Pt. IV: H.G. Wells, Sigmund Freud, Edgar Rice Burroughs And The Development Of Contemporary Sexual Attitudes

September 15, 2010

 

H.G. Wells, Sigmund Freud, Edgar Rice Burroughs

And The Development Of Contemporary Sexual Attitudes

Part IV

by

R.E. Prindle

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Contribution

The Artist Fidus, 1893 Illustration

 

     That Edgar Rice Burroughs is one of the, if not the most, influential  writers, America has produced goes without saying.  The only question is in how many different ways did he do it and was an attitude toward sexual mores one of them.  I think it can be shown that that is true.  Was Burroughs an ideologue in sexual matters.  At this point I can’t say yes or no although his attitudes seem consistent throughout his career.

     A first hurdle we have to get over is whether Burroughs was some sort of idiot savant who just had the knack for writing adventure stories  or was he an auto-didact who educated himself in exemplary fashion.  The consensus is more along the idiot savant line which I hope I have shown in my by now voluminous writings that ERB was very well read, had a sound if not spectacular education while being an intelligent man with at least a 120-130 IQ.  

 

Greeks At Play

    I think I have shown that he was a full participant in the intellectual culture of 1875-1920 which influenced the first phase of his writing career.  We know he was well read because he references  hundreds of books that he read in his own pages.  He tells us he read Gibbon’s  Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire which is an essential for a liberal education.  He tells us he read and reread Plutarch’s Parallel Lives which also is no mean achievement.  Those may be isolated instances or, as I think, they are the tip of the iceberg.  He was near expert on Evolution while being deeply read in esoteric and exoteric religion.  The guy was a virtual marvel.  His learning shows up in his writings although in a fantastic manner for enterainment purposes.

  

Apollo

   For our purposes here we can begin when his father placed him in the Harvard Latin School of Chicago.  He was to spend what we would call his Junior High years there.  It was there he learned Latin and possibly some Greek.  He was to complain later that he learned Latin before he learned to write in English which he thought affected his style and it may have as some of his writing reads like he was translating from Latin.  While he may not have qualified as a Latin scholar I’m sure that for the rest of his life he could find his way through an extensive Latin quotation.  When I was in school that was considered an achievement of a high order.  So ERB had a pretty decent founding in the Classics.

     Now, there has been a pretty fair controvercy on ERBzine recently over how nude Martians were.  I don’t think there is any question but that both men and women hang out, that is ventral and dorsal nudity.  One might therefore infer that in Burroughs’ vision of an utopia the style was to be au naturel.

     Was this original or did ERB, as usual, borrow from the culture, have his sources?

     Let’s start at Harvard Latin School.  At the time the Patriarchy was in full control of the culture.  There were grumblings from both the Matriarchy and the Hetaerarchy but those were in the beginning stages of the revolt.  As late as the 1960s when I was an Ancient History major you would have been thrown out of school for challenging the Patriarchal version of Ancient History, that is to say Greek and Roman.  ERB then couldn’t have been given less than a 110% Patriarchal education.

     Any illustrations of Greek statues he would have seen showed the genitals fully exposed unless a fig leaf had been placed over them.  The Greek vases he may have seen would have shown Greek men at play or leisure with fully exposed genitals, any weapons belted on would look exactly like his Martians.  They might have a wrap thrown over the shoulder for protection from inclement weather.

     The phallicism, the pride in manhood, runs all through Greek art and literature.  At the time men were liberating themselves from the Matriarchy with its cruel attitude toward the males.  It had been discovered that the male inseminated the female so men claimed the child as theirs while the women were mere incubators or storehouses rather than the fecund goddesses of creation.  Man was the creator.  That was the answer the riddle posed by the Theban sphinx to Oedipus was, Man.  So the psychological reaction must have been if you’ve got one, show it.  Meanwhile as the man was the progenitor of a woman’s offspring, a man’s wife had to be secluded so that another man couldn’t impregnate her.  Whereas in the past women were more or less commonly available to the certified they now became the exclusive possession of one man, except for prostitutes or hetaerists.   The children were his.

     How much, if any, of this ERB understood he at least saw a society where the men went fully nude.  As the Martian children were hatched from eggs incubated in the Martian sun it sounds as though he had read Plato where Socrates expatiated on the old days when men and women were hatched from eggs.  Indeed, Leda impregnated by Zeus in the form of a swan hatched two eggs that produced Castor and Pollux and Helen and Clytemnestra as two sets of twins.  It’s not too far from there to Mars, don’t you think?

     Around the turn of the century the Nudist movement took form in German.  We tend to think of these earlier times as staid when in reality the modern world was in its birth throes.  The nudity thing since the French Revolution had been slowly growing.  For the Medieval Free Spirits and Anabatists nudity was a key point as it was for the Libertines and as it was adopted by the Communist offshoots of the Revolution.  Men want to look at the female nude.

Early Nudists

     In Germany at the turn of the century the nudity movement jelled, an actual movement taking shape in conjunction with the Wandervogel movement.  This is turn led to the development of the Nature movement resulting in the incredible Nature Boy scene in the US of the thirties and forties which in turn evolved into the Beat/Hippie phenomenon of the fifties, sixties and seventies and into today.

 

Eden Ahbez- Writer of Nature Boy

     Burroughs would have been aware of this whole phenomenon up to 1950 endorsing it enthusiastically.  Tarzan was the ultimate Nature Boy and Burroughs developed the character with that in mind.  The ideal.  I have no douts that Burroughs intended him as the exemplar of this growing movement.  Hence the development of the Nature movement was aided, abetted and intentionally forwarded by ERB clearly linking him to the scene in Bohemian NY of the sixties and the whole Beat/Hippie scene.

     So Burroughs’ writings actually promote nudism and the Nature movement throughout his career.  John Carter arrives, born again, nude on Mars where he would have been unnoticeable on that account, completely blending in.  Indeed, the only difference was that he was white instead of red which was a curiosity.  Thus, as soon as he leaves Earth he become a nudist in what was a sort of utopian society to Burroughs.

     Tarzan necessarily practiced nudity for his first twenty years, only donning his ‘fig leaf’ or G-string  when he came in contact with civilization.

      Burroughs always refers to Tarzan’s ‘adornment’ as a G-string in the early novels.  A G-string only cover the genitals with a flap and not the rear so Tarzan was essentially nude in the jungle.  He was a Nature Boy and that is the way most of his readers have perceived him.

  

Maxmillian- Star Nature Boy c. 1948

    The MGM Tarzan is the exemplar of the Nature Boy living on fruit and nuts.  The MGM movies regularly show bowls of fruits and nuts while Tarzan, unless memory fails, is never shown squatting over a haunch eating the flesh raw as in Burroughs’ novels.  As with Burroughs and the Nature Boys Tarzan rejects all the appurtenances  of civilization except for some mechanical engineering at which Tarzan was apparently a genius.  Might even have been a Nuclear Physicist even though he could barely grunt in the MGM movies.

     It seems clear that there was vitually no one who hadn’t heard of Tarzan or Burroughs.  Nearly everyone was influenced by the two.  It therefore seems probable that the Nature Boys, the nudists took Tarzan as an avatar.

     Certainly John Derek directed his movie, Tarzan, The Ape Man of the 1980s, concentrating on the sexual and nature aspects of the image.  No argument there, I hope.

     Now, the Bohemian scene in NYC was among other things a return to the primitive.  The crowd surrounding Andy Warhol in his Factory was a bunch of savages stripped of all but the rudiments of civilization.  They were the Tarzans of the asphalt jungle.  The more affluent savages, the Haute Boheme lived a life of sexual abandon that Burroughs, Wells and Freud could only have dreamed of, and they did dream of it.

     Once the attitude was institutionalized at Studio 54 the world Burroughs, Wells and Freud longed for was realized.  It was Hetaerism and Matriarchialism on wheels, a complete overthrow of Patriarchalism.  Our three musketeers would have gained easy admitance and found each in his own particular utopia.  From 1880 to 1980 was only a hundred years.  A short time indeed to overturn civilization.

     Burroughs was a leading figure in this revolution.

 

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