A Contribution To The
Erbzine Library Project.
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Science And Spiritualism
Camille Flammarion, Scientist and Spiritualist
The last story in Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles is about the expulsion from Earth of the various supernatural or imaginary beings such as fairies, elves, the elementals, all those beings external to ourselves but projections of our minds on Nature, to Mars as a last resort and how they were all dieing as Mars became scientifically accessible leaving no place for them to exist.
On Earth the rejection of such supernatural beings began with the Enlightenment. When the smoke and fury of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic years settled and cleared it was a new world with a completely different understanding of the nature of the world. Science, that is, knowing, had displaced belief as a Weltanschauung.
The old does not give way so easily to the new. Even while knowing that fairies did not exist the short lived reaction of the Romantic Period with its wonderful stories and fictions followed the Napoleonic period.
Supernatural phenomena displaced from the very air we breathed reformed in the minds of Men as the ability of certain people called Mediums to communicate with spirits although the spirits were no longer called supernatural but paranormal. Thus the fairies morphed into dead ancestors, dead famous men, communicants from beyond the grave. Men and women merely combined science with fantasy. Science fiction, you see.
Spiritualism was made feasible by the rediscovery of hypnotism by Anton Mesmer in the years preceding the French Revolution. The first modern glimmerings of the sub- or unconscius began to take form. The unconscious was the arena of paranormal activity.
Hypnotism soon lost scientific credibility during the mid-century being abandoned to stage performers who then became the first real investigators of the unconscious as they practiced their art.
While the antecedents of spiritualism go back much further the pehnomena associated with it began to make their appearance in the 1840s. Because the unconscious was so little understood spiritualism was actually thought of as scientific. The investigators of the unconscious gave it incredible powers and attributes, what I would call supernatural but which became known as paranormal. Communicating with spirits, teleportation, telecommunications, all the stuff that later became the staples of science fiction.
Thus in 1882, Jean-Martin Charcot, a doctor working in the Salpetriere in Paris made hypnotism once again a legitimate academic study.
The question here is how much innovation could the nineteenth century take without losing its center or balance. Yeats’ poem The Second Coming presents the situation well. Freud, who was present at this particular creation, was to say that three discoveries shattered the confidence of Man; the first was the Galilean discovery that the Earth was not the center of the universe, the second revelation was Darwin’s announcement that Man was not unique in creation and the last was the discovery of the unconscious. Of these three the last two happened simultaneiously amidst a welter of scientific discoveries and technological applications that completely changed Man’s relationship to the world. One imagines that these were the reasons for the astonishing literary creativity as Victorians grappled to deal with these new realities. There was a sea change in literary expression.
Key to understanding these intellectual developments is the need of Man for immortality. With God in his heaven but disconnected from the world supernatural explanations were no longer plausible. The longing for immortality remained so FWH Myers a founder of the Society For Psychical Research changed the word supernatural into paranormal. As the notion of the unconscious was now wedded to science and given, in effect, supernatural powers under the guise of the paranormal it was thought, or hoped, that by tapping these supernormal powers one could make contact with the departed hence spiritism or Spiritualism.
While from our present vantage point after a hundred or more years of acclimatizing ourselves to an understanding of science, the unconscious and a rejection of the supernatural, the combination of science and spiritualism seems ridiculous. Such was not the case at the time. Serious scientists embraced the notion that spirtualism was scientific.
Now, a debate in Burroughs’ studies is whether and/or how much Burroughs was influenced by the esoteric. In my opinion and I believe that of Bibliophile David Adams, a great deal. David has done wonderful work in esbatlishing the connection between the esotericism of L. Frank Baum and his Oz series of books and Burroughs while Dale Broadhurst has added much.
Beginning in the sixties of the nineteenth century a French writer who was to have a great influence on ERB, Camille Flammarion, began writing his scientific romances and astronomy books. Not only did Flammarion form ERB’s ideas of the nature of Mars but this French writer was imbued with the notions of spiritualism that informed his science and astronomy. He and another astronomer, Percival Lowell, who is often associated with ERB, in fact, spent time with Flammarion exchanging Martian ideas. Flammarion and Lowell are associated.
So, in reading Flammarion ERB would have imbibed a good deal of spiritualistic, occult, or esoteric ideas. Flammarion actually ended his days as much more a spiritualist than astronomer. As a spiritualist he was associated with Conan Doyle.
Thus in the search for a new basis of immortality, while the notion of God became intenable, Flammarion and others began to search for immortality in outer space. There were even notions that spirits went to Mars to live after death somewhat in the manner of Bradbury’s nixies and pixies. In his book Lumen Flammarion has his hero taking up residence on the star Capella in outer space after death. Such a book as Lumen must have left Burroughs breathless with wonderment. Lumen is some pretty far out stuff in more ways than one. After a hundred fifty years of science fiction these ideas have been endlessly explored becoming trite and even old hat but at the time they were
excitingly new. Flammarion even put into Burroughs’ mind that time itself had no independent existence. Mind boggling stuff.
I believe that by now Bibliophiles have assembled a library of books that Burroughs either did read or is likely to have read before 1911 that number at least two or three hundred. Of course, without radio, TV, or movies for all of Burroughs’ childhood, youth and a major portion of his young manhood, although movies would have become a reality by the time he began writing, there was little entertainment except reading. Maybe a spot of croquet.
As far as reading goes I suspect that ERB spent a significant portion of his scantily employed late twenties and early thirties sitting in the Chicago Library sifting through the odd volume. It can’t be a coincidence that Tarzan lounged for many an hour in the Paris library before he became a secret agent and left for North Africa.
I have come across a book by the English author Charles Howard Hinton entitled Scientific Romances of which one explores the notion of a fourth dimension . Hinton is said to have been an influence on H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. It seems certain that Burroughs read The Time Machine while he would have found many discussions of the fourth dimension as well as other scientific fantasies in the magazines and even newspapers as Hillman has so amply demonstrated on ERBzine. We also know that ERB had a subscription to Popular Mechanics while probably reading Popular Science on a regular basis. Popular Science was established in 1872.
It is clear that ERB was keenly interested in psychology and from references distributed throughout the corpus, reasonably well informed.
I wouldn’t go so far as to maintain that ERB read the French psychologist Theodore Flournoy’s From India To The Planet Mars but George T. McWhorter does list it as a volume in Vern Corriel’s library of likely books read by Burroughs. The book was published in 1899 just as Burroughs was entering his very troubled period from 1900 to 1904-05 that included his bashing in Toronto with subsequent mental problems, a bout with typhoid fever and his and Emma’s flight to Idaho and Salt Lake City. So that narrows the window down a bit.
However the book seems to describe the manner in which his mind worked so that it provides a possible or probable insight into the way his mind did work.
ERB’s writing career was born in desperation. While he may say that he considered writing unmanly it is also true that he tried to write a lighthearted account of becoming a new father a couple years before he took up his pen in seriousness. Obviously he saw writing as a way out. His life had bittely disappointed his exalted expectations hence he would have fallen into a horrible depression probably with disastrous results if the success of his stories hadn’t redeemed his opinion of himself.
Helene Smith the Medium of Fluornoy’s investigation into mediumship was in the same situation. Her future while secure enough in the material sense, as was Burroughs, fell far short of her hopes and expectations. Thus she turned to mediumship to realize herself much as Burroughs turned to literature. She enjoyed some success and notoriety attracting the attention of, among others, the psychologist Theodore Flournoy. Fournoy who enjoyed some prominence at the time, was one of those confusing spiritualism with science because of his misunderstanding of the unconscious. Thus as Miss Smith unfolded her conversations with the inhabitants of Mars it was taken with some plausibility.
If any readers I may have have also read my review of Du Maurier’s Peter Ibbetson he or she will remember that Peter and Mary were restricted in their dream activities to only what they had done, seen and remembered or learned. As I have frequently said, you can only get out of a mind what has gone into it. In this sense Miss Smith was severely handicapped by an inadequate education and limited experience. While she was reasonably creative in the construction of her three worlds- those of ancient India, Mars and the court of Marie Antoinette- she was unable to be utterly convincing. In the end her resourcefulness gave out and the scientific types drifted away. She more or less descended into a deep depression as her expectations failed. Had she been more imagination she might have turned to writing as Burroughs did.
If Burroughs did read Flournoy, of which I am not convinced, he may have noted that Miss Smith’s method was quite similar to his habit of trancelike daydreaming that fulfilled his own expectations of life in fantasy.
In Burroughs’ case he had the inestimable advantage of having stuffed his mind with a large array of imaginative literature, a fairly good amateur’s notions of science and technology, along with a very decent range of valuable experience. His younger days were actually quite exciting. He was also gifted with an amazing imagination and the ability to use it constructively.
Consider this possibility. I append a poem that he would have undoubtedly read- When You Were A Tadpole And I Was A Fish. Read this and then compare it to The Land That Time Forgot.
When you were a tadpole and I was a fish
In the Paleozoic time,
And side by side on the ebbing tide
We sprawled through the ooze and slime,
Or skittered with many a caudal flip
Through the depths of the Cambrian fen,
My heart was rife with the joy of life,
For I loved you even then.
Mindless we lived and mindless we loved
And mindless at last we died;
And deep in the rift of the Caradoc drift
We slumbered side by side.
The world turned on in the lathe of time,
The hot lands heaved amain,
Til we caught our breath from the womb of death
And crept into light again.
We were Amphibians, scaled and tailed,
And drab as a dead man’s hand;
We coiled at ease ‘neath the dripping trees
Or trailed through the mud and sand.
Croaking and blind, with out three-clawed feet
Writing a language dumb,
With never a spark in the empty dark
To hint at a life to come.
Yet happy we lived and happy we loved,
And happy we died once more;
Our forms were rolled in the clinging mold
of a Neocomian shore.
The eons came and the eons fled
And the sleep that wrapped us fast
Was riven away in a newer day
And the night of death was past.
Then light and swift through the jungle trees
We swung in our airy flights,
Or breathed in the balms of the fronded palms
In the hush of the moonless nights;
And, oh! what beautiful years were there
When our hearts clung each to each;
When life was filled and our senses thrilled
In the first faint dawn of speech.
Thus life by life and love by love
We passed through the cycles strange,
And breath by breath and death by death
We followed the chain of change,
Till there came a time in the law of life
When over the nursing side
The shadows broke and the soul awoke
In a strange, dim dream of God.
I was thewed like Auroch bull
And tusked like the great cave bear;
And you, my sweet, from head to feet
Were gowned in your glorious hair,
Deep in the gloom of a fireless cave,
When the night fell o’er the plain
And the moon hung red o’er the river bed
We mumbled the bones of the slain.
I flaked a flint to a cutting edge
And shaped it with brutish craft;
I broke a shank from the woodland lank
And fitted it, head and haft;
Then I hid me close to the reedy tarn,
Where the mammoth came to drink;
Through the brawn and bone I drove the stone
And slew him upon the brink.
Loud I howled through the moonlit wastes,
Loud answered our kith and kin,
From west and east to the crimson feast
The clan came tramping in.
O’er joint and gristle and padded hoof
We fought and clawed and tore,
And cheek by jowl with many a growl
We talked the marvel o’er.
I carved that fight on a reindeer bone
With rude and hairy hand;
I pictured his fall on the cavern wall
That men might understand,
For we lived by blood and the right of might
Ere human laws were drawn,
And the age of sin did not begin
Till our brutal tush were gone.
And that was a million years ago
In a time that no man knows;
Yet here tonight in the mellow light
We sit at Delmonico’s.
Your eyes are deep as the Devon springs,
Your hair is dark as jet,
Your years are few, your life is new,
Your soul untried, and yet-
Our trail is on the Kimmeridge clay
And the scarp of the Purbeck flags;
We have left our bones in the Bagshot stones
And deep in the Coralline crags;
Our love is old, our lives are old,
And death shall come amain;
Should it come today, what man may say
We shall not live again?
God has wrought our souls from the Tremadoc beds
And furnished them wings to fly;
He sowed our spawn in the world’s dim dawn,
And I know that it shall not die,
Though cities have sprung above the graves
Where the crook-bone men make war
And the oxwain creaks o’er the buried caves
Where the mummied mammoths are.
Then as we linger at luncheon here
O’er many a dainty dish,
Let us drink anew to the time when you
Were a tadpole and I was a fish.
With something like that stuffed into his subconscious what wonders might ensue. Obviously The Land That Time Forgot and The Eternal Lover.
As Miss Smith had turned to spiritualism and mediumship, Burroughs turned his talents to writing. According to himself he used essentially mediumistic techniques in hiswriting. He said that he entered a tracelike state, what one might almost call automatic writing to compose his stories. He certainly turned out three hundred well written pages in a remarkably short time with very few delays and interruptions. He was then able to immediately begin another story. This facility lasted from 1911 to 1914 when his reservoir of stored material ws exhausted. His pace then slowed down as he had to originate stories and presumably work them out more rather than just spew them out.
Curiously like Miss Smith he created three main worlds with some deadends and solo works. Thus while Miss Smith created Indian, Martian and her ‘Royal’ identity Burroughs created an inner World, Tarzan and African world, and a Martian world.
Perhaps in both cases three worlds were necessary to give expression to the full range of their hopes and expectations. In Burroughs’ case his worlds correspond to the equivalences of the subconscious in Pellucidar, the conscious in Tarzan and Africa and shall we say, the aspirational or spiritual of Mars. In point of fact Burroughs writing style varies in each of the three worlds, just as they did in Miss Smith’s.
Having exhausted his early intellectual resources Burroughs read extensively and exhaustively to recharge his intellectual batteries. This would have been completely normal because it is quite easy to write oneself out. Indeed, he was warned about this by his editor, Metcalf. Having, as it were, gotten what was in your mind on paper what you had was used up and has to be augmented. One needs fresh experience and more knowledge. ERB was capable of achieving this from 1911 to about 1936 when his resources were essentially exhausted. Regardless of what one considers the quality of the later work it is a recap, a summation of his work rather than extension or innovatory into new territory. Once again, not at all unusual.
As a child of his times his work is a unique blend of science and spiritualism with the accent on science. One can only conjecture how he assimiliated Camille Flammarion’s own unique blend of spiritualism and science but it would seem clear that Flammarion inflamed his imagination setting him on his career as perhaps the world’s first true science-fiction writer as opposed to merely imaginative or fantasy fiction although he was no mean hand at all.
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 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.
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
Thuvia, Maid Of Mars
ERB was born in 1875 before education had been affected by the ideologies of either the Communists or Dewey. He was given a Classical versus scientific education in his critical Jr. High years. Thus he must have known Latin reasonably well.
The current High School system of the US came to fruition only during the twentieth century. Universal literacy only became realizable a very short time ago. Child labor didn’t disappear until after the Second World War. Thus ERB really had a favored childhood. ERB must have been familiar with memorization and drill; methods of education now highly discouraged. Therefore his education was directed toward a full consciousness than sink into the inherently criminal unconscious which Communist method prevails today. As there was no audio-visual culture at that time his was a print mentality through say 1910 when the movies began to have significance. By 1920, at least, he was fully involved in a print-movie culture hence a more unconscious mode of thinking. Still, his early training led him to a conscious approach to experiencing and analyzing.
One can’t know for sure which year he became aware but it is safe to assume 1888-90. Thus his immediate past extended back to about 1850 just as for me the twenties and thirties form my immediate past. Yours can be computed as about twenty years before you were born. As we grow up these years form the topic of discussion we overhear from our elders.
ERB’s near past then can be calculated as about 1800 so that dying in 1950 as he did his life straddled, as it were, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The nineteenth century was quite stunning in its diversity. As a boy and young man ERB was alive at the time of ‘the winning of the West.’ His early life was lived in the high tide of ‘Western world supremacy.’ His heroes such as Teddy Roosevelt and Owen Wister epitomized the high tide. The ‘Scramble For Africa’ of the last quarter of the nineteenth century formed the centerpiece of his literary corpus, that of Tarzan Of The Apes. Also a key to his world outlook was the American Civil War that ended only ten years before he was born. While I have found no direct evidence of the San Domingo Moment that occurred at the very beginning of the nineteenth century it is possible that he conflated San Domingo with the Civil War in the Martian series when the First Born, or Negroes, defeated the White Holy Therns nearly exterminating them. Thus while ERB’s works are ‘pure entertainment’ if you look closely you’ll find some serious historical and social commentary. If it weren’t there you wouldn’t have the Liberal Coalition condemning him as a bigot. They do.
For the purposes of this essay I will use a professor from Case-Western Reserve by the name of Richard Slotkin as a representative of the Liberal Coalition or Communist school. In his essay Gunfighter Nation he lays the blame for everything he dislikes at the feet of Burroughs and two other writers- Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard. We will get there soon enough but first lets consider the ‘humanitarian’ record of the Coalition. In one form or another the Coalition and its constituents date back to the French Revolution and hence San Domingo. Thus the Coalition was born in blood and murder. Murder on a grand scale, genocide in fact. The ideology of the Coalition is that of the Communists. The men Slotkin so roundly condemns are all anti-Communists so the ideological differences are clear.
Over the two centuries plus since the Revolution over a hundred million people have been murdered by units of the Coalition with hundreds of millions more projected for the near future. Yet Mr. Slotkin proposes to represent our trio as indescribably evil because he attributes the My Lai Massacre in Viet Nam not to them personally but as a direct result of their writings.
So there we have the basic issues. The hypocrisy of Mr. Slotkin should be self-evident.
What was the opinions of Messers Burroughts, Grant and Stoddard that so inflame Mr. Slotkin?
Quite simply they are conscious, objective scholars as opposed to the unconscious method of Liberal writers. Liberal views are products of the unconscious and cannot stand up to critical analysis. The unconscious is selfish and criminal hence wishful. The attitude is not what is but what I want.
The high tide of Western world supremacy was ending as it was cresting. This was noticeable to more acute intellects as early as 1900 and perhaps a decade earlier. Burroughs hints at this when he describes the Lotharians as an ancient auburn haired White race who ruled a thalassocracy or a maritime empire. Thus in his hierarchy of Martian races there was an earlier White race than the Therns.
The Lotharians sailed forth to win Mars for the city at home much as European mariners won the world for Europe beginning with the Portuguese voyages of the fifteenth century, Columbus and all the sea captains of the glorious age of discovery. The seamen were only defeated by the stay-at-homes who sabotaged their efforts.
Burroughs gives a valid interpretation of the age of European exploration and conquest from the fifteenth through nineteenth centuries. Thus the story of the Lotharians, now shadows of their former selves, is a very poetic rendering of that history.
The period ended with the 1899-1900 enunciation of the Open Door Policy in China by the American SecretaryOf State, John Hay. China was in the process of being acquired by the European States at the time which the Open Door prevented thus guaranteeing China’s integrity. This was a sea change in world politics. the conquered peoples now began their counter offensive against the West.
This change was noted by Burroughs, Grant and Stoddard.
Madison Grant was of the earlier generation of TR while Burroughs and Stoddard were near contemporaries. Burroughs born in 1875, Stoddard in 1883. They both died in the same year, 1950.
None of the three applauded the sea change but lamented it, running counter to Liberal ideology which applauded the change and latterly aroused the ire of Prof. Slotkin. Thus he and his Coalition fellows demonize the three.
They were only writers.. Until recently Grant and Stoddard had been all but forgotten. Grant’s two best known works are The Passing Of The Great Race of 1915 and Conquest Of A Continent of 1933. His main offence in the eyes of the coalition is that the Great Race is the Nordic race, which implies superiority, and his use of the term Nordic. There was a tremendous effort at the time to ridicule and deny Nordics and Anglo-Saxons. This is most notable in the vitriolic work of the bigot H.L. Mencken. Nordic is a curse word within the Coalition.
The Great Race is an interesting period piece but seems obsolete in its science. Conquest is still usable as a guide for the Nordic migrations within the US. I think it questionable that Burroughs was influenced by Grant who wrote after ERB had already committed himself although as Great Race made a splash it isn’t improbable that he read it.
Lothrop Stoddard is a different story. Here is a scholar done a great injury by the likes of Slotkin and the Coalition. Stoddard wrote several books that might even be considered prophetic. As noted he was eight years younger than ERB while graduating from Harvard. Unlike Grant I think Slotkin is right that he was an influence on Burroughs but only after 1920 when Burroughs was fully formed. It is possible that ERB accessed his research for his own purposes.
Stoddard’s first book in 1914 was a terrific examination of the San Domingo Moment titled The French Revolution in San Domingo. while the book was issued too late to affect ERB’s knowledge for use in Thuvia in 1914 events were transpiring that would have put Haiti, San Domingo’s later name, in his mind’s eye. Beginning in January of 1914 several US warships landed troops in a very disorderly Haiti. The bankers had precipitated yet another financial crisis by imprudent lending practices. As was to become customary they called on the US government to bail them out. In order to insure their loans the taxpayers were called upon to foot the bill. The occupation of Haiti by the Marines began the next year and that lasted until well into the thirties before the troops were withdrawn. Having gotten Haiti into trouble the bankers than looted the country for a couple decades.
Another interesting sidelight in Haiti and the Caribbean was that 1914 was the year that McClurg’s released Tarzan Of The Apes. Now, Ogden McClurg the ostensible owner of McClurg’s was only a figurehead. The company had become employee owned after the last fire about 1900. Ogden McClurg was living ERB’s fantasy life. He was an officer in the Navy having spent the decade or so previous to 1914 as an operative in the Caribbean during a period when the US was famous for gunboat diplomacy among the Banana Republics. It’s possible that he often worked undercover as a secret agent.
ERB’s contact was Joe Bray who actually ran the day to day operations of the firm. I’ve been told that McClurg had little to or no contact with the authors and indeed, it seems unlikely he could have being out of the country so much, yet ERB seems to have formed a jealous relationship with McClurg speaking of him as though he did know him. That could only have been between 1914 and 1917. Ogden was in Europe for three years or so during the war and after while ERB left for LA in 1919. Deserves investigation.
Back to Stoddard. In 1920, 21 and 22 he issued his three most important books, the ones that so infuriate the volatile Liberal Coalition. The titles were The Rising Tide Of Color Against White World Supremacy of 1920, The New World Of Islam of 1921 and 1922′s The Revolt Against Civilization- The Menace Of The Underman.
All three were prophetic and indeed, as of today, the prophecies have come to pass. The first volume, The Rising Tide Of Color needs no explanation for the violent reaction of the Coalition. By this time their agencies of the ADL, AJC and NAACP operating under the umbrella of the Communist Party were well able to defame anyone they chose with immunity from prosecution.
The mere mention of White Supremacy was enough to make them foam at the mouth. The reasons are clear and they were already formulated by the Revolution of 1792, Now, we do have the problem of slavery which casts a pall over all discussions. There is no justification for slavery although the institution still survives having now spread to America and Europe and it will flower everywhere once again before the century is half over. So, really, the slavery issue is irrelevant. ERB himself accepted the practice as a universal fact of life; the practice exists in all his stories.
Stoddard: This analysis applies to the US of today as aptly as that of San Domingo in 1792. “These men’ are the proto-Communist Jacobins of the French Revolution:
“If you (the San Domingan Whites) are sufficiently united to follow my counsel, I guarantee the salvation of San Domingo. But, in any case, let no one cherish the hope of mercy from these men, let no one be deluded by their sly tricks of policy; the negroes alone find room in their affections, and all the whites without distinction, all the mulattoes as well, are doomed; all whites are dangerous to their projects, all alike will be sacrificed as soon as these men shall have disposed of the officers, gotten rid of the troops of the line, and become at last the undisputed masters.”
As San Domingo in 1792, so Euroamerica in 2010. We were promised change but none has or will ocuur. Two hundred years later same words, same tune. So, Slotkin would have us believe that decent self-respecing scholars and writers such as Burroughs, Grant and Stoddard were responsible for My Lai rather than Robespierre,Danton and Murat. Well, you can fool some of the people all the time….
Just as his first of this trio of books prophesied the coming race wars, so Stoddard’s World Of Islam prophesied the current invasion of Euroamerica and the religious wars, for that is what ‘terrorism’ is. The third book The Revolt Against Civilization has also come to pass as the asault on Western culture, which is to say, civilization continues on an accelerated pace.
It was this book that had the greatest influence on ERB that would surface in 1934s Tarzan And The Lion Man. Stoddard is much influenced by the evolutionary theory of Auguste Weis. Especially the notion of body and germ cells that ERB embraced so enthusiastically in 1934. ERB’s interpretation was certainly pure entertainment but based on current scientific knowledge nonetheless.
As for ERB’s notions he was expressing developed opinions on the social scene under cover of entertainment long before he could have been influenced by either Grant or Stoddard so Richard Slotkin is quite wrong in his prejudicial interpretation of ERB as in ignorant spouter of bigotry based on the other two.
In fact Slotkin ignores the content of all three men to denounce them as ignorant, uninformed bigots who were nevertheless taken so seriously by gunslinging Americans that by Slotkins own words they caused the My Lai Massacre. But enough of Slotkin who sabotages his own thesis by confessing to inadequate research. A much more interesting topic is The Revolt Against Civilization of which it can truly be said that revoltagainst civilization applies to ERB as well as his arch enemies- the Liberal Coalition.
Part III-C will involve civilization and its malcontents.
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
Thuvia, Maid Of Mars
What We Have Here Is Change
In the recent American presidential campaign in the US the winner won by promising the inevitable, Change. A very safe promise as the history of the world is one of change. Indeed, the life of the individual is one of unending change from the cradle to the grave. Change is now and forever. The question is, what response is made to the changes.
The times of Edgar Rice Burroughs were a period of the most earth shaking and rapid of all. At the same time most perilous, as the evolution of actual scientific knowledge in all fields was in its infancy and subject to misinterpretation. One might say in Burroughsian imagery that a series of doors stood before mankind, entering the right door would be more beneficial than the wrong doors.
Burroughs and others made tantative moves for the right door but others entered by the wrong door drawing most others through with them. What looked like progress turned into a regression. To shut up criticism the regressives began to demonize all those of different opinions. Burroughs was among those.
Some say he adapted poorly to the flood of change but the peole who do so are so confident in their opinions that to disagree with them is to be accused of being not only wrong but either criminal or insane. One doesn’t take their opinions too seriously as change will certainly demonstrate their opinions as ludicrous if it hasn’t already. Nevertheless as they are quite vocal in their condemnation of Edgar Rice Burroughs we have to consider the accuracy of their accusations as well as that of their own viewpoint. How well do they understand the issues?
ERB has some interesting observations on the changes occurring in the history, society and racial matters of his times as well as the concealed role of hypnotism in the transformation of that society. The basis of hypnotism is suggestion. As ERB say in Thuvia all is based on suggestion and counter-suggestion. If one conciders life and learning from that angle it presents some interesting possibilites.
What is learning? What is suggestion?
When the child is conceived he must of necessity have a mind with a blank slate. Freud, Jung and many others seem to seriously believe that newborns can inherit ancestral memories even though there is no one beyond the womb who has ever recalled any.
In fact without experience or learning that has has been introjected into the mind there is nothing for the mind to consider, hence no cogitation at all. This mind can only begin to form with the ejection from the womb. This occurs with a brain still in the process of formation. The development of the brain can only be considered completed shortly after puberty.
It seems obvious then that you can’t get out of a mind what isn’t in it. It behooves society then to begin loading the mind of a child as soon as the child is capable of handling education. The education of the mind must be built step by step to provide a firm foundation for the intellectual superstructure. Whatever is in the mind must come from or be suggested from outside the mind. There is no internal system of knowledge. Thus all knowledge is suggested to the child’s mind by his caretakers. They may be good or bad, well or ill intentioned. The brain is organized to receive suggestions or, in another word, experience. The reactive structure may already be in place dut to experiences in the womb and the actual birthing process but the actual learning process begins the moment the newborn emerges from the womb and receives a slap on the bottom to get his lungs started.
Thus the mind of the child is extremely malleable during the time until about puberty and shortly thereafter. If education is neglected during this early period and shortly thereafter it is unlikely that the adult can ever make up the lack. For instance if the basics or reading, writing and arithmetic are not loaded into the brain during this malleable period it is very rare that the skills can be acquired at a later time.
Thus, as it was always known that the child is father to the man various doctrinaire organizations such as the Jesuits believed that if they could form the education of the child or, in another word, indoctrinte him, they could shape the future in their own image. In Burroughs’ time the mechanisms of education were more fully understood. Various schemes were proposed to revise educational methods many of which were just odd or crude, but the better thought to change the direction of society toward a higher ideal.
The Communists were well are at the time that suggestion was the basis of education. Lothrop Stoddard writing in his The Revolt Against Civilization of 1922 quotes Eden and Cedar Paul from their book Proletcult of 1921:
“There is no such thing as “scientific” economics or sociology. For these reasons…there should be organized and spread abroad a new kind of education, “Proletcult.” Thus…in a fighting culture aimed at the overthrow of capitalism and at the replacement of democratic culture and bourgeois ideology by ergatocratic culture and proletarian ideology…” The authors warmly endorse the Soviet government’s prostitution of education and all other forms of intellectual activity to Communist propaganda, for we are told that the “new education” is inspired by the “new psychology”, which “provides the philosophical justification of Bolshevism and supplies a theoretical guide for our efforts in the field of proletarian culture…. Education is suggestion. The recognition that suggestion is auto suggestion, and that auto suggestion is the means whereby imagination controls the subconscious self, will enable us to make a right use of the most potent force which has become available to the members of the human herd since the invention of articulate speech.
I’m sure you can find appropriate application of the doctrine since Stoddard wrote in education, movies, TV, books and phonograph records and CDs. While I would disagree with the Pauls’ notion of suggestion and auto suggestion the Freudian influence is quite clear. This would be abetted by John Dewey’s notions on education that deemphasized the educational foundation while directing it more toward ideological considerations, or ‘relatively unstructured, free, student-directed progressive education.’
God only knows what free, progressive education is but this sort of social engineering was the wrong turn being taken in this era of rapid change.
So, loading the brain to deal with life’s exigencies is of necessity a slow process. As the brain continues to develop outside the womb there is plenty of room for malfunction. As man is incapable of creating anything original the education of the child may be compared to the loading of a computer. First the operating system. Whether consciously or unconsciously since all man knows is his own brain he has replicated it in his machine. A computer functions just like a brain, which should astound no one, as man can only devise what he already knows.
Now, human experience dates back about a hundred thousand years. I intentionally leave out the African development as it had nothing to do with the education of mankind. The African contribution is nil. Education began outside Africa. Having painfully and laboriously accumulated the huge fund of knowledge it must be entered into the brain of the new being. This sort of suggestion is called education. There’s not much room for anything called ‘free’ or ‘progressive.’ Getting it ain’t going to be free, the child has to work like a mule. This is a slow, laborious process as extensive foundations must be laid down before any superstructure can rise. Thus years are consumed just to teach the child reading, writing and arithmetic. With these three tools he can learn anything else. Inexplicably this fact seems to have been lost sight of in today’s educational theories unless of course the Pauls’ dictum is being followed.
Once the foundation has been laid, a form of suggestion and actually hypnosis, the child, now a student, must be taught how to manage and interpret what he learns at an increasingly rapid pace. Unfortunately there will be children left behind; any other expectation is fatuous, some are just brighter than others. Managing and interpreting comes from within the experience of the organism. Here’s the real problem because the same data will by analyzed differently and produce different results and opinions.
Along with learning factual matters the child must at the same time develop emotionally and psychologically. Nasty work. This is a difficult part. As the child has little ability to understand and even less ability to accurately analyze it he has to reason from faulty premisses. This ignorance of reality is what forms Freud’s notion of the unconscious or Id. Correcting this unconscious to consciousness is the conversion of Freud’s Id to Ego. A child misinterprets suggestions. Some become fixated in his un- or subconscious. The fixations are what distort consciousness from the subconscious interfering with the integration of the subconscious and the conscious. While the child is made more conscious in his ability to understand and reject harmful suggestions these fixations like post-hypnotic suggestions control his responses. The fixations must be exorcised which is the intended function of the psychoanalysis of Freud and Jung.
Once again, suggestion is everything outside your mind. Your mind cannot function without these suggestions because there will be nothing in the mind to function. Be carefull of what you put into your mind or, at least, that you do put something of value into it. Whether ERB realized this or not, his ideas of hypnosis and suggestion indicate he might have, he pursued a program of continuing education all his adult life. At the time of writing Thuvia he was working through Edward Gibbons’ Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, a vast minefield of amazing and truly educational suggestion.
Part B follows.
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
Thuvia, Maid Of Mars
Apparently at this time in his life ERB’s mind was focused on hypnotism. The raison d’ etre of the novel seems to be his explanation of hypnotism and some of its effects. He certainly makes a fascinating story of the phenomenon. In fact the whole story concerns hypnotism with a few embellishments to get Carthoris and Thuvia to Lothar and once he’d exhausted the possibilities of his hypnotic theme he ended the story and even then he ends on a wild hypnotic note.
Thuvia was his fourth Mars novel and his first without John Carter. The hero is Carthoris the son of John Carter and Dejah Thoris. ERB’s father, George T. had died about a year previous to the writing. This novel was written shortly after The Lad And The Lion. As it includes a scene of psychological rebirth it may be a declaration of independence from his father, severing the relationship more denfinitely than did Lad.
On entering the land of the Lotharians Carthoris passes through a cave quite similar to the birth canal. There are Banths, Martian lions, before and one huge one behind him. Those before seem to vanish while the one large Banth remained behind him; that would be the memory of his father and the past. Carthoris placed himself in a posture of defense in the dark but the charging Banth passed to his side missing him much as a ghost from the past might do. Thus ERB seems to dispense with the Old Looney aboard ship in The Lad And The Lion who did represent ERB’s dad.
Thuvia had been kidnapped by a disappointed suitor who had her taken to Aanthor, one of the innumerable dead cities lining the shores of the vanished seas. There she was captured by the Green Men who fled through the cave to Lothar. There Carthoris and Thuvia are delivered to the scene of the action by ERB.
Carthoris then finds Thuvia in the possession of the Green Men who are waging a gigantic battle against the Phantom Bowmen of Lothar, themselves aided by large prides of both phantom and real Banths.
Piles of Green Men killed by little arrows lie about amongst legions of Bowmen who have been cut down, and still they stream through the city gates. Carthoris who has gotten to the side of Thuvia and she marvel at the carnage. They turn to watch the defeated Green Men flee. When they look back they are astonished to see that the dead Bowmen have all disappeared while the dead Green Men no longer have phantom arrows sticking in them. The pair are at a loss for an explanation. The Banths however were real and were now gorging themselves on the remains of the Greenies.
As a nice touch ERB has Thuvia essentially hypnotize the Banths. Rather than fear them as Carthoris does she merely makes a low melodic warbling sound that so charms the Banths that they come fawning before her.
This may seem improbable or even impossible and yet I have seen it done but with house cats. What can be done with one size cat I’m sure can be done with all sizes. The effect was quite astonishing with the woman I saw do it but the result was exactly as ERB describes it. Apparently he’d seen it done too. ERB thus establishes the ability of Thuvia that will be even more important soon.
Thus they gain access to the city of Lothar by passing through the Banths with safety. As a nice touch ERB gives Lothar an exotic round gate that rolls back into a slot. Perhaps he had seen a house with such a door somewhere. Once inside they meet the Lotharian Jav who begins to unfold the story while unfolding the hypnotic power of the mind.
If ERB had read H. Rider Haggard’s Cleopatra that deals quite extensively with hypnotism in a scenario somewhat similar to this one Haggard may have been another source for Thuvia. Quite possibly ERB had ingested and digested his earlier reading so that he wasn’t aware of how close he was to the originals. After all, anyone who could learn of Numa, the Roman King, from his Jr. High studies and think he had invented the name Numa for the king of beasts twenty years later, which he says is what happened, probably could think he was inventing his details himself.
Many strange phenomena appear to the pair on their way to the palace of the despot who was named Tario. They see marching files of Bowmen who appear and disappear. But the Bowmen are not real they are a projection of the mind of Tario who has hypnotized the pair into seeing what isn’t there.
While it is clear that ERB is quite familiar with Homer’s Odyssey it isn’t quite so clear what he knows of Homer’s Iliad or Greek mythology in general. One hesitates to give him too much knowledge and yet elements from the Iliad and Greek mythology seem to materialize before one’s eyes like the Phantom Bowmen of Lothar.
One can’t know whether ERB read the Iliad more than once and whether that once was in the seventh or eighth grade. How much he understood of an early reading like that would be questionable. I first read the Iliad in the seventh grade but got nothing but impressions of the action from it. The gods, goddesses and humans were very confusing. Lot of boy and girl stuff that was well beyond my experience. I have read the book seven times in various translations since. It was only in the fifth, sixth and seventh readings that I began to develop what I would consider any real understanding of Homer’s message.
One of the things I understand is that the Iliad is a story about the power of mind and its limitations. Zeus, of course had the mind of ultimate power that gave him the advantage over mortals and the other gods. Tario in Thuvia has the most powerful mind in Lothar which keeps him in authority over the few permanent emanations in Lothar. But, these are all figments of his or someone’s imagination.
It seems that long generations before the women had all died out leaving only the men who over a period of time would also have died out but they survived by being able to imagine themselves. Here we have a possible reference to Poe’s The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar. In that story Valdemar was a dying man who was first hypnotized and then expired. Being under hypnosis while alive he could not actually die as he was hypnotized alive. This is somewhat the condition of the Lotharians.
Taking hypnosis a step further ERB posits that there are phantom ‘realists’ who believe they can wish themselves into a permanent corporeal existence of which Jav is one. Opposed to them are the phantom ‘etherealists’ represented by Tario who believe they must remain imaginary.
Getting back to Greek mythology in which we do know that ERB was read the ‘realists’ believe that they have to eat so they conjure up ‘ephemeral fruits’ on which to gorge themselves.
Ephemeral fruits make their appearance in the myth of Typhon and Zeus. So there is a possibility that Jav and Tario is a version of that myth. Hera in her squabbles for supremacy with Zeus conjures up the monster Typhon to take on Zeus. Typhon makes mincemeat of Zeus removing his sinews and bones and placing them in a leather bag in a cave in Caria. Sad plight for the Big Fella with the all powerful mind and no sinews. Worse yet, as a god he is immortal so there he and his all powerful mind are in his sack perhaps for all eternity.
While Apollo and Hermes come to the Big Guy’s aid by putting the dry bones back together and reattaching the sinews the nymphs feed Typhon ‘ephemeral fruit’ that looks like the real thing but lacks nourishment. Thus when Zeus is reassembled and ready for action he faces an enfeebled Typhon who this time he easily defeats. Great story when you think about it. So there you have two stories reflected that ERB may or may not have read but having read them probably didn’t consciously remember them as he was writing. I can’t guarantee ERB read those stories but I can state with assurance that ERB just didn’t make this stuff up. He never does; it all has been suggested from someplace. It is not impossible that he heard similar stuff from Baum and the Theosophists in California. ERB does have a retentive memory that provides him with a lot of material.
Thuvia and its successor Martian novel- The Chessmen Of Mars- are an examination of mind and matter. The later Mastermind of Mars and the Synthetic Men Of Mars are examinations of the application of mind to matter. In the Chessmen the mind and body were separate entities. It will be remembered that the Kaldanes were also skilled hypnotists.
Here ERB is interested in a projected reality, in itself a form on insanity in an unbalanced mind. PP 66-67, Ace paperback:
Jav speaking: “(The Banths) that remained about the field were real. Those we loosed as scavengers to devour the bodies of the dead Torquasians. This thing is demanded by the realists among us. I am a realist. Tario is an etherealist.
“The etherealists maintain there is no such thing as matter- that all is mind. They say that none of us exists, except in the imagination of his fellows, other than as an intangible, invisible mentality.
“According to Tario, it is but necessary that we all unite in imagining that there are no dead Torquasians beneath our walls, and there will be none, nor any need for the fierce scavenging banths.”
‘You, then do not hold to Tario’s beliefs?” asked Carthoris.
“In part only,” replied the Lotharian. “I believe, in fact I know, that there are some truly ethereal creatures. Tario is one, I am convinced. He has no existence except in the imaginations of his people.
“Of course, it is the contention of all us realists that all etherealists are but figments of the imagination. They contend that no food is necessary nor do they eat, but anyone of the most rudimentary intelligence must realize that food is a necessity to creatures having actual existence.”
“Yes,” agreed Carthoris, “not having eaten today I can readily agree with you.”
“Ah, pardon me,” exclaimed Jav. “Pray be seated and satisfy your hunger,” and with a wave of his hand he indicated a beautifully laden table that had not been there an instant before he spoke….”It is well,” continued Jav, “that you did not fall into the hands of an etherealist, then indeed, you would have gone hungry.”
An interesting passage laden with humor and a joke or two. On the one hand this is a takeoff on Bishop Berkeley and those who believe that nothing is real but only a figment of our imaginations. They do believe that when you close your eyes the world ceases to exist. I could never follow the argument, and on the other hand the ideas can be construed as a variation on the Theosophical belief that the gods were first ethereal becoming more materialistic as existence descended to man who is most material. Thus Tario is visible air, as it were, as an ethereality while Jav is condensed into, as he believes, permanent air/matter while Carthoris and Thuria are solid matter as humans.
The food Jav produces is ephemeral food. It looks real but having no real substance has no nourishment. As he smirkingly says: It is well that you did not fall into the hands of an etherealist. Then, indeed, you would have gone hungry.” A funny joke. But Jav has hypnotized the pair into seeing the food even though Carthoris is not so hypnotized as to not realize it is not real food. He eats it anyway.
Once in this land where nothing is real but the Banths, one wonders that we don’t have a situation that was replicated later in the movie The Manchurian Candidate. In that movie the hypnotized soldiers imagine they are at a ladies social and actually see American women where Korean people are.
Perhaps Carthoris and Thuvia are standing in an empty field talking to themselves. Perhaps the Lotharians exist only in their own imaginations but have conjured Carthoris and Thuvia out of thin air. Pretty spacy stuff.
As Carthoris is hypnotized he is easily persuaded to do things he wouldn’t ordinarily do such as letting Thuvia be led away alone to Tario. He does and Thuvia meets Tario alone mystyfied that Carthoris would let her out of his sight. Seeing Thuvia the etherealist’s phantom cojones are aroused and he makes an all out assault on Thuvia. As he doesn’t exist, of course, the assault can only have force in Thuvia’s imagination. Just as those little arrows the Torquasians believed were real killed them one wonders what effect a phantom penetration would have on Thuvia. Would she have a little phantom child after a phantom pregnancy?
We’ll never know because she pulls out her thin blade stabbing Tario to his phantom heart. He falls apparently dead seemingly oozing out his lifeblood. But, as we know he is an etherealist hence only a figure of someone’s imagination we know he must be feigning death with phantom blood.
Hearing Thuvia’s screams Carthoris races to the rescue followed by Jav. Jav, who should have known better, is overjoyed confessing his desire to replace Tario. It was almost like a plan. Tario leaps up explaining he always thought Jav did and now he is going to execute him.
Here ERB evades the issue taking a cheap but effective way out. These two guys are actually magicians and should be made to match powers in efforts to do the other in. ERB isn’t up to it so he has Jav cave just awaiting his fate that he could always evade with his hypnotic powers. Now, we’ve all been advised not to trust our senses so whether any of this happened is open to question. Nevertheless a hole opens in the floor, the floor dishes so that all falls into the memory hole. The three are ostensibly history.
They are precipitated into the chamber of the Lotharian god. One might expect this god to be pure essence but instead he is pure matter. As so often is the case a Burroughsian god turns out to be a lion or the Martian Banth. Why Jav should be concerned isn’t clear as he has no real substance and can’t be eaten while with his hypnotic powers he could make the Banth believe it was a mouse.
Carthoris draws his sword but this one’s a piece of cake for Thuvia. Using her own particular hypnotic talents she charms the Banthian god and all four walk out through the Banth’s quarters as chums.
At this point Jav calls into existence old Lothar for us all to see.
Outside the gates of Lothar Jav conceives a desire for Thuvia. Using considerable hypnotic talent he persuades Carthoris that he and Thuvia are heading for the woods. Carthoris walks off alone convinced he is leading Thuvia by the hand. He is soon disillusioned. Returning he finds the realist Jav really mauled by the Banth and dying. Thuvia and the Banth have headed back to Aanthor. Carthoris has no choice but to follow.
Now, what’s been going in addition to this hypnosis stuff is ERB’s ongoing attempt to reconcile his Anima and Animus. He has followed the usual Pyche and Eros storyline of Apuleius’ Golden Ass of Greek mythology. The Anima and Animus get together, circumstances separate them, then during the rest of the novel they try to get together amid difficulties, finally succeeding.
In Lad And The Lion ERB introduced the lion as his totem. Even though a male lion it is associated with his female Anima. At the risk of repeating myself, just in case anybody has been reading this stuff for the last four or five years the cause and evolution of his dilemma progress thusly:
In 1883 or 1884 ERB was terroized on a street corner by a young thug he identifies only as John. Possibly Emma was with him and kept walking abandoning him to his fate. Thus it was suggested to his subconscious that his Anima had abandoned him. John being the terrorist filled the vacancy. Thus ERB had the seemingly impossible anomaly of a male representing his female Anima.
We know this was the result because ERB writes incessantly about it. In the Outlaw of Torn the king’s fencing master, De Vac lures young Prince Norman/Burroughs outside the gate. Norman’s nurse Maud representing his Anima noticing too late rushes to the scene to be struck down dead by De Vac. Thus ERB’s Anima is murdered. How does ERB handle this? In his dream image ERB has De Vac take Norman to London where they live in the attic of a house over the Thames River. The house is a symbol for self, the attic being the mind. Water is a symbol of the female. The house extending out over the water but separated from it indicated the separation from the Anima. To compensate for the impossible situation of a male on the Anima, De Vac improbably dresses as a woman for the three years they live together in their attic. At the end of the novel Norman/Burroughs kills De Vac.
In the succeeding novel The Mucker he associates himself with the Irish thug Billy Byrne. Byrne being paired up with the socialite Barbara Harding is also an impossible match. It would seem probable that ERB’s father and John were two of the components clothing ERB’s Animus. Thus ERB has this very strong feeling about having a dual personality that he talks about constantly.
In Lad And The Lion we have the improbable situation of a powerless ship, representing the self, drifting up and down the Atlantic endlessly, manned by the deaf and dumb Old Looney, the Lad, and a Lion in a cage on deck. That the Old Looney who represents ERB’s father was deaf and dumb probably indicates he wouldn’t listen to ERB and had nothing to say that the Lad/ERB wanted to hear. So, the Lad was brutally abused the whole of his childhood. That’s how ERB saw the Bad Father. It would seem that John Carter represents the Good Father as ERB would have liked him to have been.
With De Vac and John dead the Lion begins to take his place as the male aspect of ERB’s Anima which has now been reoccupied by a female reprsentative. The male lion becomes a permanent aspect of the Anima in 1922s Tarzan And The Golden Lion as Jad-Bal-Ja. In Lad he and the Lion go ashore after the death of the Old Looney, or, in other words, his father, where the lion is loosely associated with the Arab princess Nakhla. Lad was written a short two months before Thuvia.
Now Thuvia wows Carthoris/ERB by charming the raging Banths/lions of the battlefield and the Lotharian God. Thuvia and the god become as one as she walks by his side her fingers twisted in his mane. So the traditional goddess of the male Anima is united with a male god to form ERB’s Anima. The female Anima who moved closer to reassuming her place in Lad now definitely becomes part of ERB’s psyche.
They pass through the tunnel before Carthoris. As ERB exits the tunnel he encounters his doppelganger Kar Komak. This is great stuff actually. Komak is literally a new man. He was the first successful materialization of an hypnotic imaginary man of the Lotharians. That’s likely enough, isn’t it?
He comes running through the scarlet furze, naked, to greet Carthoris. Well, picture that. Nakedness is something else appearing regularly in ERB”s works most notably in Tarzan And The City Of Gold. (See my review.)
The duo then continue on to Aanthor where as they arrive they are met by Torquasians who upset the plans of the men of Dusar who had come back to pick up Thuvia. We know that Carthoris for sure represents ERB because he takes a sword swipe to the forehead that lays him out. Thus the novel has the obligatory bash to the head recalling ERB’s adventure in Toronto.
When the sleeper wakes he finds the dead carcass of Thuvia’s lion lying half across his body. Probably his left half that derives from the ovum. Must have been uncomfortable to say the least. Thus the male half of his Anima is now dead and the female half in possession of the Dusarians. ERB gets her back and as in Psyche and Eros the Anima and Animus we may assume are permanently reunited.
Not quite but that will take us too far afield to discuss it this moment. I deal with the future development of the problem in my reviews of Out There Somewhere (The Return Of The Mucker), Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid (The Oakdale Affair) and Marcia Of The Doorstep.
A Part 3 will follow that attempts to deal with the bigotry charges against Burroughs. If there is such a thing as guilt concerning the issue, ERB is not guilty, of course.
February 16, 2009
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
The Chessmen Of Mars
The Golden Handcuffs
And now comes the part that readers find the most fascinating, that of the contest on The Field Of Honor. Gladiatorial contests are frequent occurrences in the novels of ERB. This one seems to combine Arthurian influences as well as Roman.
Burroughs’ tenure of a couple years at the Chicago Harvard Latin School must have made an indelible impression on him. The recurrent, one might say underlying, Homeric influence from the Odyssey of Homer would indicate that the school concentrated on that work of Homer although not on The Iliad as there seem to be few references to the latter poem. In later years ERB would complain that he had learned Latin before English cramping his English style.
Perhaps, but I don’t see anything glaringly wrong with his English style. His psychology makes him a little stiff but that’s not through a lack of understanding English. It would be nice to know the curriculum of the Latin School and what texts he did study. Late in life when he wrote I Am A Barbarian his background as evidenced by the reading list he appended was shallow while not mentioning the great classical scholars. Still Roman themes are a recurring motif in the corpus. About this time he was rereading Plutarch’s Lives that compares the lives of various Greeks and Romans so that the Lives may have been a text at school. Especially as he says that while rereading it he discovered that Numa was the name of a Roman king while he thought he had invented the name for the Lion.
Also Arthurian references pop up in Chessmen. In 1912 when his editor Metcalf of Munsey’s asked him to write a medieval story that turned out to be the Outlaw Of Torn he claimed to have little knowledge of the period. Now, the Manatorian party leaving the city after Gahan entered is more reminiscent of Arthurian stories than Roman. The city of Manator itself also has a decidedly Camelot feel. The party’s subsequent return and capture of Tara and Ghek has more of the courtly flavor than the Roman. In 1928′s Tarzan, Lord Of The Jungle ERB would create a medieval society of lost Crusaders deep in the heart of darkness. So while he claimed to know nothing of medieval themes in 1912 by this time he seems to have done some reading in the field.
In many ways Manator bears a great resemblance to Mythological, Graustarkian and Ruritanian stories that he did admire as a young man. Combining all those influences with the Oz of Baum we have Manator.
Thus in addition to Roman gladiatorial contests we also have a similarity to medieval battle melees where the favors of women were of paramount importance.
Here we have the great mock battles and actual battles to the death played out on a gigantic Jetan board. Burroughs modifies the Earthly game of Chess to create a similar Martian game of Jetan complicated by the grotesque addition of battles to the death between the live ‘pieces.’ Indeed as is explained there had been games recorded in which the only survivors were the the two female prizes and one of the Jeds. Once again mimicking Arthurian literature ERB describes sword blows that cleave the opponent through the brain pan down to the breast bone. ERB seems to delight in the most violent and gruesome details. And lots of them.
A-Kor, his cellmate, fills Gahan in on what he must do to enter the games conveniently giving the latter enough money to bribe his team, get this, while returning the remainder to his purse.
The strategy is all very probable. The number of slaves from Gathol in Manator is enormous so Gahan has no difficulty in enrolling a team of Gatholians who will be fighting for their freedom. Gahan is famiiar with Jetan as played elsewhere on Mars on a board so he has no difficulty with strategy. The main change in strategy is that when a piece captures another the pieces then draw swords and fight to the finish. Thus a piece can successfully evade capture negating strategy.
Relying on the prowess of his men and his own incomparable swordsmanship Gahan then makes a drive directly for the opposing Jed, U-Dor.
Can it be a coincidence that he who stands between himself and Tara is a man called U-Dor (door)? Considering the important roles doors play in these stories it would seem that U-Dor is one more door he must hack his way through to get to his objective.
The only other work I’ve seen where doors were so important was the old TV show, The Mod Squad. In that TV series doors of every description were constantly being slammed; not just closed but slammed. I haven’t quite figured out ERB’s obsession with doors as yet.
While Chess and one imagines Jetan are supreme games of strategy Gahan seemingly abandons the fine points and gamesmanship and makes a drive straight for U-Dor. ERB says he was a good Chess player while I have never played to perhaps the moves he describes are possible especially as any move is good or bad depending on which player is the better swordsman. Gahan is the best so he experiences no difficulty in reaching U-Dor who he cuts down.
Tara and he are seemingly reunited. But while Tara thought she killed I-Gos he was only wounded. Present at the games he denounces Gahan and Tara who flee as aforesaid to the pits. Then begins the spectacular double climax; that of Gahan/ERB’s triumph over John the Bully/O-Tar and the subsequent triumph of Gahan/ERB over Frank Martin/O-Tar.
To a large extent Chessmen is an examination of ancestor worship. Certainly the Taxidermist of Mars preserved ancestors going back at least five thousand years to the reign of O-Mai. ERB explains Gahan’s and perhaps his own ideas on the significance of ancestors.
Gahan, a man of culure and high intelligence held few if any superstitions. In common with nearly all races of Barsoom he clung more or less inherently, to a certain exalted form of ancestor worship, though it was rather the memory of legends of the virtues and heroic deeds of his forefathers that he deified rather than themselves. He never expected any tangible evidence of their existence after death; he did not believe that they had the power either for good or for evil other than the effect that their example while living might have had on following generations; he did not believe therefore in the materialization of dead spirits. If there was a life hereafter he knew nothing of it, for he knew that science had demonstrated the natural phenomenon of ancient religions and superstitions.
The above is probably as close to a confession of faith as ERB is going to give. It is certainly one that I can accept for myself. The above may also be a reference to spiritual seances in which dead ancestors supposedly spoke through mediums. Harry Houdini was debunking such seances around this time much to the chargrinof ERB’s literary hero, Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame, who did believe is such ancestral contacts.
There may be a joke in that case when Gahan arose from O-Mai’s bed ululuing and putting the fear of God into O-Tar exposing him as a coward.
Having thus disposed of O-Tar/John ERB turns to debunking O-Tar/Martin.
When Gahan was playing his joke on O-Tar I-Gos stole Tara away. He delivers her to O-Tar who is so smitten that he decides that he will marry her and take his chances with this she-banth.
O-Tar immurs Tara in a tower not unlike the story of Rapunzel. Her location is pointed out to Gahan who then makes a perilous climb of the tower in order to tell her that no matter what it looks like on the morrow’s wedding date he will rescue her and she is not to commit suicide.
While talking to her through the grated window a eunuch sleeping at the foot of the bed awakes moving toward him sword in hand. Tara instead of shrinking back removes her little blade from her harness running the eunuch through the heart.
There must be significance to this scene as ERB is retelling the story of both John and Martin. If Emma was with ERB on the corner and abandoned him to his fate by walking on it would appear that ERB never forgave her while having Anima trouble ever after. Here he rectifies the situation by having Tara come to his defense acting with a both a blade and heart of steel. Thus not only has his Animus surrogate Gahan proved John/O-Tar to be the coward but Tara the Anima figure defends Gahan/ERB from a similar attack by John absolving his Anima.
We now go to the wedding. Of course, having read the book several times in my case we know the story so I will just follow it. In the book John Carter tells ERB the details after the fact.
I-Gos has allied himself with Tara and Gahan against O-Tar. Before the wedding O-Tar retires to the Hall of Ancestors to commune with the dead. I-Gos has let Gahan into the hall where he sits as though stuffed on a stuffed Thoat. When O-Tar pauses beside him Gahan falls on him striking him on the forehead with the butt of a heavy spear.
Thus we establish that at this point O-Tar has become Frank Martin. Just as Gahan/ERB proved O-Tar a coward by merely rising in O’Mai’s bed and making weird noises so now he reverses the situation in Toronto. Instead of ERB being struck on the forehead Gahan/ERB strikes O-Tar/Martin in the same place leaving him for dead.
Now, this is strange. Donning O-Tar’s Golden Mask Gahan goes foth in O-Tar’s guise to marry Tara. The Golden Mask undoubtedly refers to Martin’s money bags to which ERB undoubtedly attributes whatever success Martin had with Emma. Why Gahan/ERB wore O-Tar’s mask is fairly clear but why ERB would have isn’t. Also if O-Tar hadn’t recovered from the blow Gahan would have been married to Tara in O-Tar’s name.
Perhaps ERB in a reversal means to imply that Emma would actually have been marrying him but won by Martin’s ‘golden mask.’ By the process of reversal then ERB would have recovered and stolen Emma from Martin on the altar so to speak. Or, as he actually did.
The symbolism of the golden handcuffs then would mean that the proposed wedding of Emma and Martin would have a mere commercial transaction. Or, perhaps, he felt himself attached to Emma for financial reasons when he’d rather not be. Complications, complications.
While the two antogonists Gahan and O-Tar are staring each other down the ‘cavalry’ Gahan sent for has arrived. Carter and troops from Helium, Gathol and Manatos arrive to end the story.
O-Tar himself then falls on his sword like a true Roman thus redeeming his miserable life. Perhaps ERB is saying that that is what Martin should have done- left the couple alone rather than constantly interfering.
If as Sigmund Freud argued dreams are based on wish fulfillment the Chessmen of Mars proves his case. In this series of dreams or nightmares ERB attempts to reverse the results of the three greatest disasters of his life.
John the Bully and Frank Martin are a matter of history. That ERB links his fiancial disaster with these two earlier disasters indicates that he knows he has crossed the line in his mistaken purchase of the Otis estate. He knows that he as no way out as he has the ‘cavalry’, John Carter and the united forces of Helium, Gathol and Manatos come to the rescue. In the final denouement of this error in 1934′s Tarzan And The Lion Man even the cavalry can’t help. Tarzan/ERB leaves the burning castle of God a defeated man.
His great dream of getting back to the land and becoming a Gentleman Farmer has crashed to the ground. His attachment to his fantasy can be traced in his letters with Herb Weston. Weston warned him as strongly as friendship would allow that it would be a mistaken approach to farming in any other way than on a factory basis with profit firmly in mind. ERB chose to ignore this sound advice probably believing that between books, magazines and movies his future was golden.
Unfortunately for himself his income crested in this very year, 1921. Undoubtedly because of his strong anti-Communist stance and his resistance to the Semitism being imposed on him his sources of income came under attack. Nineteen twenty-two was the last year he received income from movies until 1927-28. Publishing difficulties with McClurg’s and G&D increased. His long time publisher, McClurg’s, even refused outrightly to publish his opus of 1924, Marcia Of The Doorstep.
His foreign royalties once so promising slowly dried up because of political pressures. Later in the decade his troubles with McClurg’s became so intense that he was forced to abandon that long standing relationship. No other major publisher would touch him. Why, will probably never be clear. After a tentative stab with a less established publisher he turned to forming his own publishing company. This move was apparently successful enough to float him through the early part of the thirties before the spring of his inspiration began to dry up.
In a desperate attempt to save Tarzan he attempted many expedients, none successful. He incorporated himself to protect his income from creditors. He subdivided a portion of Tarzana, he attempted to sell off acreage, he tried to turn part of the estate into an exclusive golf club, he turned part into a movie lot attempted to lease that out, he invited oil geologists to find oil on his land. He invested in airplace engines and airports. Nothing came of anything. In the end the magnificent estate slipped through his hands.
A premonition of all this can be found in the The Chessmen Of Mars. Even the name of the story indicates the he is involved in a chesslike game of many moves.
Stress was now to be ERB’s other name.
A world famous figure, nominally rich, still retaining many of the trappings of wealth he had gone from prince to pauper, regained his princely stature and now slipped back to the role of a prince in exile from the Promised Land.
Nothing daunted he went on working. In the end his magnificent intellectual property, Tarzan Of The Apes, would always save him from a fate worse than death. A form of wish fulfillment in itself, I guess.
January 13, 2009
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
The Chessmen Of Mars
The Dance Of Barsoom
See Post I for Intro.
The twenties were a difficult financial period for ERB, indeed, as was the rest of his life to be. The substantial sums he had made in Chicago were spent before he left. ERB had saved nothing. He arrived in LA with no other resources than his current income. That income was very substantial by any measure but unequal to ERB’s massive spending capabilities so that at the time he wrote Chessmen he was already strapped for cash and headed for deep debt.
Always envious of the fabulous sums paid Zane Grey by the slick magazines ERB wanted to sell this story for ten thousand dollars to one of the big slicks. There were no takers so that the story went to the pulps for thirty-five hundred. Adding insult to injury he was told that the stories were too preposterous to be considered.
Part of ERB’s literary problem was that genre categories were not yet well developed. H.G. Wells’ early sci-fi efforts were labeled Fantasias, a term that could be understood by the literary arbiters, while still considered what we would call today, literary fiction. Even George Du Maurier’s trilogy of essentially science fiction novels- Peter Ibbetson, Trilby and The Martian have never been considered anything but literary fiction. They are three terrific stories of psychological dissociation while it would seem certain that Burroughs read them and was probably influenced by them. I can heartily recommend them. Very choice.
So the genres were taking shape at the period but had not yet evolved as they would during the thirties, forties and fifties until today fantasy, horror and sci-fi dominate the fiction best seller lists. If Chessmen was thought preposterous in 1920 one wonders what his critics would have thought of such movies as The Exterminator or The Predator. God, those people were so awkward and unevolved. Well, it’s the price you pay for being an innovator. Remember what the Pope told Galileo.
So, ERB was stuck in the pulps. Perhaps smarting from this rejection ERB would try to break out of his pulp rate with several realistic novels. the first was The Girl From Hollywood, a very decent attempt at a literary novel, that ERB’s long time publisher refused to publish. Following in the burro tracks of Zane Grey ERB wrote a couple of Westerns only one of which he could get published at the time. I read a lot of Westerns in the fifties while a kid. I thought ERB’s efforts were as good as what I read then. They’re all potboilers, even the so-called classics.
He even attempted a couple of Indian epics that I found so-so but I know other people who liked them a lot. Not so critical as myself, I guess. Oh, right, he couldn’t get Marcia Of The Doorstep published either. So he was type cast as a sci-fi/fantasy writer. At least he knew he could do that very well.
Zane Grey wrote some pretty strange Westerns. He himself was quite a womanizer and his novels pander quite successfully to the distaff side. He knew women well. Probably that was why he was paid those great prices by the Saturday Evening Post et al. Oh heck, ERB was just too outre for the Post.
In Chessmen ERB gives feminine appeal his best shot. I would imagine he was trying to reach the ladies when he describes Tara’s fabulous bath. Either that or he was trying to titillate us boys. Worked with me. But let’s assume he was trying to broaden his appeal as the title was offered to the slicks.
Chessmen was based on his three favorite novels as are all his books- The Viginian, Prince And The Pauper and Little Lord Fauntleroy.
Thus Tara teases Papa John as her ‘Virginian.’ We are then introduced to Gahan of far Gathol. ERB presents him first in his princely guise as, indeed, he is a prince of Gathol. ERB chooses to present him as a fop dressed all in diamonds and platinum. Tara forms an ill impression of him as she thinks no real fighting man would dress in such a fashion. Shortly Gahan will exchange his dress duds for the plain leather gear of the Martian mercenary thus changing from prince to pauper. Of course he will resume his role of Prince by novel’s end.
Fauntleroy was born to the manor in England but spent his youth learning what it meant to be a real American boy before reassuming his English title. Ah, American dreaming.
Recalling his battle for Emma’s favors with Frank Martin Tara has been betrothed since at least young girlhood to Djor Kantos whose father is friends with the family. So like ERB Gahan has to overcome this parental resistance. Speaking of Frank Martin Chessmen is the only novel I can recall in which the hero doesn’t get bashed on the head two or three times.
At the ball being given Djor Kantos fails to claim Tara in time for the first dance so that Gahan leads Tara in the Dance Of Barsoom. Some sort of Grand March. ERB explains that before Barsoomian youths can attend balls they have to first have learned three formal dances- The Dance Of Barsoom, that of their country and that of their city. After that they can take up stuff like the Martian equivalents of the Grizzly Bear, Bunny Hug, Charleston and Black Bottom. Kids being kids on Barsoom the same as on Jasoom.
While the concept is quite charming one wonders of the source. Burroughs himself was no slouch concerning the hit parade.
I think we can trace the rigamarole back to the patron saint of old timey music, Henry Ford.
Amongst all his many other enterprises Henry was revolted by the music and dances of the Jazz Age as the twenties are sometimes known. Even though his very own flivver is billed as being responsible for some new objectionable habits and traditions Henry clung stubbornly to the old. Thus in full revolt against the Jazz Age Henry was promoting the dances and music of his youthof around, oh say, 1880 or so.
Ford had begun his publication of the Dearborn Independent in 1920 making him a newspaper man also. It seems clear from internal references in Marcia Of The Doorstep that ERB was following developments in the Independent. He would then certainly have learned of the evils of the new music and the virtues of the old.
Just as Henry Ford was trying to rivive the old dances on Jasoom, on conservative, behind the times Barsoom Jazz has never even been given a chance. The Dance Of Barsoom is just as fresh and lovely as the first time it was danced millennia before. Martian kids didn’t mess with tradition so much so Gahan led Tara in that lovely old relic of Mars- The Dance Of Barsoom.
Pledging his love during the dance Gahan was sternly rebuffed by Tara.
The preliminaries finished the story begins in earnest.
The following day Tara is fascinated by a cloudy stormy sky which is such a rare occurrence on Mars that she had never seen one before. As I mentioned in the intro ERB borrows the next sequence from Baum whose Dorothy was wafted to Oz on a tornado. Tara ascends into this tornado like storm where her flier is caught by the winds and she is driven before them. When she lands she had been driven like Dorothy to Oz to a far land that has been all but forgotten if it had ever been thought of.
The hero and heroine of Chessmen are Tara of Helium and Gahan of far Gathol, or rather, they are the Anima and Animus of ERB. ERB always writes Anima and Animus novels. As dreamers will he may have recognized the X chromosome or Anima in the green pastures of his sleep or, it is quite possible that as a Latin scholar at Chicago’s Harvard School he was required to read the myth of Psyche and Eros from Apuleius’ The Golden Ass. I only mention a couple of possibilities. He may or may not have been familiar with Psyche and Eros but he was certainly familiar with the fairy tales derived from it such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.
While Apuleius is given credit for the story his version is certainly only a redaction of the tale or philosophical speculation dating much further back in history. The Ancients were well familiar with the concept of both the male and female versions of the Anima and Animus. In popular mythology the male chromosome is represented by the Goddess as X chromosome and the Bull as the y. The female is represented by the two snakes as in the pictorial representations of Crete. It will also be remembered that the Greeks imported Cretan priests to manage the Apollonian shrine at Delphi.
The myth is that the two aspects were once united then driven apart wandering the world in search of each other. Duly at long last they do find each other are reconciled and allowed by the Goddess of Love to reunite. Thus the stories of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty evolved from Psyche and Eros and who knows how many other stories besides those of Burroughs.
The question is was Burroughs only following a plot line, a pattern he had absorbed or was he consciously aware of what he was doing? Had he thought the problem out? Just as Tarzan and Jane were apparently mismatched in Burroughs’ dreamscapes so were ERB and Emma in real life. In Tarzan And The Golden Lion Tarzan and Jane had no sooner returned home from Pal-ul-don than Tarzan fled to his Anima in far off dreamland Opar leaving Jane/Emma to more or less shift for herself in a very dangerous world. Misfortune usually hit her too.
In ERB’s dream couple of John Carter and Dejah Thoris the Anima and Animus seem to be united although we see little of Dejah Thoris in the series and not at all in this novel. Even their son who may represent ERB is not present at all. Even with Carter and Dejah Thoris the classic separation and reuniting form a major part of the Martian Trilogy.
In this dream tale with Tara and Gahan ERB follows the classic formula- separation, the long pursuit and final reconciliation. He appears to know what he is talking about but since he never discussed his ideas on the subject we can only infer that he did or doubt or deny that he did. The psychological motifs he expresses throughout Chessmen leads me to believe he did.
What are dreams and what is a dream story? Freud originated the rational approach to dream interpretation. ERB gave some thought to the problem. Once can’t be sure he had read Freud’s Interpretations Of Dreams although in his short story Tarzan’s First Nightmare ERB used elements contained in Freud’s theory to explain the causes of Tarzan’s nightmare. At the very least we can say that dreams and nightmares from which ERB suffered all his life were of great interest to him. In the thirties he would buy at least one book on scientific dream interpretation.
What is the basis of dreams? It can only be experiences combined with memory. That’s it. Think about it. You don’t have to look any further. Nothing mysterious about them. The basic problem can be expressed in the question of what is the unconscious or subconscious. Is it some ultra mysterious process of the mind that can’t be penetrated, understood or accurately located? Is it as Freud believed an organ independent of the body and mind yet which somehow controls the actions of the individual from outside him? Or, once again, is it merely a combination of experience and memory, a faculty for interpeting the experiences of the day?
Freud touched on a key concept when he realized that the mind, which never rests, processes the incidents of the previous day in the sleeping and dreaming state. Burroughs also takes this approach in Tarzan’s nightmare whether he picked it up from Freud, Sweetser or realized it himself.
In point of fact experience happens to us so rapidly and from so many angles at the same time that it is impossible for the conscious mind to process it all as it is happening. Can’t be done. So, it follows that the subconscious or back up mind retains, as it were, photographs of the day’s activities that it reviews in sleep for either discarding, repression or action. How many times have you awakened with possible solutions to problems facing you?
The problem with the subconscious mind is that analysis of situations is affected by fixations, more expecially by the central childhood fixation. Childhood is that perilous time of life when the inexperienced mind is subject to being presented with challenges for which it has no programmed or immediately adequate response. Defeated in analysis the challenge is encrypted and encysted in the subconscious where it interprets all similar challenges through the lens of the defeated challenge and response. Thus all those strange compulsive behaviors we have.
As it chances we know Burroughs’ central childhood fixation. That was when he was eight or nine and he was challenged on a street corner on the way to school by a twelve year old Irish bully. Terrified ERB broke and ran apparently thereafter branded as a coward. Thus the central theme of his work is fight or flight and the state of cowardice. He examines the matter endlessly throughout the entire body of his work. These elements are all especially prominent in Chessmen.
We know that ERB was stressed to the breaking point as he wrote in 1921. Whenever he was stressed his personality fragmented, splitting at least once. In Chessmen the Kaldanes are two separate entities, the physical Rykors and the mental Kaldanes. Tara and Gahan, the ritual Burroughs’ surrogates are driven apart by the terrific storm.
This is a dream story abounding in dream images. One can provide an analysis of the storm scene based on the incidents occurring in ERB’s life at the time.
The image presented to us is of this very rare Martian storm of very high winds as in a tornado. Tara although warned against it takes her flier up. Perhaps ERB was warned against buying Tarzana, I would certainly think that Emma was at the least apprehensive. Tara navigates well beneath the clouds but wants to be in a cloud where she has never been before, i.e. Burroughs buys Tarzana. Here she is buffeted about so to escape she rises above the cloud or storm where the winds abate. But she has to get back down so she must reenter the storm. She is then taken by the winds tumbled head over heels by their extreme violence arriving half dead in the land of the Kaldanes.
Now, how does this represnet ERB’s actual situation in dream images.
ERB left Chicago under one presumes, sunny skies. His original intent was to buy twenty acres to raise hogs. Instead he bought over five hundred acres. He then began a massive building and improvement program with what appears to have been a substantial payroll and a not very well thought out plan. He overspent his income so that by 1921 his bills must have been greater than his income forcing him to borrow. He found he had neither the skills nor the talent bo be a ‘Gentleman Farmer’ so that he was forced to auction off most of his tools, implements and livestock in an effort to raise money and cut expenses. Also at this time his sources of income came under attack as the movies refused to film his intellectual properties while his royalties also came under attack.
In what I consider a purely defensive move he was forced to incorporate himself assigning all his income, copyrights and what not to the corporation in an effort to secure the means of his livelihood by putting his income beyond the reach of his creditors. In what I consider a questionable move he subsequently transferred a portion of Tarzana to the corporation. So, shortly after this storm broke on his head he became merely an employee of his corporation.
At the time he wrote Chessmen then he was caught in the turbulence of this storm he had created. Unable to get back down as with Tara he tried to rise above it in some way but was forced back into the problem where he was being blown along head over heels no longer in control of his affairs.
In the relative calm of 1924 he wrote Marcia Of The Doorstep that chronicles and looks back at this period.
Tara’s flight then is ERB’s day to day situation presented in dream images.
The rest of the book deals with past and present in a series of dream images to which we proceed.
November 16, 2008
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
ERB scholars have long noted that the entire corpus of novels reads almost as one long book. I believe this is because ERB records his life in his novels. If one reads the novels in the sequence in which they were written and if one understands the symbolism used by Burroughs against a background of what’s happening in his life ERB actually records his mental state of the moment.
In this essay I am going to concentrate on a role of John Carter in the Mars series and that of Ulysses Paxton in the Mastermind Of Mars.
In real life before ERB began writing he was powerless on earth. I would call him an abject failure but even though he appeared one he was only on the verge of being one and if his attempt at a writing career in 1911 had failed he would have been plunged into the abyss.
As he was a failure or at least an unfulfilled seeker in 1911 he makes John Carter into a mold he admired, that of a Virginian and a soldier who was seeking his post-Civil War fortune in the deserts of the Southwest. Carter, whose initials are JC, actually finds his gold mine but attacked by Indians he escapes death by transporting himself to Mars.
Mars has a lesser gravity than Earth so on Mars he has superhuman powers. Thus unable to realize any of his ambitions on Earth ERB transports himself in his imagination to Mars as the Superman, John Carter.
Amazingly the idea struck a responsive chord in his soon to be Editor at Munsey’s, Metcalf, who bought the story. It doesn’t matter for how much, the point is it validated ERB’s lofty opinion of his destiny. Fortified by this response he brought himself down to Earth in the fantastic form of Tarzan Of The Apes in an imaginary Africa. Here was the gold mine he as John Carter was seeking. There was no one, no Indians, to drive him off so he was off to the races.
The first rush carried him through the line into 1920 when he left Chicago behind and fled to Los Angeles.
In LA his careless financial habits soon led him into hot water virtually bankrupting him but definitely stripping him of his assets. By 1926 when he wrote The Mastermind Of Mars he was virtually financially prostrate.
The hero of Mastermind is Ulysses Paxton. Ulysses can stand for the Greek wanderer and seeker Odysseus or for the great warrior, Ulysses S. Grant. So what we have is a duplicate of John Carter.
ERB is on record as saying that he thought that every man was two persons not unlike Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, some more divided , some less. Under stress the two personas like Jekyll and Hyde became distinct.
Now, in 1911 ERB was an unrealized genius but in 1926 he was a failed genius. In other words he had had his legs cut from beneath him. He might as well have been dead. Therefore Ulysses Paxton while serving in the Great War has a shell explode beside him. When he comes to he realizes his legs have been blown away. While he lies dying he looks up to Mars as John Carter had fifteen years before. When he next comes to his legs are restored and he is standing in a garden on Mars.
Thus in real life ERB imagines himself figuratively in Paxton’s situation returning in his imagination to the Red Planet in the hope of making lightning strike twice.
He hadn’t written a Tarzan novel since Ant Men four years previously. He was black listed by the movie colony that refused to make any Tarzan movies even though they would have been lucrative. He was under attack nationally and internationally by the Reds who were doing everything possible to destroy his sales and reputation. ERB truly had his back to the wall or figuritively had had his legs cut off.
Fortune would once again favor him when FBO Studios broke the blacklist against him. After a couple fumbling attempts at Tarzan novels he would hit a magnificent stride through the Tarzan novels from 1929 to 1936.
The Mastermind Of Mars was his attempt to recover his career. His style while revered by his fans was old hat by 1926 so he could no longer take the world by storm as he had in 1911.
Mastermind is a complex novel of which I haven’t completely broken the code but let us concentrate on two aspects. The first is ERB’s troubled state of mind over his marriage. Thus he invents the story of Xaxa and Valla Dia as he fights to deal with his sexual problem. The second is the religious problem caused by his confrontation with the Jews beginning in 1919 and continuing not only through 1924′s Marcia Of The Doorstep, and 1926 but to the end of his career.
In 1926 ERB had not yet met Florence Dearholt although he was probably already familiar with her husband Ashton and through that acquaintance he may already have seen her, and perhaps, also on the screen as she was an actress. He did meet her in March of ’27 when Dearholt approached him on a movie deal and was either immediately smitten or had the opinion of her he already had confirmed.
In Mastermind ERB expresses the thought that he has a wife to whom he owes everything but who he hates. This strong emotion would be realized at his own Emma’s death.
In this novel Emma is represented by the brain of the horrid Xaxa. Ras Thavas, the demon mastermind of Mars and physician nonpareil, has transplanted the brain of Xaxa into the beautiful body of Valla Dia and vice versa. Dia is Latin for goddess. I don’t know what Valla means.
The body of Xaxa containing the brain of Valla Dia is held in suspended animation by Ras Thavas. Bringing the body to life Paxton is smitten by the beauty of Valla Dia’s brain. Knowing that her body is of incomparable beauty he conceives the notion of restoring her brain to her body and taking her to wife. Valla Dia may also be seen a version of Helen of Troy.
I interpret this to mean that ERB’s Anima ideal was the beautiful Valla Dia, perhaps as he had once viewed Emma. But to his mind Emma had developed an ugly mind that animated the body of his Anima ideal. the beautiful mind he sought was thus in an ugly body while an ugly mind was in a beautiful body. ERB’s dilemma was to shuck Emma and find a beautiful mind in a beautiful body. When he met Florence in 1927 he thought he had found his Anima ideal of a beautiful mind in a beautiful body. His problem then was how to rid himself of Emma.
On that level then ERB is struggling with his sexual problem. In this book his struggle would take the form of an astonishing number of dual and split personalities. This is quite a study in that sense and an indication of ERB’s extreme stress. Perhaps Mastermind is a worthy successor to Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde.
The second and less resolvable problem is the religious issue. At this moment in time the Jews of Hollywood have got ERB boxed. Indeed, they have cut off his legs. The logjam was about to be broken by FBO Studios which would free ERB up until the late thirties when he was forced into exile in Hawaii. For now though he has to deal with this very difficult problem. He has by now learned that freedom of speech ends where Judaism begins. If I am right he was denied publication of Marcia Of The Doorstep because of the manner in which he discussed his dilemma.
In Mastermind while the religious issue assumes primary importance ERB puts it into an ecumenical form denouncing all religion. Does he refer to his Jewish situation in any cloudy form? I think he does.
The god in this story is a huge several story high idol named Tur to which all must bow down. The name Tur is an odd name for a god, at least in my mind. I have said before you cannot talk about that which isn’t in your mind. If you haven’t studied religions there is nothing you can say about them. As ERB has a great deal to say it is obvious that he knows something about religion and religions. Theology isn’t the issue here, that is a separate matter.
Given ERBs method, when he learned he had a problem with Judaism I’m sure he went out and learned something about it. It isn’t necessary that he had a profound knowledge; it is only necessary that he learned some things. We can’t be sure what. The word Tur is signficant in Jewish historiography. His use of Tur may be a coincidence but there you have it- Tur is Tur any way you turn it, frontwards or backwards, Tur is Tur.
The word Tur appears in Judaic lore in this manner:
…Rabbi Jacob (Yaakov) ben Asher (1270-1343) the “Baal ha-Turim” compiled the Arba Turim, first printed in 1458. “Tur” is used as shorthand for both the title of the whole work and for Rabbi Asher himself since it is customary in Judaism to call a compiler by the name of his compilation. The Tur is the predecessor of Rabbi Joseph Karo’s Schulchan Aruch. The four part structure of the Tur and its division into chapters (simanim) were adopted by Karo in the later code, Shulchan Aruch. Each of the four divisions of the work is a Tur, so a particular passage is cited a Tur…
p. 127 Hoffman, Michael, Judaism Discovered, 2008
While one can’t be certain ERB learned the above fact it isn’t particularly recondite and might have been easily learned. At the least the use of Tur for the god is a remarkable coincidence.
Making Tur an idol to which all must bow would have been an egregious offence to the Jews and one which any knowledgeable Jew, who might have read the book, always a precondition, would have picked up on it whether Burroughs intended it or not. Paranoia strikes deep.
The idol itself could possibly be modeled on the Alexandrine Egypto-Greek god, Sarapis. Burroughs would have known of this from the Bible if not from his readings in the classics. We know he reread Plutarch’s Lives at least twice with one of those times just previous to writing Mastermind. If he read the Lives twice he undoubtedly read other classics so there is no reason to believe that he didn’t have knowledge in these matters.
The manner of Paxton’s posing as Tur and bamboozling the bamboozlers is a mockery of religion in general although given the context of the word Tur the application of the mockery might have been taken more personally.
Forced to use the most discreet measures to avoid accusations of anti-Semitism ERB may have thought he was undetectably clever while he is certainly having a good laugh. Paxton congratulates himself and gives himself a couple pats on the back at the success of his ruse.
The end result, of course, is that he frees the people from the bondage to the false religion of Tur.
I’m not quite clear on the nature of Ras Thavas who is named after the Ethiopian Prince Ras Tafari who became the Emperor Haile Selassie and the namesake of the Jamaican Rastafarians.
The book is a worthy of the attempted second birth of ERB’s faltering career. The characters are magnificent and finely drawn. Ras Thavas is surely one of the great characters of pulp fiction. Mastermind paired with The Synthetic Men Of Mars makes for one of the greatest diptyches of science fiction.
The Low Brow And The High Brow
An In Depth Study Of Edgar Rice Burroughs’
The Mucker And Marcia Of The Doortstep
Background Of The Second Decade- Personal
Erwin Porges’ ground breaking biography Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Invented Tarzan is the basic source for the course of ERB’s life. John Taliaferro’s Tarzan Forever is heavily indebted to Porges adding little new. Robert Fenton’s excellent The Big Swinger is a brilliant extrapolation of Burroughs’ life taken from the evidence of the Tarzan series.
Porges, the first to pore though the unorganized Tarzana archives, is limited by the inadequacies of his method and his deference for his subject. His is an ideal Burroughs rather than a flesh and blood one. Matt Cohen’s Brother Men: The Correspondene Of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Herbert T. Weston has provided much fresh material concerning ERB’s character.
Bearing in mind always that Weston’s evaluation of Burroughs in his August 1934 letter in reply to Charles Rosenberg, whoever he was, about ERB’s divorce is one man’s opinion nevertheless his statements can be corroborated by ERB’s behavior over this decade as well as throughout his life. My intent is not to diminish ERB in any way. Nothing can take away the fact that Burroughs created Tarezan, but like anyone else he was subjected to glacial pressures that distorted and metamorphosed his character.
During the Second Decade as he experienced a realization of who he was, or who he had always thought he should be, or in other words as he evolved back from a pauper to a prince, he was subjected to excruciatingly difficult changes.
A key to his character in this period is his relationship to his marriage. It seems clear that he probably would never have married, stringing Emma along until she entered spinsterhood while never marrying her. He seemingly married her to keep her away from Frank Martin. As he later said of Tarzan, the ape man should never have married.
Rosenberg in his letter to Weston (p.234, Brother Men) said that ‘…Ed says he has always wanted to get rid of Emma….’ The evidence seems to indicate this. After ERB lost Emma’s confidence in Idaho, gambling away the couple’s only financial resources, his marriage must have become extremely abhorrent to him. I’m sure that after the humiliations of Salt Lake City this marriage had ended for him in his mind. That it was his own fault changes nothing. He may simply have transferred his self-loathing to Emma.
That Emma loved and stood by Burroughs is evident. that he was unable to regain her confidence is clear from his writing. The final Tarzan novels of the decade in one of which, Tarzan The Untamed, Burroughs burns Jane into a charred mess identifiable only by her jewelry show a developing breach. Probably the jewelry was that which ERB hocked as the first decade of the century turned. Now, this is a fairly violent reaction.
ERB states that he walked out on Emma several times over the years. In Fenton’s extrapolation of Burroughs’ life from his Tarzan novels this period was undoubtedly one of those times. There seems to have been a reconciliation attempt between Tarzan and Jane between Tarzan The Untamed and Tarzan The Terrible. Then between Tarzan And The Golden Lion and Tarzan And The Ant Men ERB’s attempt to regain Emma’s confidence seems to have failed as Jane chooses the clown Tarzan- Esteban Miranda-, one of my favorite characters- over the heroic Tarzan -ERB – in Tarzan And The Ant Men.
This undoubtedly began ERB’s search for a Flapper wife which took form in the person of Florence Gilbert beginning in 1927.
Weston says of ERB in his disappointment and rage over ERB’s divorce of Emma that ‘…the fact that Ed always has been unusual, erratic and perhaps queer, has been his great charm and attraction for me…’ (p.223, Brother Men) There’s a remote possibility that ‘queer’ may mean homosexual but I suppose he means ‘odd’ or imcomprehensible in his actions. The evidence for this aspect of ERB’s character is overwhelming while being well evidenced by his strange, spectacular and wonderful antics during the second decade. When Weston says of him that ‘…there is no woman on earth that would have lived with him, and put up with him, except Emma…’ there is plenty of reason to accept Weston’s opinion.
Part of ERB’s glacial overburden came from his father, George T. who died on February 13, 1913. Burroughs always professed great love for his father, celebrating his birthday every year of his life, although one wonders why.
Apparently George T. broadcast to the world that he thought ERB was ‘no good.’ His opinion could have been no secret to Burroughs. Weston who says that he always maintained cordial relations with George T., still thought him a difficult man, always dropping in to visit him on trips through Chicago said that George T. complained to him, ERB’s best friend, that his son was no good. While without disagreeing with George T. up to that point, Weston said that he thought there was plenty of good in ERB but that he just hadn’t shown it yet. Kind of a back handed compliment, reminds me of Clarence Darrow’s defense of Big Bill Haywood: Yeah, he did it, but who wouldn’t?’
Such an opinion held by one’s father is sure to have a scarring effect on one’s character. How exactly the effect of this scarring worked itself out during this decade isn’t clear to me. Perhaps Burroughs’ mid year flight to California shortly after his father’s death was ERB’s attempt to escape his father’s influence. Perhaps his 1916 flight was the same while his move to California in 1919 was the culmination of his distancing himself from his father. That is mere conjecture at this point.
Now, what appears erratic from outside follows an inner logic in the subject’s mind unifying his actions. What’s important to the subject is not what obsevers think should be important.
The scholars of the Burroughs Bulletin, ERBzine and ERBList have also added much with additional niggardly releases of material by Danton Burroughs at the Tarzana archives. One of the more valuable additions to our knowledge has been Bill Hillman’s monumental compilation of the books in ERB’s library.
Let’s take a look at the library. It was important to ERB; a key to his identity. Books do furnish a mind, as has been said, so in that light in examining his library we examine the furnishing of his mind. The shelves formed an important backdrop to his office with his desk squarely in front of the shelves. ERB is seated proudly at the desk with his books behind him.
How much of the library survived and how much was lost isn’t known at this time. Hillman lists over a thousand titles. Not that many, really. The library seems to be a working library. There are no the long rows of matching sets by standard authors. The evidence is that Burroughs actually read each and every one of these books. They found their way into the pages of his books in one fictionalized form or another. Oddly authors who we know influenced him greatly like London, Wells, Haggard and Doyle are not represented.
Most of the works of these authors were released before 1911 when Burroughs was short of the ready. Unless those books were lost he never filled in his favorites of those years. That strikes me as a little odd.
It is generally assumed that he picked up his Martian information from Lowell, yet in Skelton Men Of Jupiter he says: ‘…I believed with Flammarion that Mars was habitable and inhabited; then a newer and more reputable school of scientists convinced me it was neither….’ The statement shows that Camille Flammarion’s nineteenth century book was the basis for Burroughs’ vision of Mars while Lowell was not. Further having committed himself to Flammarion’s vision he was compelled to stick to it after he had been convinced otherwise. When that understanding was obtained by him we don’t know but at sometime he realized that the early Martian stories were based on a false premiss.
Thus, his Mars became a true fiction when his restless, searching mind was compelled by judicious reasoning of new material to alter his opinion. That he could change his mind so late in life is an important fact. It means that behind his fantasy was a knowledge of solid current fact. The results of his pen came from a superior mind. It was not the maundering of an illiterate but amusing boob.
Organizing the books of his library into a coherent pattern is difficult. I haven’t and I Imagine few if any have read all his list. Based on my preliminary examination certain patterns can be found. He appeared to follow the Chicago novel by whomever, Edna Ferber’s So Big is a case in point. Seemingly unrelated titles can be grouped aorund certain Burroughs’ titles as infuences.
In 1924 when Marcia Of The Doorstep was written ERB had already formed his intention of leaving, or getting rid, of Emma. He began a fascination with Flappers that would result in his liaison with Florence.
After the move to Hollywood in 1919 a number of sex and Flapper potboilers find their way into his library. The tenor of literature changed greatly after the War showing a sexual explicitness that was not there prior to the Big Event. To be sure the graphic descriptions of the sex act current in contemporary literature was not permissible but the yearning to do so was certainly there. Language was retrained but ‘damn’ began to replace ‘d–n’ and a daring goddamn became less a rarity.
Perhaps the vanguard of the change came in 1919 when an event of great literary and cultural import took place. Bernarr Macfadden whose health and fitness regimes had very likely influenced Burroughs during the first couple decades decided to publish a magazine called “True Story.” The magazine was the forerunner of the Romance pulp genre while certainly being in the van of what would become the Romance genre of current literature.
The advance was definitely low brow, not to say vulgar, indicating the direction of subsequent societal development including the lifting of pornographic censorship. Pornography followed from “True Store” as night follows day.
The magazine coincided with the emergence of the Flapper as the feminine ideal of the twenties. In literature this was abetted by the emergence in literary fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald. His Beautiful And Damned is a key volume in Burroughs’ library forming an essential part of Marcia. To my taste Fitzgerald is little more than a high quality pulp writer like Burroughs. I can’t see the fuss about him. He riminds me of Charles Jackson’s The Lost Weekend and vice versa. In fact, I think Jackson mined the Beautiful And Damned. Plagiarize would be too strong a word.
“True Story” caught on like a flash. By 1923 the magazine was selling 300,000 copies an issue; by 1926, 2,000,000. Low brow was on the way in. Vulgarity wouldn’t be too strong a word. Macfadden had added titles such as “True Romances” and “Dream World” to his stable. His magazine sales pushed him far ahead of the previous leader, Hearst Publications, and other publishers. Pulpdom had arrived in a big way.
Where Macfadden rushed in others were sure to follow. The sex thriller, the stories of willful and wayward women, which weren’t possible before, became a staple of the twenties in both books and movies.
ERB’s own The Girl From Hollywood published in magazine form in 1922, book form in 1923, might be considered his attempt at entering the genre. Perhaps if he had thrown in a few Flapper references and changed the appearance and character of his female leads he mgiht have created a seamless transition from the nineteenth century to the twenties. A few Flapper terms might have boomed his ales much as when Carl Perkins subsititued ‘Go, cat, go’ for go, man, go’ in his Blue Suede Shoes and made sonversts of all us fifties types.
Certainly ERB’s library shows a decided interest in the genre from 1920 to 1930. Whether the interest was purely professional, an attempt to keep up with times, or personal in the sense of his unhappiness in his marriage may be open to question. I would have to reread his production of these years with the New Woman in mind to seek a balance.
Still, during the period that led up to his affair with Forence ERB seems to have been an avid reader of Flapper and New Woman novels.
He had a number of novels by Elinor Glyn who was the model of the early sex romance. He had a copy of E.M. Hull’s The Sheik, that shortly became the movie starring Rudolph Valentine with its passionate sex scenes. A ‘Sheik’ became the male synonym for Elinor Glyn’s ‘It’ girl.
Of course, the influence of Warner Fabian’s Flaming youth of 1923, both book and movie, on ERB is quite obvious.
Just prior to this relationship with Florence he read a number of novels by Beatrice Burton with such sexy titles as The Flapper wife-The Story Of A Jazz Bride, Footloose, Her Man, Love Bound and Easy published from 1925 to 1930.
I would like to concentrate on Burton’s novels for a couple reasons; not least because of the number of her novels in ERB’s library but that when Burroughs sought publication for his low brow Tarzan in 1913-14 he was coldly rebuffed even after the success of his newspaper serializations. The disdain of the entire publishing industry was undoubtedly because Burroughs was the pioneer of a new form of literature. In its way the publication of Tarzan was the prototype on which Macfadden could base “True Story.” Not that he might not have done it anyway but the trail was already trampled down for him. In 1914 Burroughs violated all the canons of ‘polite’ or high brow literature.
A.L. Burt accepted Tarzan Of The Apes for mass market publication reluctantly and only after guarantees for indemnification against loss. Now at the time of Beatrice Burton’s low brow Romance genre novels, which were previously serialized in newspapers, Grosset and Dunlap sought out Burton’s stories publishing them in cheap editions without having been first published as full priced books much like Gold Seal in the fifties would publish paperback ‘originals’ which had never been in hard cover. Writers like Burton benefited from the pioneering efforts of Burroughs. G& D wasn’t going to be left behind again. Apparently by the mid-twenties profits were more important than cultural correctness.
As ERB had several Burton volumes in his library it might not hurt to give a thumbnail of who she was. needless to say I had never read or even heard of her before getting interested in Burroughs and his Flapper fixation. One must also believe that Elinor Glyn volumes in ERB’s library dating as early as 1902 were purchased in the twenites as I can’t believe ERB was reading this soft sort of thing as a young man. Turns out that our Man’s acumen was as usual sharp. Not that Burton’s novels are literary masterpieces but she has a following amongst those interested in the Romance genre. The novels have a crude literary vigor which are extremely focused and to the point. This is no frills story telling. The woman could pop them out at the rate or two or three a year too.
Her books are apparently sought after; fine firsts with dust jackets go for a hundred dollars or more. While that isn’t particularly high it is more than the casual reader wants to pay. Might be a good investment though. The copies I bought ran from fifteen to twenty dollars, which is high for what is usually filed in the nostalgia section. Love Bound was forty dollars. I bought the last but it was more than I wanted to pay just for research purposes.
There is little biographical information about Burton available. I have been able to piece together that she was born in 1894. No death date has been recorded as of postings to the internet so she must have been alive at the last posting which woud have made her a hundred at least.
She is also known as Beatrice Burton Morgan. She was an actress who signed a contract with David Belasco in 1909 which would have made her fifteen or sixteen. Her stage name may have been Beatrice Morgan. The New York Public Library has several contracts c. 1919 in her papers.
One conjectures that her stage and film career was going nowhere. In The Flapper Wife she disparages Ziegfeld as Ginfeld the producer of the famous follies.
Casting about for alternatives in the arts she very likely noticed the opening in sex novels created by Macfadden and the Roaring Twenties. The Flapper Wife seems to have been her first novel in 1925. The book may possibly have been in response to Warner Fabian/Samuel Hopkins Adams’ Flaming Youth.
As the motto for his book he had “those who know, don’t tell, those who tell, don’t know.’ The motto refers to the true state of mind of women. Burton seems to have taken up the challenge- knows all and tells all. Flapper Wife was an immediate popular success when taken from the newspapers by G&D. Critics don’t sign checks so while their opinion is noted it is irrelevant.
Burton apparently hit it big as the movies came afer her, Flapper Wife was made into a movie in 1925 entitled His Jazz Bride. Burton now had a place in Hollywood. Burroughs undoubtedly also saw the movie. What success Burton’s later life held awaits further research. As there is no record of her death on the internet it is safe to assume that when her copyrights were renewed in the fifties it was by herself.
There are a number of titles in the library having to do with the Flapper. The library, then gives a sense of direction to ERB’s mental changes. There are, of course, the Indian and Western volumes that prepared his way for novels in those genres. As always his off the top of his head style is backed by sound scholarship.
The uses of the various travel volumes, African and Southeast Asian titles are self-evident. I have already reviewed certain titles as they applied to Burroughs’ work; this essay involves more titles and I hope to relate other titles in the future. So the library can be a guide to Burroughs’ inner changes as he develops and matures over the years.
The amont of material available to interpret ERB’s life has expanded greatly since Porges’ groundbreaking biography. Much more work remains to be done.
The second decade is especially important for ERB’s mental changes as his first couple dozen stories were written beginnng in 1911. Moreso than most writers, and perhaps more obviously Burroughs work was autobiographical in method. As he put it in 1931′s Tarzan, The Invincible, he ‘highly fictionalized’ his details. For instance, the Great War exercised him greatly. From 1914 to the end of the War five published novels incorporate war details into the narrative: Mad King II, Beyond Thirty, Land That Time Forgot, Tarzan The Untamed, and Tarzan The Terrible as well as unpublished works like The Little Door. Yet I don’t think the extent that the War troubled him is recognized. The man was a serious political writer.
Thus between the known facts and his stories a fairly coherent life of Burroughs can be written. My essays here on the ERBzine can be arranged in chronological order to give a rough idea of what my finished biography will be like.
Burroughs was a complex man with a couple fixed ideas. One was his desire to be a successful businessman. This fixed obsession almost ruined him. He was essentially a self-obsessed artist and as such had no business skills although he squandered untold amounts of time and energy which might better have been applied to his art than in attempts to be a business success.
In many ways he was trying to justify his failure to be a business success by the time he was thirty rather than making the change to his new status as an artist.
As a successful artist he was presented with challenges that had nothing to do with his former life. These were all new challenges for which he had no experience to guide him while he was too impetuous to nsit down and thnk them out properly. Not all that many in his situation do. Between magazine sales, book publishing and the movies he really should have had a business manager as an intermdiary. Perhaps Emma might have been able to function in that capacity much as H.G. Well’s wife jane did for him. At any rate book and movie negotiations diverted time and energy from his true purpose of writing.
His attempt to single handedly run a five hundred plus acre farm and ranch while writing after leaving Chicago ended in a dismal failure. Even his later investments in an airplane engine and airport ended in a complete disaster. Thank god he didn’t get caught up in stock speculations of the twenties. As a businessman he was doomed to failure; he never became successful. It if hadn’t been for the movie adaptations of Tarzan he would have died flat broke.
Still his need was such that he apparently thought of his writing as a business even going so far as to rent office space and, at least in 1918, according to a letter to Weston, keeping hours from 9:00 to 5:30. Strikes me as strange. Damned if I would.
At the end of the decade he informed Weston that he intended to move to Los Angeles, abandon writing and, if he was serious, go into the commercial raising of swine. The incredulousness of Weston’s reply as he answered ERB’s questions on hog feed comes through the correspondence.
Think about it. Can one take such flakiness on ERB’s part seriously? Did he really think his income as a novice pig raiser would equal his success as a writer with an intellectual property like Tarzan? Weston certainly took him seriously and I think we must also. There was the element of the airhead about him.
A second major problem was his attitude toward his marriage and his relationship with Emma.
He appears to have been dissatisfied with both at the beginning and decade and ready to leave both at the end. According to the key letter of Weston ERB was an extremely difficult husbnad with whom Emma had to be patient. As Weston put it, no other woman would have put up with his antics. Unfortunately he doesn’t give details of those antics but the indications are that Emma was a long suffering wife.
ERB’s resentment of her apparently became an abiding hatred. Danton Burroughs released information about ERB’s third great romance with a woman named Dorothy Dahlberg during the war years of WWII through Robert Barrett the BB staff writer in issue #64.
After having been estranged from her husband for about a decade Emma died on 11-05-44, probably of a broken heart. ERB returned to Los Angeles from Hawaii to dispose of her effects. Arriving on 11/19/44 after visiting his daughter he met with Ralph Rothmund in Tarzana where he proceeded to get soused, apparently in celebration of Emma’s death.
To quote Barrett, p. 25, Burroughs Bulletin #64.
After Ed met with Ralph Rothmund, he opened a case of Scotch and took out a bottle after which he drove to Emma’s home in Bel-Air- where he and Jack “sampled” the Scotch a couple times.” From Bel-Air Jack drove Ed to the Oldknows, some friends also in Bel-Air, where they continued to sample the Scotch. After this visit Ed and Jack returned to Emma’s home at 10452 Bellagio Road, where Jack brought out a nearly full bottle of bourbon. Jack asked the maids to postpone dinner for 30 minutes, while they waited for Joan and Joan II. This evidently irritated the two maids as they both quit and walked out on them! Ed reported in his diary that after the two maids walked out, ‘we had a lovely dinner and a grand time.”
That sort of strikes me as dancing on the grave of Emma which indicates a deep hatred for her on the part of ERB. We are all familiar with the storyof ERB’s pouring the liquor in the swimming pool humiliating Emma in front of guests which she stood so Weston must have known what he was talking about.
There is a certain hypocrisy in Burroughs now getting blotto in celebration of Emma’s death. Between the two of them in the space of a couple hours ERB and his son, John Coleman, finished a fifth of Scotch and went ripping through a bottle of bourbon. I don’t know how rough and tough you are but that would put me under the pool table.
In this inebriated and hostile state they apparently had words with what I assume to have been Emma’s long time maids. Maids don’t walk out because you ask them to hold dinner for a few minutes. Being a maid is a job; they don’t respond that way to reasonable requests. So in his drunken state ERB must have been offensive about Emma or the maids causing their reaction.
Thus sitting totally soused in the ‘alcoholic’ Emma’s home they ‘had a lovely dinner and a grand time.’ The woman was both good to him and good for him but it isn’t incumbent on any man to see his best interests. There was a crtain dignity lacking in ERB’s behavior at this good woman’s death, not to mention the hypocrisy of getting thoroughly jazzed.
The decade also witnesses the unfolding of ERB’s psyche from the repressed state of 1910 to an expanded and partially liberated state at the end of the decade when he fled Chicago. Pyschologically ERB was always a dependent personality. He let his editors both magazine and book bully him and take advantage of his good will. He also needed a strong role model which is one reason his literary role models are so obvious.
From 1911 to 1916 he seemed to lean on Jack London as his role model. The problem with London is that we can’t be sure which of his books ERB read as he had none of his books in his library. It seems certain that he read London’s early Gold Rush books. ERB’s hobo information is probably based on London’s The Road and then he may possibly have read The Abyssmal Brute which is concerned with the results of the Jack Johnson-Jim Jeffries fight and a preliminary to The Valley Of The Moon.
It is difficult to understand how Burroughs could have read much during this decade what with his writing schedule and hectic life style. Yet we know for a fact that between 1913-15 he found time to read Edward Gibbon’s massive The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire.
At the same time additions to his library from this decade are rather sparse, the bulk of the library seems to have been purchased from 1920 on. Still, if one assumes that he read all the books of London including 1913′s Valley Of The Moon, then it is possible that his cross=country drive of 1916 may have been partially inspired by Billy and Saxon Roberts’ walking tour of Northern California and Southern Oregon in that book as well as on ERB’s hobo fixation. Certainly London must have been his main influence along with H.H. Knibbs and Robert W. Service. He may have wished to emulate London by owning a large ranch.
I suspect he meant to call on London in Sonoma during his 1916 stay in California but London died in the fall of that year which prevented the possible meeting. With the loss of London Burroughs had to find another role model which he did in Booth Tarkington. He does have a large number of Tarkington’s novels in his library, most of which were purchased in this decade. Tarkington was also closely associated with Harry Leon Wilson who also influenced ERB with a couple two or three novels in his library, not least of which is Wison’s Hollywood novel, Merton Of The Movies. Just as a point of interest Harry Leon Wilson was also a friend of Jack London.
ERB’s writing in the last years of the decade seems to be heavily influenced by Tarkington as in Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid, The Efficiency Expert and The Girl From Hollywood.
Burroughs was an avid reader and exceptionally well informed with a penetrating mind so that his ‘highly fictionalized’ writing which seems so casual and off hand is actually accurate beneath his fantastic use of his material. While he used speculations of Camille Flammarion and possibly Lowell on the nature of Mars he was so mentally agile that when better information appeared which made his previous speculations untenable he had no difficulty in adjusting to the new reality. Not everyone can do that.
I have already mentioned his attention to the ongoing friction between the US and Japan that appeared in the Samurai of Byrne’s Pacific island. In this connection Abner Perry of the Pellucidar series is probably named after Commodore Matthew Perry who opened Japan in 1853. After all Abner Perry does build the fleet that opened the Lural Az. Admiral Peary who reached the North Pole about this time is another possible influence. The identical pronunciation of both names would have serendipitous for Burroughs.
As no man writes in a vacuum, the political and social developments of his time had a profound influence on both himself and his writing.
The effects of unlimited and unrestricted immigration which had been decried by a small but vocal minority for some time came to fruition in the Second Decade as the Great War showed how fragile the assumed Americanization and loyalty of the immigrants was. The restriction of immigration from 1920 to 1924 must have been gratifying to Burroughs.
I have already indicated the profound reaction that Burroughs, London and White America in general had to the success of the Black Jack Johnson in the pursuit of the heavyweight crown. The clouded restoration of the crown through Jess Willard did little to alleviate the gloom. Combined with the sinking of the Ttitanic and the course of the suicidal Great War White confidence was irrevocably shaken.
Burroughs shared with London the apprehension that the old stock was losiing its place of preeminence to the immigrants. This fear woud find its place in Burroughs writing where he could from time to time make a nasty comment. His characterization of the Irish is consistently negative while his dislike of the Germans first conceived when he saw them as a young man marching through the streets of Chicago under the Red flag was intense. Their participation in the Haymarket Riot combined with the horrendous reports of German atrocities during the War reinforced his dislike almost to the point of fanaticism. While the post-war German reaction in his writing was too belated he had been given cause for misinterpretation.
Always politically conservative he was a devoted admirer of Teddy Roosevelt while equally detesting Woodrow Wilson who was President eight of the ten years of the Second Decade. When the Bolsheviks took over Russia in 1917 polarizing public opinion into the Right and Left ERB was definitely on the Right.
By the end of the decade the world he had known from 1875 to 1920 had completely disappeared buried by a world of scientific and technological advances as well and social and political changes that would have been unimaginable in his earlier life. The changes in sexual attitudes caused by among others Krafft-Ebbing, Havelock Ellis and Margaret Sanger would have been astounding.
The horse had been displaced by the auto. Planes were overhead. The movies already ruled over the stage, vaudeville and burlesque. Cities had displaced the country. The Jazz Age which was the antithesis of the manners and customs of 1875-1920 realized the new sexual mores so that the Flapper and Red Hot Mama displaced the demure Gibson Girl as the model of the New Woman.
When ERB moved from Chicago to LA in 1919 he, like Alice, virtually stepped through the looking glass into a world he never made and never imagined. A Stranger In A Strange Land not different in many ways from the Mars of his imagination.
Go to Part III- Background Of The Second Decade Social And Political