Four Crucial Years
In The Life Of Edgar Rice Burroughs
…presumptuous attempts to conquer the outer world of appearances by the inner world of wishful thinking.
–S. Freud, Letter To Arnold Zweig 5/8/32.
Quoted by Schur: Freud: Living and Dying
Now back in Chicago he had to consider what direction his life was to take. At least secure working for his Dad, ERB made a tentative move in the direction of an artistic career. During the summer he enrolled in the Chicago Art Institute.
Chicago is billed as America’s Second City but in many ways it is or was, America’s First, certainly West of the Appalachians. The city was much more important to the Southern States than New York City, while its importance to the West is shown by the fact that the Outfit- the Chicago Mafia- considers the whole West as its province. The Outfit ruled everything west of the Appalachians by the end of the fifties
At the time in question when Chicago’s population was a mill six the population of the country was about 75 million so Chicago represented over 2% of the total. West of the towers rising from the mud there was virtually no one and those that existed were rubes and hicks or living on the reservation. During Burroughs entire youth this most modern of American capitals stood a beacon of civilization, such as it was, on what was then known as the great American desert.
Burroughs was to approach this metropolis from the West several times so is it any wonder that when John Carter emerged from the deserts of the Green Men- read Indians- the towers of Helium rose from nowhere much like Chicago. The twin of Chicago was probably New York City in ERB’s mind.
As the capital of the Empire, Helium, like Chicago, reflected the racial and ethnic makeup of Mars.
Chicago was polyglot and the mix was troubling. Bruce Grant who wrote the history of the Union Club of Chicago entitled characteristically ‘Fight For A City’ in 1955 characterized the situation during Burroughs’ time in this manner, page 96:
The thousands of laborers and adventurers who were attracted to Chicago during the rebuilding era following the fire of 1871 were for the most part uneducated newcomers. Ignorant of the underlying spirit of American institutions. Chicago was the Western distributing point for a vast European immigration. With the good came the bad, and borne along with the stream were the scum and dregs of countries where despotism had made paupers and tyranny had bred conspirators. From Russia came the Nihilists, described by one newspaper as ‘the gift of centuries of Slavic slavery and cruelty.’ From the German states came the Socialists, the offspring of military exactions and autocratic government. And from Europe generally, including Great Britain and Ireland, Chicago drained the feverish spirit of human resentment against laws and life; of property and of conduct which it had no hand in making or enforcing.
This was the environment Burroughs was growing up in. I suppose he was getting his Russian and Jewish information from the newspapers. Therefore it was heavily slanted in favor of the Jews. But as he walked around Chicago he must have thought himself a Stranger In A Strange Land. I do today. No more than 10% of Chicago’s population could be considered native. The city had a larger Irish population than Dublin, was the most populous German city in the world, The Polish population could compete with Warsaw and on down the line.
The Socialists paraded shouting and screaming Revolution under the Red banner which may have made sense in Germany but made no sense to the native born. Anarchists unfurled the Black Flag with their preposterous social conceptions.
The remarkable thing about America is the extent that the Anglos went to accommodate the immigrants. Of course there were movements such as the APA- American Protective Association- and later the Ku Klux Klan, but these were scorned and ineffective in any event, regardless of how seriously some paranoid immigrant writers like Gustavus Myers might take them.
Then as now Liberals controlled the country. More typical of the reaction was this querulous little poem gleaned from the pages of ‘Chicago’s Public Wits: a Chapter In The American Comic Spirit,’ Edited by Kenny J. Williams and Bernard Duffy. LSU Press, 1983:
I Wish I Was A Foreigner
I wish I was a foreigner, I really, really do.
A right down foreign foreigner; pure foreigner through and through;
Because I find Americans, with all of native worth,
Don’t stand one half the chances here with men of foreign birth.
It seems to be unpopular for us to hold a place,
For we are made to give it up to men of foreign race.
The question of necessity and fitness to possess
Must never be considered- who cares for our distress.
Perhaps it is not wicked to be of foreign birth,
Or to mutter a mild protest when an alien wants the earth;
But the latest importation is sure to strike a job,
And be the sooner qualified to strike and lead a mob.
A Dutchman (German) or an Irishman, a Frenchman or a Turk
Comes here to be a voter, and is always given work;
A native born American is here, and here he must stay;
So it matters little how he lives, he cannot get away.
The Spaniard and Bohemian, the Russian and the Pole,
Are looking toward America with longings in the soul,
Because the politicians will receive them with open arms,
And the goddess of our freedom bid them welcome to her charms.
But the law abiding Chinaman from the Celestial shore,
Because he has no franchise, is driven from our shore;
Americans and Chinamen are not in much demand,
The one remains neglected while the other is barred the land.
So I wish I was a Dutchman, or some other foreign cuss
I’d lord it over the natives- who don’t dare to make a fuss,
But my blushes tell the story, I am native to the soil’
So the aliens hold the places- visitors must never toil.
With the real American response as above, the retiring Bill Moyer doesn’t have to worry much about ‘the thunder on the Right’ caused by a few radio announcers. The real threat to them is that the Liberal ideology will be shown to be false and ridiculous not that the ‘danger from the Right’ is pernicious.
One believes that if Burroughs were alive today Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly would find him an ardent supporter. One wouldn’t want to be called ‘an unapologetic Conservative.’ The Liberal oppression is that strong.
The resignation is fairly bitter in the above poem. The Chinese, the only nationality ever excluded, had been denied entry in 1882, which was shortly before the above poem was written; thus the writer laments that ‘Americans and Chinamen are not in much demand’ comparing natives with the excluded Chinese.
By the nineties the Irish had seized control of many municipal administrations, including Chicago’s, so that they were in control of political patronage. The boodle as it was known. All the sinecures, city and county, were theirs to distribute to friends and cronies. The Irish effectively controlled Chicago. As the poem indicates this privilege was obtained by the vote and votes were obtained by corruption thus the Irish and the Democrats, then as today, were the party of corruption. All Irish city administrations were corrupt.
The failure of the potato, of course, sent the Irish fleeing Ireland for more emerald pastures, but the Scottish emigration to the US and Canada caused by the Highland Clearances is virtually unknown. There were two clearances, one in the eighteenth century which sent the Highlanders to the colonies or US and second , 1800-1860 which populated Canada.
After the Union when the Scottish Lairds no longer had need of armed retainers they simply cleared the natives off the land in about as brutal a manner as the Americans cleared the Indians to make room for sheep. All these people who had lived in the highlands for centuries discovered they were mere squatters on land which legally belonged to the Laird. Past services were forgotten; they were literally thrown off the land. How do you like that? Matches any hardluck story you’ve ever heard, doesn’t it?
The Lairds then invoked the law to kick their former retainers not only off the land but out of the country. Dig that, and take heed for the future. Sheriffs burned down their houses around their ears. There was then no place for them in their homeland. They were ordered to emigrate. What was that Walter Scott said:
Breathes there a man
With Soul so dead,
Who to himself hath not said,
This is my home,
My native land…
Well, with a mere change of place you can that about Canada, too. That’s how the Scots came to the US and Canada.
The Irish supremacy in the US lasted until the thirties when the massive immigration of the nineties through 1914 wrested power from them. Fiorello LaGuardia, the Jewish-Italian politician, replaced Jimmy Walker in New york ending the long Celtic rule of that city. James T. O’Farrell in his Studs Lonigan trilogy has the Irish lamenting that the Slavs are swamping the Irish causing them to lose control of the boodle. The Irish of Chicago must have rallied because Mayor Daley put the Irish back on top but because of the huge Negro influx into Chicago the Irish have to share power with the Blacks.
If one makes an analogy of the present with the past it won’t be long before Mexicans and Moslems are directing the affairs of municipalities and States. A vote is a vote.
Be that as it may, in 1897 I believe ERB would have been in sympathy with the author of I Wish I Was A Foreigner. The Irish certainly figure largely in both his personal and political images of the time. David Adams writing in the ERBzine has come up with several possible origins for the name of the Mahars of Pellucidar. I think the most obvious is that the Mahars are intended to be a parody of the Irish administration of Chicago. Mahar is an Irish name.
Earlier in the century the city of Chicago which was built on slightly different gradients so that sidewalks had a lot of up and down stairs had been literally jacked up to one level making the sidewalks even. Entire huge buildings and city blocks were raised several feet above ground to make a level city. The resulting cavity produced an underground city which the indigent occupied.
This might suggest the image of the occupants as slimy reptiles into an imaginative mind. Putting the images together one comes up with an Irish administration of slimy reptiles. I haven’t figured out why they’re deaf and female yet unless ERB was unhappy with Emma who may have been deaf to his entreaties. For the present I’ll leave that one up to you.
I shall permit myself to send you a small book which is sure to be unknown to you. Group Psychoogy And The Analysis Of The Ego, published in 1921. Not that I consider this work to be particularly successful, but it shows a way from the analysis of the individual to an understanding of society.
– S. Freud to Romain Rolland.
Quoted by Max Schur: Freud Living And Dying
Working at the Battery Company, starting from the ground up, his father must still have allowed ERB flexible hours because Our Man found time to attend classes at the Chicago Art Institute. He was not a very cooperative student, refusing to accept any discipline. According to Porges he only wanted to draw horses and that without acquiring the fundamentals of drawing. As he couldn’t find anyone willing to drop some hints on the fine points of equine deliniation he lost interest dropping out of school
I for one would be very much interested in learning exaclty how he passed his time during this halcyon period. If he and Emma went to the theatre as Porges suggests I would like to know what shows or lecture they attended. Lecturers were a much more important adjunct to entertainment than they are today. Robert Ingersoll had a huge reputation and of course Mark Twain. There was also the Chautauqua Circuit.
In the much discussed issue of Theosophy in Burroughs’ life it is quite possible that he attended a lecture or series of lectures either in their own building or some other place. There undoubtedly would have been reviews of lecture in the papers. Chicago had at least a dozen, in which the tenets or beliefs would be discussed. In the crowd in which Burroughs associated I’m sure the fairly amazing doctrines would be discussed.
When the US government places its 30 million pages of newspapers on the internet by 2006 dating back to the earlyh nineteenth century we will be able to examine this pertinent period in detail.
At the theatre he and Emma would most likely have seen an actor by the name of John McCulloch who was a fixture of the Chicago stage. This would have struck ERB as quite a coincidence as his mother had a John McCulloch as an ancestor. If I am right in my surmise John the Bully was surnamed McCulloch.
Nor would this be such a far fetched coincidence. There must have been a couple dozen John McCullochs in Chicago at the time, probably hundreds in the United States. As I write, my phone book lists a half dozen John McCullochs in this area.
If Emma introduced ERB to the theatre at this time, there seem to be no reference3s to the theatre earlier, it held an attraction for him he never lost. The old actor in Marcia Of The Doorstep is probably based on John McCulloch while ERB wrote his play You Lucky Girl at about the same time for his daughter Joan.
Then at the beginning of the thirties ERB wrote his novelette Pirate Blood using the pseudonym John T. McCulloch which united the McCulloch references in his life. It is said that ERB capitalized too much in his writing on improbable coincidences which on the one hand may be true but on the other, life is just like that, isn’t it?
A near contermporary of ERB, Vachel Lindsay, who was born in 1879 in Springfield, Illinois, catalogs the influences to which he and his generation were subject. It might not hurt to look through the poem here to try to capture some of the essence of what it meant to be young during this period. The piece is entitled: John L. Sullivan, The Strong Boy Of Boston.
The poem may be especially relevant to Burroughs as it centers on boxing which was a special interest of his. During the period from 1892 to 1897 Burroughs’ idol, Gentleman Jim Corbett, was the heavyweight champion. Corbett had defeated the incredible hulk, John L. Sullivan, in 1892 by landing one on the solar plexus making that piece of anatomy a topic of conversation down to when I was a kid. In 1897 Bob Fitzsimmons took the title from Corbett.
In the poem, Lindsay lists the many influences on his young life centered around 1889. Pervading and overriding all is the ominous figure of Sullivan and the Irish. Both Lindsay and Burroughs were Anglos. The refrain ‘East side, West side’ refers to the Irish domination of New York City while the capitalized LONDON BRIDGE IS FALLING DOWN of the last stanza implies that the Irish were conquering the Anglos.
When I was nine years old in 1889,
I sent my love a lacy valentine.
Suffering boys were dressed like Fauntleroys,
While Puck and Judge in quiet humor vied.
The Gibson Girl came shining like a bride
To spoil Tennyson’s Elaine.
Louisa Alcott was my gentle guide….
I heard a battle trumpet sound.
Nigh New Orleans
Upon an emerald plain
John L. Sullivan
The strong boy
Fought seventy-five red round with Jake Kilrain.
In simple sheltered 1889
Nick Carter I would piously deride.
Over the Elsie books I moped and sighed.
St. Nicholas magazine was all my pride;
While coarser boys on cellar doors would slide.
The grownups bought refinement by the pound.
Rogers groups had not been told to hide.
E.P. Roe had just begun to wane.
Howells was rising, surely to attain!
The nation for a jamboree was gowned.
The hundreth year of roaring freedom crowned.
The British Lion ran and hid from Blaine
The razzle-dazzle hip-hoorah from Maine.
The mocking bird was singing in the lane….
“East side, west side, all around the town the tots sang: ‘Ring a rosie-
‘London Bridge is falling down.’
John L. Sullivan
The strong boy
Broke every single rib of Jake Kilrain.
In dear provincial 1889
Barnum’s bears and tigers could astound
Ingersoll was called a most vile hound,
And named with Satan, Judas, Thomas Paine!
Phillips Brooks for heresy was fried.
Boston Brahmins patronized Mark Twain.
The baseball rules were changed. That was a gain!
Pop Anson was our darling pet and pride.
Native sons in Irish votes were drowned.
Tammany once more escaped it chain.
Once more each raw slaoon was raising Cain.
The mocking bird was singing in the lane….
“East side, west side, all around the town
The tots sang: ‘Ring a rosie’
‘London Bridge is falling down.’”
John L. Sullivan
The strong boy
Finished the ring career of Jake Kilrain.
In mystic, ancient 1889
Wilson with pure learning was allied.
Roosevelt gave forth a chriping sound.
Stanley found old Emin and and his train.
Stout explorers sought the pole in vain.
To dream of flying proved a man insane.
The newly rich were bathing in champagne.
Van Bibber Davis, at a single bound
Displayed himself and a simpering glory found.
John J. Ingalls, like a lonely crane
Swore and swore and stalked the Kansas plain.
The Cronin murder was the ages’ stain.
Johnstown was flooded, and the whole world cried.
We heard of Louvain and Lorraine,
Of a million heroes for their freedom slain.
Of Armageddon and the world’s birth-pain,
The League of nations, the new world allied,
With Wilson crucified, then justified.
We thought the world would loaf and sprawl and mosey,
The gods of Yap and Swat were sweetly dozy,
We thought the far off gods of Chow had died.
The mocking bird was singing in the lane….
“East side, west side, all around the town
the tots sang: ‘Ring a rosie’
‘LONDON BRIDGE IS FALLING DOWN.’”
John L. Sullivan knocked out Jake Kilrain.
So many of the references which had an influence on Vachel Lindsay have lost their relevance but there are two which are important for our story. One is that: The Gibson Girl came shining like a bride to spoil the cult of Tennyson’s Elaine. Elaine came from Tennyson’s Arthurian poem ‘Idylls Of The King.’ She was sort of pale and wan. The Gibson Girl was created by the illustrator, Charles Gibson. The latter girl was a robust saucy temptation of the All American Girl. Emma made the choice between the two the Gibson Girl her role model which is why I find her so entrancing. In that sense Emma was forward looking heading into the twentieth century. The Gibson Girl may be said to epitomize the woman of the myth of the twentieth century. From the Gibson Girl the ideal progressed to the Vargas pinup girl of the heyday of Esquire Magazine and from there she degenerated to the sex fantasies of Hugh Hefner and on down to Larry Flynt’s Hustler. The story could have had a happy ending but didn’t. It’s gotten worse. I don’t want to go into that.
The second key point is the general regretful tone concerning the Irish. Just as in the poem I Wish I Was A Foreigner where the American complains …’the foreigner comes here to be a voter,’ so Lindsay notes ‘Native sons in Irish votes were drowned.’ This is serious. This was a major problem with the ‘democracy’ when its intended fairness was turned against itself. In a homogeneous society votes are used to determine an issue regarding the welfare of the whole people. In a heterogeneous society votes are used to advance the interests of one segment against the others. Thus the whole democratic process is subverted.
Thus while the Anglos were concerned with regulating the country and immigration for the benefit of all, the Irish put themselves forward as the benefactors of the immigrants against the Anglos taking moral shortcuts which undermined the integrity of the State. Immigrants then were brought in on the Irish side condemning the Anglos who were their true benefactors.
Hence the baffling undercurrent of condemnation and complaint that runs thorugh American historical writing.
Vachel Lindsay would also run afoul of the Diversity with his poem of the Congo which the Left portrayed as anti-Negro while it merely was an expression of Lindsay’s understanding of the culture of the Negro Group within the Diversity. The Negro deserves to have his own psychology and he does. We should value and honor that.
Such censoring of opinion will have its consequences. Burroughs himself was and is charged with racism merely for having prescient views. The man was a deep thinker. Viewing the world around him at this time he came to a remarkably accurate conclusion. I can’t tell what his thought processes were but analyzing history he came to this conclusion.
In his prophetic futuristic novel ‘Beyond Thirty’ of 1915, just after the Great War began, he has a post-war Europe ruled, as I thought improbably by Black Africans. In light of recent events this now seems not so improbable.
Life is not what we would have it: The world is not run on any principles we can cheerfully accept. The twentieth century was one of unprecedented disasters in their scope. Shiva and Kali rule whether we will or not. The twenty-first century will be even more destructive. Now, beginning in the fifteenth century Europe, in essence, began the invasion of the world. Scientifically far in advance of the rest of the world its success was dazzling. However, somewhere in these years, we are considering, perhaps specifically 1893, the Euroamericans, the West, lost its will to dominate. This lack of will was presciently picked up by a number of writers including Burroughs.
The way of the world is that one either conquers or one is conquered. Having begun to impose its will on the world there was no turning back for the West. However it has attempted to do so. The result is that instead of invading and conquering the West is now being invaded and conquered.
Any Freudian analysis of the ego of the various peoples or, Groups, will provide a record of their mental processes, objectives and desires, not mention, capabilities. The myth of the twentieth century was destroyed on 9/11/01 when the Moslems destroyed the religious symbol of the World Trade Center.
The West at the height of their confidence moved peoples about the world to satisfy their needs. East Indians were taken to all corners of the world while Chinese were moved into areas in the Pacific where their skills were in advance of the native populations. During the two wars Africans were recruited to fight from Europe to the Far East. A great deal of the consequences have been suppressed. Having set the peoples of the world in motion, the West withdrew from its conquests, the conquered peoples began to assert their Group egos realizing that it was either conquer or be destroyed. Then they began their invasions.
The Japanese attempt to expel the West from Asia was successful although costly for themselves. Nevertheless by the 50s the West had been expelled from Asia while the enclave in Hong Kong was allowed to live out the terms of their lease.
By the early sixtes the Africans had expelled the West except in South Africa. that fearful drama is not yet finished.
Africans had been dispersed throughout the Americas during gthe 16th through 19th centuries. Beginning recently they have begun to invade Europe from the North African ports especially from Libya.
At the same time the world’s population has grown so large that there are areas that can no longer support their populations. Whether by design or natural increase the Semitic States were so productive that they began exporting people throughout th world beginning in the seventies while their populations at home continue to grow.
As the Moslems invaded the world in this second Eruption From The Desert this narrow, bigoted, antiquated religious faith came into conflict with Western Scientific knowledge.
To accept scientific knowledge would destroy the Moslem faith in much the same way that the Christian and Jewish faiths in the West have been affected. There can be no compromise between the two; this is an either-or situation.
While Moslem proselytizing has never ceased since the seventh century there was now a renewed burst of activity combined with an all out assault on the West, well conducted within Moslem military limitations.
On 9/11/01 they were successful in destroying the symbol of scientific achievement, the World Trade Center in New York City. They aimed directly at the strength of the West- its economic system.
It is a mistake to think that anything can be achieved by fair minded discussion or concessions, otherwise known as appeasement. Appeasement didn’t work out so well in the thirties when another determined ideology asserted its will. This is a war to the knife; only one side will be left standing.
More remarkable still, having disturbed the Africans in their nest, the Africans are on the move having begun an invsion of Euorpe which is already over populated there being no room for vast numbers of either Africans or Moslems, unless…. Religious and racial intolerance began to take a vicious turn in the twentieth centgury when racial clashes began almost simultaneoulsy in Europe and Asia.
Since then genocidal wars of either a racial or religious nature have proliferated. The Moslems have opened a guerilla war on the world. In areas where resources are insufficient to support an Arab or Semitic population against other races the Semites or Arabs are conducting genocidal wars as in the Sudan where they are wiping out the Negroes or driving them beyond the borders.
As Moslems and Negroes flood into Europe this must result in a terrific struggle for survival of the Europeans, probably breaking out within the next ten or twenty years.
The resultant war must be genocidal in nature. If the European struggle is successful it must result in the death of alien populations or their being driven out of Europe the same as the long struggle to drive the Moslems out of Spain. Or the Europeans will be annihilated.
This is an unpleasant but inevitable prospect.
If the Europeans fail as I am sure they will then Burroughs remarkable prophecy of a Black Europe in ‘Beyond Thirty’ is almost certain to become a reality. Life does not give you any easy choices. Here in America you’re not even supposed to talk about this problem in a realistic manner so there is no hope of avoiding destruction.
ERB’s head must have been aswirl with all these thoughts that society forbade him to express directly.
Probably wrestling with all these macro thoughts he had the really important micro thoughts to deal with. Really, what to do with Emma who he wanted but didn’t want to marry, while still not losing her to Frank Martin.
In February of ’98 he once again for some reason decided to seek an officer’s appointment. He wrote to a former commandant at the MMA, Capt. Fred A. Smith, seeking his assistance. Smith, of course, replied that there was nothing he could do. ERB still didn’t understand the consequences of abandoning his post in 1896.
Shortly thereafter ERB pulled up stakes to return to Idaho abruptly abandoning Emma again. Why he should have done so is not clear although perhaps there is a clue in the Return Of Tarzan. Remember that dream displacement and disfiguration are in operation so that one cannot expect a literal representation of the incident. One has to demythologize it.l In the Return W.C. Clayton, Tarzan’s rival for Jane, and Jane have been stranded in the jungle.
Tarzan has chanced upon their camp. As he watched an aged, toothless lion was about to spring on a cringing W.E. Clayton as Jane watches. Tarzan transfixes the lion with his spear. He then sees Clayton get up to embrace and kiss Jane. Mistaking the import of the embrace and kiss, Tarzan turns sorowfully back to disappear into the jungle.
Burroughs himself may have seen Frank Martin kissing Emma. Perhaps he thought that a pauper like himself had lost out to a prince like Martin. Thinking himself cut out might have been the reason for his departure to Idaho much as Tarzan melted back into the jungle.. With no more thought for his Dad at the Battery Company than he had for Col. Rogers at the MMA ERB just up and left. Poor old Emma must have been wondering what she had done. Couldn’t have been anything she said.
Continue to Part III.
September 6, 2008
The Low Brow And The High Brow
And In Depth Study Of The Edgar Rice Burroughs Novels
The Mucker And Marcia Of The Doorstep
By the time Burroughs took up his pen to write at the age of 36 he had a lifetime of frustration and humiliation behind him. Born into an affluent family, their means had petered out by the time young Burroughs reached manhood. Thus he who had been born a prince had become a pauper. ERB felt this keenly. His problem became how to regain his position, his exalted destiny.
The most direct and possible approach was to become an officer in the Army. Burroughs closed that avenue early in life by botching his relationship with Colonel Rogers and Charles King of the Michigan Military Academ.
He began a promising career at Sears, Roebuck but he found success there would be of a very anonymous sort as the member of the team. Fearing to disappear into mercantile obscurity he aborted that career abruptly quitting his job with no prospects.
In what may have been one of the most important decisions of his career he joined up with a patent medicine manufacturer named Dr. Stace. This phase of his career has not been properly investigated. Reasoning from inferences in the Corpus it seems reasonable that he and Stace ran afoul of the law.
A Pure Food And Drug Act had been passed in 1906 which temporarily at any rate made the sale of patent medicines illegal. A few years later the Supreme Court would once again legitimize their sale provided the contents were properly labeled. For the time being there was a problem with the law. Erwin Porges’ Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Invented Tarzan briefly discusses the relationship in this manner. p. 105:
Stace, whom Ed found very likable, had grown ashamed of the patent medicine business and was casting about for a more reputable type of livelihood. His qualms may have been reinforced by the dubious attitude of the United States Government: “Alcola cured alcoholism all right, but the Federal Pure Food And Drug people tooke the position that there were worse things than alcoholism and forbade the sale of Alcola.”
The portion in quotes is presumabley from Burroughs although Porges fails to properly identify it if so.
Since the Pure Food And Drug people acted against Dr. Stace it is only fair to assume the police were involved and depending on how far Dr. Stace fought it, probably a Grand Jury. It is probable then that Burroughs’ seeming intimate knowledge of police methods and Grand Juries was learned at this time.
As Stace’s office manager it is possible that ERB bought into the company and was therefore more intimately involved. Certainly he did not sever his relationship with Dr. Stace as a result of these legal actions, but instead formed a corporation or partnership with him immediately after to sell courses in salesmanship. Hardly more respectable than patent medicines.
As one usually found advertisements for such courses in the back of pulp magazines one can conjecture the status of the enterprise and also its chances of success. The company bearing the name Burroughs-Stace did fail quickly. Notice that Burroughs name came before that of Stace.
Now, Alcola being an illegal product it could not have done ERB’s reputation much good to be associated with it. Continuing his relationship with Dr. Stace in another questionable business would only confirm ERB’s rputation for operating on the legal borderline. In later years Burroughs, while not denying that he had been associated with Stace, claimed to have never seen those people since the time thus attempting to dissociate himself from them.
Thus ERB’s prospects loomed shakily. As these events occurred in 1909-10 he was facing a lifetime of marginal jobs leading ever downward or taking the million to one chance of becoming a successful author. Not too long after terminating his relationship with Dr. Stace he took up his pen. Fate began to blow a strong wind into his sails, so to speak.
However, if I am correct, he was now looked at askance by ‘polite’ society.
His first writing efforts were a success. So successful that he could get anything he wrote into print. this began to bear fruit in 1913, two years after he began writing, when he could throw over his day job and become a self-supporting writer.
Thus he was able to realize his ambition to regain his status of a prince after an interim of nearly thirty years.
He still had to explain himself to himself and Emma as well as to Chicago in general. Much of his output of 1913 would attempt to do just that; especially the first of the two works under consideration here: The Mucker.
The psychological baggage Burroughs brings to his writing to exorcise is considerable. When H.G. Wells portrayed ERB as insane in Mr Blettsworthy Of Rampole Island there was an element of truth while the case was overstated. ERB was apparently able to disappear into himself whiie he was writing thus living an alternate reality which is what Wells was talking about.
The ability to do so is probably why Burroughs’ writing has such immediacy, why his improbabiities are so believable. One wonders what would have become of his mind if he hadn’t become a successful writer. Perhaps the pseudonym he adopted for his first book, Normal Bean, was more to convince himself than others. Bean as slang for head or mind. Certainly his reaction to his success appears to border on the irrational.
His psychological compression was so great that he nearly went off the rails in 1913 in his first blush of success. It is impossible that he wasn’t being observed by others. It is impossible that others didn’t consider him a phenom. The Mars Trilogy and Tarzan were such strange creations for the times that he had to be viewed with wonder. While one can never be sure when he is being referred to in the fiction of other writers it seems to me that there are resonances of Burroughs in such writers as John Dos Passos and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
If he had designed his actions to get talked about he couldn’t have come up with anything more spectacular than his trip to California mid-1913 after a successful half year. For the full year he would earn over ten thousand dollars. This sum in 1913 was reaching the lower limits of super affluence. You couldn’t add much to your comfort with more than ten a year, the rest was conspicuous consumption. It all depends on which multiplier you use but the one I use brings the income out in today’s dollars as between three and five hundred thousand dollars.
Sudden affluence after years of scrabbling for a living can do strange things to your mind. ERB’s was rocked to its foundations. He went crazy in his rush to spend his money. A clothes horse like his wife Emma came into her own. In his rush to spend ERB spent his income before it was earned. He was literally broke between checks from his publishers.
Then in mid-1913 an event occurred which might have triggered his flight from Chicago to California. The Black boxer, Jack Johnson was conceded his title in 1910 when he defeated the White favorite, Jim Jeffries. He had actually won the title in 1908 when he defeated then champion Tommy Burns. Whites were reluctant to acknowledge his claim to the title until he had fought Jeffries who the Whites thought was the ‘real’ champion because he had retired undefeated.
Having disappointed White hopes by defeating Jeffries, Johnson was then set up on a morals charge and convicted in what amounted to a kangaroo court. About to lose his appeal Johnson skipped the country in July of ’13 rather than go to jail as an innocent man.
The Affair Jack Johnson had had a tremendous effect on Burroughs who was an ardent boxing fan. Thus his novel The Mucker deals extensively with the Johnson Affair. I believe that since his assocition with Dr. Stace Burroughs was considered quasi-legit at best and hence in the same boat with a Johnson.
When Johnson split it seemed to cause an equal reaction in Burroughs. Johnson went East to Europe while ERB went West to California. In july of ’13 ERB began work on his realistic Chicago novel The Girl From Farris’s. This work was undoubtedly intended to explain his actions between 1899 and 1911. Once he got started he immediately ran into writer’s block being unable to continue the novel. Before he could continue he had to work out several issues. Thus he did what was for him a very unusual thing. He began the book in July of ’13 only finishing it in March of ’14. In between he wrote five other novels in his usual rapid fashion. the were, in order The Mucker, The Mad King Pt. 1, The Eternal Lover Ptl 1, Beasts Of Tarzan and The Lad And The Lion. The entire set of six stories then are all closely related and should properly be understood only as aspects of the same novel- The Girl From Faris’s.
We are going to consider only the first of the inner five, The Mucker, here. Thus the trip to California begins to work out the redemption or Salvation of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The whole set might be titled: Edgar Rice Burrougs In Search Of Himself.
One must not underestimate the influence of the two or possibly three central events in Burroughs’ life; his confrontatin with John The Bully in 1884-85, the 1899 trip to New york with the Martins and his dramatic relationship with Dr. Stace. One cannot devalue his relationship with his father or Charles King, nor the very influential visit to Idaho where he came under the influence of Lew Sweetser, but his first three seem to dominate his life and work.
A major consequence of his confrontation with John The Bully is that it declassed him. ERB’s Animus became part prince, part pauper; part outlaw, part orthodox as demonstrated in The Outlaw Of Torn. The trip in the private rail car showed him how far down the economic scale he was and how far he had to climb. Although he won the hand of Emma from Martin I think it very likely that when he and Emma returned from Idaho Martin renewed his attentions to Emma. He undoubtedly drove one of the big new automobiles with which the impoverished ERB could not compete. About all he could do if he thought Emma’s affection were wobbling was to get her pregnant. In 1908 and 1909 the couple had two children in rapid succession although they could afford them no more than in their first eight years of marriage.
Thus ten years after had taken Emma to Idaho, for reasons that are unclear to us, he took her to California. Always the wastrel he made the trip in the most expensive way possible. The family went first class.
As Porges quotes him ERB says: “I had decided I was too rich to spend my winters in Chicago so I packed my family, all my furniture, my second hand automobile and bought transportation to Los Angeles.
This was not the most rational move for a man who had written an “Ode To Poverty” not too long before. He had no assurance of being able to write or sell stories, without the sale of which he would be stranded, broke twenty-five hundred miles from his home. Of course he still had all his furniture. There was no one who could help him financially. It is interesting to speculate on what sort of job he would have applied for.
Why would a man do this? ERB had apparently bought his used car, a Velie, at the beginning of 1913 when for all practical acounts he was still broke. Why the urgent need to hop a train? I think the reason can be traced back to Frank Martin. The humiliation of the trip East in a private railcar in 1899 and the subsequent stay in the Bowery while the Martins lived on Riverside Drive had to be compensated. While ERB couldn’t afford a new car he rushed out to buy a used one which was apparently as much as he thought he could afford at the time. On the other hand as his characters always say of themselves: For me. to think is to act. if the Martins among other ‘plutocrats’ wintered in Florida then as ERB could still not compete with them financially he went West.
Arriving in LA he and family drove the second hand Velie down to San Diego with the furniture apparently entrained for the same destination.
During this period ERB’s behavior is absolutely zany. Unable to stay put in LA he moved to Coronado which is a sand spit on the west side of San Diego Bay. North Island Naval Air would be built on the North end of it. The Carriers used to be docked on the ocean side as their draft was too great for the Bay. Disliking Coronado he moved back across the bay to the first low ridge of hills that separates the city proper from the Bay. He apparently was near the crest as he said he could look over it to the East. When I was in the Navy in San Diego I thought this small ridge only a couple miles in length had the most deligthful climate on Earth. I still think it does. So, in 1913-14 before 101 became a major noisy highway at the base of the hill ERB was living in as close to paradise as anyone in this world can ever get.
It was here he explored his psychological problems.
Burroughs because of his encounter with John The Bully, had been rendered susceptible to ‘low brow’ influences. His subsequent life with its constant moving from school to school, from Illinois to Idaho, to Connecticut, to Michigan, to Arizona and back to Illinois had not put into contact with too many ‘high brow’ influences.
In constrast, his wife Emma Hulbert, had been trained to high brow avocations from childhood. I’m sure that one of the objections of her parents to ERB was that he was so detestably low brow. Emma, afer all, had been trained to the opera which is the epitome of high brow. Emma often referred to ERB as a low brow during their marriage which can be somewhat trying. If one contrasts The Mucker with Marcia Of The Doorstep it will become immediately apparent that the former is low brow and the latter is intended to be high brow. So the dominating theme of The Mucker is between the low brow Billy Byrne and the high brow Barbara Harding. The problem as it surfaces when the two come into contact is how Barbara is to turn the low brow mucker into a high brow or at least into a low brow with good speech and mannerisms. This may have been a daily conflict between ERB and Emma in real life.
The first question is how far ERB identifies with Billy Byrne. It is my contention that Billy is an alter ego conditioned by ERB’s confrontation with John The Bully.
I have explained elsewhere that terror may be used to introduce a hypnotic suggestion. Terror opens the mind to suggestion. In ERB’s case when he was in terror of John he accepted the suggestion that because John was terrorizing him he was an admirable person to be emulated. Of course this went against the teaching of his family so that ERB now divided his Animus nearly equally between his father/family and John. Even though his family training commanded his first allegiance, John declassed him so that he mentally assumed the traits of this hoodlum Irish boy. In a sense ERB split his personality.
As would be expected the assumption of John’s characteristics caused a personality conflict which it was necessary to resolve. One must assume that by 1913′s Mucker ERB was aware of his peronality conflict and began the attempt to write it out.
For those new to the term a mucker was one who wallowed in the muck of society, a low class person with very little or no redeeming social value. Thus Burroughs is dealing very harshly with both himself and Byrne/John.
It may be assumed beyond doubt that John was first generation immigrant. As he was twelve when he confronted ERB in 1884-85 he must have been born in 1872. He may actually have been born in Ireland or was at least the son of immigrants hence his Irish prejudices against the English would be very strong while the Irish at the time were considered on a social and racial par with the Negro or perhaps even below. Combining these social disadvantages he was raised in Chicago’s great West Side which ERB with undisguised horror describes.
He also very carefully indicates that Byrne was not an inherently bad person but was strictly a product of his environment. He could have been anything raised in a different social setting. Nurture over nature. An interesting liberal opinion in an age when heredity was accredited to a criminal type. By explaining Byrne as a product of his environment Burroughs was also justifying himself. Indeed, how could he have learned the social graces to which he was entitled by birth having been brought up viewing the underbelly of society. Probably ERB did not become acquainted with the social graces or high brow point of view until he married Emma.
If his social education began with his marriage to Emma then Byrne’s begins when he and Barbara Harding are brought into close contact on ‘Manhattan Island’ in the river of their Pacific island locale where they ‘play house.’ Thus there is more than sufficient evidence to indicate that Byrne and Burroughs are similar. Both names even begin with a B.
As he is part of Burroughs’ psyche ERB has to exonerate Byrne as well as rehabilitate him into someone at least that Burroughs can respect. This is the burden of the book.
After a youthful life in which Byrne makes the best of a bad situation, during which he became competent to survive and dominate in a difficult environment, Byrne takes a step up by becoming involved in boxing. Thus he goes from a no brow to a low brow. Already a fearsome street brawler Byrne becomes a formidable scientific boxer as well. He is good enough to be a sparring partner with the Big Smoke himself. This must have been before July 1913 but no earlier than say 1911.
Sometime in 1912 or early 1913 Byrne is falsely accused of murder by one Sheehan who Byrne had defeated in a fight when they were twelve. Billy had earlier saved a policeman’s life who was being savagely beaten by a rival gang on Byrne’s turf. The policeman now returns the favor by advising Byrne to get out of town which advice Billy take seriously not unlike Jack Johnson. Thus Johnson goes East, Byrne goes West at exactly the same time. Coincidence?
Billy bobs up in San Francisco about the same time that ERB shows up in the sunny Southland. They both reach California at the same time. Another coincidence?
Unfortunately for Billy he gets shanghaied by the guy he intends to roll. He is taken aboard the Half Moon. The ship on which Henry Hudson explored New York’s Hudson River was named the Half Moon so there is a little joke here as Barbara and Byrne reside on a Manhattan Island in their Pacific location.
Being shanghaied wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to Byrne for while he is aboard he is forced to learn discipline- putting a little organization into his chaotic mind. The Half Moon might also stand for the MMA in ERB’s memory. He was more or less shanghaied into attendance when his father made him return after he had run away from the school. Then, under the tutelage of Charles King who he respected he learned the rudiments of self-discipline.
Even though Byrne is a sort of wildman Burroughs shows the greatest respect for him.
Byrne’s next civilizing lesson comes when the Half Moon pretending distress captures the Harding yacht aboard which Byrne is transferred.
The yacht named the Lotus, perhaps after Tennyson’s poem ‘The Lotus Eaters.’ The Lotus Eaters sat around all day in idle forgetfulness which was a pretty good description of the Harding party and another joke. Burroughs had a copy of Tennyson’s poems in his library so the association is probable, besides which as Burroughs had a strong grounding in Greek mythology he would have been familiar with the Lotus Eaters from his Homer.
Burroughs, who had never been to sea, knew nothing of the ocean. His source for sea matters most probably was Jack London. ERB was a great admirer of London but as he had nothing in his library one can only guess at what he had read. There’s pretty good evidence for The Call Of The Wild and The Sea Wolf. He may have picked up his South Seas lore from London’s Son Of The Son (The Adventures of Captain David Grief in my edition). The last book was published in 1911 but Burroughs probably had read it. As he would project the making of Melville’s Typee into a movie in the ’30s it is possible that he was already familiar with that book and Melville’s other South Sea romance, Omoo at least as early as 1913.
Both myself and other researchers are pretty liberal about ERB’s reading list but as I have cautioned before the bulk of his reading for these early stories had to be done between 1900 and 1911 when he was a very busy man with troubles in mind not to mention excruciating headaches. Along with newspapers and magazines he surely couldn’t have read more than two or three hundred books if that many. He may have read a number of sea stories in various magazines at any rate, but his sea lore is second hand, unreliable and unknowledeable.
He has the Lotus tending Southwest toward the Philippines having begun in Hawaii. The Philippines is a large archipelago blending into the massive archipelago just South of it, the Lotus should have been in Equatorial waters where the trade winds blow. Most of your monster storms are further North or South. I was in the Navy making one tour from California in the East to China in the West, South to Australia and North to Japan. I had the terrifying experience of passing through a typhoon off Japan which if it wasn’t the storm of the millenium I can’t imagine a greater. Quite seriously, we all thought we were going to die. My only thought was that the water was going to be awfully cold when I hit it.
I do not jest when I say the waves were seventy-five feet high, you’re right, why not make them a hundred, maybe they were a hundred, two would be stretching it. I was standing on the bridge twenty-five feet above the water line looking straight up at the crest of the waves when we were in the trough. OK. A hundred twenty-five then. We were so far down in the trough there was no wind, nor did the waves break over us, they just slid under the ship raising us to the crests and then we slid down the other side. I kid you not.
Then, as we came down from the crest, way up there, at the bottom of the trough the ship slammed into a current bringing it to a complete halt left and right and fore and aft. These troughs were not rows of waves and troughs, no no, but huge bowls perhaps a mile or more long. Our ship was three hundred six feet long so there we were a speck, an atom, a proton sitting quietly in the midst of this huge bowl waiting for the swatter of fate to fall.
I had been thrown across the deck from port to starboard when we slammed into the current. I scrambled to my feet, noticed that the starboard watch, Engelhardt, was on the way over the side for a tete a tete with Davy Jones. I knew that Jones didn’t have the time for an ordinary Seaman like Engelhardt or me so I grabbed his belt and pulled him back aboard, then ran over to port to wait to die.
Now that was a storm. I don’t know how we rode it out, I thought the end had come, was past. So, why did I tell that? Because ERB’s storms are ludicrous and in the wrong place. A cloud appears, the next thing you know a few indeterminate big waves show up and the ship sinks but the lifeboats survive. All this in equatorial waters. Well, if you’ve never been in it, it might sound alright.
It doesn’t matter because those sudden squalls in ERB’s stories represent his confrontation with John The Bully. Within the twinkling of an eye ERB’s whole direction of life changed.
His had been for the worse but Byrne’s was for the better. This then reflected the change in Burroughs’ own fortunes.
Byrne and the crew are thrown up on an unidentified island somewhere in the South seas but a fairly large one. In those years one could believe that there were islands yet to be discovered. This one has a river big enough to allow for a largish island in the middle. It is here that Byrne will get his introduction to the finer side of life. However not before some very exciting and exotic adventures showing Burroughs at his best.
Apart from Jules Verne, who might also be an influence on this book through his The Mysterious Island that had a tremendous influence on Burroughs though the book was not in his library. ERB seems to be familiar with a number of French authors. He had The Mysteries Of Paris by the incredible Eugene Sue in his Library, while it is fairly obvious he had been suitably impressed by Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. The sewer scene in his next book, The Mad King, is indicative of that while Theriere in this book may be a variation on Thenardier. He was also familiar with Dumas’ The Three Musketeers as there are several references to that one including the sequel to The Mucker, Out There Somewhere, when he indicates an intent to create his own three Musketeers in Byrne, Bridge and Burke.
As indicated in my Only A Hobo, ERB was probably immersed in US-Japanese relations that were fairly hot at this time as well as remembering the Japanese exhibit at the Columbian Expo of 1893. He gets his facts right too.
In this case the island is populated by an indigenous population that has been blended with a group of Samurai warriors from Japan. Burroughs correctly indicates that the Samurai had come to the island just before Japan was closed to the world in the early seventeenth century. From about 1620 to about 1860- Perry opened Japan in 1853- no one had been allowed to enter or leave Japan so ERB has been doing his homework. Over the three hundred years a degenerate society of militant Samurai had combined with the indigenes to create a culture of savages. An interesting anthropological notion not too unlike The Lord Of The Flies that has been a literary staple for the last sixty years.
Byrne and Theriere engage in a terrific conflict to rescue Barbara Harding from the Samurai during which Theriere is killed and Byrne seriously wounded. Barbara Harding nurses him back to health in an idyllic glen by a babbling brook.
At this point Byrne is reunited with his Anima ideal. Barbara is going to rehabilitate this guy. He has made some few steps toward his own redemption but the following is the quality Barabara had to work with as described by ERB p. 17:
…Billy was mucker, a hoodlum, a gangster, a thug, a tough. When he fought he would have brought a flush of shame to the face of His Satanic Majesty. He had hit oftener from behind than before. He had always taken every advantage of his size and weight and numbers that he could call to his assistance. He was an insulter of girls and women. He was a bar-room brawler, and a saloon corner loafer. He was all that was dirty, and mean, and contemptible and cowardly in the eyes of a brave man, and yet, notwithstanding all this Billy Byrne was no coward. He was what he was because of training (conditioning) and environment. He knew no other methods, no other code.
As Burroughs says, up to this time Byrne had been an insulter of women, abusive to the whole female sex, probably including his mother. It is only now that his eyes begin to open to what Jack London would call the wonder of woman. How far Byrne reflects ERB’s general attitude toward women isn’t clear although by the end of his life his misogyny was becoming pronounced. He was certainly no ladies man prior to is marriage to Emma. I am not certain he would have married if it hadn’t been for the competition with Martin. The suddenness of his marriage after the Toronto incident indicates a Martin influence or else he was bonkers after the blow. When he later said Tarzan should never have married he was undoubtedly talking about himself. He certainly never placed Emma first, being always ready to accept an army commission, fight in Central America, seek a commission in the Chinese army or become a war correspondent all of which would have left Emma and the kids at home.
At the same time Barbara who had detested Byrne becomes softened to him preparing her to love him once they moved downstream to Manhattan Island. This may be some romanticized version of ERB’s relationship with Emma after Toronto although she seems to have been fixed on Burroughs from childhood. At any rate the relationship comes to fruition downstream where the high brow Barbara attempts so raise the brow level of Byrne.
If one takes high brow, low brow seriously being thought of as a low brow, that is inferior, can be annoying. Since Burroughs has chosen in his first novel within the cocoon of Girl From Faris‘s to write around the theme of a low brow hero I think it fair to believe it irritated him to be thought of as a low brow; especially so as in most instances he was much better educated than those who so named him. Chief among these was his wife Emma. Whereas she had been trained ot operatic arias ERB played the hillbilly tune Are You From Dixie? over and over again on his phonograph. Hillbilly music really irritates the operatic type. There must have been constant conflict in the household.
Emma especially looked down on boxing as low brow. ERB was an ardent boxing fan, while here he chooses a low brow boxer as hero. ERB could have some startling opinions on what was high brow. He thought auto races were high brow. I don’t know what the crowds were like back then but I’ve been to the stock car races where I found high brows conspicuous only by their absence.
But, to the Mucker. Moving downsteam after his recovery on this rather large river coming closer to the estuary they hit an island. Being bounded as it were by a Hudson on one side and East River on the other they named the island Manhattan. There’s a nice Expo twist and joke here as in Chicago on the Wooded Island one came upon a Japanese settlement in the middle of the city; here on a Samurai Island in the Pacific one comes upon a Manhattan Island of Americans. Kind of cute reversal, don’t you think?
As Billy has to know some details about Manhattan to keep the story moving, Burroughs rather lamely invents a couple trips Billy had made to New York with the Goose Island Kid. As the boxing scene Burroughs describes, with the exception of the Big Smoke is entirely Irish one might note the origin of the name of The Goose Island Kid. Goose Island was an area in the Chicago River inhabited by the poorest of the Irish, so the Kid comes from the bottom of the social scale even below Byrne’s origins. One should contrast this with Burroughs prized English ancestry.
Burroughs is writing from experience either psychological or real. Thus one asks when was ERB in New York to acquire his knowledge of the city. Well, let’s see: He had an extended stay in 1899. That was the trip when he got bashed in Toronto. Then he had a short stay at the the invitation of Munsey. Most of what he knew must have come from the 1899 trip.
On their desert Manhattan Island Barbara, who up to this time had been repelled by Byrne makes an attempt at deconditioning Byrne from a Mucker and reconditioning him as an upper class New Yorker. the conditioning consists of ridding him of the horrific characteristics attributed to him by ERB while teaching him to speak in an educated manner. As there was no tableware she couldn’t teach him which fork to use.
Possibly this scene may reflect on the first couple years of Burroughs’ married life. Remember that ERB hadn’t been much around polite society from the years of twelve to twenty-five during which he was conditioned to his low brow attitudes. Emma had been brought up in a high brow environment so that she may have felt the need to isntruct her new husband in some of the finer points of good manners.
When Frank Martin (see my Four Crucial Years) asked ERB to go to New York with him in 1899 he did so with a heart full of malice. He was competeing with Burroughs for Emma Hulbert’s favors and, as is commonly believed, he felt all’s fair in love and war.
The evidence points to the fact that he intended to have ERB murdered in Toronto to clear his path to the woman. Along the way he must have done his best to humiliate his rival- the mucker Ed Burroughs.
ERB was moving in much faster company than he was used to. While coming from a once affluent family his people had fallen on hard times. ERB’s income was little more than sixty dollars a month while Frank Martin the son of a millionaire could blow that much on dinner every night of the week.
Riding in Martin’s father’s private railcar one imagines that ERB’s suit compared to the fabulous duds of Martin was laughable. The contrasts between their two stations must have been even more laughable and very satisfying to Martin. Martin would have considered himself a high brow to Burroughs’ low brow.
Once in New York Martin’s hospitality didn’t extend to living quarters. ERB gives no indication of how much money he took along or where he got it. I should be surprised if he had so much as two hundred dollars, certainly no more. However much he had there was no way he could have kept up with the Martins.
His address while in New York was down on the Bowery while the Martin’s was in a better part of town, perhaps Riverside Drive. Danton Burroughs has a picture of the three of them- Burroughs, Martin and Martin’s other companion, R.H. Patchin, on Coney Island. One hopes Danton will release the photo to ERBzine along with any other information he may have. Coney Island would be good low brow entertainment to offer Burroughs, something he could afford.
A possible account of how Burroughs felt during his dependency on Martin can be found in one of the volumes in ERB’s library: The House Of Mirth by Edith Wharton. The reading of it must have brought pangs of recognition to ERB.
In The Mucker Billy Byrne speaks of Riverside Drive and the Bowery in this way:
“Number one, Riverside Drive,” said the Mucker with a grin, when the work was completed: “an’ now I’ll go down on the river front and build the Bowery.”
“Oh, are you from New York?” asked the girl.
“Not on your life,” replied Billy Byrne. “I’m from good old Chi but I been to Noo York twict with the Goose Island Kid, so I knows all about it. De roughnecks belong on de Bowery, so dat’s what we’ll call my dump down by de river. You’re a high brow, so youse gotta live on Riverside Drive, see?’ and the mucker laughed at his little pleasantry.
In 1913 the only real experience Burroughs had with New York was the 1899 trip so that one can guess that when the Martin party detrained Burroughs as a ‘roughneck’ went to the Bowery while Martin and his group went to Riverside Drive or its equivalent. Surely Burroughs realized he had been duped at this point and felt it keenly. Or, perhaps, he didn’t catch on until much later having thought about it for a while. Referring to the Irish Martin as The Goose Island Kid who took him to New York may be a belated disguised slap in the face. If Martin read the book I’m sure he would have understood.
At this point is the novel Barbara begins Byrne’s deconditioning teaching him the Riverside patois thus giving him true English as a second language to his native Muckerese. Thus Byrne is to some extent rehabilitated as a human being; this follows fairly close that of Jean Val Jean of Les Miserables, however as Billy ruefully learned there is more to reconditioning than language.
At this point Byrne has a dual personality. He is the low brow mucker and a high brow mucker in that he has learned certain mannerisms and he can speak both forms of English.
If the scene on Manhattan Island to some extent reflected the relationship between ERB and Emma then the seeds of his discontent which will result in divorce have already been sown. The parting from Barbara at the end of the story may be the first prefiguration of his divorce.
On the other hand Byrne has been temporarily reunited with his Anima figure somewhat in the manner of Eros and Psyche in Greek mytholotgy which makes him a complete being, his X and Y chromosomes being reconciled. They are soon split apart again as he and Barbara find their separate ways to NYC.
Upon Byrne’s return to NYC Burroughs begins to wrestle with the problem of the displacement of a White heavyweight boxing champ with a Black one. In our age when boxing has become a totally Black sport it is difficult to see the real significance of Jack Johnson’s assumption of the championship for both Whites and Blacks. The success of Johnson also came at a time when in competition with immigrants the Anglo ‘old stock’ was being displaced from a feeling of rightful preeminence in a country it had made.
This displacement by immigrant’s also occured at the time when the ranks of the European conquerors of the world had reached their limitations and the conquered began to roll them back. Thus one has such volumes of the period as Madison Grant’s The Passing Of The Great Race and Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide Of Color. The world was mysteriously changing slipping from beneath the White Man’s feet.
Complementary to the works of Grant and Stoddard, but not influenced by them, was the world of such writers as Zane Grey, Jack London and Burroughs. A common thread in the world of all three is the displacement of the ‘old stock’ by immigrants. London has a telling phrase in his excellent and highly recommended Valley Of The Moon when his character Billy Roberts is told that the ‘old stock’ had been sleeping and that now like Rip Van Winkle they were awakening to a new world that had changed while they slept. This theme would reappear in such works as Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Amerberson’s and Burroughs’ own The Girl From Hollywood of the next decade.
The social conflicts are treated almost identically by all three authors.
Richard Slotkin in his Gunslinger Nation attempts an exhaustive treatment of the problem from the Gustavus Myers’ immigrant/unskilled labor point of view which may be contrasted with that of our three masters. I will discuss this a little later.
Great changes were in progress. To try to characterize them from a single point of view as the Myers’ school does is both foolhardy and pernicious. While the immigrants and unskilled labor have their story it is only their story, a small part of the whole. While one can sympathize with anyone, anywhere, one cannot necessarily accept their point of view as definitve on which point they do insist. My heart goes out to everyone but does not rule my head.
The argument then breaks down broadly between the Liberal Coalition and what name is appropriate for the other side? -the rational? the realistic?, the conservative?. Why not settle for the Conservative with all its limitations. Yes, I am unapologetically conservative. No more limitating actually than calling the irresponsibility of the Coalition liberal. I fail to see the liberality.
The argument devolves into the two factions of the ‘old stock’ with the convervative wing being hopelessly outnumbered when the liberal wing aligned themselves along national and racial lines with the immigrants and Blacks and along poltical and religious lines with the Judaeo-Communists or more conveniently- the Reds. Reds is shorter.
That writers of the bent of Burroughs, London and Grey have survived at all, let alone remained popular, in such an environment is remarkable indeed.
From 1910 to 1919 major events that affected our writers occurred and typified the decline of Euroamerica from its pinnacle of self-satisfaction. The Great War which ran from 1914 to 1918 shattered the image of Euroamerica before the rest of the world Successful resistance not only appeared possible to the defeated peoples but probable. Note the advantage Japan took of the debacle.
A second event almost prefiguring the Great War was the sinking of the great ship RMS Titanic in 1912. Billed as unsinkable it represented the peak of Euroamerican scientific and technological skill. When that Grat Ship went down on its maiden voyage it took a great deal of the West’s confidence down with it. While the West watched in dismay and horror the rest of the world cheered the West’s discomfiture. Unsinkable indeed!
But perhaps the single most disastrous blow to the pride of Euroamericans was when the Black Jack Johnson laid the pride of the Whites, Jim Jeffries, down in the fourteenth on July 4, 1910. The might Casey, Jim Jeffries, had struck out. The much despised Negro, Jack Johnson, walked away wearing the world heavyweight championship belt.
The Whites howled, they rioted but they had shot their best shot and there was no backup. No contender. No hope.
Jack London actually reported the fight. He was there. Ringside. Nor was he charitable toward Jack Johnson. He said things that might better have remained unsaid. We have no indication as to what Burroughs thought at the time. By the time he spoke publicly in The Mucker he had had time to mature his thoughts.
The effect on London was traumatic. In 1911 he published his book The Abyssmal Brute, his first thoughts on the fight. The fight not yet out of his system London expressed himself still further in his 1913 novel The Valley Of The Moon. I’ve said it before. I’m no Jack London fan. I’ve only read him more or less at the insistence of ERBzine’s Bill Hillman. If I had gone to the grave without reading The Call Of The Wild or The Sea Wolf I wouldn’t have considered it a loss. Not the same with Valley Of The Moon. This book along with ERB’s Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid is one of the neglected masterpieces of twentieth century American literature. It alone justifies London’s excellent reputation.
The story is that of two Oakland, California young people, Billy Roberts and his sweetheart Saxon Brown. While lamenting the displacement of the ‘old stock’ by the immigrants London also makes this a boxing story along the same lines as The Mucker.
In fact the stories are quite similar in conception. If one didn’t know that the authors were writing at the same time 2500 miles from each other one would think they may have written on the same theme as a bet. London, too, must have been influenced by the midnight flight of Johnson from Chicago. London makes Roberts an outstanding boxer in the Bay Area. Roberts gives up boxing because of the fate of boxers and because of the low brow fans. Later in the book London says that Roberts sparred with both Jim Jeffries and Jack Johnson.
After a long period of unemployment in an attempt to win a hundred dollar prize to relieve his and Saxon’s poverty he agrees to go back in the ring, the squared circle, as Burroughs always refers to it. The fight with the Chicago Terror is very reminiscent of the Jeffries-Johnson battle. Like Jeffries Roberts hadn’t fought for a long time. Like Jeffries he was out of condition. After retiring in 1905 Jeffries had taken up farming, blossoming out to three hundred pounds. When the call came to redeem the honor of the White species sometime after 1908 Jeffries had to quickly get into condition losing all the extra tonnage.
He had certainly not regained his top form, timing and mental focus when he climbed into the ring to face Johnson. I make no excuses for him but as Jeffries said he saw his openings but his unconditioned reflexes didn’t allow him to take advantage of them. His failure broke the hearts of his followers.
The battle between Roberts and the Chicago Terror, johnson must have been intended, is probably a replay of the 1910 fight as seen by London. Out of condition and rusty Roberts gets mauled from start to finish. In an attempt to salvage special pride London has Roberts at least stay on his feet till the twentieth unlike the fourteenth round fall of Jeffries.
Toward the end of Valley Of The Moon London has Roberts climb nto the ring again, this time against a Big Swede, sort of polar to the Big Smoke. In the second of two bouts Roberts has difficulty putting the Big Swede away until the fourteenth. Also a replay of the Jeffries-Johnson fight with Roberts/Jeffries winning this one, if only in Jack’s dreams.
Thus the anguish of the loss surfaces three years after. Now, that the two events, the Titanic and fight get confused in this shuddering defeat of Euroamerica is interestingly made evident in the song Jack Johnson and the Titanic. In the song Jack Johnson goes down to the steamship line in England to buy passage for his White wife and himself. He is told that no Black Folks are allowed on the Titanic. As some sort of divine punishment for refusing him the Great Ship sinks.
Obviously Jack Johnson couldn’t have been refused as in 1912 he was still in Chicago fighting to stay out of jail. But the two White disasters became mingled in imagination.
While London was wrestling with the Johnson Affair in Valley Of The Moon, Burroughs was doing the same in his Mucker. One wonders what a further seach of popular literature would reveal.
In The Mucker Burroughs has gotten Byrne back in New York City. Broke and with no means of a livelihood the big man-beast turns to the only thing he can do which is boxing. While London, who had witnessed the fight essentially retold it in Valley Of The Moon, Burroughs who didn’t prepares Byrne to redeem the Whites by fighting and defeating the Big Smoke. Burroughs doesn’t mention Johnson by name. He uses Big Smoke, big dinge.
Burroughs immediately places Byrne in the role of the next hope. At the time these Whtie boxers were known only as hopes, the term Great White Hope in the completely derogatory sense evolved later. Like London Burroughs minces no words about Jim Jeffries being his favoirte. Not only does Byrne imitate Jeffries by fighting from a crouch but ‘Professor’ Cassidy his trainer says:
For a few minutes Billy Byrne played with his man, hitting him when and where he would. He fought, crouching, just as Jeffries used to fight, and in his size and strength, was much that reminded Cassidy of the fallen idol that in his heart of hearts he still worshipped.
Winning the fight Byrne went on to meet the #1 contender who he handily defeated. Having evoked the ghost of Jim Jeffries Burroughs brings in his other hero, Gentleman Jim Corbett.
The following morning the sporting sheets hailed “Sailor Byrne” ( tribute to Jack London whose hobo moniker was Sailor Jack) as the greatest white hope of them all. Flashlights of him filled a quarter of a page. There were interviews with him. Interviews of the man he had defeated. Interviews with Cassidy. Interviews with the referee. interviews with everybody, and all were agreed that he was the most likely heavy since Jeffries. Corbett admitted that, while in his prime, he could doubtless have bested the new wonder, he would have found him a tough customer.
Jeffries, Corbett, Byrne, a combination with so much magic in the names couldn’t help but win back the title to salve the wounded pride of the White species.
Cassidy wired a challenge to the Negro’s manager, and received an answer that was most favorable. The terms were, as usual, rather one sided but Cassidy accepted them, and it seemed before noon that the fight was assured.
Assured in dreams, of course, as this is only a novel.
It would be quite easy to pass over this part of the tale without realizing its significance but it shows the pain and suffering, the loss of pride that occurred when the championship went Black. While Burroughs has no difficulty invoking the names of the fallen idol, Jeffries and Corbett, he cannot bring himself to name Johnson referring to him only as The Big Smoke, the big dinge, or the Negro. The White world was in a deal of pain.
One can only guess how Burroughs intended to resolve his dilemma of having the fictional Byrne fight the living Johnson or perhaps the story was only a magic incantation to arouse the true hope. At any event when Byrne next appears in story in 1916′s Out There Somewhere, Jess Willard had already taken the championship back although under dubious circumstances. By 1916 Byrne’s boxing career is forgotten; there is no mention of it in the sequel.
Having solved the problem of the championship Burroughs returns to his Anima problem in the romance with Barbara Harding. Billy remembers she lives in New York City and decides to call on her. But…
…a single lifetime is far too short for a man to cover the distance from Grand Avenue to Riverside Drive…
While the above words were spoken about Billy, Byrne too came to the same conclusion:
But some strange influence had seemed suddenly to come to work upon him. Even in the brief moment of his entrance into the magnificence of Anthony Harding’s home he had felt a strange little stricture in the throat- a choking, a half-suffocating sensation.
The attitude of the servant, the spendor of the furniture, the stateliness of the great hall and the apartments opening upon it- all had whispered to him that he did not “belong.”
So Byrne feeling his inability to fit in walks away in bitter pride forswearing his love for Barbara Harding. Still, he could remember her saying back on that other Manhattan Island:
I love you Billy for what you are.
Thus the epic of the low brow Billy ends as he walks down the street a study of dejection with Barbara’s words ringing through his mind.
The question here is how much the relationship between Byrne and Barbara is a ‘highly fictionalized’ account of ERB’s own relationship with Emma. We can’t know for sure how hurt Burroughs may have been by Emma’s calling him a low brow. Perhaps he longed to hear her say: I love you, Ed, just the way you are.
Certainly the stories enveloped by The Girl From Faris’s all deal with his relationship with Emma as his Anima ideal. The Mad King which follows this story details the problems of the hero getting on the same wave length with the Princess Emma. He even uses his wife’s real name. The following title – The Eternal Lover – speaks for itself, Beasts Of Tarzan features a wild chase with Tarzan trying to find Jane who is lost in the jungle, while the last of the series, The Lad And The Lion, details the troubles of the Lad finding his desert princess. After the Lad he got past his mental block being able to close The Girl From Faris’s.
So if these stories are read consecutively they record the struggle going on in ERB’s mind to reconcile Emma to his Anima ideal and his Anima to his Animus. This is a task for not any but the most dedicated Burroughs scholar but I would interested in learning the opinion of any who might attempt it.
Read only Book One of Mad King and the first part, Nu Of The Neocene, of Eternal Lover in this context.
Ten years later ERB tackled the problem from the high brow point of view in Marcia Of The Doorstep.
Go To Part Two
Background Of The Second Decade- Personal