April 28, 2012
Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Accreted Personality
Launched In Life (1896-1912)
As critical as Ed’s first twenty years were, the next eight years would set the seal on his life. Along with the two critical events of the first twenty years he would add two more. For a more detailed account of the 1896-1900 period see my four part essay Four Critical Years In The Life Of Edgar Rice Burroughs here on I, Dynamo or its first publication site Bill Hillman’s superb ERBzine.
Having graduated from MMA Ed now found himself facing the very difficult task of launching himself in life. This is a terrible, terrible time in any young man’s life. As Ed is going to enlist in the Army in Detroit without going back to Chicago to even say goodbye to his parents and friends including Emma who is waiting for him one has to assume that he resented his father for abandoning him to the Military school.
The abandonment was extremely painful to him so that he would later visit the same experience on his sons as well as his second wife Florence’s very young son. All the boys rejected Military school as he had although Ed relented and let them come back home. Coming back home was probably in emulation of what he hoped his father would do but didn’t.
At this point then, as Freud would say, Ed was troubled by reminiscences. He had fixated on those two major trouble spots, his confrontation with John the Bully and his abandonment by his father coupled with his troubled school years when he was shifted from school to school unable to form any stable relationships. During the rest of his life he would never be able to stop moving, changing residences some forty odd times. So, his path is clear before him.
For various reasons Ed’s first choice for a career was as an Army officer. He had taken the exam for West Point but failed the cut. In this year after graduation then with West Point lost Ed was very, very despondent. If he had waited while showing promise as an instructor at the Michigan Military Academy it is quite possible that his Commandant, Col. Rogers, and Capt. King might have been able to obtain an appointment for him. But in May of 1896 Ed abandoned his post without notice to enlist as a private. In the military abandoning one’s post is an unforgivable offence. Ed forfeited whatever goodwill he had obtained.
In his despair he asked the recruiter to be sent to the most godforsaken post they had. The Army had just the place for him; it was in blazing hot Arizona at a post called Fort Grant. The pacification of the Apaches was still going on. Ed realized he had made a horrid mistake. The details are not necessary here but Ed appealed to his father to get his early release from his obligation. His father did this, apparently combined with a medical release based on what soldiers called ‘a tobacco heart.’ In other words, he scammed his way out. This came back to haunt him a couple decades later after he became famous when an old soldier wrote to ask him if he was the Ed Burroughs with the tobacco heart.
There were a few negative memories then of his brief stint in the Army. However the stay in Arizona was so memorable that Ed fell in love with the country. He liked Arizona and he really liked and admired the Apaches. One of his two cowboy novels took place in Arizona and both his Apache novels. In studying for background for his Apache novels Ed became something of an expert or, at least, very knowledgeable. I’m sure he could have lectured on both the Apaches and Old Arizona.
Thus Ed was becoming familiar with the country, Illinois, Michigan, Idaho, Massachusetts, Arizona and soon Mormon Salt Lake City and then New York City and California. He was quite entranced by the desert.
At the time the Mormon experience was quite new for the US and a hotly debated topic. Ed visited Salt Lake in 1898 while he and Emma lived in the city for several months in 1903-04. I don’t recall that he wrote anything about Utah but Mormon religion may have figured in his religious ideas.
His contemporary, Zane Grey, who also loved the desert wrote extensively about the Mormons, indeed, his most famous novel, The Riders Of The Purple Sage discusses them. Another Mormon novel that might have influenced him was Harry Leon Wilson’s The Lions Of The Lord of 1903.
Now released from his obligation and stranded in Arizona Ed had no choice but to return to Chicago and home. To make the trip remunerative his brothers who had bought a herd of Mexican cattle employed him to attend the cows on their train ride to the slaughterhouse in Kansas City. Always inept businessmen his brothers had purchased a starving straggle of cows that gave Ed some interesting memories and experience that would figure in his novel, The Return Of The Mucker.
Once back in Chicago in 1897 Ed found a cold reception as a disturber of the peace. While ostensibly a native Chicagoan Ed had had little contact with the city since he was fourteen. He had no place of real affection in their hearts except for a few. He had lost contact with Chicago mores being placed almost on the level of an immigrant. Among the few who had memories of him was his future wife Emma Hulbert. Emma had been keeping herself for him since the incident on the corner with John. Quite remarkable since Ed had been absent from Chicago for most of the time.
However, sometime after Ed joined the Army when it appeared that he would be gone for good Emma began to be courted by one Frank Martin. Frank was serious intending Emma for his wife. I have been unable to dredge up much on Frank but he was the son of a millionaire railroad man. He was very unhappy with the return of Ed.
So, in fact were Emma’s parents who looked at Ed as a ne’er-do-well and with some justice. His recent Army escapade merely confirmed the fact in their minds. In order to encourage Frank’s suit Ed was forbade the house.
Ed was now cast adrift with no plans for the future. He didn’t realize it as yet but he had burned all bridges leading to a military career. He took a job with his father at the battery factory while making a stab at art school. He apparently saw himself as a newspaper cartoonist but finding the instruction not to his liking he dropped out deciding to return to Idaho.
His brothers were less than enthusiastic at his return. They were failing as ranchers thus having no need for Ed’s services. They bought him a stationery business in Pocatello, presumably to get him off the ranch. Ed tried very hard to enlarge the business by mail order beyond Pocatello but to no avail. Pocatello was so small one wonders how the former owner maintained the business. He liked it enough to buy the business back six months later. Ed took part in the Spring roundup then made the fateful decision to return to Chicago.
In his absence Frank Martin’s courtship of Emma seemed to be progressing well and then the bad penny turned up again. Frank tolerated the interruption until the summer of 1899 when he decided to eliminate his competition. This was when Ed’s life was bent again. His third major memory fixation. This one would make him really dingy.
Frank determined to have Ed killed. Of course one doesn’t do such things oneself, one hires others to do it. His father got the private car off the sidetrack and he, Frank and Frank’s friend R.S. Patchin invited Ed on a trip to New York with a return through Montreal and Toronto. Just like Tarzan Ed had one of those mental lapses that led him into the trap. Perhaps Tarzan‘s lapses were based on this one. (Once again, for a fuller account see my Four Crucial Years In The Life Of Edgar Rice Burroughs).
I believe that Frank hired a couple of thugs in Chicago to be in Toronto when the private car was shunted to a sidetrack. He, Patchin and Ed then went honky tonkin’ in Toronto’s red light district where the thugs accosted Ed coming out of a bar. They let him have it with a lead pipe or a sap in the forehead laying Ed out with a major gash in his forehead spewing blood every which way.
The thugs then fled while Frank and Patchin took Ed to the hospital. He was released, the train leaving immediately the next morning for the crossing into the US.
This blow was a serious one leaving Ed dazed and confused for weeks while the memory of it is repeated in every single novel he wrote. It is a major theme with innumerable variations. Tarzan has the roof of a cave fall on his head during an earthquake. That’s how the blow felt to Ed. When he had recovered his bearing sufficiently in order to thwart Martin he asked Emma to marry him which was duly done on January 31, 1900. Emma had gotten her man. Just goes to show, money isn’t everything.
The marriage must have killed Papa Hulbert who died a few weeks later. In the meantime Emma’s parents so distrusted Ed that they insisted the couple live in their house; a humiliation Ed did not soon forget. He would never invite his mother-in-law to Tarzana although his son eventually did bring his grandmother on his own. One wonders what the Hulberts might have feared from their new son-in-law that they required such close supervision.
The amazing thing about life is that one fails to see just how adventuresome it is. If 1896 to 1900 had been packed with action the next four years in his life would be no less so. Back at work at his dad’s battery factory 1901 became a year of crisis as the battery business collapsed. Ed saved the business, at least temporarily, by convincing the fire department to buy from the firm. Ed’s father probably wasn’t keeping up with battery technology so the firm continued to slowly sink.
And then Ed came down with the dreaded typhoid fever. Often a killer, Ed survived the disease but a great strain was placed on the couple’s finances. Perhaps while recuperating Ed read the new novel by Owen Wister titled The Virginian. The book revived memories of the Johnson County War in Wyoming that Ed had peripherally experienced while containing the romantic adventure of the Wilderness Honeymoon.
One can fault Ed for making the disastrous decision to seek to emulate the honeymoon by moving back to wilderness Idaho but his brain wasn’t exactly healthy. It was nearly impossible for him to think straight. He couldn’t even recognize people on the street; he suffered from excruciating headaches from sunup to late in the afternoon every day. There must have been internal bleeding with a clot on the frontal lobe from his bashing in Toronto. The typhoid attack must also have lessened his mental vigor. Whatever the reason Ed packed up all his and Emma’s belongings, put them on a train along with the dog and went back to Idaho.
The couple had no money but what they could borrow and no place to stay in Idaho. Ed put up a one room balloon shack into which he moved Emma. You didn’t need the crystal ball to realize Emma wouldn’t tolerate such primitiveness for long.
The couple’s situation was that they had forty dollars to their name, might as well have been a million miles from anywhere, no source of income, no plans to earn any and no real idea of where to go and no money to get there. God, what an unenviable situation.
Ed’s brother Harry now no longer a rancher and living alone in Parma said he would give them a place to stay across the State in that location, I hesitate to even call it a town. They had to spend the night in the station hotel. Here Ed committed the most egregious mistake of his life and the last of his major fixations. He chose to go downstairs to join a poker game in the hopes of increasing his stake. Naturally the sharpers cleaned him out. Now completely broke this was the great crisis of his marriage. While Emma still loved him, never thinking of leaving him, she completely lost confidence in him. The repercussions from this incident would sour the marriage until Ed took up with Florence in 1927 and ended the marriage seven tortured years for Emma later.
There was nothing to do in Parma. Harry got him a job on the Oregon Shortline RR in the Salt Lake yards. After spending several months there in 1904 the couple returned to Chicago. Ed was still broke, no job, no prospects and a wife to support. Could life ever look grimmer?
The four key events of Ed’s life were now integral parts of memory where they subconsciously influenced his actions against his conscious will. As can be seen all four were suggestions which indeed all memory is. Thus because all information goes into the memory banks it does so as suggestion. Suggestion is how all information is received. For instance education is nothing but suggestion. It is suggestion for beneficial use, a way to manage your memories. The psychology of Ed’s period was the result of 100,000 years of accumulated educational memory. It was only in his time that it finally became possible to begin to understand how the mind functioned. That’s after 100,000 years of effort by the human mind. Ed’s work is full of speculations on psychological matters.
In 1904 at the age of twenty-nine carrying the psychological detritus of his early years and now those of his young manhood, Ed had to find his way through life.
As his youthful expectations had been disappointed leaving him with at the very least a low grade depression Ed had to figure out a way to reverse his seeming fate and regain his position as a prince among men. The question for him was how. His first choice was a military career. That avenue was closed to him because he had abandoned his post in 1896. He made a futile attempt to join the brigade of his hero, Teddy Roosevelt, when that worthy formed his Rough Riders to take part in the Spanish War of 1898. He was once again rejected. Not yet willing to give up he was ready to abandon Emma for a position in the Chinese Army of the rebel Sun Yat Sen.
Such a hope was not as far fetched as it may sound. The hunch backed near cripple Homer Lea had been recruited by Sun Yat Sen to serve as a General in China in which Lea led a column in the relief of the embassies during the Boxer Rebellion. Unfortunately Lea was the exception and not the rule. Ed was turned down. Even in the Great War Ed was willing to chuck not only Emma and the kids but his career as author to be a mere war correspondent. The soldiers life to him was obviously the highest calling. Rule out a military career for Ed.
As Ed didn’t return to his father’s business he either didn’t want to or as the business was slowly failing there was no money available to employ him. Nor did his father have the influence to get him favorable treatment from business friends. This period from 1904 to 1912 is the one of many jobs that so many writers love to recite. We are usually assured that Ed couldn’t get or keep a good job. This was not true. He changed jobs restlessly. Midway through the period he landed an executive position at Sears Roebuck in which he excelled. His salary at Sears was 250.00 per month or 3000.00 per year. This was a creditable salary. Unskilled labor was lucky to pull down 750.00 a year on which it was possible for a family to survive. Ed’s salary was enough for he and Emma to have a comfortable life while Ed was so well thought of that he might easily have advanced to the 5,000.00 to 10,000.00 class within a reasonable time. Ten thousand was enough to live as well as possible except for extravagant luxury habits. So, Ed had an escape from poverty which he consciously refused to take.
His reason, most assuredly, was that there was no redemption in a corporate identity. He couldn’t regain his position as prince. His literary characters, John Carter and Tarzan, were not only heroes and princes but nearly, if not actually, deified as gods. Sears could never offer that so Ed, certainly inexplicably to Emma, chucked the job. He did so with less than no expectations.
He said that he took up the pen as a last resort and less than honorable occupation. One presumes he meant for a warrior. Perhaps warrior was his first choice but I suspect that like his mentor, Charles King, he would have taken up the pen as a sideline to show his versatility.
In point of fact Ed had been subconsciously training himself as a writer at least since his confrontation with John. In Return of Tarzan he has that hero and jungle god sitting around the Paris library reading desultorily. Tarzan’s purpose in the library was to learn everything there was to learn. One suspects that Tarzan’s activities in Paris were a reflection of Ed’s in Chicago. As with Tarzan as Ed flipped the pages he came to the conclusion not overly sagely that it was impossible to learn everything there was to know.
Nevertheless he read away absorbing numerous novels and scientific tracts that he would put to use in his own writing. Meanwhile he had a wife to support with two new additions. In what must seem a comical interlude Ed organized a company that purported to sell some Rube Goldberg version of a pencil sharpener. Always the executive Ed wrote the sales manual and sent other poor fish out to sell the sharpeners. This idea was ridiculous to the point of stupidity but it indicates a subconscious desire.
As Ed said, while he waited for the orders to roll in he sharpened his own pencil and began to write A Princess Of Mars. Surely a joke is intended in there somewhere, subconscious, but still a joke.
The Mars novel was not his first effort. Perhaps in an attempt to organize his mind he had put down a sequence of thoughts in a novelette titled: Minidoka. There is a dispute as to whether the story was written circa 1903-05 or circa 1908-09. I opt for the later date if for no other reason than he says the story is written in Ragtime Talk. Ragtime was a hipster patois that also indicates the Ed and Emma were leading some sort of Bohemian life. This would be self-evident if he had put his Du Maurier reading to use.
Thus as 1911-12 loomed on his horizon it was do or die time. He would play his last hand as he had in Idaho in a winner takes all attempt. He wrote out the first half of A Princess Of Mars and sent it into Munsey’s All Story Magazine. He was lucky to find a receptive editor, one Metcalf, who told him to finish the story and send it in. Metcalf sent back a check for 400.00. Just to be clear this money was not peanuts. Valuation is difficult to assess but in today’s terms one might consider the sum as 30 to 40 thousand dollars. I mean, you know, a schooner of beer was only a nickel as compared to God knows how many dollars today depending on location and venue.
There would be some trying moments as Metcalf rejected his second submission but with his third Ed hit the jackpot- the character of the century- Tarzan Of The Apes. If only it had been that easy.
Part V will attempt a resume of Ed’s literary preparations from 1900 to 1912.
April 12, 2012
Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Accreted Personality
The Sea In Which He Swam
“I will tell you my history!
And you, excellent agnostic as you are,
‘Shall minister to a mind diseased,
And pluck out the memory of a rooted sorrow!’
What a power of expression there was in Shakespeare,
The uncrowned but actual King of England!
Not the rooted sorrow alone was to be ‘plucked out’;
But the very memory of it.
The apparently simple here holds complex wisdom;
No doubt the poet knew,
Or instinctively guessed
the most terrible fact in the universe…’
“And what is that?”
“The eternal consciousness of Memory,…God cannot forget- and, in consequence of this, His creature, may not!”
Marie Corelli- The Sorrows Of Satan
There can be no mind without memory. While I personally believe that the unborn infant does have inchoate memories obtained in the womb, let us just say that the memory banks begin to fill with birth. With memory comes an ability to analyze, that is compare, memories. As an example when I was lying on my back in my crib looking at the room for a long time (read, a couple months ) and all I saw were incoherent geometrical forms, angles and triangles, circles and whatever one moment as I looked on in amazement these geometric forms cohered into three dimensional objects forming walls and ceilings, While I didn’t know the names for lamps and lampshades, the lamp in the corner became one. And that was by unaided instruction.
Then they stood me on my feet and my education began in earnest. From that point an infant has to memorize vast amounts of information while somehow learning how to manipulate it for use. By the time you get to school they’re cracking your brain with masses of information.
The basis of mind is memory, that is to say the mind is nearly vacant at birth like an unprogrammed computer. The matrix for memorization is there but the content has yet to be loaded. While loading a computer is a matter of minutes filling a mind takes a lifetime with the crucial years being the first twelve. Zeus in the Iliad had a mind of infinite power and it is the duty of every individual to develop the power of his mind to as close an approximation as Zeus according to his ability.
Strangely the psychologists of the period failed to realize this, although the philosopher Carus came close. Freud himself seems to ignore the basic role of memory while some novelists of the last quarter of the century grasped it. George Du Maurier’s wonderful novel, Peter Ibbetson, is a marvelous exposition on the nature of Memory. Marie Corelli’s Sorrows of Satan is likewise built on the nature of memory. In short, without memory we are nothing, without the ability to remember as a child we can amount to nothing, while in old age if we lose our memory we become a vegetable without any purpose. Our existence is really a story of how we accumulated our memories and what we did with them.
There are also kinds of Memory. Experiential memory forms the basis of which much of the content is what the nineteenth century American sociologist Graham Sumner called Folkways. The ways one’s people do and see things that we begin to acquire at birth naturally, or perhaps unconsciously. This memory is supplemented at age five or six with organized education- school. Education is a very hard and painful thing requiring periodic restructuring of the brain when enough knowledge is acquired to demand a change of scale. No wonder fair numbers of people fail this rite of passage. Education gives or should give one a means of interpreting one’s acquired knowledge and experience, hence the importance of reading, writing and arithmetic.
Matters have changed a great deal since the nineteenth century with the development of various forms of media so that the child is bombarded with propaganda that he probably can’t evaluate properly so that the pre-school years have become very dangerous to him. Burroughs didn’t have that problem.
Ed was born into the world in 1875 so that his youth and young manhood was lived in the horse and buggy world shaping his ideas of reality. This would force a severe adaptation to the changes of scale, folkways and technology after 1900. In the sense of H.G. Wells’ novel Men Like Gods the world passed through an interface into a parallel universe where horses and buggies disappeared to be replaced by motor cars and an unparalleled wonder- the airplane. I get ahead of myself. Ed’s mind had assumed its form by 1900 so let’s see, if we can, what he saw, as his memory received its input.
Today we look at his novels of lost world after lost world and sneer at it as an overused literary device. But consider:
To give it a convenient date, the Western consciousness went through a change of scale about 1795. Philip Farmer, the American sci-fi writer picked this date to begin his fictional Wold Newton Universe. The change was the beginning of what might be called speculative fiction. Mary Shelley’s influential book, Frankenstein, would possible be the earliest or very early example.
Oddly enough this very period saw the introduction of the historical novel in the works of the Scotsman, Walter Scott, perhaps the greatest novelist who ever lived. In my book he is. Thus we have a sense of the past and vision of the future emerging as the Western mind set. The historical novel itself is an exercise of racial memory so that along with the change came a realization of the racial self as well as the individual self, an expanded consciousness.
The Western mindset was changed, had been changing, the changes of which took shape during the French Revolution, preceded by the Age of Reason which melded into the scientific outlook.
Hence, when Napoleon, for whatever quixotic reason , invaded Egypt in 1799, he took along a contingent of scientists, who did not exist before that time, to catalog the wonders of that ancient civilization. This was the first of the Lost Empires to be discovered by Europeans only 76 years before Ed was born. And what a Lost Civilization. All had been hidden from Western eyes by the veil of the Moslem occupation of what were traditionally Western lands. But now, the Pyramids, Luxor, the Great Sphinx! The last was celebrated by Shelley’s mind in his great poem Ozymandias nineteen years later:.
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert…Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And whose wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my work , ye Mighty and despair!’
Nothing besides remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
The European mind was astounded, dumbfounded, amazed beyond measure. This was also the time that the Arabian Nights or alternatively The Thousand And One Nights of Scheherazade was placed in the European canon of literature. And the Egyptian hieroglyphs, so inscrutable, concealed the mystery of this amazing ancient people that preceded the Israelites of the Bible. Yet thirty years later Champollion of France decoded the hieroglyphics and revealed their meaning to the amazement of the world.
So vast were the Egyptian treasures of memory that year by year more astounding tombs were opened, hundreds and hundreds of mummies were discovered, legend after terrifying legend revealed this amazing past until the discovery of King Tut’s tomb in the 1920’s more or less put an end to this terrific hundred and twenty year voyage through mankind’s memory. The curse of the Pharaohs haunted the Western imagination well into the thirties with many movies, the technology unheard of in 1799, exploited the fantasy. Marvel of marvels. The curse of the Pharaohs.
Nor did archaeology stop in Egypt. Heinrich Schliemann, a German enthusiast, defied the experts and uncovered the site of Homer’s fabled Troy, the lost civilization of the Iliad. The Iliad that incredible legend of 800 BC turned out to be based on fact. The Greek Myths themselves shape shifted from incredible fantasies to be myths based on actual events. So actual that Schliemann leaving Troy traveled to the Argolid of Greece and unearthed the marvelous lost civilization of Mycenae, revealing a shaft tomb containing what might have been a death mask of the fabled King Agamemnon of the Iliad.
Oh yes, this is old hat to us now but imagine the gasp of astonishment then. And, it didn’t stop with Schliemann’s discoveries either. The walls of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire too were exposed to the light of day with their thousands of cuneiform tablets that once again were almost miraculously translated to reveal that amazing civilization thought to be a figment of the imagination of the Jews but now found real.
These discoveries went on an on and on. Even impoverished Africa contributed the memory of the Malagasy Empire of South Africa with its remains of Zimbabwe.
The British captains returned from India bearing tales almost too marvelous to be comprehended. Read General Forlong’s magnificent Rivers Of Life. The jungles of Southeast Asia gave up many incredible remains including Angkor Wat.
Burroughs is thought to have taken the concept of the lost civilization from that great English author Rider Haggard and while he read Haggard’s works, definitely influenced by them, he really only needed his newspaper to be astonished on, shall we say, a daily basis?
Thus year by year Ed’s memory banks filled with truths made even more incredible by having been the stuff of repressed memory for centuries even millennia.
And then there was the War Between The States and Reconstruction. The Indian Wars post States Rights. How to take all this in. This was not a static period or a simpler happier time as many so fondly imagine.
Ed’s father George T. was an officer in the Civil War serving from the first Bull Run to Lee’s surrender at Appomatox. While soldiers don’t like to talk about their experiences surely little Eddie must have gotten some stories while the Grand Old Army of the Republic, the GAR, would have been prominent marching in parades and having a general political presence at a time when the politicians waved the bloody shirt as having fought.
Ed himself was born two years before the crime of Reconstruction, with all it attendant horrors for the Southerners, so while not having any real memories of the period he would have been aware of it as the following Jim Crow period developed. Romancing the South was prominent through the First World War dissipating in the twenties and thirties and disappearing after WWII. On his 1916 cross country auto tour on which Ed took a portable record player along one of three songs he played over and over was Jack Yellin’s Are You From Dixie?, a favorite of mine. Yellin himself was a Lithuanian Jew who came to the country at five in 1900 and by 1915 was able to write a song reflecting the feeling of the country such as this:
Hello there Stranger, how do you do,
There’s something’ I want to say to you,
You seem surprised that I recognize
I’m no detective I just surmise,
You’re from the place that I’m longing to be,
Your smiling face just seems to say to me,
You’re from my homeland, my sunny homeland,
Tell me, can it be?
Are you from Dixie, I say from Dixie, where the fields of cotton beckon to me,
I’m glad to see you, tell me, I’ll be you and the friend I’m longin’ to see.
Are you from Alabama, Tennessee or Caroline
Any place below that Mason-Dixon line.
Are you from Dixie, I say from Dixie, ‘cause I’m from Dixie too.
It was way back in old ‘89,
When I first crossed that Mason-Dixon line,
Gee, but I long to return
To those good old folks I left behind.
My home was way down in ol’ Alabam’
On a plantation close to Birmingham,
And there’s one thing for certain, I’m surely flirtin’
With those southbound trains.
Pretty incredible for someone who probably still spoke with a Jewish accent. Goes to show how pervasive the sentimental vision of the South was. The Uncle Remus stories of Joel Chandler Harris kept the vision alive until it ended shortly after WWII when Walt Disney produced his remarkable Song Of The South. That movie is now banned because Negro objectors wish to deprive us of our cultural heritage even though the movie presented Blacks as so adorable you just had to love them running counter to all the facts as evidenced today.
Ed’s attitude is probably best expressed in the War Between The States/Reconstruction novels of the great Thomas Dixon Jr. and reinforced by D.W. Griffiths’ great movie The Birth Of A Nation.
Because Dixon points out several unpalatable facts about Northern conspirators who fomented the War and almost certainly conspired to assassinate Lincoln after the War because he wouldn’t crucify the Southern Aryans and attempted to impeach Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson for the same reason, who also resisted their villainous genocidal schemes. Dixon has been slandered to the point of being a veritable non-person, however he wrote very good novels. His diptych The Southerner and The Victim about Lincoln and Jefferson Davis respectively is really must reading for the period.
So John Carter of the Mars series was a Virginian as well as most of Ed’s heroes while he also translates his ’father’ from the Union ranks to those of Virginia. Probably based on memories of Massachusetts’ Phillips Academy he invariably excoriates New Englanders.
Ed’s memories of the War and Reconstruction while learned second hand were a very important part of his mental furniture.
Not inferior to Lost Civilizations and the Civil War to Ed’s mind were the very exciting events of the Scramble For Africa of the last quarter of the century. The Scramble of the European States for colonies in Africa also involved the stories of the searches for Livingston and the sources of the Nile, H.M. Stanley, Richard Burton, and King Leopold of the Congo Free State and many, many exciting stories, real life adventures and adventurers that wouldn’t be believable is they weren’t documented. The imaginary adventures of John Carter on Mars pale before them. I’m sure the character of Carter owes more to them than has been recognized. Certainly the Tarzan adventures couldn’t have been written except for the memory of these great explorers and the events of the Scramble which ended only a few years before Ed began writing.
The incredible story of King Leopold of Belgium is certainly one of the most amazing stories of all time. Originally the Congo was not a colony of Belgium but the personal property, private domain of Leopold, thus Tarzan’s claim to hegemony of all Africa. In addition to the Congo Leopold annexed Katanga while also acquiring Rwanda-Burundi and almost the whole of the Southern Sudan otherwise known as the Anglo-Egyptian province of Equatoria. Unlike most of the other colonies, once the bicycle and its wheel was developed, the discovery of rubber in the Congo made the Congo a cash cow.
Rubber at that time was collected in the wild, later grown on plantations in various locations, then replaced by synthetic rubber made from garbage during WWII. The methods of collecting the rubber were brutal as the Negroes were forced to search the wilds and punished in they didn’t make their quota.
While it’s true that Leopold sanctioned this, Whites anywhere in Africa regressed from civilization to the level of native cannibals. Kurtz of Heart of Darkness was based on a real person. Thus the French in what became French Equatorial Africa were guilty of as heinous crimes as those in the Congo but Leopold took the brunt of the criticism. The Congo Free State was given to Belgium as a gift after the turn of the century. The Tarzan series thus is a memory of the period. The attitude prospered until the thirties when realities obviated the colonial past.
In the post-MGM series of Tarzan pictures filmed by Sol Lesser all the stories take place in Lost Civilizations while the actors, savages and all are White, no Black Africans at all.
Another building block of memory not inferior to the others was the development of science in the nineteenth century. The key event for Ed Burroughs was the introduction of Evolution by Charles Darwin in 1959. Ed uses several strands of biology in his corpus. He knows the earlier work of Lamarck as well as that of Darwin and later evolutionary contributions of Gregor Mendel and the germ theory of August Weismann and his contribution of the Weismann Barrier that Ed apparently rejected.
Thus contrary to the popular conception that Burroughs was some sort of idiot savant. He kept up on current developments well aware of the Curries’ discovery of radium when he began to write. The awareness of radium poisoning was not yet known as he seems to be unaware of it.
Although it is not generally accepted he was also very well informed on the development of psychology. There is no reason that he couldn’t have known of Charcot while he was well up on hypnotism, an essential part of Charcot‘s method. Psychology before Freud preempted the discipline which was a fairly broad loosely defined subject. The field was also open to any and all investigators not yet preempted by the medical profession.
While it is generally believed that Freud discovered or invented the unconscious, this is not so; he merely defined the unconscious to suit his purposes and then by dint of shouting loudly and continuously managed to impose his view as orthodox driving all other understandings off the field. In fact he managed to make his interpretation, almost fabrication of psychoanalysis, the gold standard of psychology.
Psychology was split off from philosophy rather late gaining momentum only during the eighteen eighties.
The most significant aspect of psychology that Ed exploited was that of the split personality which
he embraced to an astonishing degree. He seems to have gotten the notion from Robert Louis Stevenson’s great little novelette, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Stevenson got there before H.G. Wells or otherwise Wells would likely have appropriated the genre as well as interplanetary warfare, vivisection, invisibility, time travel and futuristic dystopias, all of which were of inestimable influence on the plastic memory of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
While Ed certainly tried to out-wow these amazing writers perhaps the closest he came was the little recognized story, The Eternal Lover, the title of which is often changed to the Eternal Savage, which completely misses the point. This story was even answered by Kipling and Haggard in their Love Eternal. Eddie was moving in fast company.
He was familiar with many novelists writing in psychological genres including George Du Maurier with his three incredible novels, William Morris of Notes From Nowhere fame and several other interesting but not compelling novels, as well as, I believe, some few novels of Marie Corelli who was working the psychological memory games.
Thus, by the time Ed began writing in earnest in 1911-12 he had a well defined notion of contemporary psychology. One must always bear in mind that Ed read continually and was omnivorous in his choice of reading material. While not of the University he had the more random reading habits of the autodidact.
Having two remaining topics of memory to cover, literature and immigration I think I’ll deal with that of literature first saving immigration for last.
The nineteenth century was the unfolding of the Aryan mind, an age of self-realization and the beginning of the effort to attain full consciousness. This is the story of psychology from then to now. The search for awareness was carried on in medical circles, philosophical circles and literary circles. Psychology was transferred from philosophy into medicine and science in the last half of the century. The quest for awareness was no more prominent than in literature. The German Romantics were the first in the field to explore the nature of the mind. Men like E.T.A Hoffman, La Motte De La Fouque and Charles Nodier represented psychological ideas in their fiction. These are significant but overlooked works.
There have always been stories and storytellers. First in poetic form then evolving into prose. The Greek novels of the Hellenic period are just great. Papryus was expensive and copying by hand was laborious and also expensive. With the invention of paper and moveable typeface and the printing press, books became more economical and multiple copies into the hundreds or thousands feasible. This meant that more people of diverse backgrounds could find their way into print. The key form of expression was poetry but prose gained ground. Then in the mid-eighteenth century the modern novel form took shape to explode after 1795.
Perhaps the first great novelist was Walter Scott who, himself began as a poet. His long poems such as The Lady Of The Lake and Marmion are still great reading although out of style along with Scott himself. What do I care about what’s out of style? Do you? Nevertheless Scott became the model for such mid-century greats as Alexandre Dumas, Balzac and Eugene Sue.
Scott and the great French novelists were also influenced by the Gothic novelist Mrs. Ann Radcliffe who wrote her romances in the last quarter of the eighteenth century.
There are a myriad of authors, now forgotten except by the scholar or enthusiast who seeks their charm. George Borrow while an eccentric turned out a few worthwhile novels, Thomas, Peacock, Pierce Egan, G.W.M. Reynolds Mysteries Of The Court Of London is a fabulous five thousand page, ten volume novel of the period. Everything you’ll ever need to know. Charles Dickens and all the great novelists of the mid century wrote scores of interesting worthwhile novels now nearly slipped through memory. Of course there is only time and room in the mind of we moderns who are bombarded daily by radio, songs, film and TV plus tens of thousand of books appearing annually, for so many old books. The need for selection is paramount while the changing social and political situations are relegating the world of pre-9/11 to the historical dust bin. Still the treasures are there buried like Long John Silver’s gold for those who care to dig. Let’s hope you’re one.
As I have noted, after Darwin in 1859 and the rise of psychological sensibilities, of which Darwin was ignorant, changed for the upcoming generation who took the stage in the eighties. The great modern genres were in embryo. Jules Verne had already begun his scientific romances that were influential while he continued writing into the twentieth century. His books are now heavily bowdlerized because his acute observations of the reality he perceived are no long thought proper by our modern social Mrs. Grundys.
Camille Flammarion, the very great French scientific neo-romantic writer made the space travel and planetary romance popular beginning in the sixties at the same time as Verne.
In 1880 Percy Gregg published Across The Zodiac which is erroneously credited as the first Martian romance beginning the long fascination with the Red Planet for which Burroughs was for so long credited. It was in the mid-eighties that a major influence of Ed’s began to publish and continued to publish at the rate of two or three volumes a year for nearly forty years, the great, wonderfully imaginative Henry Rider Haggard. A most versatile writer now known mainly for his African novels as the Scramble was in process. Haggard also wrote a half dozen great ancient Egyptian lost civilization romances that are well worth reading along with a couple Hebrew volumes of the Roman wars that are exceptional. It appears that Ed read most or all of Haggard.
The year after Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines, Stevenson published his great scientific psychological thriller, Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde. A key fact for Ed’s mental development is that these novels that are considered classics today were published during Ed’s lifetime or the decade or two before his birth so these really startling and amazing novels were as fresh in their impact as, say, a Rolling Stones record in the sixties and seventies. One imagines schoolboys gathering in knots and talking about them excitedly, much as we did about the latest sci-fi pieces in the fifties. While we know that Burroughs read these books we can’t be sure when but I imagine that to have read these books he must have done most of them close to the publishing date or they couldn’t have been part of his mental furniture by the time he began to write in 1911-12. And he had a lot of reading to do.
The Sherlock Holmes of Conan Doyle who began his career in 1886 also which continued intermittently for twenty-five years or so dazzling Ed’s mind. Doyle as I see it was also dealing with a split personality. Holmes and his alter ego are essentially two aspects of the same personality. Watson belongs to the pre-scientific past while Holmes is the scientific thinking machine devoid of sympathy. Watson takes the sentimental side. In addition Doyle introduces a third personality element in the criminal mastermind Moriarty who is a sort of Hyde to Holmes Jekyll, hence his is the social negative to Holmes positive.
Jekyll and Hyde and Holmes and Watson were introduced in the same year of 1886 as Marie Corelli’s Wormwood that also deals with the splitting of personality. As these books couldn’t have been influenced by each other one has to assume that the notion of split or multiple personality was being bruited about. Corelli seems to have attended Charcot’s demonstrations so that all psychological roads lead back to the Salpetriere.
There is no clear evidence that Burroughs read Corelli but as she was among the best selling and most sensational authors of the period I have little doubt myself that Ed followed his unerring instincts at least sampled her work.
Another author plowing the same furrow that Burroughs read for sure was George Du Maurier whose first novel, once again dealt with a split personality. In his novel, Peter Ibbetson of 1891, his character has a childhood in France which was very happy. Through the death of his parents he was sent to an uncle in England who while providing generously for Peter’s education nevertheless was cold while being disgusted at Peter’s rejection of his ideas of manhood. Peter’s glowing childhood expectations were dashed throwing him into a deep depression. Now let’s catch up on Burroughs’ development and I’ll return to Du Maurier later in another context.
Now, Burroughs’ loved three novels that he read and reread six or seven times by 1920. They were Mark Twain’s The Prince And The Pauper, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy and Owen Wister’s The Virginian. Ed was led unerringly to the three novels that dealt most explicitly with his mental fixations. The first two were published during Burroughs’ childhood while the last was published shortly after the turn of the century in 1902.
Two of these three books relate to Burroughs life from birth to age twenty in 1896 with the last relating to the next period. One’s favorite books, songs or music are always going to relate to psychological needs developed during your early years. You may or may not have realized their psychological importance. It can’t be said whether Ed knew why the books were his favorites or not. All three relate to the blighted hopes of his youth. As far as I can recall all of Ed’s books tell the same story as these three in variation.
All three tell of a young prince who is disinherited and then after a series of adventures comes into his own again. In Twain’s Prince And The Pauper we have the double, or split personality of the Prince and the Pauper. Identical in appearance. By some literary magic the two exchange places with the Prince trading roles with the Pauper. In the end the Prince reassumes his proper role.
In Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy one has the boy who is the son of a Lord, thus being a little Prince, growing up in America in straitened circumstance who then is discovered and comes into his inheritance and true identity. He has a sort of double in a newsboy who follows him to England before moving to California where he becomes the successful manager of a ranch thus foreshadowing Ed’s flirtation with and move to California where he bought the Tarzana estate.
The Virginian of 1902 does not properly belong to his childhood but follows the same theme with the addition that the hero meets his true love and has an idyllic wilderness honeymoon. Shortly after reading the book he took his young wife Emma West to Idaho in what seems like an attempt to live the book. Emma was the wrong girl and the wilds of Idaho the wrong place.
It would seem then that Ed was highly influenced by what he read. He was also able to retain an accurate remembrance of the stories in his memory. The period from 1896 to 1911 was also filled with literature that furnished his mind for the literary tasks ahead of him.
So, in addition to the truly great literature of Dumas and Sue, Verne and Haggard, he was drawn to the interplanetary adventure. Like Freud who appropriated the long history of the Unconscious to himself so Burroughs absorbed and transcended the thirty years or so of previous interplanetary adventure to himself. Just as one erroneously thinks Freud invented the unconscious so one thinks Ed Burroughs invented the Martian interplanetary romance. No so. Earlier examples are constantly being discovered. At this time the earliest Martian novel is considered to be the one by Percy Gregg entitled Across The Zodiac published in 1880.
Greggs’s novel is written in the high Victorian style reminiscent of Anthony Trollope or just any of the crop of English writers of the 1820 or so generation so that the emphasis is sort of pre-scientific and stuffy unlike Burroughs’ writing which began after the invention of cars and airplanes, movies, phones and the whole works. Probably for that reason Burroughs displaced all other Martian writers with the exception of H.G. Wells’ War Of The Worlds. Even that which was on the edge between the Victorian and Edwardian periods relates more to the past than to the future.
There is a question as to which of these books Ed may have read. I think it not improbable that if he had heard of them he would have sought them out. Nor would, say, Percy Greg’s Across the Zodiac be as obscure in Ed’s day as it is now. There would have been not a few people who were familiar with such a book to refer Ed to it. As an inveterate magazine and newspaper reader there is no reason he might not have come across a reference. After all he did read Popular Science and Popular Mechanics both of which originated in the last quarter of the century. So, while it cannot be said for certain I think it probable that he was familiar with most of the Martian literature so that when he began A Princess Of Mars he knew what the landscape should and shouldn’t look like and knew what to avoid.
He was early introduced to the idea of the double and multiple personality through Jekyll And Hyde. The book was a clear cut example of split personality. The puzzle of a divided personality fascinated Ed while the literature of the subject is fairly extensive with numerous writers discussing it in various manners of doubling. From 1886 to 1900 many outstanding examples appeared that given Ed’s attraction to the sensational he would definitely have heard of while when reading those works and Ed’s works the same themes and even details are recurrent in both. Thus, while I have never read of Marie Correli’s name being mentioned in connection with Ed’s work she manages that same dark, murky sensibility in connection with personality dissociations. She was one of the best selling authors from 1886 to 1900 so there is no chance Ed hadn’t heard of her.
While he may have read Corelli it is certain that he read all three of the novels of George Du Maurier- Peter Ibbetson, Trilby and The Martian.
The first, Peter Ibbetson, 1891, follows Ed’s usual formula of a happy childhood disrupted by an untoward event. In this case having been brought up in France, his parents died and he was sent to an uncle to be brought up in England, thus a personality divided by French and English identities with the latter unhappy.
Now, Du Maurier concentrates on the need for memories. As he says, quite rightly, without memories what is a man. Nothing. Just a vegetable. Ibbetson, then, chronicles his childhood French memories while abhorring his current English situation. The crisis comes when Uncle Ibbetson insults Peter’s mother; Peter then murders his uncle.
Before he did Peter meets his childhood sweetheart, Mimsy, now married as Mary, the Duchess Of Towers. The childhood affection was sincere but she is now a married woman. Peter would have been hanged for the murder except for the intervention of Mary and her powerful friends and then is given life without parole.
Before Freud appropriated the topic for his own ends the Unconscious was thought to be a source of great intellectual riches with incredible paranormal, that is to say supernatural powers. At the same time dreams were improperly understood while also thought to have paranormal powers attached to them. Du Maurier invented something called Dreaming True while at the time Lucid Dreaming was a hot topic. Lucid Dreaming is when you consciously invade your dreams without waking and direct the dream’s course. Robert Louis Stevenson, who died in 1894, said that he wrote many of his stories while dreaming lucidly. They read like it too. Ed Burroughs, also, was interested in Dreaming True and Lucid Dreaming and said that he too took his stories from his dreams. If you read Burroughs with Lucid Dreaming in mind you can trace those influences too.
So, and now this seemed possible at the time and may seem possible to some today, Peter and Mary agreed to establish mental contact and Dream True. That is to say that they would each enter into one another’s dream together. This they succeeded in doing thus each led a double life. Now, in the very nature of things, they could not dream of anything that was not in their memories. Thus, they could only dream for instance of chairs they had seen, places they had been, only that of which they had memories. Du Maurier intuited that mind was wholly memory. Nothing comes out that didn’t go in.
As they had read of prehistory they could travel back through time into prehistoric situations. Everything went well for twenty-five years until one day the dreamgate was closed. Peter couldn’t enter from his end. His worst fears were realized. Mary had died.
His disappointment unbalanced his mind so that he went insane. He was removed from the prison to the asylum, his memories in disorder. I suppose Du Maurier meant shizophrenic in which one’s memories are so painful they became confused, working against each other so that the mind can’t function properly.. Over time he became reconciled to the reality and regained the use of his memories. And then one night while Dreaming True he sat by a dream river when Mary, released from heaven as a very special dispensation, appeared to him, explained the situation and told him they would meet in heaven.
The second novel, Trilby, one of the most celebrated of its time deals with the iconic hypnotist, Svengali, evil but potent, who exploited Trilby, a memory creation Du Maurier borrowed from the novel of the same name by Nodier, the Romantic. Hypnotism will play a significant role in Ed’s work. And finally the third novel, The Martian, inspired Ed, and his mind focused on Mars.
Du Maurier’s Dreaming True meshed with Stevenson’s Lucid Dreaming as a source for obtaining material unconsciously. It is clear that Ed was heavily influenced by Stevenson having read most if not all his fiction. It seems probable that he would have read articles about his hero who spoke freely of his Lucid Dreaming technique. Thus when Ed said he found his stories in his dreams there is no reason not to believe that he was familiar with these dream theories and their source in the unconscious.
Lin Carter believed and I concur that Ed also read novels by William Morris of News From Nowhere fame who writes dreamlike stories bearing some relationship to those of Ed.
I intend to pause at 1900 continuing on with Ed’s life experiences to 1911, but to close on this theme, this next book appeared shortly after 1900 but is very much a product of the pre-industrial period before 1900 so I include it here.
In England during the last quarter of the century the spiritualist movement gravitated from the US to England and even Germany where it was treated as a science to be investigated, hence the plethora of novels like those of Du Maurier and Marie Corelli.
Not only was the unconscious thought of as a repository for multiple personalities but even the fantastic notion of past lives. Thus people sprang up who believed, or said they did, that they could remember previous incarnations. This notion was also helped along by the appearance of Hindu and Buddhist missionaries in Britain and the US with their notions of reincarnation.
Among these imposters was a Swiss woman using the name of Helene Smith whose supposed lives were recorded by the psychologist Theodore Flournoy. Now, he conducted a serious scientific investigation of the woman’s claims. That Flournoy could allow himself to be so deluded demonstrates the psychological novelty of the Unconscious.
Miss Smith was a shop girl who was much displeased with her situation so she began to fantasize. Using the spiritualist movement as a stepping stone Flournoy made her famous. She would have done much better to turn her fantasies into novels much like Ed would but she enjoyed the attention her past lives claims got her. She chose three past identities, one as an Indian Princess, another as a Martian and the third as Marie Antoinette. Of interest here is that she invented a Martian vocabulary that only she could translate. Burroughs himself followed a few years later with his own vocabularies of various provenance including African Ape, the first and once universal language.
There is no reason to go into the details of her debunking, the point here is that it is thought that Ed read Flournoy’s account: From India To The Planet Mars. Certainly he would create three ‘past lives’ as identities to explore his own fantasies- Mars, an imaginary Africa and the Earth’s Core. The late life Venus stories can be discounted. By c. 1900 then the foundations of his novels had already entered his memory banks where they bubbled under his conscious mind where he could work on them both consciously and unconsciously letting them slowly ferment.
Terminating the nineteenth century were two works by the deviser of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. The first was his Interpretation Of Dreams and the other, The Psychopathology Of Everyday Life. The true significance of these books are overlooked but they both deal with the primacy of Memory as the basis of mind. Reminiscences as he would say.
As Freud noted that the problem hysterics suffered was not biologic but the distortion of memories or reminiscences, so both his two volumes deal with the distortion of Memory in ‘normal’ people. Freud must have thought he was normal as he used himself as a subject in both books.
As Freud grasped, dreams are based not only on memories but the distortion of memory by one’s fixations. That is, a fixation of a memory too hurtful to face so that it is fixated in the form of the hurt from which point it constellates similar subsequent memories and even shapes them and one’s actions to conform to its fears. So, from reminiscences of hysterics Freud had moved on to the memories of dreams and parapraxes.
Even more prescient was the study that followed a couple years later: The Psychopathology Of Everyday Life. The book is ill-titled, being somewhat off putting although very easy reading, but of even more significance than his dream book. This was the study that gave rise to the term ‘Freudian slip’. It is a study of parapraxes and how one’s memory interferes with another memory to blot it out. Strangely Freud missed the import of the significance of Memory taking it more or less for granted.
Freud’s analysis of parapraxes such as forgetting a word you commonly use was superb. He demonstrates significantly, from his own example, how unpleasant memories that one might associate with a word cancels out the ability to recall the word. In other instances one means to say one thing but let out one’s true intent by saying another.
Thus the subconscious whether in dream distortion or waking distortion affects one’s life, clashing with the conscious. The memories one has, the subconscious, one’s true desires emerge against one’s will. Of course, practice can eliminate or reduce word substitutions which is done by sharpening one’s conscious efforts to deny entrance to the sub- or Unconscious. In the struggle to unify one’s consciousness, that is, as Freud would put it, have your ego fill the space occupied by the Id- a later name for the Unconscious one must eliminate the interface. The only successful method is to integrate one’s consciousness so that the mind functions as one unit however perfectly or imperfectly. This is rare but it can be done by searching for and recognizing the significance of one’s fixations. Forget the term Depth Psychology; that’s a misnomer.
Barring that the choice is to recognize the influence of the unconscious and try to pose an impervious barrier to its influence in the sense of W.E. Henley’s famous poem, Invictus (The Unconquerable) Henley wrote the poem in 1875 although the title was added later by an editor, so that one may be sure that Ed knew the poem and used it as bedrock as so many of us have. There are interpretations, I give mine:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeoning of chance,
My head is bloody but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul.
There is a temporal interpretation as well as a psychological one. I am interested in the latter. D.H. Lawrence is quoted by Rudiger Gorner in his essay ‘The Hidden Agent Of The Soul’: “The novels and poems come unnoticed out of one’s pen.” This is true. One has conscious intentions but as one writes trancelike, hidden meanings emerge from the pen allowing for different interpretations of the words. Whether Henley had a conscious understanding of the unconscious psychological meaning of his words, the psychological interpretation fits. That’s all I can say.
‘Out of the night that covers me…’ In Greek mythology the night is construed as female, that is, the unconscious, the unknown, as with the depths of the sea, another female symbol. Daylight was considered as conscious and male as one can clearly see. The Night, is uncertainty and darkness when the goblins come out. It was feared. Henley clearly interprets night that way: …black as the pit from pole to pole. In other words he is in the grip of the unconscious with not a glimmer of light from one end to the other, he might have added, and from East to West.
But Henley is defiant of the darkness. He thanks whatever gods may be for his unconquerable soul. In other words, come what may he will not tamely submit. ‘Black as the pit…’ In my own hour of darkness, one of them, in my own hour of need, sometime in my teens, I gathered courage from Henley’s pen to fight that mountain of despair. I’m sure that Burroughs did too.
‘In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeoning of chance, my head is bloody but unbowed.’ I’m not sure of the wincing but I have been strong enough not to cry out loud. Henley had his problems. He contracted tuberculosis of the bone and at seventeen had a leg removed at the knee. The doctors wished to take his other leg too but Henley stoutly refused. Thus he lost a leg but rather than succumb to despair his ‘head was bloody but unbowed’ under the ‘bludgeoning of chance.’
The first two stanzas were all there was of significance for me at the time while, for myself, I have considered it a two stanza poem but it continues with Henley’s rejection of the gods and of heaven and hell, both subconscious projections. ‘Beyond this place of wrath and tears, looms but the horror of the shade’. I interpret shade as nothingness. ‘And yet the menace of the years find, and shall find me, unafraid.’ A fine show of bravado just in case. Henley certainly spoke for Burroughs and I suspect for a great many of you, us.
And then a dismissal of consequences: It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll… It don’t bother me none, he says. And why? Here comes the clincher, that line that gets ya, because: I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul. Damn right! And that’s called Positive Mental Attitude. Life isn’t worth living without it.
So Ed hangs in there, head bloody but unbowed, waiting for the turning of the tide. As the proverb goes: It’s a long road without a turning.
In closing this part let me remark that Ed was very fond of popular poetry of the Kipling kind. For those interested, I’m sure someone may be, there is a compilation called The Best Loved Poems Of The American People compiled by Hazel Felleman first published in 1936, in print since then, of which every poem I am sure was known to Burroughs. A poem couldn’t be too schmaltzy for him, he even has the collected Edgar A. Guest in his library. These bits of poetry were as essential to furnishing his memory as anything else he read.
The history of immigration in the US is the least understood and most misrepresented topic in US history. The history of immigration has invariably been written by Liberals or immigrants themselves so the story as taught in schools is rather one sided. The Key text is Gustavus Myers The History Of Bigotry In The United States. If you’ve read that you’ve got the official story. Just for the record, on my mother’s side I’m Polish and Pennsylvania Dutch; on my father’s side solid Scotch-Irish from the Kentucky hill country, both grand parents. I’m a hillbilly boy with a Polish accent. My name, Prindle, is usually thought of as English so I have the field covered. I have been subject to the all the discrimination currently employed against the English.
In discussing Ed’s point of view he thought of himself as pure English while on his father’s side he was English with an Irish admixture and on his mother’s side, Pennsylvania Dutch. Amusingly in the twenties he wrote his mother-in-law asking for Emma’s genealogy. Mrs. Hulbert, aware of Ed’s vanity on the issue, sniffed that Emma was English on both sides.
The first immigration problem was, of course, the Irish and if I may say so, with good reason. I rather favor the Know Nothing side of the argument. The animosity during Ed’s youth between English and Irish was intense. Apropos of Ed and John the Bully who was Irish I think the following probable. The Burroughs had two Irish maids, young women, before whom I suspect Ed put on airs about being English and therefore superior to the Irish. I think this got on the girls’ nerves so that they got an Irish kid to terrorize Ed and put him in his place. Otherwise I don’t see John waiting on a corner for a kid four years his junior who he couldn’t possibly have known. The consequences were more than the girls could have imagined.
After the Irish came the Socialists of the failed Revolution of ‘48- The Forty-eighters, another of Ed’s bete-noirs. Mostly German they contributed to Ed’s disgust of Germans when he saw them marching through Chicago under their red flag. The Haymarket Riot of 1887 also made a big impression on him especially as his father attended their execution.
Up to 1871, post-Civil War immigration had been Northern European which was thought to be compatible with the Old Stock, at least in retrospect. Prior to the Civil War, industry in the US had been more or less of the cottage variety, recalled by Longfellow in ‘Under the spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stood…’ But, with the invention of the steam engine on steel rails in 1830 a much larger scale of industry was required. Bessemer process steel, rolling mills and what all that also called for a greater concentration of labor.
To obtain that the industrialists moved further East into Europe recruiting from other than Nordics. At the same time the Jews of the Pale (the prototypical ’Eastern European’) discovered America quickly advancing from a trickle of immigration to a flood. Thus during Ed’s youth the character of Chicago changed year by year, unnoticeable consciously until the Great War. Then in the nineties the Italians added the US to their migratory circle. For at least a hundred years the Sicilians had been migrant labor in Europe, going North during the summer and returning South in winter.
Their first Western addition was Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. In the days of sail the circuit lasted a year or two as they could follow the sun North into Brazil, and Central America. With the reliability of steamships it was possible for them to return home more frequently and cheaply in steerage. Then in the nineties the Sicilians discovered New York and the US, which they added to their circuit.
They were never true immigrants being more of what were disparagingly called Birds Of Passage. They came for the money. In most years prior to the Great War nearly as many returned to Sicily as arrived. The Great War stranded them in the US but post-war Mussolini still considered them Italian citizens and so did they.
The Americans, never a very realistic people, believed that all these immigrants were on the same political and psychological wavelength as themselves, hence that the immigrants would assimilate overnight. The world war was an eye opener when all loyalties overrode American sympathies. A howl of pain went up from Teddy Roosevelt when he realized the reality and exclaimed against the ‘American boarding house.’
Of course, the history books tell it quite differently but, in fact, there was as much sympathy as not for Germany. Not everyone saw the English as innocent. The Irish who sided with the Germans in both wars were on the side of whoever was fighting England, hence if the US officially sided with England they were less than loyal to the New Island.
Chicago itself during Burroughs’ time as now had a remarkably low percentage of Old Stock, on the order of only 15 to 20%. So the babel of other tongues and accents must have offended him more than they did John Rocker of our time who was sent back to the minors for observing the fact in New York City. The second Black List one might say, but unbacked by a rehearsed voice of objection such as the Communists had in the forties and fifties.
Ed had his prejudices as every man must, Old Stock, immigrant or what. He observed the Revolutionary activity in Eastern Europe with a wry eye taking the side of neither the Jews or Russians. He definitely added the Russians to the Germans as objects of distaste. The villains of the first four Tarzan novels would be Russian. The early novels have been heavily censored so his attitude toward the Jews requires early editions to unravel. There appears to be no animosity to them but as an anti-religionist he had to find their religious beliefs as ridiculous as any of the three Semitic religions. There doesn’t seem to be any problem with the Jews until they caused it in the aftermath of the War but that’s slightly in the future and will be dealt with at that time.
It is enough to say that Ed was proudly Anglo-Saxon as he should have been and that whatever his beliefs on immigration he endured the immigrant nations stoically. At present there is no evidence that he took an aggressive stance toward them as many of his countrymen did. But, listen, I was in the orphanage and I have a very good idea of what aggression is and it didn’t just come the Old Stock. My immigrant brothers were in there too. We were told to take the alleys and stay off the city streets or take a beating. These were seven, eight and nine year kids these grown men were threatening and some of the kids did take a beating although I never did. I know where discrimination is at. So what.
Part IV will continue Ed’s temporal life from 1886 to 1911-12. Part V will review his reding from 1900 to 1920. Part VI will pick up from where Burroughs Rides the Rocket Pt. I left off. There will probably be four or more additional parts but I don’t have blocked out yet.
April 3, 2012
Only The Strong Survive
An Examination Of Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid
As Created By Edgar Rice Burroughs
(Alternate Title: The Oakdale Affair)
Into The Mysteries
(Some capitalization appears in the text that has no significance. For some reason it just showed up. I didn’t do it)
Burroughs does a good job in the Holmesian sense in this book enclosing mysteries within mysteries. The central mystery is who is committing the crime wave in Oakdale. Having learned from his mentor, Conan Doyle, Burroughs skillfully withholds details to enhance the suspense then disclosing them to reveal the mysteries. The organization of the scheme of crimes gradually unfolds to show that the real Oskaloosa Kid is one of the perpetrators. So we have a clever doubling of a sweet girl posing as the vicious criminal The Oskaloosa Kid. This is obviously a transfer of his Anima identity from the male De Vac/Oskaloosa Kid to the resumption of a female identity for his Anima through the fake Oskaloosa Kid/Gail Prim.
The girl who was seen with the criminals could have been Gail since she had disappeared without a trace never having arrived at her destination. Gail was not the girl seen with Reginald Paynter, who was robbed and murdered, and the crooks. That person was Hettie Penning who was ejected from the car speeding past the abandoned Squibbs place by the real Oskaloosa Kid. Thus symbolically De Vac/Oskaloosa Kid returns his Anima to Bridge/Burroughs.
As indicated Hettie Pening represents the dead early Anima of Burroughs who has here been resurrected. As in all cases of Burroughs representation of his failed Anima she appears to be a ‘bad’ girl but in reality is merely misunderstood. He compensates for himself.
Bridge himself is a mystery man and double. He is a hobo but with great manners and an excellent education. He is definitely a member of the Might Have Seen Better Days Club. The real club was organized by Burroughs when he served as an enlisted man in the Army in 1896.
In this case Bridge is in actuality the son of a wealthy Virginia aristocrat who has left home because he prefers a life on the road. In the framing story of a Princess of Mars Burroughs portrays himself in his own name as a Virginian. In reality Burroughs was declassed at eight or nine by John the Bully and by his father’s subsequent shuffling of him from school to school finally sending him to a bad boy school that Burroughs describes as little more than a reformatory for rich kids.
If one looks at his career he was on the move quite a bit. During his marriage he seldom lived in one house for more than a year or two then moved on.
Just as Bridge will assume his proper identity at the end of the novel so through his writing Burroughs has abandoned the shame of his hard scrabble years from 1905-13. In a sense he is assuming his proper identity with this novel.
Bridge and the Kid joining together at the fork in the road, one is reminded of Yogi Berra’s quip: When you come to a fork in the road, take it, in this case the less traveled dirt road.
I read word for word frequently dwelling on the scenes created. Burroughs is a very visual writer. Standing at the fork in a driving Midwest summer lightning, thunder and deluge storm they can hear the pursuing hoboes shouting down the road. Ahead of them is a dark unknown and a house haunted by the victims of a sextuple murder.
Indeed, Burroughs describes almost a descent into hell, or at least, the hell of the subconscious.
Over a low hill they followed the muddy road and down into a dark and gloom ravine. In a little open space to the right of the road a flash of lightning, followed one imagines by either the crash of deep loud rumbling of the thunder of perhaps if over head the sonic boom of the air splitting and closing, revealed the outline of a building a hundred yards (that’s three hundred feet, a very large front yard) from the rickety and decaying fence which bordered the Squibb farm and separated it from the road.
There are those who say Burroughs doesn’t write well but in a short paragraph he has economically drawn a verbal picture which is quite astonishing in its detail. The house is a hundred yards from the road. In the rain and muck that might be a walk or two or three minutes or more.
A clump of trees surrounded the house, their shade adding to the utter blackness of the night.
That’s what one calls inspissating gloom. One might well ask how any shade can add to utter blackness but one gets the idea. There is some intense writing thoroughly reminiscent of Poe but nothing like him.
The two had reached the verandah when Bridge, turning, saw a brilliant light glaring through the night above the crest of the hill they had just topped in their descent into the ravine, or, to be more explicit, the small valley, where stood the crumbling house of the Squibbs. The purr of a rapidly moving motor car rose above the rain, the light rose, fell, swerved to the right and left.
“Someone must be in a hurry.” commented Bridge.
There isn’t any better writing than that. Another writer can say it differently but he can’t say it better. Just imagine the movie Frankenstein or Wolf Man when you’re reading it. Burroughs did as well in less than the time it takes to show it.
A body is thrown from the speeding car a shot following after it. Bridge goes to pick up the body.
Thus the mystery and horror and terror of the dark and stormy night has been building. Bridge carrying the body which may or may not be alive asks the Kid to open the door.
Behind him came Bridge as the youth entered the dark interior. A half dozen steps he took when his foot struck against a soft yielding mass. Stumbling he tried to regain his equilibrium only to drop fully upon the thing beneath him. One open palm extended to ease his fall, it fell upon the uplifted features of a cold and clammy face.
Yipes! What more do you need? Cold and dripping, half crazed from fear, overwhelmed by the thought he might be a murderer the Kid’s hand falls on cold and clammy dead flesh. Bridge is standing there with maybe another dead person in his arms. The Kid is also aware that the murderous hoboes are hot on his trail.
If that doesn’t get you then somehow I think you can’t be got.
Not yet finished Burroughs builds up the tension. Striking a match from the specially lined water proof pocket of Bridge’s coat they find a dead man wearing golden earrings. Obviously a gypsy but while staring in unsimulated horror they hear from the base of the stairs of a dark dank cellar the clank of a slowly drawn chain as a heavy weight makes the stairs creak.
This is too much for the nerves of the Kid. Burroughs brilliantly contrasts the terror of the unknown in the basement with the fear of the dark at the top of the stairs. You know where that’s at, I’m sure, I sure do. In a flash the Kid chooses the unknown at the top of the stairs to the horror in the cellar.
What do you want?
The hoboes are still slipping and sliding down the descent into the ravine of the subconscious. Horror in front, terror behind. There is absolutely no place to hide. Nightmare City, don’t you think? How could anyone do it better? What do you mean he can’t write? Put the scenes in a movie and everyone in the theatre would be covering their eyes. Itd\ would be that Beast With Five Fingers all over again. Maybe worse. Never saw that one? Check it out. Peter Lorre. Terrifying. Of course I was a kid.
The clanking of the chain recreates an incident in Burroughs’ own life when he had a job collecting for an ice company. He called on a house and while he was waiting he heard the clanking of a chain coming slowly up the driveway. Waiting with a fair amount of trepidation he saw a huge dog dragging the chain appear. ERB backing slowly away forgot about the delinquent bill.
In this case the chain is attached to Beppo the dancing bear but Bridge and the Kid won’t know that until the next day.
They retreat into an upstairs bedroom. Here what Burroughs describes in capital letters as THE THING and IT pursues them. I remember two movies one called The Thing and the other It.
Just when the thing retreats the murderous gang of hoboes enters the house. Wow! Out of the frying pan and into the fire in this night of terrors as the lightning continues to flash and the thunder crash.
Discovering the dead man and as the bear begins moving again four of the hoboes flee while two who were on the staircase being trapped in the house flee into the same bedroom as Bridge, the Kid and the girl, Hettie. Shortly thereafter a woman’s scream pierces the lightning and the thunder then silences as the storm settles into a steady drizzle.
The rest of the night is one tense affair between the murderous hoboes and the Bridge and the girls. Not a moment to catch your breath.
In the morning when they go downstairs the mystery increases when they find the dead man gone and nothing in the cellar. If they’d had Tarzan along he would have not only been able to smell the bear but to tell whether if was black or brown.
After a brief confrontation Dopey Charlie and the General are driven off. Bridge’s relationship with the Kid is then deepened. Even though all the Kid’s reactions are repulsive to the manhood of Bridge he feels his attraction to the seeming boy growing stronger.
Not since he had followed the open road with Byrne, had Bridge met one with whom he might care to “pal” before.
This brings up an interesting hint of latent homosexuality. My fellow writer, David Adams has objected that in my analysis of Emasculation as applied to ERB is that he should have been a homosexual but wasn’t.
There are degrees of emasculation and there are various degrees of psychotic reaction to it. I don’t say and I don’t believe that ERB was a homosexual but there was a degree of ambiguity introduced into his personality by his emasculation. I have touched on this in my ‘Emasculation, Hermaphroditism and Excretion.’
Here we have another example of it as Bridge is experiencing some homoerotic emotion which is very confusing to him as he has never wanted a ‘pal’ before. In hobo lingo I believe a ‘pal’ has a homosexual connotation.
If Burroughs took his ‘inside’ information on hoboes from Jack London’s The Road then Bridge is the sort of hobo London describes as the ‘profesh’, the hobo highest in the hierarchy of hobodom. London always thought of himself as a quick learner, so one doesn’t have to award his statement too much credibility but Burroughs apparently took him at face value.
As London describes the ‘profesh’ he has been on the road so long he knows all the ropes. Unlike the unkempt bums he realizes the importance of a good front and always dresses neatly. But he is hardened and capable of committing any crime.
While Bridge is obviously intended to be a ‘profesh’ he is neither criminal nor does he dress to put up a good front.
Another category of hobo London lists is the ‘road kid.’ These are young people just starting on the life of the road. The ‘profesh’ would often take one of more of these road kids under his wing as his fag, as the British would say, or in Americanese, a ‘pal.’ In other words a homosexual relationship. Thus this displays ERB’s sexual ambiguity which David couldn’t locate in my psychological analysis of ERB’s emasculation. In this case the ambiguity will be resolved and explained when we learn that the Kid is the beautiful young woman, Abigail Prim, and both Bridge and Burroughs heave a sigh of relief.
Nevertheless ERB is discussing homosexuality in an open and natural way that couldn’t be missed by the knowing and which may be unique for its time. But then, remember that one of ERB’s hats in this story is that of the Alienist, so that in these pages we are deep into the psychological abstractions and Doyle’s mystery stories as influences.
Now comes the time for breakfast. Someone has to ‘rustle’ grub. We have already learned in ‘Out There Somewhere’ that Bridge doesn’t rustle food, he rustles rhyme. Nothing has changed. The Kid goes out to get breakfast and when she comes back with the goods, true to form Bridge bursts forth with several snatches from H.H. Knibbs which surprisingly the demure Miss Prim recognizes. What has she been reading?
How might this apply to Burroughs’ own life. Let’s look at it. Burroughs was enamored of How to books but in his heart he must have considered them a fraud. Willie Case will soon pick up his copy of How To Be A Detective which he finds completely inapplicable to his circumstances. He also has the good sense to throw the book away reverting to his native intelligence which may be a subtle comment on How To books by Burroughs.
ERB always considered himself of the executive class. After his humiliating experience trying to sell door to door he never attempted it again. Instead as a master salesman he preferred to write how to sales manuals for others to use as they went door to door selling his line of pencil sharpeners or whatever while he sat in the office waiting for orders. Hence in his own life he was the ‘rustler of poetry’ or manuals while others rustled grub in the door to door humiliation of the actual selling. Here the Kid will do the door to door gig. ERB always makes me smile.
In this case in what may be a joke the Kid just buys the goods from the homeowner reversing the roles.
There are those who insist Burroughs can’t write but I find his stuff wonderfully condensed getting more mileage out of each word than anyone else I’ve ever read. Just see how he describes breakfast.
Shortly after, the water coming to a boil, Bridge lowered three eggs into it, glanced at his watch (an affluent hobo) greased one of the new cleaned stove lids with a piece of bacon rind and laid out as many strips of bacon as the lid would accommodate. Instantly the room was filled with the delicious odor of frying bacon.
“M-m-m-m!” gloated the Oskaloosa Kid. “I wish I had bo- asked for more. My! But I never smelled anything so good in all my life. Are you going to boil only three eggs? I could eat a dozen”
“The can’ll only hold three at a time,” explained Bridge. “we’ll have some boiling while we are eating these.” He borrowed the knife from the girl, who was slicing and buttering bread with it, and turned the bacon swiftly and deftly with the point, then he glanced at his watch. “Three minutes are up.” He announced and, with a couple small flat sticks saved for the purpose from the kindling wood, withdrew the eggs one at a time from the can.
“But we have no cups!” exclaimed the Oskaloosa Kid, in sudden despair.
Bridge laughed. “Knock an end off your egg and the shell will answer in place of a cup. Got a knife?”
The Kid didn’t. Bridge eyed him quizzically. “You must have done most of your burgling near home,” he commented.
The description of the breakfast between the time Bridge looked at his watch and when the three minutes were up was delightfully done. I could smell the bacon myself while I especially like the detail of swiftly and deftly turning the bacon with the knife point. The knife seemed to have disappeared between the bacon and knocking the end off the egg.
Nice details aren’t they? You’d almost think Burroughs had actually done things like this for years. There’s enough blank spots in his life that he may have had more experiences of this sort than we know about. Take for instance the three days in Michigan between the writing of Out There Somewhere and Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid. He says it took him twelve hours by train on four different lines to return to Coldwater from Alma. It is not impossible that he was hoboing back for the experience. He knew that he was going to write Bridge And The Kid next; might he not have been picking up local color?
Likewise in Bridge And The Kid he mentions the road from Berdoo to Barstow with seeming familiarity. Had he met Knibbs and the two embarked on a few days road trip as the expert Knibbs showed him some of the ropes?
I don’t know but there is something happening in his life which has not been explained.
Perhaps also the hoboism which appears in 1915-17 in his work when by all rights his success should have permitted him entry into more exalted social circles symbolized a rejection by so-called polite society. If so, why? Certainly the serialization of Tarzan Of The Apes in the Chicago paper must have raised eyebrows when people said something like: Is that the same Edgar Rice Burroughs who’s been tramping around town for the last several years?
After all people live in a town where a reputation is attached to them whether earned or not. In reviewing the jobs Burroughs had after he left Sears, Roebuck there is a certain unsavory character to them. Indeed, one employer, a patent medicine purveyor was shut down by the authorities while ERB then formed a partnership with this disgraced person. Where was Burroughs when the authorities showed up to shut the business down? I make no moral judgments. I’m of the Pretty Boy Floyd school of morality: Some will rob you with a six gun, some use a fountain pen. Emasculation is the name of the game.
It is certainly true that many, perhaps most, of the patent medicines of the time were based on alcohol and drugs therefore either addictive or harmful to the health. Samuel Hopkins Adams was commissioned by Norman Hapgood of Collier’s magazine to write a series of articles exposing the patent medicine business in 1906.
http://www.mtn.org/quack/ephemera/oct7.htm . A consequence of the articles may very well have been the shutting down of Dr. Stace. I think it remarkable that Burroughs didn’t distance himself from Stace at that time.
Even as Adams was presenting his research on patent medicines Upton Sinclair was exposing the hazards of the Chicago meat packing industry whose products were no less hazardous to the public health than patent medicines. Sinclair’s book, The Jungle, as well as perhaps Adams’ articles resulted in the Pure Food And Drug Act of 1906.
The products of meatpackers were so bad the British wouldn’t even feed them to their Tommies. That’s pretty bad.
So, if the Staces of the world were criminal and ought to be put out of business then by logic so should have the Armours and Swifts but what in our day would be multi-billion dollar industries don’t get shut down for the minor offence of damaging the health of millions.
One can’t be sure of Burroughs’ reasoning but his writing indicates that he was keenly aware of the hypocrisy of legalities. Perhaps for that reason he stuck by Dr. Stace.
However Stace was put out of business and the Armours and Swifts weren’t. While I applaud ERB’s steadfastness I deplore his lack of judgment for surely his reputation was tarred with the same brush as Dr. Stace.
When society figures may have asked who this Edgar Rice Burroughs was they were given, perhaps, a rundown on Dr. Stace and patent medicines as well as other employments that seem a little murky to us at present. I’m sure the ERB was seen as socially unacceptable. Thus Bridge who has lived among the hoboes has never partaken of their crimes so there is no reason for society to reject him especially as he is the son of a millionaire.
In any event ERB left Chicago for the Coast returning in 1917 then leaving for good at the beginning of 1919. Life ain’t easy. Ask me.
As Bridge, the Kid and the putative Abigail Prim were finishing breakfast the great detective Burton pulls up in front of the Squibbs place. Burton is obviously a combination of Sherlock Holmes and Allan Pinkerton. We have been advised of the Holmes connection in the opening paragraphs of this book. ERB describes Burton thusly:
Burton made no reply. He was not a man to jump to conclusions. His success was largely due to the fact that he assumed nothing; but merely ran down each clew quickly yet painstakingly until he had a foundation of fact upon which to operate. His theory was that the simplest way is always the best way. And so he never befogged the main issue with any elaborate system of deductive reasoning based on guesswork. Burton never guessed. He assumed that it was his business to know; nor was he on any case long before he did know. He was employed now to find Abigail Prim. Each of the several crimes committed the previous night might or might not prove a clew to her whereabouts; but each must be run down in the process of elimination before Burton could feel safe in abandoning it.
That’s a pretty good understanding of Doyle’s presentation of Holmes. ERB did learn Holmes’ dictum that it was necessary to read all the literature on the subject to understand the mentality of one’s subjects. Burton did demonstrate some acumen in his arrest of Dopey Charlie and the General. He deployed an agent fifty yards below and fifty yards above to converge on the two criminals while he approached from the front. Either Burroughs had been doing some reading of his own or he picked up some experience or information from elsewhere.
Another keen point was when Burton went back to where the hoboes had been hiding to dig up the evidence they had concealed that would lead to their conviction for the Baggs murder.
It’s little details like these that always make me wonder where Burroughs picked up this stuff. He does it all so naturally but one can’t write what one doesn’t know. He must have been a curious man, good memory.
So Burroughs has a a pretty good understanding of the methods of Sherlock Holmes. It must be remembered that ERB was reading these stories as they first appeared not as we do as part of literature. Holmes, O.Henry, Jack London, E.W. Hornung, these were all fresh new and extremely stimulating with a great many references and inferences which are undoubtedly lost on us. Even in Bridge And The Kid ERB’s reference to the Kid’s bringing home the bacon is a direct reference to a quip the mother of the ex-heavyweight champion of the world Jack Johnson made just after he won the championship from Jim Jeffries: He said he’d bring home the bacon and he’s done it. I don’t doubt if many caught it then but I’m sure the phrase has become such a commonplace today that only a very few catch the reference and share the laugh.
Doyle’s stories such as A Study In Scarlet dealing with the Mormons and The Valley Of Fear dealing with the Molly Maguires would have had much more thrilling immediacy for ERB than they do for us. Also Burroughs has caught the essence of Holmes which was not so much the stories as the method of Holmes.
I have read the canon four times and while I could not reconstruct any of the stories without difficulty, if at all, maxims like- When you eliminate the impossible whatever remains no matter how improbable must be the truth. – have lodged in my mind since I was fourteen guiding my intellect to much advantage. So also the dictum to read all the literature. Not easy or even possible, but the more one has read the or read again the more things just fall in place without any real effort. You have to be able to remember, remembrance being the basis of all mind, of course. Holmes has been like a god to me.
If you wish to learn a source of Burroughs’ stories then all you have to do is apply the above methods; it will all become clear.
Burton moves the story forward as his appearance causes Bridge who isn’t sure what the status of the Kid and the putative Gail Prim is, elects to avoid the great detective even though they are friends.
The trio slip out the back into the woods following a track leading to ‘Anywhere’. Burroughs in a masterful telling catches the feel of a Spring day on a recently wetted trail littered with the leaves of yesteryear. Ou sont les neiges d’antan?
They come upon a clearing where a gypsy woman is burying a body. By this time Bridge has solved the mysteries of the previous evening.
The girls make noises upon hearing the clank of a chain in a hovel causing the gypsy woman to look around. Rather than spotting the trio she spots Willie Case hiding in the bushes who she drags out.
The gypsy woman, Giova, is as good a character as Bridge, the Kid, Burton and the hoboes, but my favorite of the story is Willie Case, the fourteen year old detective. While to my mind ERB presents Willie as a thoroughly admirable character, he nevertheless vents a suppressed mean streak not only on Willie but on the whole Case family.
ERB doesn’t let his mean streak show very often, it lurks in the background, but he lets it loose in this book. He must have been under personal stress.
He describes Willie as having no forehead and no chin, imbecilic traits, literally beginning with the eyebrows and ending with the lips. A freak of nature, a real grotesque. That means that Willie was a real ‘low brow’ as Emma accused ERB of being, even a no brow. Is it a coincidence that Emma called ERB a low brow or that the literati thought ERB wrote ‘low brow’ literature?
In point of fact Willie strikes me as an intelligent boy. He analyzes the situation always being in the right place at the right moment. Burton himself pays him a high but sneering compliment then cheats him out of the promised reward of a hundred dollars but in the manner McClurg’s published his books Burroughs was cheated out of a large part of his reward.
I don’t say that’s the case but if so it fits the facts.
In any event ERB treats the Case family meanly; they might almost be prototypes of Ma and Pa Kettle of the Egg and I or the meanly portrayed characters of Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road. Jeb Case behaves very reprehensively at the lynching although once again he merely reported the facts that the Kid gave Willie. The Kid did tell Willie that he had burgled a house and killed a man. So, perhaps ERB created some characters that he could kick around as he felt himself being kicked.
And then we have the gypsy woman, Giova. She and her father are not only pariahs in general society as gypsies but because of her father they even have been cast out by the gypsies. Her father was a thief from both general and gypsy society. The former may have been laudable in gypsy terms but the latter wasn’t. They make, or made their living by thieving and cadging coins with Beppo, their dancing bear. Beppo of the evil eye.
Burroughs presents Giova as being sexually attractive with lips that were made for kissing, in echo of the refrain from Out There Somewhere. Here we may have a first inference that Emma was in trouble; the kind of trouble that would have ERB leaving her for another woman a decade or so hence. There are numerous rumblings indicating the trend not least of which was ERB’s fascination with Samuel Hopkin Adams’ novel, Flaming Youth of a few years hence and the subsequent movie starring Colleen Moore.
Bridge is now on the run with three women and a bear and he hasn’t done anything wrong to get into such hot water. One woman his emergent Anima, one, his rejected Anima, and the last a longing for a woman whose lips were made for kissing. Wow! This is all taking place in a ravine that opens into a small valley too.
All this has been accomplished in a compact one hundred pages. One third of the book is left for the denouement that Burroughs scamps as he usually does.
Giova decks them all out as gypsies which must have been an amusing sight to the Paysonites as this troop of madcaps complete with dancing bear in tow troop inconspicuously through town. Surprised they didn’t call out the national guard just for that.
As the story draws to a close ERB contributes a wonderful vignette of low brow Willie dining out at a ‘high brow’ restaurant called the Elite in Payson. The idea of Willie being conspicuous in a burg like Payson which we big city people would refer to as a hick town good only for laughs is amusing in itself. You know, it all depends on one’s perspective:
Willie Case had been taken to Payson to testify before the coroner’s jury investigating the death of Giova’s father, and with the dollar which the Osklaloosa Kid had given him in the morning burning in his pocket had proceeded to indulge in an orgy of dissipation the moment that he had been freed from the inquest. Ice cream, red pop, peanuts, candy, and soda water may have diminished his appetite but not his pride, and self-satisfaction as he sat down and by night for the first time in a public eatery place Willie was now a man of the world, a bon vivant, as he ordered ham and eggs from the pretty waitress of The Elite Restaurant on Broadway; but at heart he was not happy for never before had he realized what a great proportion of his anatomy was made up of hands and feet. As he glanced fearfully at the former, silhouetted against the white of the table cloth, he flushed scarlet, assured as he was that the waitress who had just turned away toward the kitchen with his order was convulsed with laughter and that every other eye in the establishment was glued upon him. To assume an air of nonchalance and thereby impress and disarm his critics Willie reached for a toothpick in the little glass holder near the center of the table and upset the sugar bowl. Immediately Willie snatched back the offending hand and glared ferociously at the ceiling. He could feel the roots of his hair being consumed in the heat of his skin. A quick side glance that required all his will power to consummate showed him that no one appeared to have noticed his faux pas and Willie was again slowly returning to normal when the proprietor of the restaurant came up from behind and asked him to remove his hat.
Never had Willie Case spent so frightful a half hour as that within the brilliant interior of the Elite Restaurant. Twenty-three minutes of this eternity was consumed in waiting for his order to be served and seven minutes in disposing of the meal and paying his check. Willie’s method of eating was in itself a sermon on efficiency- there was no waste motion- no waste of time. He placed his mouth within two inches of his plate after cutting his ham and eggs into pieces of a size that would permit each mouthful to enter without wedging; then he mixed his mashed potatoes in with the result and working his knife and fork alternatively with bewildering rapidity shot a continuous stream of food into his gaping maw.
In addition to the meat and potatoes there was one vegetable side dish on the empty plate, seized a spoon in lieu or a knife and fork and – presto! The side dish was empty. Where upon the prune dish was set in the empty side-dish- four deft motions and there were no prunes in the dish. The entire feat had been accomplished in 6:34 ½ , setting a new world’s record for red headed farm boys with one splay foot.
In the remaining twenty-five and one half seconds Willie walked what seemed to him a mile from his seat to the cashier’s desk and at the last instant bumped into a waitress with a trayful of dishes. Clutched tightly in Willie’s hand was thirty-five cents and his check with a like amount written upon it. Amid the crash of crockery which followed the collision Willie slammed check and money upon the cashier’s desk and fled. Nor did he pause until in the reassuring seclusion of a dark side street. There Willie sank upon the curb alternately cold with fear and hot with shame, weak and panting, and into his heart entered the iron of class hatred, searing it to the core.
The above passage has many charms. First, it is an excellent piece of nostalgia now, although at the time it represented the actuality, thus, as a period piece it is an accurate picture of the times. And then it is excellent comedy as well as a a parody as I will attempt to show.
One has to wonder if ERB really thought the Elite was a pretty fine restaurant. If so, one wonders where he took Emma and kids for a night out. Not too many gourmet Chicago restaurants served breakfast for dinner. Ham and eggs with mashed potatoes? Reminds me of the Galt House Hotel in Louisville where a ‘starch’ is served as a side dish. What exactly was this side-dish Willie wolfed- stewed tomatoes? The dessert prunes- dessert prunes?- was a nice touch too. Dessert for breakfast? Another nice quality touch at the Elite was the cup of toothpicks. Of course, those were the days cuspidors were de riguer so what do I know, maybe the Palmer House had a cup of toothpicks on the table too. I know they had cuspidors.
It does seem clear that little Willie was far down the social scale of little rural Payson. They had electric street lights, though. I’m not even from New York City but I would find the Elite, how shall I say, quaint and charming? Of course, New York City is not what it used to be either. Can’t fool me in either case; I’ve dined out in Hannibal. Good prices. Bountiful. Plenty of side dishes something that I’d never seen before.
I’m sure I’ve been in Willie’s shoes, or would have been if he’d chosen to wear them, too, so I have a great deal of sympathy for the lad. A man with a dollar has the right to spend where and as he chooses. Damn social hypocrisy!
In addition to the charm and light comedy ERB interjects a little parody of Taylorism and mass production into the mix.
For those not familiar with Frederick W. Taylor and his methods I quote from
Taylor wrote “The Principles of Scientific Management in 1911. These principles became known as Taylorism. Some of the principles of Taylorism include (Management for Productivity, John R. Schermerhorn, Jr. (1991)):
Develop a ‘science’ for every job, including rules of motion, standardized work implements, and proper working conditions.
Carefully select workers with the right abilities for the job.
Carefully train these workers to do the job, and give them proper incentives to cooperate with the job science.
Support these workers by planning their work and by smoothing the way as they go about their jobs.
Taylorism which led to maximum efficiency also give the lie to the unconscious of Sigmund Freud, or at least puts it into perspective. If the twentieth century has been the history of the devil of Freud’s unconscious it has also been the century of the triumph of the god of conscious intelligence. The question only remains which will triumph.
One of the recurring themes in ERB’s writing of the period is efficiency. Indeed, a couple years hence he will write a book entitled The Efficiency Expert.
It was the age of efficient mass production which required standardized motions and produced terrific results where applied as at Henry Ford’s marvelously efficient factories. Ford brought the task to the worker in well lighted clean factory spaces at a level which required no time consuming, fatiguing and unnecessary lifting or bending. Plus Henry Ford blew the industrial world away by doubling the going wage for unskilled labor. He changed the course of economic history singlehanded. He achieved more than the Communists or IWW could have accomplished in a million years earning their undying enmity. He may in one fell swoop have defeated the Reds. They sure thought so.
But, go back and review how Willie organizes his repast for consumption. Taylor-like he eliminated all non-essential motions then with maximum assembly line speed-up he gets production into one continuous stream.
A comic effect to be sure but there is even more comedy in the parody of the assembly line and Taylorism. I’m sure ERB intended it just that way.
Willie may be a joke but there is a certain flavor to be obtained by filling a continuum of food, mouth and time. Such an opportunity for enjoyment may present itself once in ten years or so. Willie saw his opportunity and seized it which he does throughout the story. Willie is OK with me.
I have eaten that way but I now reserve the method for ice cream and highly recommend it. My last opportunity, they present themselves but rarely and can’t be forced, was several years ago when I was insultingly offered a half melted Cherries Jubilee. The dish was of a perfect consistency for assembly line consumption. I saw my chance and like Willie, I took it. I kind of distributed cherries and ice cream chunks in the creamy stew, got mouth in the right position and cleaned the bowl in sixty seconds flat, reared back gripping the bridge of my nose, honked a couple times as the freeze seized my brain and then took a few minutes for consciousness to return. One of the great natural highs in this drug infested time. I tell ya‘, fellas, they was all lookin’ at me but I am much beyond the iron of class hatred. If they can’t take a joke…well, you know the finish. So I think Willie Case did the right thing.
Clumsy waitress to get in his way anyway. Fourteen hours on the job was no excuse.
Willie didn’t feel guilt for too long though, for what ERB calls a faux pas, it put him in the right place at the right time to see Giova and her dancing bear fresh from Beppo’s own slops. How could ERB be so cruel to a dumb animal- the bear, not Willie-, one that was going to save the heroine’s life- both the bear and Willie.
After having had dinner and refreshments Willie still had 20 cents left from a dollar of which he spent 10 cents for a detective movie and had ten cents left over for a long distance phone call to Burton in Oakdale after he spotted Giova and her dancing bear when he came out of the movie theatre.
He followed Giova to Bridge and the girls, fixed their location then called Burton. Not only did Willie spot the fugitives but so did the four leftover bums. Dopey Charlie and the General were impounded for the Baggs murder while we will learn that the real Oskaloosa Kid and the putative Gail Prim remain as well perhaps as the true identity of L. Bridge.
Burroughs is full of interesting details. The hoboes are gathered in an abandoned electrical generating plant which had formerly served Payson but had been discontinued for a larger plant servicing Payson from a hundred miles away. We don’t know when that might have happened but electrical generation and distribution was relatively new. The consolidation into larger generating units was even newer. Samuel Insull, whose electrical empire collapsed about1938 had begun organizing distribution in 1912 when he formed the Mid-West Utilities in Chicago absorbing all the smaller companies such as this one in Payson obviously.
I find details like this the exiting part of reading Burroughs.
The murderous hoboes set out to rob and kill Bridge and the Kid while Sky Pilot and Dirty Eddie elect themselves to return the putative Gail Prim who we will learn is actually Hettie Penning, thus doubling ERB’s Anima figure and connecting the latter to the former.
One is put in mind of the Hettie of H.G. Wells’ novel In The Days Of The Comet. Both Hetties exhibit the same traits. While it may seem a slender connection, still, ERB has so many references to other authors and their works that the connection is not improbable. For obvious reasons ERB always insisted he had never read H.G. Wells. Wells? Wells, who?, but how could he not have?
Bridge and the girls would have met their end except that Willie Case’s call brought Burton on the run who arrives in time to save their lives. Unfortunately Beppo of the evil eye meets his end after having done Burton’s job for him much as Willie always did.
In between the girls, the ‘boes, Bridge and the coppers Burton has a full load so he drops Bridge and Kid at the Payson jail. Willie Case had not only solved the case for the ingrate Burton but saved the life of Gail Prim posing as the Oskaloosa Kid. In a heart wrenching scene little Willie seeking his just reward is cruelly rejected and cheated by the Great Detective. I don’t know, maybe I read too closely and get too involved. Or, just maybe, ERB is a great writer.
It’s all over but the shouting and along comes the mob howling from Oakdale for the blood of Bridge and the Kid. I tell ya, boys, it wuz close. Burton arrived in time but not before Bridge with a well aimed blow broke Jeb Case’s jaw. What did those Cases ever do to ERB I wonder?
In the end Hettie Penning is identified, clearing up that mystery. Burton is able to tell Bridge’s dad who has spent $20,000 looking for him that he is found. It may even have cost less for Stanley to find Livingston. Of course there was a lousy rail system in the Congo in Livingston’s time. Bridge is united with Gail obviously prepared to renounce the roving life. Thus the promise of Out There Somewhere is redeemed. Bridge has found his woman.
Thus on paper, at least, Burroughs is reunited with his Animus in gorgeous female attire. No more men in women’s clothes or women in men’s clothes.
Bridge And The Kid is a very short book, only 152 pages in my Charter paperback edition of 1979 (Septimius Favonius BB #24. Charter didn’t see fit to include a date.) Although first issued in book form so late as 1937, it was reprinted in 1938 and 1940 so there must have been some early readers however when reprinted in 1974 there could have been few who remembered it.
My fellow writer, David Adams wrote a short review in the same issue #24 of the Burroughs Bulletin, October 1995, in which he also recognized the importance of this book to the corpus:
It may come as a surprise that anyone could possibly think of calling the novelette, THE OAKDALE AFFAIR, a major work of such a prolific writer as Edgar Rice Burroughs, but I found it to be such an animal…
I am unaware that any other than Mr. Adams and myself have reviewed the book. To sum up:
There seems to be an obvious connection to Jack London in the Bridge Trilogy (I prefer Bridge to Mucker because the latter draws reproving stares and no one today knows what a mucker is. It sounds slightly obscene.)
Mr. Adams, who is more of an authority on Jack London than myself, I’ve only begun to read London as a result of Bill Hillman’s series of articles in ERBzine, which posits a strong connection between Burroughs and London, and not the other way around, feels the novels have a great deal to do with London. The connection seems to be there but I have only begun to read London’s relevant or major works.
What ERB’s attitude towards London may have been which seems ambiguous isn’t clear. Burroughs never wrote about London and never mentions him explicitly. There are many points of disagreement between the two politically and socially. Burroughs does seem to have liked London and his work although what he read or when he read it isn’t clear. There are no London titles in his library.
The second major influence in the novel is the problem of hoboism connected with the IWW and labor unrest.
In the background Burroughs is working out his Anima/Animus problem.
The whole is framed in the form of a rather magnificent detective story patterned after Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories with a dash, perhaps a soupcon, of E.W. Hornung thrown in.
Attention should be paid to the psychological aspects.
Many of ERB’s favorite themes such as the efficiency expert are also thrown in. Nifty historical details like Samuel Insull’s electrical empire are added to the mix as well as Taylorism.
If anything ERB was too efficient, too economical in his use of words. The Book could easily have been fleshed out another sixty or hundred pages with no loss in the marvelous immediacy of the telling. If anything the story is too condensed. I found myself pausing over each description to recreate a mental image of the depiction. I was willing to do so and the personal reward was great. How much ERB was the creator of my vision of the story and how much my own as collaborator isn’t clear to me. Perhaps ERB just outlined the story ‘suggesting’ the scenario, expecting the reader to ‘customize’ the story as he reads along. This may be the first ‘inter-active’ novel. If so, Burroughs may be an even more innovative and greater writer than he is commonly thought to be.