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.
December 5, 2011
THE PRAGUE CEMETERY
Eco, Umberto: The Prague Cemetery, 2010, Houghton Mifflin
The French Revolution was perhaps the most horrific event in the history of the world. More pernicious still in the shadow it cast into our times. Our societies were born in blood; we became instantly conditioned in the most incredible, inconceivable way to crime and political murder; worse by far than the so-called holocaust, itself an echo of the Revolution. No was safe, psychopaths and morons controlled the fates of the sane and intelligent. Truly the inmates were in control of the asylum just as Edgar Allan Poe represented in his story The System Of Doctor Tarr And Professor Feather. There are no words to accurately describe the crimes of ‘93.
The most amazing thing is that amid the chaos the Enlightenment proceeded apace. The period remained one of incredible scientific advances. Beneath the horrors of the Revolution and the Napoleonic years the Romantic reaction to the Enlightenment produced astonishing literature and writers many of which will figure in the late nineteenth century history during the Romantic revival.
Interestingly one of the early manifestations of the modern Liberal mentality appeared in Henry Thomas Buckle’s History Of Civilization In England of 1860. In discussing the career of Edmund Burke, after a eulogy on Burke’s subtle command of English politics in which the most fulsome praise was heaped on the writer came the time for Burke’s evaluation of the French Revolution and the Great Year of ‘93.
Burke correctly perceived that the Revolution was a religious transit from one ideology to another and that the Revolution was the opening salvo of a new religious war- Socialism being the new religion, or Liberalism in another form. Burke deplored the violence and criminality in the strongest terms. Up to that point in history, Buckle (a very famous historian of his time) who had been writing a very measured and subtle history of the intellectual development of Western Europe and England vituperatively denounced Burke as becoming unbalanced and indeed, insane. This was over a mere difference of opinion. The denunciation was not unlike that of today’s Obama and his denunciation of the Republicans. Yes, he has characterized them as insane.
One then asks what was Buckle’s relationship to Communism? How well did he reflect Liberal opinion? Burke’s reaction occurred in ‘93 and ‘94.
Beneath The Limn
The nineteenth century was one of great psychological advances. As such they were unsettling creating great psychic stresses. Eco gives his character Simone Simonini a split dual personality. He also mentions Anton Mesmer and Jean-Martin Charcot. While many if not most people believe Sigmund Freud discovered or invented the Unconscious the concept was well developed in the nineteenth century before Freud. Freud merely consolidated earlier investigations and gave his own peculiar Jewish twist to the concept.
The beginning of the recognition of an unconscious was articulated by the much misunderstood, but surely great man, Dr.
Anton Mesmer in the pre-Revolution days of the eighteenth century. Mesmer’s shortcoming was that he was more of a mystic than a scientist. The French academy called him to account on scientific grounds and he either couldn’t or wouldn’t comply, hence being discredited as a charlatan. He was an honest man discovering a new scientist; more a pioneer than a charlatan.
Nevertheless as Mesmerism or as later renamed, Hypnotism, was a real phenomenon so even though discountenanced by official academics, research continued until it became clear that hypnotism was a condition of the mind or unconscious and not a quality of the operator or hypnotist as Mesmer mistakenly believed.
A few words on the nature of hypnotism and suggestion. Suggestion is the active component and the mind the passive of hypnotism. Essentially the mind is a slate on which the suggestion is imprinted.
What is a suggestion? Everything is a suggestion but suggestions of different qualities. For instance one wakes to a sunny day and the suggestion is one of anticipated pleasure, an overcast day one of a deflated spirit. The mind at birth is a blank slate with nothing on it so that education begins and education itself is suggestion but positive beneficent suggestion although education can be perverted for special ends. You might say the post-hypnotic consequences of education which teaches the mind to analyze other suggestions permanently survives the input. It is imprinted.
And then there is indoctrination in which a specific point of view is forced upon you to condition your mind in a permanent post-hypnotic state whether the information is good or bad. The current indoctrination in racism is a case in point. To confirm the suggestion of indoctrination one uses conditioning to confirm the imprinting. Thus one is bombarded constantly with racist images.
You may not think of the above as examples of hypnotism but they are. One may or can refuse a suggestion and indeed many people are uneducable because they resist the process of learning either because they won’t or can’t learn. The above are examples of open hypnotism or suggestion. There are involuntary acceptances of suggestion resulting in fixation that cause neuroses or psychoses, what the great French psychologist, Pierre Janet called the idee fixe. In other words a permanent post-hypnotic suggestion.
One means to achieve a fixation then is through terror. In a state of terror the mind is stripped of all defenses so that the suggestion is implanted with no resistance. An example comes to mind from the life of Edgar Rice Burroughs the creator of the Tarzan series. One day as an eight year old on the way to school he was confronted by a much larger twelve year old who began badgering him. The young Burroughs in a state of terror took to his heels. Among other things for his flight fixed in his mind that he was a coward. That affected his life thereafter. The theme appears in each and all of his scores of books. So Burroughs received a fixation, a suggestion, an idee fixe in Janet’s terms.
Freud presents many examples of various ways in which fixations occur. The point is that they are all hypnotic suggestions containing post-hypnotic commands. Once accepted they have to be discovered but once recognized the affects disappear. But every affect arises from a fixated suggestion. One was hypnotized.
What Freud did was to discover the true nature of suggestion and hypnotism so that it was not necessary to put a person in a trance to access his unconscious. In the process Freud learned how to hypnotize an entire audience and then with movies and recorded songs a whole population. But that was in the future.
For a good history of the nineteenth century pre-Freudian discovery of the unconscious the best introduction is Henri F. Ellenberger: The Discovery Of The Unconscious.
Books And Bookmen
Ilan Stevens begins his remarkably obtuse review of The Prague Cemetery as follows:
There’s no hiding it. Umberto Eco is a lousy novelist. Try as one may, it is difficult to make sense of his new novel, “The Prague Cemetery”. As is often the case with him, the plot is built on a mystery of sorts, on this occasion the quest to discover the true author of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, an anti-Semitic pamphlet that remains one of the world’s biggest hoaxes and whose true author remains unknown. Oddly, Eco is less interested in solving the puzzle than in incensing his readers. The protagonist’s anti-Semitic rampages running through hundreds of pages, appears to be a parody. But the joke is impossible to decode. Worse, it isn’t funny!
Ilan should realize that he is not speaking for the entire reading public but only for himself. Eco is as funny as Lenny Bruce or Mort Sahl, or, perhaps Ilan has never listened to St. Lenny’s diatribes himself. I would recommend the one about the Vegas comic at the Palladium Theatre of London.
In the first case Eco is plowing his furrow down a row that has already been disced, perhaps several times and in the second the Protocols take a subordinate place in the story. Perhaps Ilan is letting his Judaic heritage distort his sense of reality. Freud had a few things to say about group psychology. I recommend them to Ilan. In the third place without a fair background knowledge of the sources the novel might indeed be difficult if not impossible to follow. It requires some knowledge of nineteenth century books and bookmen.
Eco is a European, relatively unaffected by American attitudes and I suspect Jewish history although with someone of Eco’s erudition, that far exceeds Ilan’s, one must step cautiously, especially knowing what Eco does in his furrows.
The flowering of European and English literature began about mid-eighteenth century when the number of books published increased dramatically. After Napoleon organized the Revolution along rational lines beginning in 1799 one might say the modern era of literature began. Most significantly for our story was the emergence of the great Walter Scott in England. Scott originated the historical novel and as such became the template of the great French authors Balzac, Dumas and Sue. Dumas, the son of one of Napoleon’s generals was born in 1802; Sue, the son of Napoleon’s surgeon general was born in 1804. Both thus were old enough to have personal memories of the Napoleonic period and certainly of his defeat on the field of Waterloo. The events of the Revolution, tales of ‘93, must have been the stories of their childhood and early years. They lived through most of the Romantic reaction to the Enlightenment.
At the same time they were present at the revolutionary shocks of 1830 and 1848 while taking part in political events of the time. Indeed, in Eco’s story she shows Dumas as a gun runner in Garibaldi’s attempted establishment of a unified Italy.
Garibaldi’s activities which had nothing to do with Jews or Protocols takes up a substantial part of Eco’s story. I found it one of the more intriguing parts of the novel. Certainly Eco’s portrayal of Simonini’s activities as a spy were well drawn establishing him as ‘flesh and blood’ character. While I thought Prague could have been better developed Simonini was perfection.
Rather than the book running on for hundreds of pages as Ilan thinks, I thought it much too short. Further, four hundred pages in the largish typeface is not a long book. I had rather seen Eco emulate his heroes Dumas and Sue and turn out a whopper of one or two thousand pages. If I have any complaint it is that Eco didn’t really pull out the stopper and throw himself into it. He does give us a trifle on the Commune of Paris ‘71 but that alone could have taken two or three hundred pages. Arnold Bennett in his Old Wife’s Tale give a little more. I mean, the nineteenth century is great stuff especially for a historical imagination like Eco’s; there’s plenty of material for romancing.
Since Eco put some effort into developing a psychological profile for his hero, Simonini, he might have dealt with the development of psychology from Mesmer to 1897 his cutting off point. He could have invented, well, there was no need to invent, he could included some of the stage magicians and hypnotists sort of after the fashion of the movie, Children Of Paradise. Too long a novel? Oh, no Eco shouldn’t have reined himself in. Probably too afraid of the Jews and their anti-Semitism. There was no reason to include Freud who at that time was unknown.
Eco did mention Mesmer and could certainly have cast an uncle of Simonini as a stage hypnotist then allowing him to
develop a history of hypnotism down to Jean-Martin Charcot at the Salpetriere in the sixties, seventies and eighties. It was Charcot who legitimized hypnotism.
Eco could also have taken time to give mini biographies of the actual historical figures most of whom are today known only by name if that. After all this is well over two hundred years after the Revolution of 1789. That is an immense stretch of well documented history impossible for someone not dedicated to studying the period to know. If education is in trouble it is merely because the period and its contribution to knowledge has not been organized in a comprehensible manner. Nor given the current political and religious situation is it likely to be. History itself is both anti-Semitic and racist, you know.
Amazingly enough the amateurs of the internet are making a better attempt to orgainize the period than the academic ‘pros’. The various Wold Newton Universe’s on the internet which mesh into Eco’s approach have done a great deal to evolve a time line progression. Since Eco is a European writer the work of Jean-Marc and Randy (wife) Lofficier with their site of the French Wold Newton Universe have made a great advance in organizing French literature into a continuation not too different in intent than the Arthurian epic.
They began much as Eco does here with the Carbonari based on the novels of Paul Feval who chronicles the rise of organized crime in France which is another theme Eco could have included in an expanded novel. Rocambole, Arsene Lupin and Fantomas, (characters larger than the creators) form part of the French WNU and Eco’s memories as he recorded them in the Mysterious Flame Of Queen Loana, but that opportunity was missed.
I’m also not sure why Eco passed over Madame Blavatsky, Theosophy and the whole Spiritist Movement that turns toward the idea of the Protocols since their religious view was quite in opposition to Judaism.
Another line of investigation although not quite so obvious as others was the rise of the Vampire novel which I believe is directly related to Jewish emancipation.
Prior to the Revolution and Jewish Emancipation the Jews had been tightly controlled being confined to the Pale of Settlement running the breadth of Europe between Eastern Poland and Western Russia. With emancipation Jews could function freely without restriction as citizens of their respective hosts. How Jewish activities are characterized depends on your nationality. Jews of course depict themselves as both ardent Jews and loyal citizens of the host country while each country universally depicts them as self-interested traitors. But to say so left an individual open to censure as an anti-Semite. That is the same charge that Ilan in his review brings against Eco. To disagree with the Jews is to be an anti-Semite. Thus in order to express one’s true opinion one must resort to subterfuge. One has to speak of one thing to refer to another. One of the major criticism of the Jews over the centuries in all societies is that Jews are parasites. Of course, the Vampire is the ultimate parasite. Thus in creating stories of Vampires, the bloodsuckers are meant to represent Jews.
This is made nowhere more explicit than in George Du Maurier’s 1894 novel, Trilby. Eco has his character in Prague named Dr. Du Maurier who is obviously based on the novelist George. As it seems appropriate I will digress here to consider Du Maurier’s novel, Trilby. Du Maurier still has a significant following as my three reviews of his novels have found a good readership, especially the first, Peter Ibbetson.
Trilby is a complex and very interesting novel. Du Maurier was a prominent neo-Romanticist and Bohemian. A base of his story is an earlier 1822 novelette by the French Romanticist Charles Nodier from whose title, Trilby, Du Maurier took his own.
Nodier’s story concerned a Scots girl named Jeannie and an elf or fairy named Trilby. We are led to believe that Trilby actually exists but was apparent only to Jeannie so that the churchmen or rationalists believing her deluded insist that she renounce her elfin friend; therein lies the tragedy.
In Du Maurier’s story he reverses the sexes making Trilby a young woman while giving Jeannie’s identity to a young artist named Little Billee who, himself, is based on a Thackeray poem of the same name. Du Maurier is more obsessed with memory than even Umberto Eco. Du Maurier convinced of the reality of an after life devised it so that he could take his little bags of memory with him for, what is the purpose of memories is they are to be lost at death, he said?
The novel Trilby is, of course, famous for Du Maurier’s creation of the hypnotist, Svengali, very close to a mythical figure himself. One hears reference to Svengali constantly. Svengali was what was then known as a Beteljew, sort of a bum or hobo, in Hebrew a Schnorrer. He is not appreciated by Billee and his friends but he was always a forced presence in their entourage. According to the prejudice of Jews then and now he was a good musician. Thus in hanging around the digs of Little Billee and his Bohemian artist friends he meets Trilby who is a grisette. A grisette in Parisian is what we would call ‘a good lovin’ woman.’ Trilby posed nude for the artists but she was never of easy virtue being quite an exception in Bohemian artists’ circles. The point is made that she cannot sing, unable to carry a tune or hit a note with a tennis racquet . However Svengali notices that she has a one in a million oral cavity, hence she should be able to sing much better than Jenny Lind, a sensation at the time.
As the story falls out the English artists break up as age takes it toll while after a series of adventures Trilby having no other place to go shows up on Svengali’s doorstep who seizes his chance. He removes to Eastern Europe where being an expert hypnotist he entrances Trilby, much as a vampire, and keeps her in a perpetual trance as he wants so much to use that spectacular oral cavity and make Trilby sing as no other. To do that he has to project his musical sensibilities into her and sing through her himself. Thus she is only able to sing while hypnotized and with Svengali directly in front of her making eye contact.
After a while the two master the act and Svengali begins to build her career in which he is successful. As she is perpetually hypnotized Trilby has no memory of those years. One imagines Du Maurier might consider the loss of memories the most tragic of all.
Back in Paris on holiday after a period of years the now mature Billee and his two friends are astonished to discover that their Trilby is the singing sensation that they have been hearing about while Svengali to their eyes has an ambiguous relationship with her. He claims that he is her husband but this is, of course, bushwa as he has another wife. While driving by in their carriage Svengali spots the three on the sidewalk. His hatred and rage at the three welling up he orders Trilby to cut them dead which she does.
Unable to get tickets to the sold out performances the three go back to London. Trilby is scheduled for a London tour. Billee and his friends have a box seat. About half way through the performance Svengali looks up and notices them. His hatred is so strong he breaks eye contact with Trilby who at once stops singing and while glaring at the three his blood pressure rising Svengali has an apoplectic fit and dies. Trilby is unable to continue the show on her own. However Svengali having kept her hypnotized for years vampire like has sapped her vital energy and Trilby withers and dies.
Thus as though a vampire Svengali has drained his victim of life’s blood exploiting her for his own profit. Du Maurier makes it quite clear that the story is an allegory of the Jews and Europeans. Thus unable to criticize the Jews directly unless he be labelled an anti-Semite Du Maurier makes a species of Vampire of them. In the process probably a much better novel than he might have otherwise. The novel really is a masterpiece.
It is perhaps no coincidence that Bram Stoker’s novel, Dracula, was issued at this time. While the nineteenth century began to explore the Aryan racial subconscious in tentative manner pursuing vampires, werewolves, Frankensteins, perpetual wanderers of one type or another, split personalities it was not until later in the century after a few decades of serious study that some clear results were achieved. The most notable example in which a clear separation of the conscious and unconscious was achieved was in Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde. There may be an unconscious referral on Eco’s part as he may have combined Du Maurier and Dr. Jekyll in his imagination. During the same years the Society For Psychical Research was formed of which the significant researches of F.W.H. Myers in the unconscious were important contributions. The work of the Frenchman Pierre Janet, student of Charcot’s is not to be despised either. Freud’s twentieth century vehement denial of any use of Janet’s ideas is proof positive of his influence.
In the realm of dreams also significant work had been done by Aryans before Freud synthesized their work in his study of 1899-1900, The Interpretation Of Dreams. While verging toward mysticism Du Maurier’s notion of Dreaming True and Stevenson’s notion of Directed Dreaming are significant variations on Freud’s theory. Not that I mean to totally disparage Freud’s contribution but he essentially serves in the Jewish role of the middleman between the producer and the consumer.
So, as a slight criticism of Eco, as Freud was still of the future as Prague ends, he might have better constructed Simonini from existing psychological elements. There was no need to create ‘Froide’. Nor was it necessary to interject the Protocols and Dreyfus into the story so prominently.
It appears that Eco used the body of books or sources that all of us familiar with this line of research have used. If fact so many people have been plowing this furrow that nearly every book suppressed by the Jewish Index of Forbidden Books has found its way into print with the exception of Drumont of the Libre Parole and Goedsche himself. One can with some confidence then speak in this area.
Eco slights his Jewish studies. He makes an offhand comment about the Father Thomas murder in Syria but without prior
knowledge of that crime, if the uninformed reader noticed the reference he must have been puzzled. While the author of the Protocols has never been determined, internal evidence indicates the work was probably cobbled together c. 1885. It may have been based on Maurice Joly’s Dialogues Between Machiavelli and Montesquiou In Hell or the Dialogues may have been written after the Protocols became infamous to provide a source, thus we may have a hoax based on a hoax.
Of course, over the decades the story keeps changing, but in one version Napoleon III confiscated all the copies at the printers but one copy got away. The book showed up much later after the Russian Revolution when a fleeing White officer miraculously sold the only existing copy to a Jewish second hand book dealer in Constantinople. Ever see the movie, Wag The Dog? You should. Not only did this astute book dealer buy a wreck of a book without a cover or title page but while idly reading through it he recognized it as the source of the Protocols, as the proverbial light went off in head he knew he had a copy of the Dialogues in his sweaty little hands. Quickly notifying the Alliance Israelite Universelle he sent the copy along and- eh voila!- the problem with the source was solved, proven. But the question is, who was this Maurice Joly and what did he know of Machiavelli and Monstesquiou? Who the hell was Montesquiou? That Joly was Jewish goes without saying but to my mind there is a question as to whether he wrote the Dialogues. I mean, you know, we’re dealing with mis-, dis- and re-directed matters here. Try reading Edgar Wallace’s Four Just Men to learn some real head fakes.
Eco doesn’t go into the Jewish history very deeply although all accounts of the origin of the Protocols I’ve read have been
written by Jewish hands and therefore are thoroughly questionable. He does make a passing reference to someone he call Cremiu. This may or may not be a reference to a very important Jewish figure named Adolphe Cremieux. His career spanned the years before the 1830 revolution which coincided with the French acquisition of Algeria of that year. Cremieux drafted and penned the law making Jewish residents of Algeria French citizens thus catapulting them over their Moslem masters corrupting the French conquest.
Cremieux was politically prominent in the sixties taking part in the formation of the Alliance Israelite Universelle which was created as an international organization to coordinate Jewish European activities, thus was formed a Jewish national government. At the turn of the century it would be sent to the US becoming the American Jewish Committee as the US was deemed more cordial and pertinent to Jewish affairs. Indeed, it was from New York that President Jacob Schiff engineered the 1905 defeat of Russia by Japan for which the Japanese duly honored him.
But in the 1860s when European Jewish affairs were being organized Cremieux was undoubtedly behind the writing of the Dialogues which were very likely written by committee and merely issued under Joly’s name. The Dialogues Between Machiavelli and Montesquiou is a sophisticated piece of writing. I suppose most people have heard of Machiavelli and probably many of those have read his book; however I doubt if many have ever heard of Montesquiou and fewer by far have read him. His Spirit Of The Laws is one of those key texts recently made available. In Conspiracy circles it had been thought of as evil but it is nothing of the kind. It is a very valuable intellectual contribution which ought to be studied by Conservatives.
As the title implies Montesquiou historically examines what laws were meant to effect- their spirit. Thus as with today’s ‘anti-hate’ laws, what is their spirit? What is their intended effect? On the surface the laws are absurd as they imply that the protected parties are above ‘hate’ while the unprotected parties are directing their innate unreasoning hatred toward them. The ‘anti-hate’ laws are American so one must ask who they are meant to protect and who they are meant to punish. The protected parties are what Americans call ‘minorities’; what the Canadians laughably call ‘visible minorities’ which by the way would exclude Jews and homosexuals who are invisible. The promoters of these laws are obviously Jewish.
The laws then create franchised and disenfranchised classes. That is exactly the way the protected classes understand the laws. They have been legally granted ‘minority skin’ privileges.
So, now as the Jews understand the spirit of the laws in these days it is not unreasonable to believe that they understood their spirit in those days. They had and have a very specialized understanding.
Just as today the AJC/ADL have a college turning out books of the same nature as the Dialogues, see the books of fictional author ‘John Roy Carlson’, it is not unreasonable to suppose that Cremieux and the Alliance Israelite did the same in those days. The racial mind always works according to certain static principles. Thus, I have no doubt myself, that the college turned out the book merely duping the Jew Maurice Joly to put his name on it. In any event we are told that Louis Napoleon had the whole press run confiscated at the printers; however the handwritten original may have escaped that surfaced around 1885 when the Protocols were written. The text would have to have been supplied by the Alliance in that instance. From my reading of both documents there is only the most tenuous connection between them while the ideas contained in the Protocols could have been written and probably were without any reference to the Dialogues at all. I see no logical connection between the two.
Now, if the Protocols were a forgery drawn up by the Russian Ohkrana who could not possibly have had a copy of the Dialogues in 1885 and they wouldn’t have needed it in any event why would they wait to 1905 to broadcast the news? Why not before the 1905 revolution in an attempt to stave it off? So, you see, things just really add up; the bottom line is just a bit fuzzy.
While the Jews attack Eco on the improbable grounds that his novel is going to stir up ancient hatreds, at the same time they leap at Eco’s suggestion that the German writer of the period, Herman Goedsche’s scene in the Jewish Cemetery is based on Cagliostro’s confrontation with the Freemasons in the pages of Dumas’ novel Joseph Balsamo. Balsamo was Cagliostro’s real name while the latter is his magician’s name.
There is no need for a relationship between the two while at the same time both are fictional situations. I’ve never understood why the Jews chose to make an issue of this scene. Biarritz, Goedsche’s novel was just that, a story. For a story to be read it has to be as close to reality as possible while exaggerating it for effect. While it is improbable that any such meeting would take place in a graveyard it is certainly probable that such a meeting took place at AIU headquarters in Paris. How else will you coordinate efforts and Jewish efforts were coordinated.
Just ask yourself, what is the purpose of an undeniable organization named the Alliance Israelite Universelle? Doesn’t the name say it all? And then in 1900 when the Pale Of Settlement is being emptied out as the Jews are being transferred to the US with every intent of transferring all the Jews to the US which was only aborted by the outbreak of The Great War, why was the Alliance transferred from France to the US to become the American Jewish Committee? I mean, you know, I don’t mind being called an anti-Semite but I certain do object to being called stupid.
In fact, the Jews were one of the nations of Europe, functioning fully as a nation although without a homeland, ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ they were called and what else would they be called given their situation? Think about this stuff, don’t allow your thinking to be directed by Jews. When the going gets tough the Jews pack up and get moving. That’s what rootless means. The Germans, the French et al., they have roots, when the going gets tough they have nowhere to go, they have to tough it out.
Thus the mere existence of institutions presupposes organization and goals. Goedsche was just a writer, he doesn’t have to be taken anymore seriously than that. Does he have a good story or not? In fact, his novel is one of the works on the Jewish Index still waiting translation. I’m ready to buy.
Eco could have gone into more detail on the Protocols. They excite only the Jews. They only claim to prove the obvious. Check out the goals of today’s Jewish Paideia Society of Sweden organized by the US Jew Barbara Spectre which is pursuing the same end. Good name, Spectre.
That leaves the old chestnut, the Dreyfus Affair to be examined. Why Eco threw this into a book called The Prague Cemetery is beyond me but there it is.
Dreyfus was certainly guilty of spying, not necessarily for the Germans as he was charged, but spying. Leaping ahead a hundred years and shifting to the New Promised Land, the US, let us consider the case of the notorious Israeli spy, Jonathon Pollard whose thefts were so serious that he is still withering away in prison. While his fellow Jews haven’t been able to force a new trial, they’re now asking for parole if not pardon. After all they say Pollard wasn’t spying for an enemy but for the US’ best friend, Israel, with which we should have been sharing our information like a good friend anyway.
Now, move Pollard back a hundred years, shift him to France and change his name to Dreyfus. Eh, voila! Dreyfus was sending his purloined info to the Alliance Israelite Universelle headquarters. How else can the Jews by so well informed?
As Eco informs us, the real German spy was named Esterhazy. What he neglects to tell us is the Esterhazy was a Hungarian Jew. So, if there was a spy dealing with the Germans, he was Jewish, as well as another Jewish spy providing his fellow Jews with information.
Now, it is said that Dreyfus was framed and wasn’t guilty. The big bad nasty Aryans convicted him falsely out of mere pique and he was later proved innocent. Over the years from his conviction to his second trial key evidence disappeared while key witnesses had died and money had changed hands. Therefore Dreyfus was released for lack of evidence not proven innocent besides which the Jews had gotten themselves into a hissy fit while alarming France and dividing the country along Dreyfusard and anti-Dreyfusard lines. What other political choice did the authorities have?
Consider nearly every other European conviction of Jews along similar lines most notably the murder of children or the so-called ‘blood libel.’ According to the Jews each incident, and these occurred over centuries, was trumped up for bigoted reasons. Thus, the culprit is first convicted on what appears to be good evidence to a court of law. A few years go by, evidence disappears, witnesses die, money changes hands and then the case is reopened and the verdict is reversed.
Then it is said that the charge of child murder by Jews is absurd, there is nothing in the Jewish culture to indicate that they were even capable of such crimes. But, consider the Last Supper. All Jews agree that Jesus was Jewish although there are some Aryan diehards who insist he wasn’t and want to claim the creep. Nevertheless at the Last Supper the Jewish Jesus holds up the wafer and says this is my body; he holds up his wine and says this is my blood. Not only do we have the blood libel but we have cannibalism in a Jewish setting completely among Jews. According to the doctrine of transubstantiation a modern communicant is literally eating the flesh of Jesus and drinking his blood. Now, if one mixes wine with the wafer one has the deed for which the Jews were accused. A child among both Semites and Aryans is an unpolluted innocent, of course.
The Bible has very strong injunctions enjoining Jews to abjure eating or drinking blood because according to their belief that is where life or the soul resides. So, on the one hand the Jewish ceremony of eating the child’s blood in the wafer mocks the Catholic ritual while eating the life of Christians by proxy of a pure innocent child. I don’t say the Jews actually did this, although they were convicted of the crime, however to say the charges are absurd on the face of it contradicts both facts and reason. I could provide more examples but one is as good as a hundred.
As in Jonathon Pollard’s case, as they can’t get the conviction overturned or set aside then humanity demands that he be released.
In Prague Eco exonerates the Jews on the count of the Protocols and also the Dreyfus Affair. According to Ilan this is not enough, he is still activating ancient hatreds. Whose ancient hatreds Ilan doesn’t say. One always suspects the charge is that of crying Wolf. There is no reason not suspect ulterior motives. At the very least Eco is playing into their hands.
As I said before, these two historical events are so old hat that no one except interested parties are concerned or even know of the incidents; at this late date there is no one who remembers them personally, they have passed into the historical or racial memories.
So Eco’s work is merely an exercise in historical memory combined with the Jewish racial memory. We should always try to unravel the mysteries of the folk so that having an accurate historical memory from both sides we can demand in unison- Never Again! Not likely to happen but a good thought.
I had meant to conclude the review with this part but as it got more involved than I thought I will have to add a Part IV.
November 20, 2011
THE PRAGUE CEMETERY
Review by R.E. Prindle
Eco, Umberto: The Prague Cemetery, A Novel, 2010, Houghton Mifflin, NYC
Part I: Prologue
Little Bags Of Memory
In this novel Eco attacks the dark subconscious mind of nineteenth century Europe. It was the moment when Europeans discovered the difference between their conscious and subconscious minds. As a historical novel Eco mines his fifty thousand volume private library to construct his story. His sources range from Dumas and Eugene Sue at one end to George Du Maurier and J.K. Huysmans at the other. At this point in history, other than Dumas I presume the other authors are virtually unread if not unknown. Fortunately I have read most of Eco’s sources with my more modest five thousand volume library.
Eco seems to have a very fond spot in his heart for George Du Maurier and I found his treatment of the author most interesting.. Du Maurier was a long time contributor to the English humor magazine, Punch in both text and artworks through the heart of the nineteenth century. The illustrations Eco uses in his novel are very reminiscent in style to those of Du Maurier. Indeed, Du Maurier is very seductive both artistically and literarily. When he was turned down for the editorship of Punch he was crushed, turning away to write and illustrate his subtly fantastic three novels Peter Ibbetson, Trilby and The Martian, the last finished just before his death in 1896.
Like Eco Du Maurier lugged a lifetime of memories, literary and personal through his novels. I’m still working my way through his sources, or favorites at least. Du Maurier was a Bohemian artist in Paris at about the same time as Henri Murger who wrote his fabulous description of Bohemian life, The Bohemians Of The Latin Quarter that was turned into Puccini’s opera, La Boheme. DuMaurier found Murger’s description of Bohemian life repellent to his own sensibilities so he romanticized the nearly same story into the lovely fairy tale of his own version, Trilby. Trilby was a sensation of its time and remains a classic.
Eco has read and thoughtfully considered Du Maurier and while Du Maurier tended to romanticize painful or repellant memories into order to create a fairy tale existence for himself all that sunshine seems to cover a bitter undergrowth. Eco who astutely perceives this was led to parody him in Eco’s own fabulous first chapter of Prague that is a hilarious stand up comedy routine worthy of the mordant, sick humor of Lenny Bruce. Eco then makes his character Dr. Du Maurier the chief of an insane asylum parodying Du Maurier’s Peter Ibbetson while reversing the roles of Ibbetson and the Duchess of Towers in the character of Diana Vaughan. Very nice bit of inside humor on the part of Eco.
While I make it a rule to not recommend books, a rule I often violate, if you’re reading this I presume you’re simpatico. I heartily recommend any of these sources of Eco if you haven’t already read them.
Obviously Du Maurier’s novels holds a special place in Eco’s heart and a well merited place both in his and mine. However, Eco gives precedence to two of the greatest French novelists of the nineteenth century, Alexander Dumas and Eugene Sue. As it happens I revere both authors as much as Eco. Dumas’ most famous titles are still widely read while Sue’s much less so or, perhaps, not at all.
Eco mentions Dumas’ The Three Musketeers and The Count Of Monte Cristo and the French Revolution novels centered around the magician Cagliostro or by his other name, Joseph Balsamo. I first read The Three Musketeers as a youth while I have reread it again along with first time readings of Monte Cristo and the Cagliostro series within the last ten years.
What Eco is doing in the Prague Cemetery is writing his version of a Dumas novel. While a good novel Prague falls far short of Dumas. What Eco lacked that Dumas had was a collaborator of the quality of Auguste Maquet who researched and worked up the material in outline so that Dumas could concentrate on composing the dramatic touches of the story. This allowed Dumas a much wider scope and deeper detail that brought out the fabulous myth of Three Musketeers or the huge scope and depth of Monte Cristo and the Revolution novels.
I’ve read reviews of Prague where Cagliostro is apparently thought of as a Dumas creation. Oh no, Dumas could write historical novels to place alongside his role model, the great Walter Scott, or as a model here for Eco. While novels, Dumas’ Revolution stories are accurate as history. Cagliostro was a real person. Such a collaborator as Maquet might have given Eco room to expand his horizon and widen the scope of his novel to include for instance the rise of psychology and the discovery of the European unconscious while introducing some of the stage hypnotists and magicians such Robert Houdin, the model for the subsequent Houdini who used his name.
Eco’s novel is OK but he could have made it much better. The Simonini dual personality touch is a surface probe of the unconscious that had real potential perhaps bringing in the Society for Psychic Research but I think the execution of Simonini was weak and not properly developed. Still the character was a nice stab at Dumas’ and more especially the unbelievably fantastic Eugene Sue. What a madman. One could think him insane but I choose to believe he was touched by the divine afflatus. Sue, if mad, had the madness of the gods. If Dumas was more than human, Sue far exceeded Dumas. I have never read anything that comes near Sue’s The Wandering Jew or The Mysteries Of Paris, especially the latter which probes the outer limits of sanity.
The unfortunately named Wandering Jew will drive off most American readers who have been conditioned to avoid anything concerning Jews lest they be considered anti-Semitic. Although as Eco points out the hidden hand of the Jesuit priest Rodin that haunts the novel from beginning to end is one of the most terrifying apparitions in all literature and Sue was the master of terrifying images.
Both he and Dumas were obsessed shall we say by the historical memory. Eco himself is obsessed by memory as am I. I have that in common with these writers. I have explored my personal memories in several novels I have post the internet and most of my essays here on I, Dynamo are concerned with ordering the historical memory. Eco sought to recapture the memories of his youth in his previous novel The Mysterious Flame Of Queen Loana. Both Eco’s and my own efforts are much after the fashion of George Du Maurier. I would recommend Du Maurier highly except that it takes some dedication to understand the luxuriant beauty of his work; his three novels have to be read several times to acquire his intense longing to never lose his memories, taking them with into the Great Beyond. But, if you are of a like mind and feel up to it, have at it.
So, Dumas proposed to novelize the whole of French history, the racial memory and had a magnificent go at it. The guy is really spectacular. Eco mentions also the last novel of Eugene Sue, The Mysteres Du Peuple which is has yet to be translated; as Eco says he labored through the French. Apparently Sue took the task he set for himself quite seriously as Eco says the story is quite complex and I imagine very long. Mysteries Of Paris itself is three volumes or about fifteen hundred pages.
The title translates as I see it, The Mysteries Of The Folk. As Eco says Sue begins his story with the Frankish invasions of the fourth to sixth centuries, then tells his story along two family lines one Frankish, one Gallic. This would be a prodigious feat of historical and racial memory, an explosion of Sue’s past educational imprinting in both society and school. This would be especially important to him as both he and Dumas were of the first post-Revolution generation of which they very likely heard many first hand reminiscences growing up while reading reams of memoirs. As the Revolution was primarily racial in character, Gauls versus Franks, this would give added poignancy to Sue’s search to retrieve the history of the two races.
So, what Eco seems to be doing in the Prague Cemetery is carrying the personal, racial and historical European memory forward from the work of Dumas and Sue. How well I think he did it will be in the concluding part of the review. First we have to take a huge memory detour in order to bring the historical and racial memories from the beginning back up to Dumas, Sue, and Eco and late nineteenth century history. When I say huge detour, let us begin our magical memory tour at the beginning, Pangaea.
Part II will follow.
November 25, 2009
A Contribution To The
ERBzine ERB Library Project
H. Rider Haggard
Review by R.E. Prindle
The Gruesome, The Morbid AndThe Hideous
Rider Haggard was criticized severely by certain of his contemporaries for employing so many gruesome, morbid and hideous details. Indeed, ’ She’ seems to be a study in the hideous, the gruesome and the morbid. If one concentrates on those aspects of the story one might actually question Haggard’s mental health.
Haggard himself calls attention to this morbidity. In King Solomon’s Mines he pointed out his humor with references to the Ingoldsby Legends; in She he makes a pointed reference to a Mark Tapley. I had no idea who Mark Tapley might be but thought I’d consult that most magnificent of encyclopedias, the internet. No problem. Mark Tapley was a character from Charles Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit. No matter how adverse the circumstances were Tapley was always cheerful and ebullient. Haggard must have thought him ridiculous. Thus he is devising a series of incidents that would bring even Mark Tapley down. Hmm. Interesting experiment.
It would seem then that Haggard was suffering from a fairly deep depression. In that sense She is sort of a horror story not too different in intent than, say, Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Indeed, at one point Ayesha explains that she rules by terror. That being the most effective way to control brutes like the Amahagger.
Certainly the storm at sea prior to entering Kor was an example of terror on the part of nature, a portent of things to come. Not least of these was the hot potting and projected cannibalism of the surviving member of the ship’s crew, Mohammed. ‘She’ had only required the safety of the Whites; as Mohammed was apparently a negrified Arab the Amahagger excluded him from the ban on Whites. An interesting example of White Skin privilege.
Their custom of killing their victims was to heat a pot red hot and turn it over on the victim’s head. There’s a gruesome and hideous enough example. You can see where Burroughs picked up his fascination for the gruesome and hideous.
The Caves of Kor are actually a city of the dead. Kor was an active civilization before Egypt existed in the fifth or sixth millennium BC. As embalming was a known practice when the Dynasties began c. 3400 the practice must have developed long before. Quite possibly it was practiced by the peoples of the Basin before the Mediterranean was flooded. In The World’s Desire Haggard mentions that the ancient Egyptians possessed writings in a precedent language. If so, how far back things like embalming go might be prodigious.
Egyptian embalming was primitive compared to that of the Korians. While Egyptian mummies became desicated the Korian process was such that the body was preserved forever in an apparent state of health. Thus bodies perhaps ten thousand years old or older had the appearance of freshness.
Now, this is positively creepy. Holly’s Amahagger attendent Bilalli while discussing Korian embalming told Holly that while he was a young man a particularly beautiful female corpse occupied the very slab on which Holly slept. Bilalli used to enter the cell and sit looking admiringly on the beautiful corpse by the hour. One day his mother caught him at it. The embalming fluid used was extremely flammable. Bilalli’s mother stood the body up and lit it. Like a huge torch the body burned down to the feet. The feet were still as good as new. Bilalli wrapped them and stored them beneath Holly’s slab. Groping around beneath the slab he brought out those ten thousand year old feet, still fresh, except for some charring at the ankles.
Haggard doesn’t stop there but goes on to emphasize the beauty of one particular foot. One wonders if perhaps George Du Maurier read She becoming entranced by the foot image thus reproducing the image in his novel Trilby when Little Billee draws Trilby’s beautiful foot on th wall. It is a thing Du Maurier would do as he inserted his literary baggage as profusely as Burroughs.
What effect this image had on Haggard’s contemporary readers may be guessed from the complaints about his gruesomeness.
In fact Haggard projects a depressed brooding evil permeating the Caves of Kor very well. This may have been caused by his and Lang’s theories of the Matriarchy. Human sacrifice was an integral part of the Matriarchal world. The sacrifices were invariably of men because women had greater economic value. When men were no longer sacrificed bulls, rams, the males of the species were substituted, the female still having greater economic value. Thus the story of Isaac and the Ram. That would be a great advance in civilization. About that time Isis ceased being the Egyptian symbol of the firmament being replaced by the female cow as the symbol of economics. Something like the kings of England sitting on the woolsack.
Depending on Haggard’s and Lang’s theories of the Matriarchy then Haggard may have been portraying a consciousness that has ceased to exist. There is always an element of misogyny in Haggard’s stories that is no longer tolerated. Then men were men and women were women instead of the attempted strange unisexuality of today. Thus the tens of miles of swamp between the Amahagger quarters and the citadel of Kor indicate the extent and quality of the Matriarchy. Swamps are the symbol of the female and the Matriarchy or, in other words, this very primitive superstitious consciousness.
The Korian swamp was haunted by mephitic vapors, evil smelling and oppressive. The ground they walked on was of uncertain solidity; it might look firm but this was only illusory as one could break through the crust. Often the litter bearers were walking through evil smelling muck up to their knees.
At one point an accident occurs and Bilalli’s litter with him in it is dumped into the slimy water. He would have drowned if Holly hadn’t leaped into the rank female waters to save him. They emerge looking something like the creature from the Black Lagoon.
It will be remembered that Holly was something of a misogynist. One may be stretching a point but even though rejecting women and marriage Holly managed to inherit a son from a man who was also a womanless widower. Haggard makes a strong contrasting point when he says that Leo was not averse to female company. The manservant, Job, is absolutely terrified of the female.
After traversing this desolate swamp of the female for days they arrive at the citadel or temple of Kor. Now, the citadel of Kor was built on an ancient lake bed that had been drained ten thousand years before. In that sense Ayesha is the same as Nimue or the Lady Of The Lake of King Arthur. Nemue lived at the bottom of a lake where she raised Lanclot who consequently was called Lancelot of the Lake.
Compare this also with Haggard’s postumously published Treasure of the Lake in which the Anima figure lives on an island in the middle of a lake in the middle of a volcanic crater. The lake of Kor was also in the middle of a crater.
When the Korian civilization was extinguished it wasn’t by invasion or other external reasons but by a monster plague something like the fourteenth century european Black Death that wiped out nearly everyone. At the resulting rate of death it wasn’t possible to embalm everyone so that tens of thousands of bodies were dumped into a huge subterranean pit.
In conducting Holly and Leo on a guided tour of Kor which was one gigantic necropolis, talk about depressing, Ayesha brings them to this pit. I quote:
Accordingly I followed (She) to a side passage opening out of the main cave, then down a great number of steps, and along an underground shaft that cannot have been less than sixty feet beneath the surface of the rock, and was ventilated by curious borings that ran upward, I do not know where. Suddenly this passage ended, and Ayesha halted, bidding the mutes return, and, as she prophesied, I saw a scene such as I was not likely to behold again. We were standing in an enormous pit, or rather on the brink of it, for it went down deeper- I do not know how much- than the level on which we stood, and was edged in with a low wall of rock. So far as I could judge, this was about the size of the space beneath the dome of St. Paul’s in London, and when the lamps were held up I saw that it was nothing but one vast charnel-house, being literally fullof thousands of human skeletons, which lay piled up in an enormous gleaming pyramid, formed by the slipping down of the bodies at the apex as others were dropped in from above. Anything more appalling than this mass of human remains of a departed race I cannot imagine, and what made it even more dreadful was that in this dry air a considerable number of bodies had become dessicated with the skin still on them, and now, fixed in every conceivable position, stared at us out of a mountain of white bones, grotesquely horrible caricatures of humanity. In my astonishment I uttered an ejaculation, and the echoes of my voice, ringing in that vaulted space, disturbed a skull which hd been accurately balanced for many thousands of years near the apex of the pile. Down it came with a run, bounding along merrily towards us, and of course bringing an avalanche of other bones after it, till at last the whole pit rattled with their movement, even as though the skeletons were rising up to greet us.
Talk about a holocaust! Imagine standing in that dimly lit space far beneath ground, in the grave itself so to speak,and viewing that. Holly was overcome and perhap Mark Tapley himself would have lost a little of his cheeriness. If that didn’t do it the ball Ayesha threw would have.
Before I move on to that though let’s take a penultimate example that might actually unsettle Mark Tapley. This is truly unsettling with truly macabre and voyeuristic soft porn details that are quite remarkable. Let me say that it is only with the fourth reading that the horrific nature of these details really began to sink in. I hope to really make this clear in the next section in which I intend to do an in depth analysis of Ayesha.
In his cell at the citadel of Kor Holly notices a cleft in the wall he hadn’t noticed before. This cleft is going to lead him to Ayesha’s sleeping room. This is not unlike King Solomon’s Mines in which upon entering the symbolic vagina they were led to the womb or treasure box. As I say Holly entered this cleft, let your imagination dwell on that, and followed a dark, dank, narrow corridor until he perceived a light.
He is looking into Ayesha’s sleeping room where in a certain deshabille, very erotic, she is addressing a covered form on a bier next to hers. This is the embalmed body of Kallicrates who she murdered twenty-two hundred years before. So she has been sleeping with this corpse for twenty-two centuries. Now, dwell on that for moment, let the horror of it sink in.
She addresses the corpse in a fairly demented way. Twenty-two hundred years of this would drive anybody nuts. Finally to the dismay of Holly she animates the body by telekinetic powers actually causing it to stand zombie like so she can kiss and caress it. A lot of necrophilia in this novel. Haggard must have been half dotty when he wrote this. Of course Kallicrates is a double of Leo so Holly has all he can do to keep from crying out. Causing the dead man to lay himself down Ayesha covers him and blows out the light.
Holly has to find his way back in the dark reminding one of innumerable passages in Burroughs where his characters have to find their way in the dark. Holly gets only so far and collapses in the tunnel. Waking he sees a light coming in from his cell allowing him to find his way back.
And then Ayesha throws her ball. If you’ve read carefully and really ingested these macabre, gruesome, and as Burroughs’ would say, hideous details they’re beginning to oppress your mind, perhaps even a mind like Mark Tapley’s.
Now Haggard trundles out the frosting. To illuminate her ball Ayesha brings out piles of ten thousand year old corpses placing them around the perimeter as human torches. Laying out a large bonfire the corpses are stacked alternately like so much cordwood and replaced as they were consumed. Remember these are as fresh looking as you or I. The Roman emperor Nero actually used live humans in the same manner. Haggard notes this in the text which I thought weakened the effect.
Ayesha seems to be aware of the effect, indeed, intended it and appears to relish the reaction.
These are the high points of these horrfic details. Minor ones are constant so that the cumulative effect leading up to the terrific images of the demise of Ayesha, temporary though it might be, is overwhelming. But about She, Ayesha, in the next part.
Themes And Variations
The Tarzan Novels Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
#5 Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar
Du Maurier, George: Peter Ibbetson
Dudgeon, Piers: Captivated: J.M. Barrie, The Du Mauriers & The Dark Side Of Neverland, 2008, Chatto And Windus
Hesse, Herman: The Bead Game
Neumann, Erich: The Origins and History Of Consciousness, 1951, Princeton/Bollingen
Vrettos, Athena: “Little Bags Of Remembrance: Du Maurier’s Peter Ibbetson And Victorian Theories Of Ancestral Memories” Erudit Magazine Fall 2009.
While it is today commonly believed that Sigmund Freud invented or discovered the Unconscious this is not true. As so happens a great cataclysm, The Great War of 1914-18, bent civilization in a different direction dissociating it from its recent past.
Studies in the earlier spirit of the unconscious continued to be carried on by C.G. Jung and his school but Freud successfully suppressed their influence until quite recently actually. Through the fifties of the last century Freud’s mistaken and harmful, one might say criminal, notion of the unconscious held the field. Thus there is quite a difference in the tone of Edgar Rice Burroughs writing before and after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.
There are those who argue that Burroughs was some kind of idiot savant who somehow knew how to write exciting stories. In fact he was a well and widely read man of varied interests who kept up on intellectual and scientific matters. He was what might be called an autodidact with none of the academic gloss. He was very interested in psychological matters from hypnotism to dream theory.
The scientific investigation of the unconscious may probably be dated to the appearance of Anton Mesmer and his interest in hypnotism also variously known as Mesmerism and Animal Magnetism. The full fledged investigation of the unconscious began with hypnotism. Slowly at first but by the last quarter of the nineteenth century in full flower with varied colors. Science per se was a recent development also flowering along with the discovery of the unconscious.
While Charles Darwin had brought the concept of evolution to scientific recognition in 1859 the key discipline of genetics to make sense of evolution was a missing component. It is true that Gregor Mendel discovered the concept of genetics shortly after Darwin’s Origin Of Species was issued but Mendel’s studies made no impression at the time. His theories were rediscovered in 1900 but they were probably not widely diffused until after the Great War. Burroughs knew of the earlier Lamarck, Darwin and Mendel by 1933 when he wrote Tarzan And The Lion Man. His character of ‘God’ is the result of genetic mutation.
Lacking the more complete knowledge of certain processes that we have today these late nineteenth century speculators seem ludicrous and wide of the mark but one has to remember that comprehension was transitting the religious mind of the previous centuries to a scientific one, a science that wasn’t accepted by everyone then and still isn’t today. The Society For Psychical Research sounds humorous today but without the advantage of genetics, especially DNA such speculations made more sense except to the most hard nosed scientists and skeptics. The future poet laureate John Masefield was there. Looking back from the perspective of 1947 he is quoted by Piers Dudgeon, p. 102:
Men were seeking to discover what limitations there were to personal intellect; how far it could travel from its home personal brain; how deeply it could influence other minds at a distance from it or near it; what limits, if any, there might be to an intense mental sympathy. This enquiry occupied many doctors and scientists in various ways. It stirred George Du Maurier…to speculations which deeply delighted his generation.
Whether believer or skeptic Burroughs himself must have been delighted by these speculations as they stirred his own imagination deeply until after the pall of the Revolution and Freud’s triumph.
Burroughs was subjected to dreams and nightmares all his life. Often waking from bad dreams. He said that his stories were derived from his dreams but there are many Bibliophiles who scoff at this notion. The notion of ‘directed dreaming’ has disappeared from popular consideration but then it was a serious topic. Freud’s own dream book was issued at about this time. I have already reviewed George Du Maurier’s Peter Ibbetson on my blog, I, Dynamo and on ERBzine with Du Maurier’s notions of ‘Dreaming True’. It seems highly probable that Burroughs read Ibbetson and Du Maurier’s other two novels so that from sometime in the nineties he would have been familiar with dream notions from that source.
Auto-suggestion is concerned here and just as support that Burroughs was familiar with the concept let me quote from a recent collection of ERB’s letters with Metcalf as posted on ERBzine. This letter is dated December 12, 1912.
If they liked Tarzan, they will expect to like this story and this very self-suggestion will come to add to their interest in it.
Athena Vrettos whose article is noted above provides some interesting information from Robert Louis Stevenson who developed a system of ‘directed dreaming’ i.e. auto-suggestion. We know that Burroughs was highly influenced by Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde while he probably read other novels of Stevenson. How could he have missed Treasure Island? Whether he read any of Stevenson’s essays is open to guess but in an 1888 essay A Chapter On Dreams Stevenson explained his method. To Quote Vrettos:
Rather than experiencing dreams at random, fragmented images and events, Stevenson claims he has learned how to shape them into coherent, interconnected narratives, “to dream in sequences and thus to lead a double life- one of the day, one of the night- one that he had every reason to believe was the true one, another that he had no means of proving false.” Stevenson describes how he gains increasing control of his dream life by focusing his memory through autosuggestion, he sets his unconscious imagination to work assisting him in his profession of writer by creating “better tales than he could fashion for himself.” Becoming an enthusiastic audience to his own “nocturnal dreams”, Stevenson describes how he subsequently develops those dreams and memories into the basis for many of his published stories, most notably his 1886 Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde.
Now, directed dreaming and Dreaming True sound quite similar. One wonder if there was a connection between Stevenson and Du Maurier. It turns out that there was as well as with nearly the entire group of English investigators. Let us turn to Piers Dudgeon again, p. 102:
Shortly after they met, the novelist Walter Besant invited [Du Maurier] to join a club he was setting up, to be named ‘The Rabelais’ after the author of Gargantua and Pantagruel. Its name raised expectations of bawdiness, obscenity and reckless living, (which were not in fact delivered) as was noted at the time. Henry Ashbee, a successful city businessman with a passion for pornography, and reputed to be Robert Louis Stevenson’s model for the two sides of his creation, Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, denounced its members as ‘very slow and un-Rabelaisian’, and there is a story that Thomas Hardy, a member for a time, objected to the attendance of Henry James on account of his lack of virility.
Virility was not the issue however. The members of the Rabelais were interested in other worlds. Charles Leland was an expert on fairy lore and voodoo. Robert Louis Stevenson was the author of The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde (1886) which epitomized the club’s psychological/occult speculations. Arthur Conan Doyle, who became a member of the British Society For Psychical Research, was a dedicated spiritualist from 1916. Henry James was probably more at home than Hardy, for both his private secretary Theodora Besanquet, and brother William, the philosopher, were members of the Psychical Society.
In many ways the Rabelais was a celebration that [Du Maurier's] time had come. Parapsychological phenomena and the occult were becoming valid subjects for rigorous study. There was a strong feeling that the whole psychic scene would at any moment be authenticated by scientific explanation.
Du Maurier was obviously well informed of various psychical ideas when he wrote Ibbetson. In addition he had been practicing hypnosis since his art student days in the Paris of the late 1850s.
So this was the literary environment that Burroughs was growing up in. As Bill Hillman and myself have attempted to point out, ERB’s mental and physical horizons were considerably broadened by the Columbian Expo of 1893. Everything from the strong man, The Great Sandow, to Francis Galton’s psychological investigations were on display. The cutting edge of nineteenth century thought and technology was there for the interested. Burroughs was there for every day of the Fair. He had time to imbibe all and in detail. The Expo shaped his future life. That he was intensely interested in the intellectual and literary environment is evidenced by the fact that when he owned his stationery story in Idaho in 1898 he advertised that he could obtain any magazine or book from both England and America. You may be sure that he took full advantage of the opportunity for himself. As this stuff was all the rage there can be no chance that he wasn’t familiar with it all if he didn’t actually immerse himself in it. Remember his response to Kipling’s The White Man’s Burden was instantaneous. Thus you have this strange outpost of civilization in Pocatello, Idaho where any book or magazine could be obtained. Of course, few but Burroughs took advantage of this fabulous opportunity. It should also be noted that he sold the pulp magazines so that his interest in pulp literature went further back than 1910.
In addition ERB was enamored of the authors to the point of hero worship much as musical groups of the 1960s were idolized so he would have thirsted for any gossip he could find. It isn’t impossible that he knew of this Rabelais Club. At any rate his ties to psychology and the occult become more prominent the more one studies.
It seems to me that longing as he did to be part of this literary scene, that if one reads his output to 1920 with these influences in mind, the psychological and occult content of, say, the Mars series, becomes more obvious. He is later than these nineteenth century lights so influences not operating on them appear in his own work making it more modern.
At least through 1917 the unconscious was thought of as a source of creativity rather than the source of evil impulses. If one could access one’s unconscious incalculable treasures could be brought up. Thus gold or treasure is always depicted in Burroughs’ novels as buried. The gold represents his stories, or source of wealth, brought up form his unconscious. The main vaults at Opar are thus figured as a sort of brain rising above ground level. One scales the precipice to enter the brain cavity high up in the forehead or frontal lobe. One then removes the ‘odd shaped ingots’ to cash them in. Below the vaults are two levels leading back to Opar that apparently represent the unconscious. Oddly enough these passageways are configured along the line of Abbot’s scientific romance, Flatland.
In Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar the gold is taken to the Estate and buried replicating the vaults. Once outside Opar and in circulation, so to speak, the ingots are accessible to anyone hence the duel of Zek and Mourak for them. The first gold we hear of in the Tarzan series is brought ashore and buried by the mutineers. This also sounds vaguely like Stevenson’s Treasure Island. The watching Tarzan then digs the gold up and reburies it elsewhere. In The Bandit Of Hell’s Bend the gold is stolen and buried beneath the floorboards of the Chicago Saloon. Thus gold in the entire corpus is always from or in a buried location. These are never natural veins of gold but the refined ingots.
Not only thought of as a source of treasure during this period the unconscious was thought to have incredible powers such as telekinesis, telepathy and telecommunication. One scoffs at these more or less supernatural powers brought down from ‘God’ and installed in the human mind. As they have been discredited scientifically Western man has discarded them.
On the other hand Western Man deludes himself into accepting the oriental Freud’s no less absurd assertion that the unconscious exists independently of the human body somewhat like the Egyptian notion of the ka and is inherently evil while controlling the conscious mind of the individual. This notion is purely a religious concept of Judaism identifying the unconscious as no less than the wrathful, destructive tribal deity of the old testament Yahweh. Further this strange Judaic concept of Freud was allowed to supersede all other visions of the unconscious while preventing further investigation until the writing of C.G. Jung were given some credence beginning in the sixties of the last century.
In point of fact there is no such unconscious. The supernatural powers given to the unconscious by both Europeans and Freud are preposterous on the face of it. For a broader survey of this subject see my Freud And His Vision Of The Unconscious on my blogsite, I, Dynamo.
This so-called unconscious is merely the result of being born with more or less a blank mind that needs to be programmed. The programming being called experience and education. The maturation and learning process are such that there is plenty of room for error. All learning is equivalent to hypnosis, the information being suggestion which is accepted and furthers the development of the individual. Learning the multiplication tables for instance is merely fixing them in your mind or, in other words, memorizing them. All learning is merely suggestion thus it is necessary that it be constructive or education and not indoctrination or conditioning although both are in effect. Inevitably some input will not be beneficial or it may be misunderstood. Thus through negative suggestion, that is bad or terrifying suggestions, fixations will result. A fixation is impressed as an obsession that controls one’s behavior against one’s conscious will, in the Freudian sense. The fixation seems to be placed deep in the mind, hence depth psychology. Thus when ERB was terrified and humiliated by John the Bully certain suggestions occurred to him about himself that became fixations or obsessions. These obsessions directed the content of his work.
To eliminate the fixations is imperative. This is what so-called depth psychology is all about. The subconscious, then, is now ‘seprarated’ from the conscious, in other words the personality or ego is disintegrated. The goal is to integrate the personality and restore control. Once, and if that is done the fixations disappear and the mind become unified, integrated or whole; the negative conception of the unconscious is gone and one is left with a functioning conscious and subconscious. The subconscious in sleep or dreams then reviews all the day’s events to inform the conscious of what it missed and organize it so that it can be acted on. No longer distorted by fixations, or obsessions, the individual can act in his own interests according to his abilities. The sense of living a dream life and a real life disappears.
That’s why experience and education are so important. What goes into the mind is all that can come out.
But, the investigation of the unconscious was blocked by Freudian theory and diverted from its true course to benefit the individual in order to benefit Freud’s special interests.
So, after the War ERB forgot or abandoned the wonderful notions of the unconscious and was forced to deal with and defend himself against Freudian concepts. The charactger of his writing begins to change in the twenties to meet the new challenges of aggressive Judaeo-Communism until by the thirties his work is entirely directed to this defense as I have shown in my reviews of his novels from 1928 to 1934.
Tarzan And The Jewels Of Opar then reflects this wonderful vision of the subconscious as portrayed by George Du Maurier and Robert Louis Stevenson
Then the grimmer reality sets in.
End Of Review.
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.
May 5, 2009
The Novels Of George Du Maurier
Peter Ibbetson, Trilby, The Martian
Review by R.E. Prindle
There’s a somebody I’m longin’ to see
I hope that she turns out to be
Someone who’ll watch over me.
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Review of Trilby
Part III: Review Of The Martian
Part IV: Review of Peter Ibbetson
If Trilby was a premontion of his death, in the Martian Du Maurier puts his intellecual affairs in order for his long journey into the night. In the novel he even advises us that he has convinced himself that there is life after death. On the completion of The Martian Du Maurier died of a heart attack. The novel appeared posthumously.
I have read that Trilby was meant as a neo-Gothic novel as the Gothic was enjoying a revival at the time. If Trilby was neo-Gothic then The Martian is associated with the Spiritualist revival of the moment. Du Maurier even does a mini dissertation on table turning and rapping, two prominent manifestations of Spiritualism.
At the same time a Martian craze was in progress. ERBzine a while back ran a list of early Martian novels so the topic was under discussion. H.G. Wells’ War Of The Worlds was published at about the same time as The Martian so Burroughs in 1911 was in the genre, possibly he had been thinking of a Martian novel for a few years. At least it was the first notion that popped into his head. With Du Maurier then we have an interplanatary spiritualistic love story for love story it is. A spectucular one.
The notion is that a female Martian was expelled from Mars coming to Earth in a meteor shower a hundred years previously. Must have landed at Wold Newton. During that time she had inhabited thousands of bodies in search of the ideal situation. She settled on Barty Josselin’s family who were especially attractive and English. She inhabited Barty from an early age. When inhabited Barty had an unerring ability to tell the North. No matter how many times he was spun around or disoriented he could always point to due North. Later in the novel we learn that because of peculiar magnetic influences stronger on Mars than on Earth Martia the Martian was oriented to the North. Thus when she was inhabiting Barty he could unerringly feel due North, if she left him for a while he lost the ability. For most of the book we have no idea how he could feel North but it is explained at last. Very clever explanation too.
Martia falls in love with Barty, planning his life for him as he is to be a great success. I’m looking for that kind of angel. But that’s in the second half of the novel while Du Maurier has to get us from here to there. In each of the novels he has long preambles covering half the book in which he carefully builds up character. Everything then falls neatly into place.
Now, as I said in the introduction, the novel is ostensibly a biography of Barty as told by his friend Robert Maurice, illustrated by the real life Du Maurier at Maruice’s request and also edited by him. This gives Du Maurier triple distance as a writer allowing him I should think to say things it might have been difficult to say otherwise. Even then the distance is frequently breached and one has the feeling that Du Maurier is actually Barty, Bob and himself. Talk about table turnings and rappings. Burroughs come close to this feel and complexity in The Eternal Lover. In that novel he also gives himself a role as well as his character Tarzan. Quite similar to the Martian.
The spate of novels Burroughs produced from 1911 to the first quarter of 1914 must all have been in his mind in embryo before he wrote A Princess Of Mars hence all his readings from childhood to early manhood are reflected. It was only when he switched from talented amateur to professional writer in mid-1914 that he had to search for his plots and stories thus taking in more current literary sources as well.
Whereas in Trilby Du Maurier concentrated on the decade from 1860 to 1870 plus a year or two in this novel he lovingly recreates his school years in Paris during the 1840s before taking Barty up through the years until his death. As a projection of himself Barty is an idealized Du Maurier who does many things Du Maurier did and didn’t.
Barty is 6’4″ and impossibly handsome and winning neither of which would describe Du Maurier. Barty has a wonderful singing voice but too thin for grand opera although he tries as did Du Maurier. Barty had the perfect voice for intimate occasions in which he was invariably successful. Du Maurier also was fond of the musical occasion and, perhaps, in this current age of electronic amplification both could have been successful recording stars a la Gordon Lightfoot or Jesse Colin Young.
Like Du Maurier Barty, while not a great artist, enjoys some success an an illustrator before becoming a wildly successful author. Mostly he knocks around from hand to mouth living off his looks and manners. Women just love him.
As with Du Maurier Barty develops a detached retina in his left eye leaving him blind in that eye. Much discussion of eyes and doctors. Always entertainingly done. Thus in search of a good doctor Barty is directed to a Dr. Hasenclever in Dusseldorf which finally congeals the story and get it moving toward its end.
Re-enter Martia, or actually enter Martia. She just shows up out of the blue. Here we get real Spiritualistic. Barty had begun to despair about his eyes. He despaired to the point of organizing his suicide which he would have done if Martia hadn’t intervened. She puts Barty to sleep. When he wakes his poison is gone, quite disappeared, and in its place a long letter from Martia explaining the situation in his own hand. Spooky what?
In the letter Martia advises him that he is not to think of suicide as she has big plans for him and he is destined to move mountains. Apparently an oculist of some note she gives him expert medical advice then directing him to Dusseldorf and Dr. Hasenclever. Being rather promiscuous in inhabiting bodies she may have passed a one nighter in Hasenclever. I’m only speculating.
It seems that all of England is having optical problems all converging on Dusseldorf and the fabled Dr. Hasenclever at one time. Thus Barty is brought together with his destined wife, Leah.
Barty and Bob Maurice were both attracted to Leah when she was fourteen. Attractive as a young girl she has developed into the premier beauty of the world. She has rejected all suitors including the narrator, Bob, who lives his life as a bachelor as a result. Leah has had her eye on Barty all along.
At this point it might be best to give Martia’s history. Du Maurier’s account is interesting so at the risk of offending I’ll give a very lengthy quotation of seven pages. As few readers of this review will read The Martian I don’t think it will hurt.
That Barty’s version of his relations with “The Martian” is absolutely sincere is impossible to doubt. He was quite unconscious of the genesis of every book he ever wrote. His first hint of every one of them was the elaborately worked out suggestion he found by his bedside in the morning- written by himself in his sleep during the preceding night, with his eyes wide open, while more often than not his wife anxiously watched him at his unconscious work, careful not to wake or disturb him in any way.
Roughly epitomized Martia’s story was this:
For an immense time she had gone through countless incarnations, from the lowest form to the highest, in the cold and dreary planet we call Mars, the outermost of the four inhabited worlds of our system, where the sun seems no bigger than an orange, and which but for its moist, thin, rich atmosphere and peculiar magnetic conditions that differ from ours, would be too cold above ground for human or animal or vegetable life. As it is, it is only inhabited now in the neighborhood of tis equator’ and even there during its long winter it is colder and more desolate than Cape Horn or Spitzbergen- except that the shallow, fresh-water sea does not freeze except for a few months at either pole.
All these incarnations were forgotten by her but the last; nothing remained of them all but a vague consciusness that they had once been, until their culmination in what would be in Mars the equivalent of a woman on our earth.
Man in Mars is, it appears, a very different being from what he is here. he is amphibious and descends from no monkey, but from a small animal that seems to be something between our seal and our sea-lion.
According to Martia, his beauty is to that of the seal as that of Theseus or Antinous to that of an orang-outang. His five senses are extraordinarily acute, even the sense of touch in his webbed fingers and toes; and in addition to these he possesses a sixth, that comes from his keen and unintermittent sense of the magnetic current, which is far stronger in Mars than on the earth, and far more complicated and more thoroughly understood.
When any object is too delicate and minute to be examined by the sense of touch and sight, the Martian shuts he eyes and puts it against the pit of his stomach, and knows all about it, even its inside.
In the absolute dark, or with his eyes shut, and when he stops his ears, he is more intensely conscious of what immediately surrounds him than at any other time, except that all colour-perception ceases; conscious not only of material objects, but of what is passing in his fellow-Martian’s mind- and this for an area of many hundreds of cubic yards.
In the course of its evolution this extraordinary faculty- which exists on earth in a rudimentary state, but only among some birds and fish and insects and in the lower forms of animal life- has developed the Martian mind in a direction very different from ours, since no inner life apart from the rest, no privacy, no concealment is possible except at a distance involving absolute isolation; not even thought is free; yet in some incomprehensible way there is, as a matter of fact, a really greater freedom of thought than is conceivable among ourselves; absolute liberty in absolute obedience to law; a paradox beyond our comprehension.
Their habits are simple as those we attribute to cave-dwellers during the prehistoric periods of the earth’s existence. But their moral sense is so far in advance of ours that we haven’t even a terminology by which to express it.
In comparison, the highest and best of us are monsters of iniquity and egoism, cruelty and corruption; and our planet is (a very heaven for warmth and brilliancy and beauty, in spite of earthquakes and cyclones and tornadoes) a very hell through the creatures that people it- a shambles, a place of torture, a grotesque and impure pandemonium.
These exemplary Martians wear no clothes but the exquisite fur with which nature has endowed them, and which constitutes a part of their immense beauty, according to Martia.
They feed exclusively on edible moss and roots and submarine seaweed, which they know how to grow and prepare and preserve. Except for heavy-winged bat-like birds, and big fish, which they have domesticated and use for their own purposes in an incredible manner (incarnating a portion of themselves and their consciousness at will in their bodies), they have cleared Mars of all useless and harmful and mutually destructive forms of animal life. A sorry fauna, the Martian- even at its best- and a flora beneath contempt, compared to ours.
They are great engineers and excavators, great irrigators, great workers in delicate metal, stone, marble, and precious gems (there is no wood to speak of), great sculptors and decorators of the beautiful caves, so fancifully and so intricately connected, in which they live, and which have taken thousands of years to design and excavate and ventilate and adorn, and which they warm and light up at will in a beautiful manner by means of the tremendous magnetic current.
This richly party-colored light is part of their mental and moral life in a way it is not in us to apprehend, and has its exact equivalent in sound- and vice versa.
They have no language of words, and do not need it, since they can only be isolated in thought from each other at a distance greater than that which any vocal sound can traverse; but their organs of voice and hearing are far more complex and perfect than ours, and their atmosphere infinitely more conductive of phonal vibrations.
It seems that everything which can be apprehended by the eye or hand is capable of absolute sonorous translation; light, colour, texture, shape in its three dimensions, weight and density. The phonal expression and comprehension of all these are acquired by the Martian baby almost as soon as it knows how to swim or dive, or move upright and erect on dry land or beneath it; and the mechanical translation of such expression, by means of wind and wire and sounding texture and curved surface of extraordinary elaboration, is the principal business of Martian life- an art by which all the combined past experience and future aspirations of the race receive the fullest utterance. Here again personal magnetism plays an enormous part.
And it is by means of this long and patiently evolved and highly trained faculty that the race is still developing towards perfection with constant strain and effort- although the planet is far advanced in its decadence, and within measurable distance of its unfitness for life of any kind.
All is so evenly and harmoniously balanced, whether above ground or beneath, that existence is full of joy in spite of the tremendous strain of life, in spite also of a dreariness of outlook on barren nature, which is not to be matched by the most inhospitable regions of the earth; and death is looked upon as the crowning joy of all, although life is prolonged by all means in their power.
For when the life of the body ceases, and the body itself is burned and its ashes scattered to the winds and waves, the infinitesimal, imponderable and indestructible something we call the soul is known to lose itself in a sunbeam and make for the sun, with all its memories about it, that it may then receive further development, fitting it for other systems altogether beyond conception; and the longer it has lived in Mars the better for its eternal life in the future.
But it often, on its journey sunwards, gets tangled in other beams, and finds its way to some intermediate planet- Mercury, Venus, or the Earth; and putting on flesh and blood and bone once more, and losing for a space all its knowledge of its own past, it has to undergo another mortal incarnation- a new personal experience, beginning with its new birth; a dream and a forgetting, till it awakens again after the pangs of dissolution, and finds itself a step further on the way to freedom.
Martia, it seems, came to our earth in a shower of shooting-stars a hundred years ago. She had not lived her full measure of years on Mars; she had elected to be suppressed, through some unfitness, physical or mental or moral, which rendered it expedient that she should become a mother of Martians, for they are very particular about that sort of thing in Mars; we shall have to be so here some day, or else we shall degenerate and become extinct; or even worse!
Many Martian souls come to our planet in this way, it seems, and hasten to incarnate themselves in as promising unborn but just begotten men and women as they find, that they may the sooner be free to hie them sunwards, with all their collected memories.
According to Martia, most of the best and finest of our race have souls that have lived forgotten lives in Mars. But Martia was in no hurry; she was full of intelligent curiosity, and for ten years she went up and down the earth, revelling in the open air, lodging herself in the brains and bodies of birds, beasts, and fishes, insects, and animals of all kinds- like a hermit crab in a shell that belongs to another- but without the slightest inconvience to the legitimate owners, who were always quite unconscious of her presence, although she made what use she could of what wits they had.
Thus she had a heavenly time on this sunlit earth of ours- now a worm, now a porpoise, now a sea-gull or a dragon-fly, now some fleet footed, keen-eyed quadruped that did not live by slaying, for she had a horror of bloodshed.
She could only go where these creatures chose to take her, since she had no power to control their actions in the slightest degree; but she saw, heard, smelled and touched and tasted with their organs of sense, and was as conscious of their animal life as they were themselves. Her description of this phase of her earthly career is full of extraordinary interest, and sometimes extremely funny- though quite unconsciously so, no doubt. For instance, she tells how happy she once was when she inhabited a small brown Pomeranian dog called “Schanpfel,” in Cologne, and belonging to a Jewish family who dealt in old clothes near the Cathedral; and how she loved and looked up to them- how she revelled in fried fish and the smell of it- and in all the stinks in every street of the famous city- all except one, that arose from Herr Johann Maria Farina’s renowned emporium in the Julichs Platz, which so offended the canine nostrils that she had to give up inhabiting that small Pomeranian dog for ever, &c.
Then she took to man, and inhabited man and woman, and especially child, in all parts of the globe for many years; and finally, for the last fifty or sixty years or so, she settled herself exclusively among the best and healthiest English she could find.
One can find many threads leading to current science fiction ideas as developed through the intervening years. Mental telepathy is a virtual human fixation. Having once given up the notion of God, man turned to the idea of visitations from outer space to replace that religious impulse. Thus Martia from Mars. There were many notions there to enter Burroughs mind and set him thinking.
Du Maurier enters a thought on Eugenics which was dear to his heart. He always has beautiful and intelligent marrying the same so that the genes (although genes were not yet known) would be transmitted to the offspring.
He also has the soul making for the sun with all its memories intact. Memories are very important to Du Maurier who records impressions of sight, sounds and smells as when Martia inhabited the little dog.
Martia wanted Barty to marry a Julia Royce who was the second most beautiful woman in the world after Leah and one of the richest but Barty defied Martia preferring his long time love Leah Gibson who had shown up in Dusselforf with her mother, friends and rest of England.
Martia leaves Barty in a huff. He and Leah return to England Martialess where he leads a determined life as an illustrator along the lines of that of Du Maurier Martia finally takes pity on him returning to be his collaborator and muse as the pair launch a spectacular literary career, I suppose not unlike that of Du Maurier. If Martia has a sister send her my way. I’m paying attention to those meteor showers now.
Martia advises him to keep his pad and pencil bedside so that when she inhabits him he will be able to write. So Barty writes two hours a night, setting up outlines and plans which he elaborates during the day. I would like such a muse to watch over me as I imagine every writer would. Barty’s books astonish the world changing the course of history. His masterwork is called Sardonyx.
Eventually Martia tires of this, wishing to be incarnated and get on with her journey from Mars to the Sun with Barty in tow.
That Du Maurier has his own death in mind and The Martian is a book about death, we have this quote:
He (Barty) has robbed Death of nearly all its terrors; even for the young it is no longer the grisly phantom it once was for ourselves, but rather of an aspect mellow and benign; for to the most skeptical he (and only he) has restored that absolute conviction of an indestructible germ of Immortality within us, born of remembrance made perfect and complete after dissolution; he alone has built the golden bridge in the middle of which science and faith can shake hands over at least one common possibilty- nay, one common certainty for those who have read him aright. (That might possibly be you and me, I think he means.)
There is no longer despair in bereavement- all bereavement is but a half parting; there is no real parting except for those who survive, and the longest earthly life is but a span. Whatever future may be, the past will be ours forever, and that means our punishment and our reward and reunion with those we loved. It is a happy phrase, that which closes the career of Sardonyx. It has become as universal as the Lord’s Prayer!
One guesses that science had destroyed any hope of immortality for the educated person. Of all human desires the hope of immortality is the strongest hence the fear of losing it is the strongest fear. Thus Barty (and Martia) came up with a scientifically tenable hope of escaping death that satisfied the religious need. It’s a pity that Du Maurier didn’t quote Barty in extenso so that we might learn what the solution was.
Having solved that problem from there we go to Martia’s announcement to Barty that she is going to be his next child. Martia is born to die an early death as she is anxious to complete the journey to the center of the sun. Given the content of Peter Ibbetson and Trilby one begins to question Du Maurier’s own sanity. These books are really convincingly written; one wonders how wobbly the guy really was. Either he was a master writer or he really half believed this stuff.
Martia writes a letter to Barty explaining her intentions to be reincarnated. This is all actually written by Barty in his own handwriting which his wife and intimates, like Bob Maurice, his biographer, know. they have doubts about Barty’s sanity but when a guy is churning out books after book changing the world for the better what is one to say?
“MY BELOVED BARTY,- The time has come at last when I must bid you farewell.
“I have outstayed my proper welcome on earth, as a disembodied conscience by just a hundred years, and my desire for reincarnatin has become an imperious passion not to be resisted.
“It is more than a desire- it is a duty as well, a duty far too long deferred.
“Barty, I am going to be your next child. I can conceive no greater earthly felicity than to be a child of yours and Leah’s. I should have been one long before, but that you and I have had so much to do together for this beautiful earth- a great debt to pay; you, for being as you are; I , for having known you.
“Barty, you have no conception what you are to me, and always have been.
“I am to you but a name, a vague idea, a mysterious inspiration; sometimes a questionable guide, I fear. You don’t even believe all I have told you about myself- you think it all a somnambulistic invention of your own; and so does your wife, and so does your friend.
“Oh that I could connect myself in your mind with the shape I wore when I was last a living thing! No shape on earth, not either yours or Leah’s or that of any child yet born to you both, is more beautiful to the eye that has learned how to see than the fashion of the lost face and body of mine.
I don’t know what any readers I may have think of these quotes but these three novels are either the work of a genius or a nut cake. I read with one eyebrow raised in a state of astonishment. Du Maurier is daring. Perhaps it is just as well he died as he finished this, what wonders what he would come up with next.
Martia is born a girl. She is named Marty. Singularly delicate as a spindle. As a young girl Martia falls from a tree injuring her spine. The result is physical degeneration. Within a few years she is dead. As she died Barty died with her.
This poses an interesting reflection. Father and daughter are united in death then married in the after life. I suppose there is many a father and daughter so close that they would like to marry but society and time prevent such unions. Indeed, such marriages could but go sour amid the stresses of life. Nevertheless in a shocking development Barty has not only solved the problem of immoratality but marriage between daughters and fathers. Threw me for a loop when I realized what had happened.
One supposes the pair reached the sun turning into sunbeams that have lighted the Earth continuing on toward Betelguese.
The closing line is: Barty Josselin is no more.
Prophetic of George Du Maurier’s own death shortly.
Thus Du Maurier closed out a singularly influential life. It was perhaps just as well that he died when he did. He was only sixty-two but in another ten or fifteen years the world he knew, loved and reprsented would swept away forever. He would have had no place in the new order. As with all of us the past retains a hold while the swift moving earth slips from beneath our feet.
It is amusing to think Du Maurier was reincarnated in the career of Edgar Rice Burroughs who penned his own A Princess Of Mars in 1911. One can’t say for sure Martia and Dejah Thoris are related but I rather think that Du Maurier’s The Martian is a literary antecendent that formed part of ERB’s vision of Mars.
Like Du Maurier he was able to incorporate a multitude of literary worlds within his own.
April 29, 2009
George Du Maurier
Review by R.E. Prindle
Du Maurier is interesting as a possible influence on Burroughs. Du Maurier not only borrows from authors he admires but tells the reader he’s borrowing. Burroughs borrows without creditation. The great literature of the nineteenth century was written during Du Maurier’s lifetime. Thus Alexandre Dumas’ Three Musketeers of 1845 was a new book. It was also a book that overwhelmed Du Maurier’s imagination while having a later profound effect on Burroughs. Thus Du Maurier tells the reader his plot is based on The Three Musketeers. Like Burroughs Du Maurier incorporates several sources in an obvious manner. He was apparently fascinated by Henry Murger’s Scenes De La Vie Boheme of 1851. I haven’t read the book as yet but other reviewers say the influence is there. I pick up an influence from La Dame Aux Camellias by Dumas fils also. Du Maurier refers to many poets and writers whose writing left him helpless but as I am not that well grounded in many aspects of early nineteenth century literature I can’t identify the influences myself but they are as plentiful and obvious as with Burroughs himself.
In his own life Du Maurier had aspirations to be an opera singer but lacked the powerful voice. He then aspired to be an artist but lacked that talent becoming one of the premier illustrators of the century instead. And then as he felt death approaching he turned to writing. Thus a failure as a singer, a failure as an artist but success as an illustrator he became a huge success as a novelist. The careers of his protagonists generally follow the same course.
He is also a nostalgic writer as he lovingly recreates the scenes of his youth and life. He always retained the impress of La Boheme living his life in a genteel bohemian style. I suppose today he would be like an old hippy walking around in a gray pony tail, sandals and the garb of the sixties while making a fortune as a stock broker.
Thus Trilby opens in an artist’s atelier on the Left Bank of Paris in the Latin Quarter. The Latin Quarter of his time may be compared to New York’s Greenwich Village or San Francisco’s North Beach of the fifties and sixties. Du Maurier himself lived such an existence for a couple years at the end of the eighteen fifties.
We are thus introduced to his three musketeers- Taffy, the Laird and Little Billee. They are fine comrades living the Bohemian life style much as some upper middle class hippies took to a bohemian life style with torn jeans and the pose of the impoverished in the nineteen-sixties.
The whole ensemble is gathered thogether in the atelier for the opening section. Taffy, The Laird and Billy are letting the studio. As Du Maurier says on the title page this is a love story. Trilby O’ Farrell the love interest turns up immediately. She and Billy love each other but Trilby is classed as a grisette which was apparently the equivalent of a hippy chick who was somewhat free living. Trilby declassed herself completely by posing as an artist’s model in the altogether or, in another word, nude. This was no small thing to all concerned although the bohos tended to be a little tolerant.
After Trilby arrives come Svengali and his sidekick Gecko. They are musicians. Svengali is billed as an incomparable musician which is to say performer. He was a great pianist. He taught Gecko his violinist everything he knew.
We are discussing the nineteenth century and nineteenth century views in context. The story can’t be told any other way. If the attitudes and opinions of other times and other people offend y0u be forewarned and proceed at you own risk. I will bowlderize history to suit no one’s whims. As Walter Duranty facetiously said: I write as I please. Du Maurier, the gentlest of men, nevertheless had well formed opinions. Svengali is a Jew and pretty much a stereotype of the Jew at the time. He appears to be a beteljew from the Pale actually although he is said to be German but the accent Du Maurier gives him could just as well be Yiddish as German. It is important to bear all this in mind because in the contest for the possession of Trilby between Billy and Svengali the latter is going to obtain her.
There’s an interesting contrast here the meaning of which isn’t exactly clear to me. Trilby has a beautiful foot, the kind that drives fetichists wild. After this first encounter Billy, the consummate artist, sketches the foot on the wall to perfection. All the others are amazed at the likeness. This sketch occupies as central place in the story as does Svengali’s hypnotism of Trilby. Svengali on the other hand demands that Trilby open her mouth wide so he can look in. Raises your eyebrows when you read this. Not only does Trilby have a beautiful foot but she has a cavernous mouth that made for an amazing sound chamber, the kind that comes along apparently once in ever.
The problem is that Trilby can’t put two notes together nor can she even find the note while finding the key is bothersome. Much is made of her inability to sing as she screeches ludicrously through Sweet Alice, Ben Bolt. (Ben Bolt was one of the most popular songs of the century on both sides of the Atlantic. Due to the wonders of the internet if you’ve never heard Ben Bolt you can get a good performance on the net. I’d heard of the song but never heard it until I checked it out on the net. Just amazing.)
Her rendition was a cause of great merriment. So you have the European sketching the foundation of the girl while the Jew is inspecting the intellectual possibilities. The Jew will win because he’s at the right end. As I say the mystery of these images float over my head. I’m merely making a stab at the meaning. I know there’s a contest and what it’s about but the symbolism is shaky to me.
And so the introduction ends with everyone agreeing that Svengali is a cad after he left and all three musketeers falling in love with Trilby.
There is much description of the fine times the musketeers have. One gets the impression that Du Maurier was living the life in the sixties in Paris but such was not the case. He signed on at Punch in 1860 and thus was working as an illustrtor for them from that date until his death. He seems to have been familiar with the Pre-Raphaelite painters of London of whom he speaks highly most especially of Millais. He seems to have been friends with a Fred Walker who he thought was a great artist but who seems to have been lost in the mists of time. I’d never heard of him anyway but one can find his pictures on the internet. Du Maurier loved the artist’s life.
Much of this book as well as the other is a loving recreation of the times and his memory of the times is one of wonderful things. Very refreshing against the unremitting negativity of modern literature. The book is set mainly in the sixties but the ‘horrible’ year of 1871 and the French Commune obtrudes. Du Maurier while recognizing its ugliness nevertheless passes over it quickly with a shrug and back to the good times. He introduces some additional charming characters but then come the crisis.
Billy had asked the declassed Trilby to marry him nineteen times and she had always refused because she knew she wasn’t in his class. After an amazingly wonderful Christmas feast in the atelier Billy asks again. Trilby, as she says, in a moment of weakness accepts. When the news reaches Billy’s mother, Mrs. Bagot, she scurries over to Paris from London to check Trilby out. When she learns that Trilby had posed in the altogether she persuades Trilby to give up her son.
Trilby leaves town without a goodbye. When Billy finds out he has his brain fever or a nervous breakdown that prostrates him for weeks. There was a chance he wouldn’t make it. He does but with psychological consequences. He can no longer love while he lives in a deep melancholia. There are some who know where that’s at. After he recovers he returns to England. the wonderful Bohemian rhapsody is over.
Trilby had left Paris to go to the provinces. She had a little brother who she was supporting and bringing up who she took with her and who then dies of a fever. This devastates Trilby who cuts her hair, dresses as a man and walks back to Paris. Her old haunts have disappeared in the interim so she shows up on the doorstep of Svengali who is but too happy to take her in. The hypnotized Trilby is a small part of the book. The next hundred pages or so describe Billy’s wonderful success as a painter and the loss of camaraderie as the young idealists of the Latin Quarter age and lose their affinity for each other. Charmingly told with just the right touch of heartache.
In the meantime and off stage, as it were, Svengali accompanied by Gecko keeps Trilby in a hypnotic trance as he
teaches her to use her tremendous oral cavity to sing. While she has the exact equipment to be a great singer she lacks the musical sense and can’t learn it sober. Svengali instills the musical sense through hypnosis but as Gecko later explains Trilby is merely providing the instrument while Svengali is actually singing through her. For three years they labor in the salt mines, as they say, performing on street corners or wherever. Then Trilby is properly trained becoming the rage of Europe as La Svengali becoming bigger and better than such stars as Adelina Patti or Jenny Lind, two real life divas.
Thus while Billy has lost Trilby’s foot or body, Svengali has captured her soul or oral cavity. That’s about the only way I can make sense of foot and cavity.
Now, in real terms the Jews had been emancipated beginning in 1789 by the French Revolution although occuring at different localities in Europe at different times. With the emanicipation a contest began for the soil and soul of Europe. Europeans owned the soil but the Jews while originating nothing became the cultural virtuosi of Europe. Not only in the performing arts but in finance, science and as entrepreneurs. The soil temporarily remained European but the culture was becoming Judaized. It was then that Freud made his assault on European concepts of morality. So Du Maurier has portrayed the situation poetically in a magnificent manner.
Thus the Jews while offering no Beethovens, Bachs or Mozarts became virtuoso interpreters of the music as performers. As Svengali says: Piff, what is the composition compared to my ability to render it. There you have the exploiter’s motto. The Allen Kleins and Albert Grossmans of the world suck the talent, as it were, out of their performers or, boys, as they call them, as agents taking nearly everything leaving the actual talent a pittance.
Nothing changes, this is what Svengali was doing with Trilby or, in another word, Europe. He was making a fortune while Trilby in her hypnotized state was wasting away. Oh, Svengali dressed her well but for the sake of his appearance not hers. When she died, of the fortune that she had made for Svengali none was left to her. Except for presents she had received in appreaciation of her singing she had nothing. They were supposed to be man and wife but, in fact, Svengali never married her. Here I think we have the real import of the story; the competition for Europe between the Jew and the European. Having given up the soul of Europe Europeans were losing their very substanc, the soil, or Trilby’s foot.
Du Maurier is also describing the rise of the artist from a despised menial to the central position in society that they have attained today, especially movie, TV and musical stars. One only has to look at the position Bob Dylan has attained to see the result today. Here is a man with no qualities revered as if he was the savior while poised to begin a tour of stadiums at 67.50 a head that will sell out earning him a fortune within a couple months. Thus as with Svengali he has conquered the soul and wealth of virtually the world. This is truly astonishing.
So Svengali is on top of the world. Despised as a beteljew in the atelier a short five years ago he now has Trilby/Europe and the fortune that goes with her. Alas, he is sucking the life’s blood from her to do this and she is within weeks of death when the Three Musketeers hearing of La Svengali’s fame travel back to Paris to see her perform.
Of course they are so astonished at seeing someone who looks like Trilby singing that they can’t believe it is indeed her. Svengali harbors ill will toward Billy because Billy is always in her heart while her relationship with Svengali is strictly professional.
The Musketeers and the Svengalis are staying at the same hotel where Svengali meeting Billy can’t resist spitting in his face. Billy, who is actually known in the story as Little Billee is much smaller than the six foot Svengali but he nevertheless goes after him getting the worst of the fight until Taffy, a giant body builder type, shows up grabbing Svengali’s ‘huge Hebrew nose’ between his first two fingers leading him around by the nose. Oh, those unintended consequences. The humiliation is too much for Svengali, he becomes vicious toward Trilby in revenge. Readying for their London debut he bullies Trilby in front of Gecko, now his first violinist, who stabs Svengali in the neck with a small knife.
Svengali while wounded is not hurt that bad but his physicians advise him not to conduct the opening performance. This creates a problem because Svengali must make eye contact to sing through Trilby.
He takes a box directly in front of Trilby. But he spots Billy and the other two musketeers in the pit in front of him. The malice and venom he has toward Billy makes his heart fail. His face freezes into a risus sardonicus as he sits lifelessly leering at the Three Musketeers, triumphant in death. Of course Trilby can’t sing a note on her own so that ends a fine career. Now begins the denouement. While seemingly superfluous this is a very important part of the story giving it its secondary meaning.
The Musketeers take Trilby in charge. No one is aware she had been hypnotized while she has no memory of performing and little of the lost five years. The situation between she and Mrs. Bagot, Billy’s mother, are now reversed. Trilby is the great lady while Mrs. Bagot is merely a middle class hausfrau. One might say Svengali has created the real Trilby. Mrs. Bagot still hadn’t posed in the altogether however. Where was Hugh Heffner when you needed him.
On the surface it looks as though Mrs. Bagot has gotten her comeuppance but as Trilby is the creation of Svengali she would have remained the simple little grisette that Billy loved without him. She would have remained the foot without realizing the potential of her oral cavity. Nevertheless this Trilby was Trilby as she should have been.
The woman was fading fast. Svengali had drawn the vital energy from her in his exploitation of her. Mysteriously, just before she dies, a life sized portrait of Svengali is delivered. The contest between he and Billy is still in effect. Gazing in the painted eyes of the hypnotist Trilby breaks into song as a final effort in her best manner.
Billy is grasping desperately for Trilby’s love. On her death bed he leans close to hear her breath out- Svengali, Svengali, Svengali. Thus he believes she loved Svengali more than he. His brain fever is reactivated, he dies. In grand operatic style the love story ends. All because Mrs. Bagot was a snob. But, I think a correct one. Although, what the heck, Billy was just a boho painter.
As an anti-climax in a final chapter titled Twenty Year After as tribute to Dumas whose sequel to The Three Musketeers was title Twenty Years After, Taffy takes a trip to Paris where he finds Gecko playing fiddle in a music hall. He sends a note that Gecko accepts requesting a meeting at his hotel. There Gecko resolves the mystery filling Taffy in on Trilby’s missing five years. He reveals that Trilby had always loved Little Billee and never Svengali.
The reading public then and now has concentrated on the Svengali-Trilby hypnotism aspect of the novel ignoring the rest. That aspect is actually a very small part of the novel but without it I suppose the story woud have fallen flat. Even today a manager like Colonel Tom Parker is thought of as a Svengali to Elvis Presley, so the name has come into common usage for someone’s inexplicable control of someone else.
Edgar Rice Burroughs who had a fascination with hypnotism was probably charmed by that aspect of the story. In his most detailed reference to hypnotism in Thuvia, Maid Of Mars he seems most influenced by stage hypnotism in which the audience is induced to see what is not there rather than the Svengali type. Still, Thuvia-Trilby and the relationship between Jav and Thuvia and Thuvia and Tario has some resonances. I dout that ERB would have been conscious of his borrowing imagining rather that he was creating the story from whole cloth.
End of Part Two, Go to Part Three the Review of The Martian.
April 27, 2009
The Novels Of George Du Maurier
Peter Ibbetson, Trilby, The Martian
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Review of Trilby
Part III: Review of The Martian
Part: IV: Review of Peter Ibbetson
Occasionally a book finds it way to your hand that seems as if the author had you in mind personally when he wrote it. This one’s for you, Ron. It is as though his mind is communicating directly with yours over perhaps centuries. A couple two or three decades ago one such work that came to my hand was The Secret Memoirs Of The Duc De Roquelaure. I never would have bought it myself, never even suspected its existence, but it came in a bundle of books I bid on at auction containing another book I wanted.
I had the four volumes of the Duc’s life so I read them. The memoirs were ‘Written by himself now for the first time completely translated into English in four volumes.’ Thus in 1896-97 an intermediary on the same wave length as the Duc and myself provided the means for me to read the Duc’s mind. Believe it or not the edition was limited to 1000 copies, privately printed of which 500 were for England and 500 for America. Mine is number 424 of the English set.
There could have been few who had ever read the Duc and I may very well be the only man alive at the present to have shared the Duc’s thoughts. Truly I believed he was speaking directly to me over the 400 intervening years.
I had the same feeling when I read George Du Maurier’s three volumes published from 1891 to 1897. Curious that the Duc de Roquelaure should have been translated in 1896-97 isn’t it? Like the Duc George Du Maurier seemed to speak out to me over more than a hundred years to communicate directly with my mind.
I probably never would have sought out his books except for my Edgar Rice Burroughs studies. I wanted to check out whether there may have been a connection to Burroughs through the second of the novels- Trilby. Then browsing the store I came across a Modern Library 1929 edition of the first of Du Maurier’s efforts- Peter Ibbetson. At that point, I thought, I might as well get the third- The Martian- which I did. This time over the internet.
I have now read each title three times as is my habit if I’m going to review a book. Before moving on to the novels it might be appropriate to say a few words about Du Maurier who may be an unfamiliar name to the reader although he or she may be familiar with the name of his very famous creation, the hypnotist and musician Svengali of the Trilby novel.
Du Maurier was born in 1834 and died in 1896 so he was ideally situated to view the whole Victorian era. Indeed, in his own way he was a symbol of it. As a most famous illustrator of books and an artist satirizing the era for the humorous magazine Punch, he in many ways interpreted English society for itself for nearly fifty years.
He died of heart disease so when he turned to writing to begin what is his virtual literary epitaph in 1891 it may have been with the premonition of his imminent death. He sensed that it was time for a summing up of the life he loved so well. Heart ailments figure prominently in his work. Indeed he died of a heart attack just after finishing The Martian which began publication shortly after his death. Thus while portraying the scenes of his life in Punch and other magazines and books he summarized his life and times magnificently in his three novels.
They are magnificent works. As every man should Du Maurier loved his life and it was a life worth living. The novels are wonderful examinations of exotic altered states of consciousness. In Peter Ibbetson the protagonist is insane, committed to Colney Hatch or some such. At night in his dreams he finds a way to link his dream with the dream of a married woman on the outside. She and his dreams meld into one dream in which they live actual alternate dream lives that are as real as their daytime existences. This went on for a couple decades or more until the lady died. Very eerie.
In Trilby in a love contest between the protagonist Billy and the musician Svengali for the hand of Trilby Billy is denied his love for societal reasons while after a sequence of events Trilby falls into the clutches of Svengali who through hypnotism turns her into a Diva. After his denial Billy becomes temporarily deranged falling into a deep depression which then turns into an equally severe melancholia when he emerges from the mania. So once again we have a description of two altered states of consciousness.
In the third and last novel the protagonist is possessed by an alien intelligence named Martia from Mars. Over the last century she has inhabited thousands of people but only with the hero, Barty Josselin, has she been able to establish contact. In an absolutely astonishing twist she occupies the body of Barty’s daughter. Both Barty and the daughter die enabling Martia to unite pshysically, in the spirit world, with her love. Thus the father and daughter are united which I suppose is the dream of many a father and daughter. The effect on the reader, this one anyway, is ethereal and eerie.
Du Maurier injects real life figures into his fiction. The real personalities of the day lend credibility to the fiction. Du Maurier involves himself in the stories in ingenious ways. While one can’t definitely say that Burroughs learned to inject himself into his stories from Du Maurier yet the framing devices in which Burroughs plays himself are very reminiscent of Du Maurier.
For instance in the Martian the story is a biography of Barty Josselin told by his friend Robert Maurice who then asks George Du Maurier the famous Punch illustrator to illustrate and edit his book. So the biography is ostensibly told in the first person by the fictional Robert Maurice while it is illustrated by the real life George Du Maurier who posing as the editor is actually writing the book. Du Maurier even inserts a long letter of acceptance in which he recapitulates his memories of Barty.
When one realized this the effect is almost supernatural, especially as with a little background on Du Maurier one realizes that the histories of the protagonists are virtually fictionalized histories of Du Maurier himself.
Thus while I haven’t discovered a direct connection to Du Maurier ERB is always telling a fictionalized account of his mental states along with a virtual chronicle of his life. A few points in ERB’s The Eternal Lover bear a very close resemblance to the love themes of Du Maurier especially in Peter Ibbetson and The Martian.
The Martian itself may have been a major influence on Burroughs’ own Martian novels. When John Carter, who was always attracted to Mars,stands naked on a cliff face in Arizona with his arms outstretched toward the Warrior Planet the scene is very reminiscent of Barty Josselin leaning with out stretched arms from his window staring at Mars and imploring Martia for her assistance.
Carter is magically transported to Mars in some unexplained way that may have been no more than an altered state of consciousness much as in the same way Martia inhabited Barty’s mind and body. Once on Mars Carter finds his lady love, Dejah Thoris, in a manner reminiscent of Barty and Martia. Obviously other literary influences abound in ERB’s Martian series but at the core very probably is Du Maurier’s story of Martia and Barty. By 1911 the influence was coming from ERB’s subconscious and he may not have been aware of the resource he was drawing on.
The question is when did Burroughs read, as I believe he did, the three Du Maurier novels? As ERB’s first novel, A Princess Of Mars, had to be built on the Martian it follows that ERB read Du Maurier before 1911. Du Maurier wrote from 1891 to 1896. His novels were serialized in Harper’s Magazine in the US either before or at publication so Burroughs had the opportunity to read them in magazine format as well as the books.
Of the three novels, Trilby was an absolute smash being one of the biggest sellers of the nineteenth century. The sensational story of Trilby and Svengali that everyone concentrated on would certainly have brought Du Maurier to ERB’s attention.
At the time his own life was in turmoil. At the time Trilby was published ERB was in the process of leaving the Michigan Military Academy at which he was employed for what he thought was a career in the Army. Once at his assignment, Fort Grant in Arizona, he would likely have had the odd idle moment to either read the magazine installments or the book.
As Carter’s transfer to Mars takes place in Arizona there is an association with ERB’s army days and Du Maurier’s The Martian. Not proof positive, of course, but not impossible or improbable either. He must then have read the last volume in Idaho when he owned his stationery store there in 1898 and could obtain any book or magazine he wanted, either English or American.
So these wonderful other worldly stories of Du Maurier gestated in his mind for twelve or thirteen years before emerging from his forehead beginning in 1911.
I will now review the novels in detail. These are spectacular, wonderful stories. First the middle volume- Trilby- then the last of Du Maurier’s works- The Martian- followed by the first, Peter Ibbetson.
The review of Trilby is Part II, call that up.
March 14, 2009
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
Thuvia, Maid Of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Review by R.E. Prindle
This very interesting sdtory was written shortly after ERB returned to Chicago from his first San Diego excursion. It was placed between the Girl From Fariss’s, the last story written in San Diego and The Cave Man.
The material deals almost exclusively with suggestion and hypnosis. Although hypnosis is a recurring theme in Burroughs one is startled by his concentration on the subject and his seemingly informed ideas of it, especially the role of suggestion.
One wonders why his interest surfaced at this time and where ERB learned or developed this information. He was just back from San Diego and I’m going to suggest he picked it up from his hero, L. Frank Baum. As Baum was such a significant influence on Edgar Rice Burroughs perhaps it may be worthwhile to attempt an assessment on Baum’s role in literature and history. There can be no question but that the OZ series of Baum took a central place in the American psyche and a place in the European psyche. Baum’s books have been in demand since 1900 when he began writing them to the present. Baum put Kansas on the map. The Wizard, Dorothy and Toto are household names. Baum’s play from the Wizard was a box office success while MGM’s movie is certainly in the top ten of influential movies, perhaps even in a tie for first with Gone With The Wind. Even American Negroes made their own Black version called The Wiz. The list goes on.
I’m going to suggest that Fritz Lang, the movie Director, was highly influenced by Baum as reflected in his important film, The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lang was also very familiar with Burroughs.
Baum himself was a committed Theosophist. Introduced to the religion by his mother-in-law Baum picked up his card in 1893. By 1913 when he met Burroughs he had been a practicing member for twenty years. When he left Chicago he first went to Coronado across the Bay from San Diego. Katherine Tingley had established her Theosophical organization on Point Loma near that city. Baum must have been an important member of that congregation. Perhaps he had a falling out with Tingley but he did remove himself to Hollywood in 1910. In Hollywood he undoubtedly connected with the Pasadena Theosophical Society that at present is the mother organization.
As a Theosophist Baum would have had to have been familiar with the works of Madame Helena Blavatsky. Her great works are Isis Unveiled and The Secrect Doctrine. Theosophy of course is on a par with the Semitic religions of Judaism and Christianity. While Madame B is often referred to as nonsense she is in fact very learned in the ancient religious doctrines of the human mind that went to form all Middle Eastern religious expressions. Hence while Madame B’s works are metaphysical in nature they are no less relevant to the development of the human intellect than say, St. Augustine or others of the metaphysical ilk.
Madame B had some strong opinions on hypnotism. Hypnotism had come to the fore of Euroamerican consciousness in the years preceding the French Revolution through the efforts of Dr. Franz Mesmer. Though discredited as as a charlatan he was dealing with the real thing as subsequent history shows. He originally called hypnotism Animal Magnetism. That was changed to Mesmerism and then to Hypnotism. As far as possible influences on Burroughs it will be remembered that Edgar Allan Poe wrote Mesmeric Revelation in 1844 and The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar in 1845. There are clear indications that ERB was familiar with the Valdemar story.
Now, the essence of hypnotism is the suggestion. Suggestion is perhaps the most important intellectual or psychological phenomenon. Suggestion isperhaps the basis of intellect, intelligence and psychology. C.G. Jung in his investigations of symbols was dealing with the nature of universal suggestion from nature. Freud early learned to separate suggestion from the hypnotic trance. Artfully used suggestion obviates the need for trancelike states. Thus people don’t understand that and how they are hypnotized by movies and TV.
The art of successful literature is merely to suggest scenes and situations and have the reader visualize them in his own mind. Once accepted the suggestion becomes part of the intellect of the reader. He may be able to reject it later but that is a separate volitional act. The great writers realize this. Freud understood perfectly, while Baum developed the art of the concrete image to a remarkable degree. His works are a series of remarkable images. If Freud had had Baum’s skill, and he wasn’t far short, he would have been even more effective than he has been.
The prescient Fritz Lang picked up on Freud, Baum and hypnotism in his remarkable Dr. Mabuse series of movies. The first story, Dr. Mabuse The Gambler of 1922, concerns a Freudlike megalomaniac named Dr. Mabuse. Freud’s activities during the Great War and after would be known to the cognoscenti. It would be foolish to think that Adolf Hitler and other Volkish leaders wouldn’t have been aware of what Freud was up to. Mabuse is into all kinds of criminal activities to undermine society and the State, as was Freud. He is also a master hypnotist as was Freud. In a scene reminiscent of the scene in Thuvia where Jav says ‘You want to see them? Then, look.’ The scene of ancient bustling Lothar then appears to Carthoris and Thuvia’s wondering hypnotized eyes. As well as mine, certainly. I had no trouble seeing what Burroughs wanted me to see. So Dr. Mabuse in his role of stage hypnotizer, the man wore many hats, makes a parade appear before the wondering eyes of his audience. It can be done. I saw a man make Diamond Head disappear before the whole world on TV. Pretty amazing.
At the end of the movie Mabuse is captured and conveniently tucked away in an insane asylum. He goes catatonic until 1930 or so when Lang made the sequel The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse. The Dr. emerging from his catatonic state makes signs that he wants pen and paper which the head of the asylum, one Dr. Baum, provides.
Mabuse then turns out page after endless page of instructions to destroy civilization not unlike what Herr Dr. Freud was doing from his study in Vienna. The writing had an hypnotic effect on Dr. Baum who executes the plans of the cell bound Dr. Mabuse.
The use of the name Baum could be a coincidence but Dr. Baum like the Wizard Of Oz is an unseen superior. He issues orders but is otherwise an unknown to those he directs. In issuing his orders we are led to believe that he sits behind a curtain unseen while giving his directions. Then, just as Dorothy did, the hero dares to pull back the curtain and he finds…a phonograph player. Unlike Dorothy who finds a tubby timid little imposter, there is no one there. Surely this is a parody of Dorothy’s famous scene which makes the name Dr. Baum less of a coincidence.
So it would seem that L. Frank Baum’s influence extended to Germany and an originator of film noir. Not so unlike as Baum’s stories are much darker than they might appear at first reading. At any rate his literary images make long remembered illusions of reality not unlike that of Dr. Baum while being of a suggestive hypnotic nature. I can still visualize Dorothy pulling the curtain back exposing the mild mannered Big Brother sixty years after. I can remember the image I formed.
So, my suggestion is that L. Frank Baum was the direct inspiration for Thuvia of Mars. As noted ERB was probably familiar with Poe’s stories of hypnotism while I am certain that he had read George Du Maurier’s Trilby concerning the hypnotist Svengali and probably also Du Maurier’s other two novels, Peter Ibbetson, and The Martian both related to unusual psychological states. Len Carter believes that ERB read William Morris who also uses some hypnotic themes in his fantasy novels. Lew Sweetser, ERB’s mentor in Idaho via Yale, might also have given him some information on hypnotism while ERB was still a boy. Plus I’m sure hypnotism was a hot topic of popular discussions.
ERB’s emphasis on suggestion as the operative means of hypnotism points to some more direct instruction. Most think that ERB first met Baum in 1916 which means the two formed a fast friendship immediately. I think it more likely that they met in 1913 renewing the acquanitance in 1916. Whether Baum had read any of Burroughs’ stories in 1913 which seems would be paying pretty close atention to literary trends in pulp magazines he may have heard of Tarzan. Probably aware of this ERB may have brought along a magazine or two to show Baum. If Baum then read the proffered stories he certainly would have seen his influence in the Mars stories if ERB didn’t actually point them out to him hoping for the Zeusian nod of approval from the master.
Probably flattered Baum would have encouraed the relationship. Assuming that to be true the two men having similar interests would certainly engage in conversations on Theosophy, hypnotism, writing techniques and whatever.
Certainly Burroughs writing style which while always colorful was a little heavy on the narrative side seems to open up to a more allusive suggestive style blossoming significantly in 1915′s Tarzan And The Jewels of Opar.
I can’t find a more immediate source for ERB’s sudden interest in hypnotism. But, on to the story.