouac wrought.
I passed part of my younger years in Bohemia, Beat or Hippie circles, and sincerely regret that Bohemian attitudes have been accepted as the norm for society. Bohemia is fine for Bohemians but fatal for society which requires more discipline and stability. Singers and dancers and fine romancers, wonderful people in their own way, but not builders of empires.
In that sense, the promotion of Bohemianism, Du Maurier was subversive.
But the rules of romancing are in the romance and we’re talking about Du Maurier’s romance of Peter Ibbetson.
Many of the reasons for criticizing Du Maurier are political. The man whether opposed to C0mmunist doctrine or not adimired the Bourgeois State. He admired Louis-Philippe as the Beourgeois king of France. This may sound odd as he also considered himself a Bohemian but then Bohemians are called into existence by a reaction to the Bourgeoisie. Perhaps not so odd. He was able to reconcile such contradictions. Indeed he is accused of having a split personality although I think this is false. Having grown up in both France and England he developed a dual national identity and his problem seems to be reconciling his French identity with his English identity thus his concentration on memory.
In this novel he carefully builds up a set of sacred memories of his childhood. He very carefully introduces us to the people of his childhood. Mimsy Seraskier his little childhood sweetheart. All the sights and sounds and smells. In light of the quote I used telling how he disguises his deeper meaning one has to believe that he is giving us serious theories he has worked out from science and philosophy.
Having recreated his French life for us Peter’s parents die and Ibbetson’s Uncle Ibbetson from England adopts him and takes him back to the Sceptered Isle. Thus he ceases to be the French child Pasquier and becomes the English child Peter Ibbetson. A rather clean and complete break. From this point on his childhood expectations are disappointed with the usual psychological results. He develops a depressed psychology. The cultural displacement prevents him from making friends easily or at all. His Uncle who has a difficult boorish personality is unable to relate to a sensitive boy with a Bohemian artistic temperament. Hence he constantly demeans the boy for not being like himself and has no use for him.
This is all very skillfully handled. We have intimations that bode no good for Peter. The spectre is prison. The hint of a crime enters into the story without anything actually being said. But the sense of foreboding enters Peter’s mind and hence the reader’s. This is done extremely well. It’s a shame the Communists are in control of the media so that they can successfully denigrate any work of art that contradicts or ignores their beliefs. For instance the term bourgeois itself. The word is used universally as a contemptuous epithet even though the Bourgeois State was one of the finest created. Why then contempt? Simply because the Communists must destroy or denigrate any success that they canot hope to surpass. I was raised believing that what was Bourgeois was contemptible without ever knowing what Bourgeois actually meant. It is only through Du Maurier at this late stage in life that I begin to realize what the argument really was and how I came to accept the Communist characterization. I’m ashamed of myself.
Hence all Du Maurier criticism is unjust being simply because it is the antithesis of Communist beliefs. The man as a writer is very skillful, as I have said, a genius. If I were read these novels another couple of times who knows what riches might float up from the pages.
Colonel Ibbetson apprentices Peter to an architect, a Mr Lintot, which, while not unhappy, is well below Peter’s expectations for his fairy Prince Charming self. As a lowly architect he is placed in a position of designing huts for the workers of the very wealthy. The contrast depresses him even further. He has been disappointed in love and friendship and then he is compelled by business exigencies to attend a ball given by a wealthy client. He definitely feels out of place. Psychologically incapable of mixing he stands in a corner.
At this ball the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, The Duchess of Towers, is in attendance. From across the room she seems to give him an interested glance. Peter can only hope, hopelessly. As a reader we have an intimation that something will happen but we can’t be sure how. I couldn’t see. Then he sees her in her carriage parading Rotten Row in Hyde Park. She sees him and once again it seems that she gives him a questioning look.
Then he takes a vacation in France where he encounter her again. After talking for a while he discovers that she is a grown up Mimsey Seraskier, his childhood sweetheart. Thus his French childhood and English adulthood are reunited in her. Wow! There was a surprise the reader should have seen coming. I didn’t. I had no trouble recognizing her from childhood in France but Du Maurier has handled this so skillfully that I am as surprised as was Peter. I tipped my imaginary hat to Du Maurier here.
Perhaps I entered into Du Maurier’s dream world here but now I began to have flashbacks, a notion that I had read this long ago, most likely in high school or some other phantasy existence. I can’t shake the notion but I can’t remember reading the book then at all. Don’t know where I might have come across it. Of course that doesn’t mean an awful lot. If asked if I had ever read a Charles King novel I would have said no but when George McWhorter loaned me a couple to read that he had in Louisville I realized I had read one of them before. Eighth grade. I could put a handle on that but not Peter Ibbetson. Perhaps Du Marurier has hypnotized me. Anyway certain images seem to stick in my mind from a distant past.
It was at this time that Mary, the Duchess if Towers, formerly Mimsy, enters Peter’s dream, in an actual real life way. This is all well done, Peter dreamt he was walking toward an arch when two gnomish people tried to herd him into prison. Mary appears and orders the gnomes to vanish which they do. ‘That’s how you have to handle that.’ She says. And that is very good advice for dreams that Du Maurier gives. As we’ll see Du Maurier has some pretensions to be a psychologist.
She then instructs Peter in the process of ‘dreaming true.’ In such a manner they can actually be together for real in a shared dream. Now, Trilby, while seemingly frivolous, actually displays a good knowledge of hypnotism. More than that it puts Du Maurier in the van of certain psychological knowledge. Hypnotism and psychology go together. Without an understanding of hypnotism one can’t be a good psychologist. If he wasn’t ahead of Freud at this time he was certainly even with him. Remember this is 1891 while Freud didnt’ surface until 1895 and then few would have learned of him. He wrote in German anyway.
Freud was never too developed on auto-suggestion. Emile Coue is usually attributed to be the originator of auto-suggestion yet the technique that Mary gives to Peter is the exact idea of auto-suggestion that Coue is said to have developed twenty or twenty-five years on.
Du Maurier speaks of the sub-conscious which is more correct than the unconscious. He misunderstands the nature of the subconscious giving it almost divine powers but in many ways he is ahead of the game. Now, Ibbetson was published in 1891 which means that Du Maurier was in possession of his knowledge no later than say 1889 while working on it from perhaps 1880 or so on. It will be remembered that Lou Sweetser, Edgar Rice Burroughs mentor in Idaho, was also knowledgable in psychology in 1891 but having just graduated a couple of years earlier from Yale. So Freud is very probably given too much credit for originating what was actually going around. This earlier development of which Du Maurier was part has either been suppressed in Freud’s favor or has been passed over by all psychological historians.
So, Mary gives Peter psychologically accurate information on auto-suggestion so that he can ‘dream true.’ I don’t mean to say that anyone can share another’s dreams which is just about a step too far but by auto-suggestion one can direct and control one’s dreams. Auto-suggestion goes way back anyway. The Poimandre of Hermes c. 300 AD is an actual course in auto-suggestion.
Peter is becoming more mentally disturbed now that his denied expectations have returned to haunt him in the person of Tarapatapoum/Mimsey/Mary. Once again this is masterfully done. The clouding of his mind is almost visible. Over the years he has generated a deep seated hatred for Colonel Ibbetson even though the Colonel, given his lights, has done relatively well by him. Much of Peter’s discontent is internally generated by his disappointed expectations. The Colonel has hinted that he might be Peter’s father rather than his Uncle. This completely outrages Peter’s cherished understanding of his mother and father. The Colonel according to Peter was one of those guys who claimed to have made every woman he’d ever met. One must bear in mind that Peter is telling the story while the reader is seeing him become increasingly unstable.
While Peter doesn’t admit it to himself he confronts the Colonel with the intention of murdering him. He claims self-defense but the court doesn’t believe it nor does the reader. It’s quite clear the guy was psycho but, once again, Du Maurier handles this so skillfully that one still wonders. Given the death penalty his friends and supporters, the influential Duchess of Towers, get the sentence commuted to life imprisonment.
Then begins Peter’s double life in prison that goes on for twenty years. By day a convict, at night Peter projects hemself into a luxurious dream existence with his love, Mary, the Duchess of Towers. Quite insane but he has now realized his expections if only in fantasy. Now, this novel as well as Du Maurier’s other novels is textually rich. The style is dense while as Du Maurier tells us it is written in more than one key, has encoded messages, so I’m concentrating on only the main thread here. That concerns memory.
While it is possible to subconsciously manage one’s dreams, I do it to a minor extent, of course it is impossible for two people to dream toether and share that dream. This is to venture into the supernatural. Spiritualism and Theosophy both dealing with the supernatural as does all religion including Christianity, were at their peak at this time. Du Maurier has obviously studied them. Just because one utilizes one’s knowledge in certain ways to tell a story doesn’t mean one believes what one writes. Ibbetson is written so well that the writer seems to have fused himself with the character. If I say Du Maurier believes that may not be true but as the same themes are carried through all his novels without a demurrer it seems likely.
Du Maurier seems to be pleading a certain understanding of the subconscious giving it as many or more supernatural powers as Freud himself will later. This might be the appropriate place to speculate on Du Maurier’s influence on Mark Twain. We know Twain was an influence on Burroughs so perhaps both were.
Before he died Twain wrote a book titled the Mysterious Stranger. This was twenty-five years after Peter Ibbetson. Operator 44, the Mysterious Stranger, is a time time traveler who has some sort of backstair connecting years as a sort of memory monitor. Peter and Mary over the years work out a system that allows them to travel back through times even to prehistoric times. Thus Peter is able to sketch from life stone age man hunting mastodons, or Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. They are present at these events but as sort of ghost presences without substance. they have no substance hence cannot affect reality.
This would be a major them in fifties science fiction in which, for instance, a time traveler steps on a grub, then comes back to his present time finding everyone talking a different language. Change one item and you change all others. Du Maurier avoids this problem that he very likely thought of in this clever way.
We can clearly see the future of twentieth century imaginiative writing taking form here. One can probably trace several twentieth century sci-fi themes back to Du Maurier.
Peter and Mary have a magic window through they can call up any scene within their memories. In their dream existence they are dependent on memory they can only re-experience, they cannot generate new experiences. The memory extends back genetically although Du Maurier speaks in terms of reincarnation. Peter hears Mary humming a tune he has never heard before. Mary explains that the tune is a family melody written by an ancestress hundreds of years before. Thus one has this genetic memory persisting through generations. This gives Du Maurier room to expatiate on the persistence of memory through past, present and future.
Du Maurier has worked out an elaborate scheme in which memory unites past, present and future, into a form of immortality. This is actually a religious concept but a very beautiful concept, very attractive in its way.
Peter and Mary had elected to stay at one age- twenty-six to twenty-eight- so for twenty years they retained their youthful form and beauty. Then one night Peter enters the mansion of his dreams through a lumber room to find the way blocked. He knows immediately that Mary has died. He then learns that in attempting to save a child from a train she was herself killed.
Peter goes into an insane rage attacking the prison guards while calling each Colonel Ibbetson. Clearly insane and that’s where the send him. The mad house. Originally he continues to rage so they put him in a straight jacket where he remains until his mind calms enough to allow him to dream. In his dream he returns to a stream in France. Here he believes he can commit suicide in his dream which should be shock enough to stop his heart in real life. Something worth thinking about. Filling his pockets with stones he means to walk in over his head. Then, just ahead he spies the back of a woman sitting on a log. Who else but Mary. She has done what has never been done before, what even Houdini hasn’t been able to do, make it to back to this side.
Now outside their mansion, they are no longer young, but show their age. This is nicely done stuff. Of course I can’t replicate the atmosphere and feel but the Du Maurier feeling is ethereal. As I say I thought he was talking to me and I entered his fantasy without reserve.
Here’s a lot of chat about the happiness on the otherside. When Peter awakes back in the asylum he is calm and sane. He convinces the doctors and is restored to full inmate rights. Once himself again he begins to write those wonderful books that right the world.
One gets the impression that Du Maurier believes he himself is writing those immortal books that will change the world. Time and fashions change. Today he is thought a semi-evil anti- Semite, right wing Bourgeois writer. I don’t know if he’s banned from college reading lists but I’m sure his works are not used in the curriculum. I think he’s probably considered oneof those Dead White Men. Thus a great writer becomes irrelevant.
It’s a pity because from Peter Ibbetson through Trilby to The Martian he has a lot to offer. The Three States of Mind he records are thrilling in themselves, as Burroughs would say, as pure entertainment while on a more thoughtful read there is plenty of nourishment. Taken to another level his psychology is very penetrating. His thought is part of the mind of the times. Rider Haggard shares some of the mystical qualities. The World’s Desire is comparable which can be complemented by his Heart Of The World. The latter may turn out to be prophetic shortly. H.G. Wells’ In The Days Of The Comet fits into this genre also. Another very good book. Of course Burroughs’ The Eternal Lover and Kipling and Haggard’s collaboration of Love Eternal. Kipling’s Finest Story In The World might also fit in as well, I’m sure there are many others of the period of which I’m not aware. I haven’t read Marie Corelli but she is often mentioned in this context. You can actually slip Conan Doyle in their also.
Well, heck, you can slip the whole Wold Newton Universe, French and Farmerian in there. While there is small chance any Wold Newton meteor had anything to do with it yet as Farmer notes at about that time a style of writing arose concerned with a certain outlook that was worked by many writers each contributing his bit while feeding off the others as time went by.
I don’t know that Du Maurier is included in the Wold Newton Universe (actually I know he isn’t) but he should be. He was as influential on the group as any other or more so. He originated many of the themes.
Was Burroughs influenced by him? I think so. There was no way ERB could have missed Trilby. No possible way. If he read Trilby and the other two only once which is probable any influence was probably subliminable. ERB was not of the opinion that a book could change the world, so he disguised his more serious thoughts just as Du Maurier did his. He liked to talk about things though.
Singers and dancers. What do they know? What do they know? In the end does it really matter what they know. Time moves on, generations change, as they change the same ideas come around expressed in a different manner. They have their day then are replaced. The footprint in the concrete does remain. Genius will out.