A Contribution To The
Erbzine Library Project.
Edgar Rice Burroughs, Science And Spiritualism
Camille Flammarion, Scientist and Spiritualist
The last story in Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles is about the expulsion from Earth of the various supernatural or imaginary beings such as fairies, elves, the elementals, all those beings external to ourselves but projections of our minds on Nature, to Mars as a last resort and how they were all dieing as Mars became scientifically accessible leaving no place for them to exist.
On Earth the rejection of such supernatural beings began with the Enlightenment. When the smoke and fury of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic years settled and cleared it was a new world with a completely different understanding of the nature of the world. Science, that is, knowing, had displaced belief as a Weltanschauung.
The old does not give way so easily to the new. Even while knowing that fairies did not exist the short lived reaction of the Romantic Period with its wonderful stories and fictions followed the Napoleonic period.
Supernatural phenomena displaced from the very air we breathed reformed in the minds of Men as the ability of certain people called Mediums to communicate with spirits although the spirits were no longer called supernatural but paranormal. Thus the fairies morphed into dead ancestors, dead famous men, communicants from beyond the grave. Men and women merely combined science with fantasy. Science fiction, you see.
Spiritualism was made feasible by the rediscovery of hypnotism by Anton Mesmer in the years preceding the French Revolution. The first modern glimmerings of the sub- or unconscius began to take form. The unconscious was the arena of paranormal activity.
Hypnotism soon lost scientific credibility during the mid-century being abandoned to stage performers who then became the first real investigators of the unconscious as they practiced their art.
While the antecedents of spiritualism go back much further the pehnomena associated with it began to make their appearance in the 1840s. Because the unconscious was so little understood spiritualism was actually thought of as scientific. The investigators of the unconscious gave it incredible powers and attributes, what I would call supernatural but which became known as paranormal. Communicating with spirits, teleportation, telecommunications, all the stuff that later became the staples of science fiction.
Thus in 1882, Jean-Martin Charcot, a doctor working in the Salpetriere in Paris made hypnotism once again a legitimate academic study.
The question here is how much innovation could the nineteenth century take without losing its center or balance. Yeats’ poem The Second Coming presents the situation well. Freud, who was present at this particular creation, was to say that three discoveries shattered the confidence of Man; the first was the Galilean discovery that the Earth was not the center of the universe, the second revelation was Darwin’s announcement that Man was not unique in creation and the last was the discovery of the unconscious. Of these three the last two happened simultaneiously amidst a welter of scientific discoveries and technological applications that completely changed Man’s relationship to the world. One imagines that these were the reasons for the astonishing literary creativity as Victorians grappled to deal with these new realities. There was a sea change in literary expression.
Key to understanding these intellectual developments is the need of Man for immortality. With God in his heaven but disconnected from the world supernatural explanations were no longer plausible. The longing for immortality remained so FWH Myers a founder of the Society For Psychical Research changed the word supernatural into paranormal. As the notion of the unconscious was now wedded to science and given, in effect, supernatural powers under the guise of the paranormal it was thought, or hoped, that by tapping these supernormal powers one could make contact with the departed hence spiritism or Spiritualism.
While from our present vantage point after a hundred or more years of acclimatizing ourselves to an understanding of science, the unconscious and a rejection of the supernatural, the combination of science and spiritualism seems ridiculous. Such was not the case at the time. Serious scientists embraced the notion that spirtualism was scientific.
Now, a debate in Burroughs’ studies is whether and/or how much Burroughs was influenced by the esoteric. In my opinion and I believe that of Bibliophile David Adams, a great deal. David has done wonderful work in esbatlishing the connection between the esotericism of L. Frank Baum and his Oz series of books and Burroughs while Dale Broadhurst has added much.
Beginning in the sixties of the nineteenth century a French writer who was to have a great influence on ERB, Camille Flammarion, began writing his scientific romances and astronomy books. Not only did Flammarion form ERB’s ideas of the nature of Mars but this French writer was imbued with the notions of spiritualism that informed his science and astronomy. He and another astronomer, Percival Lowell, who is often associated with ERB, in fact, spent time with Flammarion exchanging Martian ideas. Flammarion and Lowell are associated.
So, in reading Flammarion ERB would have imbibed a good deal of spiritualistic, occult, or esoteric ideas. Flammarion actually ended his days as much more a spiritualist than astronomer. As a spiritualist he was associated with Conan Doyle.
Thus in the search for a new basis of immortality, while the notion of God became intenable, Flammarion and others began to search for immortality in outer space. There were even notions that spirits went to Mars to live after death somewhat in the manner of Bradbury’s nixies and pixies. In his book Lumen Flammarion has his hero taking up residence on the star Capella in outer space after death. Such a book as Lumen must have left Burroughs breathless with wonderment. Lumen is some pretty far out stuff in more ways than one. After a hundred fifty years of science fiction these ideas have been endlessly explored becoming trite and even old hat but at the time they were
excitingly new. Flammarion even put into Burroughs’ mind that time itself had no independent existence. Mind boggling stuff.
I believe that by now Bibliophiles have assembled a library of books that Burroughs either did read or is likely to have read before 1911 that number at least two or three hundred. Of course, without radio, TV, or movies for all of Burroughs’ childhood, youth and a major portion of his young manhood, although movies would have become a reality by the time he began writing, there was little entertainment except reading. Maybe a spot of croquet.
As far as reading goes I suspect that ERB spent a significant portion of his scantily employed late twenties and early thirties sitting in the Chicago Library sifting through the odd volume. It can’t be a coincidence that Tarzan lounged for many an hour in the Paris library before he became a secret agent and left for North Africa.
I have come across a book by the English author Charles Howard Hinton entitled Scientific Romances of which one explores the notion of a fourth dimension . Hinton is said to have been an influence on H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. It seems certain that Burroughs read The Time Machine while he would have found many discussions of the fourth dimension as well as other scientific fantasies in the magazines and even newspapers as Hillman has so amply demonstrated on ERBzine. We also know that ERB had a subscription to Popular Mechanics while probably reading Popular Science on a regular basis. Popular Science was established in 1872.
It is clear that ERB was keenly interested in psychology and from references distributed throughout the corpus, reasonably well informed.
I wouldn’t go so far as to maintain that ERB read the French psychologist Theodore Flournoy’s From India To The Planet Mars but George T. McWhorter does list it as a volume in Vern Corriel’s library of likely books read by Burroughs. The book was published in 1899 just as Burroughs was entering his very troubled period from 1900 to 1904-05 that included his bashing in Toronto with subsequent mental problems, a bout with typhoid fever and his and Emma’s flight to Idaho and Salt Lake City. So that narrows the window down a bit.
However the book seems to describe the manner in which his mind worked so that it provides a possible or probable insight into the way his mind did work.
ERB’s writing career was born in desperation. While he may say that he considered writing unmanly it is also true that he tried to write a lighthearted account of becoming a new father a couple years before he took up his pen in seriousness. Obviously he saw writing as a way out. His life had bittely disappointed his exalted expectations hence he would have fallen into a horrible depression probably with disastrous results if the success of his stories hadn’t redeemed his opinion of himself.
Helene Smith the Medium of Fluornoy’s investigation into mediumship was in the same situation. Her future while secure enough in the material sense, as was Burroughs, fell far short of her hopes and expectations. Thus she turned to mediumship to realize herself much as Burroughs turned to literature. She enjoyed some success and notoriety attracting the attention of, among others, the psychologist Theodore Flournoy. Fournoy who enjoyed some prominence at the time, was one of those confusing spiritualism with science because of his misunderstanding of the unconscious. Thus as Miss Smith unfolded her conversations with the inhabitants of Mars it was taken with some plausibility.
If any readers I may have have also read my review of Du Maurier’s Peter Ibbetson he or she will remember that Peter and Mary were restricted in their dream activities to only what they had done, seen and remembered or learned. As I have frequently said, you can only get out of a mind what has gone into it. In this sense Miss Smith was severely handicapped by an inadequate education and limited experience. While she was reasonably creative in the construction of her three worlds- those of ancient India, Mars and the court of Marie Antoinette- she was unable to be utterly convincing. In the end her resourcefulness gave out and the scientific types drifted away. She more or less descended into a deep depression as her expectations failed. Had she been more imagination she might have turned to writing as Burroughs did.
If Burroughs did read Flournoy, of which I am not convinced, he may have noted that Miss Smith’s method was quite similar to his habit of trancelike daydreaming that fulfilled his own expectations of life in fantasy.
In Burroughs’ case he had the inestimable advantage of having stuffed his mind with a large array of imaginative literature, a fairly good amateur’s notions of science and technology, along with a very decent range of valuable experience. His younger days were actually quite exciting. He was also gifted with an amazing imagination and the ability to use it constructively.
Consider this possibility. I append a poem that he would have undoubtedly read- When You Were A Tadpole And I Was A Fish. Read this and then compare it to The Land That Time Forgot.
When you were a tadpole and I was a fish
In the Paleozoic time,
And side by side on the ebbing tide
We sprawled through the ooze and slime,
Or skittered with many a caudal flip
Through the depths of the Cambrian fen,
My heart was rife with the joy of life,
For I loved you even then.
Mindless we lived and mindless we loved
And mindless at last we died;
And deep in the rift of the Caradoc drift
We slumbered side by side.
The world turned on in the lathe of time,
The hot lands heaved amain,
Til we caught our breath from the womb of death
And crept into light again.
We were Amphibians, scaled and tailed,
And drab as a dead man’s hand;
We coiled at ease ‘neath the dripping trees
Or trailed through the mud and sand.
Croaking and blind, with out three-clawed feet
Writing a language dumb,
With never a spark in the empty dark
To hint at a life to come.
Yet happy we lived and happy we loved,
And happy we died once more;
Our forms were rolled in the clinging mold
of a Neocomian shore.
The eons came and the eons fled
And the sleep that wrapped us fast
Was riven away in a newer day
And the night of death was past.
Then light and swift through the jungle trees
We swung in our airy flights,
Or breathed in the balms of the fronded palms
In the hush of the moonless nights;
And, oh! what beautiful years were there
When our hearts clung each to each;
When life was filled and our senses thrilled
In the first faint dawn of speech.
Thus life by life and love by love
We passed through the cycles strange,
And breath by breath and death by death
We followed the chain of change,
Till there came a time in the law of life
When over the nursing side
The shadows broke and the soul awoke
In a strange, dim dream of God.
I was thewed like Auroch bull
And tusked like the great cave bear;
And you, my sweet, from head to feet
Were gowned in your glorious hair,
Deep in the gloom of a fireless cave,
When the night fell o’er the plain
And the moon hung red o’er the river bed
We mumbled the bones of the slain.
I flaked a flint to a cutting edge
And shaped it with brutish craft;
I broke a shank from the woodland lank
And fitted it, head and haft;
Then I hid me close to the reedy tarn,
Where the mammoth came to drink;
Through the brawn and bone I drove the stone
And slew him upon the brink.
Loud I howled through the moonlit wastes,
Loud answered our kith and kin,
From west and east to the crimson feast
The clan came tramping in.
O’er joint and gristle and padded hoof
We fought and clawed and tore,
And cheek by jowl with many a growl
We talked the marvel o’er.
I carved that fight on a reindeer bone
With rude and hairy hand;
I pictured his fall on the cavern wall
That men might understand,
For we lived by blood and the right of might
Ere human laws were drawn,
And the age of sin did not begin
Till our brutal tush were gone.
And that was a million years ago
In a time that no man knows;
Yet here tonight in the mellow light
We sit at Delmonico’s.
Your eyes are deep as the Devon springs,
Your hair is dark as jet,
Your years are few, your life is new,
Your soul untried, and yet-
Our trail is on the Kimmeridge clay
And the scarp of the Purbeck flags;
We have left our bones in the Bagshot stones
And deep in the Coralline crags;
Our love is old, our lives are old,
And death shall come amain;
Should it come today, what man may say
We shall not live again?
God has wrought our souls from the Tremadoc beds
And furnished them wings to fly;
He sowed our spawn in the world’s dim dawn,
And I know that it shall not die,
Though cities have sprung above the graves
Where the crook-bone men make war
And the oxwain creaks o’er the buried caves
Where the mummied mammoths are.
Then as we linger at luncheon here
O’er many a dainty dish,
Let us drink anew to the time when you
Were a tadpole and I was a fish.
With something like that stuffed into his subconscious what wonders might ensue. Obviously The Land That Time Forgot and The Eternal Lover.
As Miss Smith had turned to spiritualism and mediumship, Burroughs turned his talents to writing. According to himself he used essentially mediumistic techniques in hiswriting. He said that he entered a tracelike state, what one might almost call automatic writing to compose his stories. He certainly turned out three hundred well written pages in a remarkably short time with very few delays and interruptions. He was then able to immediately begin another story. This facility lasted from 1911 to 1914 when his reservoir of stored material ws exhausted. His pace then slowed down as he had to originate stories and presumably work them out more rather than just spew them out.
Curiously like Miss Smith he created three main worlds with some deadends and solo works. Thus while Miss Smith created Indian, Martian and her ‘Royal’ identity Burroughs created an inner World, Tarzan and African world, and a Martian world.
Perhaps in both cases three worlds were necessary to give expression to the full range of their hopes and expectations. In Burroughs’ case his worlds correspond to the equivalences of the subconscious in Pellucidar, the conscious in Tarzan and Africa and shall we say, the aspirational or spiritual of Mars. In point of fact Burroughs writing style varies in each of the three worlds, just as they did in Miss Smith’s.
Having exhausted his early intellectual resources Burroughs read extensively and exhaustively to recharge his intellectual batteries. This would have been completely normal because it is quite easy to write oneself out. Indeed, he was warned about this by his editor, Metcalf. Having, as it were, gotten what was in your mind on paper what you had was used up and has to be augmented. One needs fresh experience and more knowledge. ERB was capable of achieving this from 1911 to about 1936 when his resources were essentially exhausted. Regardless of what one considers the quality of the later work it is a recap, a summation of his work rather than extension or innovatory into new territory. Once again, not at all unusual.
As a child of his times his work is a unique blend of science and spiritualism with the accent on science. One can only conjecture how he assimiliated Camille Flammarion’s own unique blend of spiritualism and science but it would seem clear that Flammarion inflamed his imagination setting him on his career as perhaps the world’s first true science-fiction writer as opposed to merely imaginative or fantasy fiction although he was no mean hand at all.
February 1, 2009
Zane Grey, Edgar Rice Burroughs And The Anima And Animus
R. E. Prindle And Dr. Anton Polarion and Dugald Warbaby
Bad Blood In The Valley Of The Hidden Women:
Thoughts On Riders Of The Purple Sage And The Rainbow Trail
Burroughs, Edgar Rice: Corpus 1911-1940
Grey, Zane: The Riders Of The Purple Sage 1912
Grey, Zane: The Rainbow Trail, 1915
Grey, Zane: The Mysterious Rider, 1921
Prindle, R.E. Freudian Psychology Updated To Modern Physics, ERBzine 2004.
Prindle, R.E. Something Of Value Books I, II, III. Erbzine 2005
Anton and I had never read Zane Grey before reviewing the library of Edgar Rice Burroughs as published on ERBzine by Mr. Hillman. Nor probably would we have but for the Bill Hillman series of articles comparing Zane Grey and Edgar Rice Burroughs. Anton and I dismissed any such connection as being relevant but then Prindle read The Rainbow Trail and said we should check it out. Prindle is a close friend of ours; a little on the independent side but alright.
Grey refers to The Rainbow Trail as a continuation of The Riders Of The Purple Sage so Anton, he’s a psychologist became intrigued by the manner in which Grey treated aspects of the Anima and Animus. We both then read Riders in which we discovered a full blown theory of the Anima and Animus.
It should be noted here that Grey had passages excised by his editors that they thought dealt too explicitly with the sexual aspects of the Anima and Animus while reducing the commerical viability of the story. The unexpurgated version of the story was published under the title The Desert Crucible in 2003. I have the Leisure Historical Fiction edition in mass market paperback.
Grey’s ideas were presented in a very pure manner with complete and intact symbolism so there could be no mistaking that Grey was presenting a well thought out theory. Anton became very excited as he said Grey’s theory certainly rivaled the ideas of Freud and Jung and must have been developed independently of their thought much as Burrughs’ ideas of psychology were.
Although Riders Of The Purple Sage wasn’t among the books listed by Hillman as being in the Library we have to assume that Burroughs read it along with a number of other Grey titles although he must have found Rainbow Trail and The Mysterious Rider the tales of Grey he found most significant for his needs. We will assume that this is so. To understand The Rainbow Trail originally titled The Desert Crucible which was in ERB’s library it is necessary to also review Riders Of The Purple Sage.
Grey in this book examines the nature of the Animus and the Anima of the male as well as the relationship between the living male and female. The micro study of the Anima and Animus is placed in the macro study of Mormon society and law of 1871 versus Gentile society and law. This is also a study of the nature of religion.
The Gentiles- I follow Grey’s thought here- Mormons refer to themselves as the Chosen People and ‘others’ as Gentiles- are all of a stricken Anima which paralyzes their Animus while the Mormons have a strong Animus but disturbed by a stricken relation with the Anima which they completely repress not unlike the Jews and Moslems.
Thus Mormons have a strong affinity with the Semitic religious systems from which they derive their religion in part. Anton, the psychologist, avers that the problem of the Animus and Anima has been known for at least five or six thousand years. Anton is close to Prindle who is a historian, so much of the historical part comes to Anton through him although Anton is well versed in the history of human consciousness.
Historically the struggle of the male to come to terms with the X chromosome and the y chromosome or Animus is central to history and psychology. During the Matriarchal Age, which is to say a sub- or unconscious age, the X chromosome or Anima ruled the mind of man. As consciousness evolved and the conscious mind emerged from the subconscious the nature of the y chromosome or Animus became apparent. The Patriarchal Consciousness evolved.
To reconcile or not to reconcile?
The Egyptians developed their own theories but here we are not concerned with HS II and IIIs and the Semites. Suffice it to say that the Semites borrowed from the Egyptians while adding very little of their own. If one reads the story of Psyche and Eros in Apuleius’ The Golden Ass one will have a good general introduction to the HS II and III point of view as expressed in Grey’s Gentile characters such as Lassiter and Venters. As said the Mormons reflect the Semitic view on women.
The Semites on the other hand, exaggerted the importance of the Animus in favor of suppressing or subordinating the Anima which has been passed on to the HS IIs and IIIs through the adoption of aspects of the Semitic religions. In a Hungarian myth of the Christian Era the Anima is portrayed as being entombed in the support of a bridge. Thus imprisoned on one side of the river or brain it is denied its rightful function.
The Semitic attitude is reflected in the way the two peoples treat their living females who stand as a symbol and only a symbol of the X chromosome of the male. In both existing Semitic relgions, the Judaic and the Mohammedan, the females are treated as property no different than cattle. Some of these attitudes have been temporarily weakened through contact with the HS II and IIIs. They haven’t gone away or changed.
The Semitic attitude infiltrated the HS II and III consciousness through their religion which was amalgameted into the HS-Semitic hybrid called Christianity.
Then in 1930 in the Unied States a man named Joseph Smith created a religion called Mormonism based on the extreme Patriarchal notions of the Semites. As Grey puts it the religion was based on the notion of ruling women. Smith devised rules by which women were completely subordinated to the Animus much as in the Hungarian myth while the men were required to take multiples wives. Smith himself racked up 30 plus.
According to Grey the women were not happy with the arrangement but in the thrall of religious belief they thought it their god assigned role.
As polygamy is not part of HS II and III culture Smith and the Mormons came into conflict with constituted society in Smith’s home base of Fayette, New York being driven out. They encountered the same opposition in their new homes which led finally to Nauvoo, Illinois. Smith, who apparently overplayed his hand was murdered in 1844. In 1847 Brigham Young led the new Chosen People from Nauvoo to the Promised Land on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. By 1871 when Riders takes place they must have multiplied exponentially because they occupy all of Utah and parts of adjacent states. This prologue of the diptych is placed before the passage of the 1882 law of the United States outlawing polygamy. The denouement of the novel will take place as the US attempts to stamp out the practice.
The action of Riders-Trail takes place on the border of Utah and Arizona and parts of adjacent states with the Grand Canyon of the Colorado as a backdrop.
As with the other Semitic religions the Mormon Bishops and Elders with untempered Animi have made their will the law. Thus, according to Grey, the Churchmen have become criminals willing to commit any crime to achieve their personal desires which they equate with the will of God.
As Riders opens a Mormon woman, Jane Withersteen, against all the rules of Mormon society is living as an independent woman in Cottonwoods on the Utah-Arizona border, Gentile Law on one side, Mormon law on the other. She does this in defiance of Bishop Dyer (die-er?) who has ordered her to marry and end her independent status. She has her own duchy among the Mormons owning her own town, the water, aparently several counties, a magnificent bunch of horses (emblematic of the Anima) and six thousand head of cattle divided into two herds, the red and the white. (emblematic of the male and female.)
Her independence is a standing affront to the Mormon Elders and Bishops. Having been ordered to marry Elder Tull as one of his many wives she has no wish to submit to the Bishop’s will. Read- Will of God.
These men are not to be balked. The woman Withersteen has no actual rights under Semitic law. As these men have a crazed Animus untempered by the acknowledgement of the female principle or Anima which they deny they have lost all sense of justice, or rather, they equate justice with their desires which they believe are supported by divine law. They are going to use every concealed criminal means to break Jane Witherspoon down. As their will is law they can’t see the difference between subjective criminal methods and objective legal ones.
Jane is already having trouble hiring Mormon riders, riders are the same as cowboys in Grey’s lexicon, to manage her herds so she has resorted to hiring Gentiles.
The Mormons must be seen as a species of Semite and in the Semitic manner they punish Gentiles, or unbelievers as the Moslems would put it, destroying any attempts at their prosperity. If you read the first few lines of the Koran you will find it plainly stated that unbelievers must be punished. Hence all the Gentiles are kept uneducated and impoverished. Jane’s ramrod, is a young Gentile named Bern Venters. Venters at one time had been a prosperous cattle rancher but the Mormons had emasculated him by lifting his cattle. Venters was rescued by Jane from complete impoverishment by offering him a job.
The Elders hate her for this. They have warned Jane to get rid of him and her other Gentile employees but as a sort of Great Mother figure, an active female principle opposed to their male principle, she has refused. She is sort of a Matriarchal throwback among these Patriarchs. As the story opens Elder Tull has dragged Venters out of Jane’s house where Tull gives Venters the choice of hightailing it out of the Territory, Utah being a territory from 1850 to 1895 when it became a State, or being whipped to an inch of his life. Now, Tull means this, they are going to whip Venters nearly to death for being a Gentile in Mormonland.
Having already been emasculated by the lifting of his cattle which, in reality, he couldn’t prevent, Venters now chooses to take the whipping rather than emasculate himself further by hightailing it. Difficult choice.
Tull is about to have him stripped when the Hammer Of The Mormons, Lassiter, appears out of the purple sage riding a blind horse- you heard right- a blind horse. This guy is Bad Blood personified. Boy, they’ve heard about him but how. Black hat, black leather chaps, two massive black handled pistols worn very low, apparently at his ankles, his reputation as a Mormon Killer is well established. Tull gets the cold shivers just looking at him on his blind horse. The blind horse probably indicates that at this point Lassiter is oblivious to female charms, the horse being a symbol of the female and he’s riding a blind pony.
Lassiter makes a few mild mannered inquiries then orders the Mormons to let Venters go. We’re talking Animus to Animus here, cojones to cojones, whoever backs down is emasculated in relation to the other, and Lassiter’s twin pistols make him the master Animus. The Mormons have to eat dirt or die. The Mormons powerful as a collective cannot be so man to man. Tull gives a hint of throwing an iron on Lassiter but the latter goes into his famous gunslinger’s crouch so he grab one of those guns around his ankles, intimidating the dickens out of the Mormons who retire leaving this field to him while muttering threats that he’d better watch his back.
As we said, all the Gentiles are stricken in there relationship between their Animas and Animi. Between Riders and Rainbow they will be healed.
Grey handles the symbolism starkly and masterfully. Jane Withersteen is a masterful Matriarch. Her independence and relationship to the Gentile men has left the impression that she is sexually loose. It isn’t clear to the reader whether she is nor not. She is more the Great Mother rather than the Siren.
Her role seems to be the womanly one of tempering the raging Animus of the male. While she has no effect whatsoever on the Mormon men she is successful in emasculating the stricken Gentiles. She had persuaded Venters to abandon his six gun which made it possible for Elder Tull to seize him while it was only Lassiter’s two black handled six pistols that freed him.
In a rather sexually explicit scene Jane would stand in front of Lassiter to seize a gun in each hand in an attempt to dissuade him from carrying them thus emasculating him. This at a time when Mormons were trying to gun him down. Her role seems to be one of civilizing society although her method seems backward.
Lassiter is a wronged individual seeking his personal justice in a vengeful way. He has shot up several Mormon towns being now known as a Mormon slayer or, in other words, the equivalent of an anti-Semite.
The reason for his anti-Semitism is that a Mormon kidnapped his sister, Millie Erne, holding her captive until she consented to become one of his wives. Hint, hint. Her remains are buried on Jane Withersteen’s property.
Lassiter’s horse was blinded when men held it down then placed a white hot iron alongside the eyes searing them. The horse as a female mother symbol represents Lassiter’s striken relationship with his Anima.
If one reads this novel in a literal sense then many of its incidents are improbable if not ridiculous. What notorious gunslinger would ride a blind horse? Grey has been criticized for wooden characters which is womewhat unjust. These are archetypal characters who are fully developed and can’t change. As allegories there is no need to change. This is mythology.
The Mormons lift Jane’s red herd. This may represent her female Animus as in iconography the male is usually represented as red while the female is white. They next try to stampede her white herd by devious means which they believe are undetectable such as flashing a white sheet from a distance. As a Chosen People they even have to convince themselves that what happens was not caused by them but was the will of God.
Lassiter notes this taking Jane with him to show her. As they watch the cattle begin to stampede. Three thousand on the hoof they stream down the valley. Lassiter on his blind horse races full speed down the slope, obviously no blind horse could do this, out on the flat to single handedly mill the cows. As the lead cows enter the center of spiral Lassiter disappears in the dust. He emerges sans horse to appear before Jane: ‘My horse got kilt.’ he announces. Jane’s response is ‘Lassiter, will you be my rider?’ Pretty clear sexually I think. Not exactly changing horses in midstream but obviusly the transition from a blind horse to a sighted jane is an improvement in Lassiter’s relationship with his Anima. ‘You bet I will Jane.’ Lassiter promptly and positively responds.
Whether you want to consider this stuff ‘high literature’ or not read properly it is not much different from the Iliad or Odyssey.
As a mother figure Jane is a keeper of horses, a symbol of the mother and female. The blinding of Lassiter’s horse was the equivalent of separating him from the mother figure. Jane not only has a full stable of horses but she has the prized horses Night, Black Star and Wrangler. As Grey makes clear these are the devil’s own mounts. In the big chase scene Grey has Wrangler close to breathing flames as he compares the horse to the devil.
The Mormons steal Jane blind while she refuses to allow Lassiter to defend either himself or her. Seems to be the Great American Dilemma even today.
Remember this is a war between Gentiles and Semites qua Mormons. The Gentiles hands are stayed while the Semites are allowed to run wild. Maybe Grey is making a social comment. Also remember that Jane is a Mormon so that while she is powerless to control her own aging maniac men the only men she can influence are the Gentiles whom she emasculates. As soon as the emasculated Venters gets away from her while pursuing the rustlers he immediately begins to revert to full manhood.
The Mormons set both Mormon men and women to steal from her. They take her bags of gold, this woman is prodigal, rich, her deeds and anything of value. They steal her six thousand cows. They want to kill Lassiter, dozens of Mormons lurk in the cottonwood groves (female places) but something stays their hands; they can’t shoot him either from behind or in front.
The only thing Jane worries about is her horses. Black Star and Night. It is possible that in this instance Jane represents the moon goddess. Finally the Mormons steal these symbols of her power. The independent woman is now completely violated. She has a man who could shoot down all the Mormons in Utah but she won’t let him use his guns.
So why should we care?
The myth switches to an alternate plot. Young Bern Venters goes in search of the rustler gang. Once again, Jane attempts to emasculate her men by pleading with Venters not to go, to stay beside her. Why anyone would want to hang around such a loser woman isn’t clear.
Venters goes in search of the rustler gang which is led by a man named Oldring. Old Ring. I’m sure the name has significant meaning but I can’t place it. The wind soughing through the caves is known as Old Ring’s Knell. Even though Oldring’s gang consists of a couple dozen men who have punched a herd of three thousand red cows they have somehow left no trail. Over all the years they have been rustling and pillaging there is no one who has been able to find this robber’s roost.
Venters has traced them to the foot of a waterfall where he loses track. While he is mulling this over a group of desperadoes return from pillaging plodding up the stream. Lo and behold they ride right through the waterfall into yet another hidden valley. Big enough to hold three thousand head of cattle. The West was a big country.
Venters rides off to relate this discovery to Jane and Lassiter when he encounters a despearado with the famous Masked Rider, reputed to have shot down dozens of men. He is dressed from head to toe in black wearing a black mask. This Rider is credited with shooting down any Mormons Lassiter overlooked.
Venters takes out his ‘long gun.’ You know how riders despise the long gun or rifle preferring six shooters, and by dint of long practice he shoots the lead rustler dead and wounds the Masked Rider. While examining the Masked One’s wound he unbuttons the shirt to discover the ‘beautiful swell of a female breast.’ Boy, howdy. You got it, the Masked Rider is a woman, a mannish girl. The image of Venter’s Anima.
Stranded in the desert while trying to nurse this girl back to health Venters chases a rabbit up a slope where he notices ancient steps cut in the rock. Following these he comes into ‘Surprise Valley.’ Formerly the home of cliff dwellers the place is a vitual paradise, green and verdant. No one would ever discover him and the Rider there. Carrying the slight figure of the Rider up hill and down for maybe ten miles or so Venters secretes themselves in the Valley which abounds in game and delightsome frolics.
About this time I recognized some teen fantasies of my own. Shooting and wounding a woman while having to tend her wounds in a secluded place where she has to be eternally grateful when healed was just too obvious. In my case, just after the onset of puberty, I think, when the Anima would be making itself known, I came up with the daydream of having this woman I could keep in a milk bottle until I wanted her. When I let her out of the bottle she became full sized and did whatever I wanted then she willingly went back into the bottle until the next time I wanted her.
As a thirteen year old before the advent of universal pornography I didn’t know what I wanted the woman for but I knew it would be fun. Grey here creates his version of the same fantasy. The Rider, who turns out to be Bess, apparently has a past. I say apparently because nearly everyone in this story has an apparent history which turns out to be false. As a member of the gang she was thought to have been, um…the piece…of Oldring. He kept her in a cabin up on a ledge in his valley behind the waterfall. He was gone a lot so we’re not clear that he ever laid a hand on her but Venters believes she is not ‘pure’ which in his great love for her he is willing to over look but it rankles him.
If you want to know the wonders of Surprise Valley read the book yourself. Comes a time when Venters has to go into Cottonwoods for supplies. There he realizes that he and Bess can’t stay hidden away forever. He has enough money for supplies obviously but not enough to flee from Mormonland.
They don’t call it Surprise Valley for nothing. When he returns Bess hauls out a big bag of gold to give to him. This must be the treasure that the female brings the male. The whole several mile length of the river which runs through this valley is lined with pebbles of gold which Bess has collected. Shades of Opar, huh? In her girlish gratitude she wants Bern to have the lot.
‘Gosh,’ says Bern. ‘Now I don’t have to get a job.’ (He didn’t put it quite that way.) ‘We can leave this valley and go far away from Mormonland.’
Far away from Mormonland, by the way, is either Quincy or Beaumont (beautiful mountain) Illinois. Not too far from Nauvoo which was the Mormon stronghold jumping off place for the long march to the Great Salt Lake into the fantastic scenery Grey either describes or imagines. Certinly the West of Grey’s imagination is as fantastic as anything Burroughs created on Barsoom.
Even though Grey refers to the desert this is certainly the lushest desert anyone has ever seen. The purple sage is the equal to Burroughs red moss of Mars.
Grey wrote an essay about what the desert meant to him. His desert with its plentiful water complements his vision of the Anima and Animus. The desert may answer to Grey’s subconscious which appears to be missing in his analysis of Anima and Animus, so that perhaps the desert stand for the subconscious.
His desert reminds me of a dream I used to have with some frequency. In my dream I was walking across this immense barren desert spotted at invervals with small oases in which I wasn’t allowed to remain. Off in the distance I could see this great brain shaped mountain. On approaching the mountain I found a small stream of water leading down into the mountain. As I descended I noticed that the stream ran through a bed of solid salt which rendered the water bitter.
Descending further the water disappeared beneath a steel chute. Unable to turn back while unwilling to go further I was nevertheless pushed into the chute where dropping into a steel lined entry I was pushed into a steel walled laundry room as the steel door slammed behind me. There was plenty of water but no way out. There was a ventilation shaft along the ceiling of the back wall. I conceived a plan of drinking to repletion then urinating into the ventilation shaft creating such a smell that they would want to find the source.
My plan worked. Three maintenance men opened the door and I dashed out so fast they didn’t know I had been there. Still in a steel lined area I saw a bank of elevators which would take me back to ground level. A door opened but the elevator was filled with classmates from my high school who pushed me back refusing to allow me to enter.
I don’t know how but I gat back to the surface where once again I approached the back side of the mountain which I ascended this time rather than descended. Now, the mountain was deep in a frozen snow but starting from the low grade at the back I had no trouble climbing, walking on top of the snow. The sun was shining brightly but all was frozen white. When I reached the top I found I was standing above the brow of the face of a great idol carved in the snow. Thousands of feet below terified and intimidated people were kneeling in the desert worshipping the great snow face. From where I stood I couldn’t see the face but I conceived the notion of destroying the snow god to free the people. Leaping into the air I came down on the god’s forehead creating an avalanche. The great face slid away as I descended thousands of feet on a cushion of snow to alight unharmed.
As I hoped, the destruction of the god freed the minds of the people from the domination of their morose god. The melting snow created numerous streams watering the desert among which the people danced and sang as the desert bloomed, while I looked on admiringly.
I don’t know enough about Grey’s background to say how unhappy his childhood had been but since his plot of Riders/Rainbow roughly follows my dream I suspect what the desert meant to him was the barrenness of his early life. The appeal of the novels to Burroughs must have been of the same order.
When Venters leaves the Valley Grey begins to lose control of his story. The clarity and focus of the first half becomes jumbled. He finally just crams the ending through as Burroughs so frequently does.
Venters, riding Wrangler, crosses trails with the men who stole Night and Black Star from Jane. A sort of running joke throughout the novel is whether Wrangler is faster than the two blacks. Wrangler proves his mettle in this chase overtaking the two even though they were ridden by the best rider on the range, Jerry Card. Card is sort of a puzzle, at least for me. His horsemanship was so great that racing at full tilt leading one horse he could keep both horses side by side at full pace; in addition he could hop back and forth from horse to horse. Whether Grey was making a joke or not, I can’t really tell, he describes Card’s appearance as froglike. Hop-frog of Poe? Card is a little misshapen runty man. Whatever Grey had in mind for him he forgot to develop.
Card abandons the horses as the race ends disappearing into the purple sage. Wrangler gets away from Venters to be captured by Card. In a rather spectacular scene Card is trying to guide the horse by biting it on the nose. He is actually being dragged with his teeth in Wrangler’s nose. I’m no horseman but I’d really have to have the fine points of this maneuver explained to me.
Unable to hit the small fragile Card with a rifle shot as rider and horse rode alongside an escarpment rather than let Card get away, Venters shot the horse who leaped off the edge in what Grey describes as a fitting end for the greatest horse and greatest rider of the purple sage. I can’t follow his reasoning here but he must be trying to say something.
Venters rides the remaining two horses down the main street of Cottonwoods with apparently no more reason than to enrage Bishop Dyer and Elder Tull and announce in stentorian tones that Jerry Card is dead. Reminds me of the myth in which it is announced that the great God Pan is dead.
Venters packs some saddlebags with provisions then, in what seems a comic touch, since Jane’s wonderful stable of horses is now empty, mounts a burro to return to Surprise Valley. Riding one and leading a string of burros he looks behind him to see if he being followed by men on horses I presume he would have hopped off the burro and started running. The burro appears to represent severe emasculation.
Another essential subplot has been the arrival of a small child still annoyingly gushing babytalk- muvver for mother and oo for you- by the name of Fay Larkin. Fay is going to be the heroine of the sequel. She was the daughter of a Gentile woman who died. The woman asked Jane, who was ever kind to the despised Gentiles, to take the child which Jane did. She now ‘cannot live without the child.’
Having stolen everything else of the woman in the name of God, the Mormons now steal Fay.
This is too much for Lassiter who coldly disregards Jane’s imploring to disregard this insult and injury too, even though a moment before she ‘couldn’t live without the child.’ While it seems that Mormon men emascualte their women, Mormon women in turn emasculate their men. Maybe that’s what the story is about: the conflict between the sexes. Lassiter disregards her, strapping on not only his big blacks but an extra brace that he hides beneath his coat. The extra brace doesn’t figure into the story so it isn’t clear why two gun Lassiter became four gun Lassiter.
Lassiter shoots the Mormons up pretty good killing Bishop Dyer. Elder Tull is out of town at the moment. Lassiter and Jane know they have to get a move on so, packing enough to stagger any ten horses , including bags of gold, they skedaddle riding Night and Black Star.
Somewhere in here Grey must have become stymied in his story not having the progression to Rainbow Trail figured out. Something like the odd ending of Burroughs’ Princess Of Mars. Venters still thinks Bess was Oldring’s girl hence something only his great love for her can make him overlook. Loading up their burros they leave Surprise Valley. Out in the purple sage who should appear much as he had at the beginning of the story but Lassiter, this time with Jane.
It now comes out that Venters thinks Oldring is Bess’ father. Jane lets out the fact that he had then killed his future wife’s dad. Bess is revolted at the thought, calling off the wedding. Lassiter to the rescue. He produces a locket with a picture of his sister Millie Erne and her husband Frank. Lassiter explains that Millie was pregnant by Frank when Millie was kidnapped and that Frank Erne is her real father. The obstacle that had appeared between Venters and Bess now disappears as he hadn’t killed her father, just the guy who reared her. At the same time Bess is no longer the daughter of a low rustler but of a respectable man.
But wait, there’s more. Grey can produce as many twists as Edgar Rice Burroughs. It was the literary fashion of the day.
Not only is Bess the daughter of Millie Erne but the Mormon kidnapper of Millie had been no ther than Jane Withersteen’s father. The ever-forgiving Lassiter, now Uncle Jim to Bess, mutters something like ‘Aw shucks, Jane, I don’t pay thet no nevermind.’ and sister Millie is forgotten. nearly two decades of bad blood goes up in smoke with a shrug.
Venters and Bess head off for the safety and security of civilization in Beaumont, Illinois, while Lassiter and Jane depart for the security of Surprise Valley. Two problems remain for the next ten pages or so, Fay Larkin and Elder Tull.
Just like Tarzan, Lassiter can apparently smell a white girl because there is no other way that he could have located her. She was being held by some Mormons in a side canyon. Setting Jane to one side, Lassiter enters the canyon from which after firing every cartridge in his four guns and belts- Grey didn’t actually make it clear that he was still wearing the extra set up under his coat but he didn’t say he took them off either- of’ four guns Lassiter kills all the varmints, emerging from the canyon with little Fay in his arms and ‘five holes in his carcase.’
As they glory over little Fay, who was problem number one, problem nuber two, Elder Tull and his band of Mormon riders appear on the horizon. Leaping on their burros, did I mention Jane and Uncle Jim swapped Night and Black Star with Venters and Bess for their burros?- the Hammer Of The Mormons and Jane jog off with the Mormons in hot pursuit on horses, but tired ones.
One would think that even tired horses would have the advantage over burros but it is a very tight race. You see why Grey’s stuff translated to the movies so well. Getting all safe within Surprise Valley on the other side of balancing rock (did Grey borrow this detail from the She of Rider Haggard?) Uncle Jim lacks the nerve to roll that stone because Jane has pretty completely emasculated him. ‘Roll that stone’ Jane commands restoring Lassiter’s will. He does just as Elder Tull ad his Mormon band reach the cleft. The stone falls eliminating Tull and his Mormons while sealing off Surprise Valley ‘forever’ with Uncle Jim, Jane and Little Fay Larkin inside. Of course they are well provided because Venters has stocked the Valley with burros, fruit tree stock and plenty of grain seed. At the same time he had eliminated coyotes and other beasts of prey so that jackrabbits, quail and other small food animals have mutiplied exponentially. It’s going to be a long twelve years in the valley so the bunch has to be well provided. Without his gun though Lassiter is going to have to catch those jackrabits with his hands. During their long stay Lassiter and Jane apparently have no sexual relations as there were no additional children when the valley was reentered by the Mormons. Jane must truly have been a mother figure.
On this incomplete note Grey ends his novel.
Indeed, from the Enlightenment to the present has ben a period of intense religion formation, especially the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Utopian and Scientific Socialism may both be considered forms of religion, especially the latter in its Semito-Marxist form.
Mormonism itself, which has no basis in science, orginated from the brain of Joseph Smith in 1830. Madame B’s Theosophy, Mary Baker Eddy’s Christian Science, Ron Hubbard’s Scientology and the Urantia religion all have a basis in science as do most religions formed after Darwin. With the emergence of science none of the old religions were satisfactory. Hence it should come as no surprise that writers like Grey and Burroughs were intensely concerned with the problem.
As I have mentioned in Something Of Value no adequate myth for the scientific age developed, leaving men and women whose faith in the Semitic gods was undermined with a stricken religious consciousness such as in the case of John Shefford, the protagonist of Rainbow Trail, and probably both Grey and Burroughs.
So the search for meaning was endemic in this period not being confined to Burroughs and Grey who were merely symptomatic.
Another attitude that both authors share is a yearning for the wide open spaces of their youth that, while we may look back in envy, were rapidly disappearing before their eyes. Somehow this yearning was also connected to a feeling for the prehistoric past, perhaps as a Golden Age.
Both men were charmed by the notionof cliffdwellers. It would seem that Americans of the period were also absolutely charmed and enamored with the Anasazi of the American Southwest. Burroughs was very nearly obsessed with cliffdwellers. Novel after novel is replete with cliffdwellings whether in Pellucidar, various terrestrial locations or even on Mars.
The inhabitants of the skyscrapers of Chicago were nicknamed cliffdwellers; a replica of Southwest cliffdwellings was built for the Columbian Expo of 1893 that apparently made a great impression on 17-year 0ld ERB. The premier literary club of Chicago was known as the Cliff Dwellers which was on the 8th floor and roof of Orchestra Hall. I think Burroughs had a yearning to be a member of this club.
Thus there were many cliffdweller influences on ERB’s life , whether he had ever seen the Anasazi dwellings before 1920 is doubtful, it would be interesting to know if Grey had before 1910.
At any rate cliffdwellers had carved out homes in Surprise Valley in some distant prehistoric time. Thus both Venters and Bess and Uncle Jim Lassiter and Jane were actual cliffdwellers utilizing the old dwellings. Lassiter, Jane and Fay Larkin would be cliffdwellers for twelve years. This must have had a very romantic appeal for Grey’s contemporary readers.
During that period they dressed in skins living as close to a stone age existence as was possible. So one may compare the Surprise Valley of Lassiter and Jane with the cliffdwellers of Burroughs’ Cave Girl.
As all these themes were in the air of the period it is not necessary for either of these two authors to be influenced by each other to this point but it is probable that both were influenced by the stone age stories of Jack London and H.G. Wells among others.
I doubt Burroughs was influenced during this period by Grey although he did have a copy of Rainbow Trail in his library, one of only two Grey titles. We can’t be sure when he bought Trail. Grey’s stories complement Burroughsian attitudes but only after this formative preriod around 1912. ERB’s Western and Indian novels probably owe something to Grey but they were written after 1920.
Riders Of The Purple Sage sets the scene for its denouement which is The Rainbow Trail. Riders was a wonderful romantic vision of the West which answered the needs of the period when for the first time the percentage of Americans living in cities surpassed that of those living on farms. Indeed, very like these authors, modern cliffdwellers had a heartsick longing for the Paradise they had lost. For decades it would be a crazy dream of city dwellers to buy a farm and ‘get back to the land.’ The movie ‘Easy Rider’ was a good laugh in that respect.
Both Burroughs’ and Grey’s novels addressed that need.
Burroughs’ interest in Rainbow Trail would stem from religious aspects and the perfect union of the Anima and Animus when John Shefford and Fay Larkin unite. It might be noted that a fay is a fairie. Cliffdwelling and the purity of Grey’s noble savages, the Navajos, would have been compelling for ERB.
Before continuing on to The Rainbow Trail let us take a brief interlude to examine some aspects that would have interested ERB from the other Grey title in his library- The Mysterious Rider.
November 16, 2008
Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars
ERB scholars have long noted that the entire corpus of novels reads almost as one long book. I believe this is because ERB records his life in his novels. If one reads the novels in the sequence in which they were written and if one understands the symbolism used by Burroughs against a background of what’s happening in his life ERB actually records his mental state of the moment.
In this essay I am going to concentrate on a role of John Carter in the Mars series and that of Ulysses Paxton in the Mastermind Of Mars.
In real life before ERB began writing he was powerless on earth. I would call him an abject failure but even though he appeared one he was only on the verge of being one and if his attempt at a writing career in 1911 had failed he would have been plunged into the abyss.
As he was a failure or at least an unfulfilled seeker in 1911 he makes John Carter into a mold he admired, that of a Virginian and a soldier who was seeking his post-Civil War fortune in the deserts of the Southwest. Carter, whose initials are JC, actually finds his gold mine but attacked by Indians he escapes death by transporting himself to Mars.
Mars has a lesser gravity than Earth so on Mars he has superhuman powers. Thus unable to realize any of his ambitions on Earth ERB transports himself in his imagination to Mars as the Superman, John Carter.
Amazingly the idea struck a responsive chord in his soon to be Editor at Munsey’s, Metcalf, who bought the story. It doesn’t matter for how much, the point is it validated ERB’s lofty opinion of his destiny. Fortified by this response he brought himself down to Earth in the fantastic form of Tarzan Of The Apes in an imaginary Africa. Here was the gold mine he as John Carter was seeking. There was no one, no Indians, to drive him off so he was off to the races.
The first rush carried him through the line into 1920 when he left Chicago behind and fled to Los Angeles.
In LA his careless financial habits soon led him into hot water virtually bankrupting him but definitely stripping him of his assets. By 1926 when he wrote The Mastermind Of Mars he was virtually financially prostrate.
The hero of Mastermind is Ulysses Paxton. Ulysses can stand for the Greek wanderer and seeker Odysseus or for the great warrior, Ulysses S. Grant. So what we have is a duplicate of John Carter.
ERB is on record as saying that he thought that every man was two persons not unlike Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde, some more divided , some less. Under stress the two personas like Jekyll and Hyde became distinct.
Now, in 1911 ERB was an unrealized genius but in 1926 he was a failed genius. In other words he had had his legs cut from beneath him. He might as well have been dead. Therefore Ulysses Paxton while serving in the Great War has a shell explode beside him. When he comes to he realizes his legs have been blown away. While he lies dying he looks up to Mars as John Carter had fifteen years before. When he next comes to his legs are restored and he is standing in a garden on Mars.
Thus in real life ERB imagines himself figuratively in Paxton’s situation returning in his imagination to the Red Planet in the hope of making lightning strike twice.
He hadn’t written a Tarzan novel since Ant Men four years previously. He was black listed by the movie colony that refused to make any Tarzan movies even though they would have been lucrative. He was under attack nationally and internationally by the Reds who were doing everything possible to destroy his sales and reputation. ERB truly had his back to the wall or figuritively had had his legs cut off.
Fortune would once again favor him when FBO Studios broke the blacklist against him. After a couple fumbling attempts at Tarzan novels he would hit a magnificent stride through the Tarzan novels from 1929 to 1936.
The Mastermind Of Mars was his attempt to recover his career. His style while revered by his fans was old hat by 1926 so he could no longer take the world by storm as he had in 1911.
Mastermind is a complex novel of which I haven’t completely broken the code but let us concentrate on two aspects. The first is ERB’s troubled state of mind over his marriage. Thus he invents the story of Xaxa and Valla Dia as he fights to deal with his sexual problem. The second is the religious problem caused by his confrontation with the Jews beginning in 1919 and continuing not only through 1924’s Marcia Of The Doorstep, and 1926 but to the end of his career.
In 1926 ERB had not yet met Florence Dearholt although he was probably already familiar with her husband Ashton and through that acquaintance he may already have seen her, and perhaps, also on the screen as she was an actress. He did meet her in March of ’27 when Dearholt approached him on a movie deal and was either immediately smitten or had the opinion of her he already had confirmed.
In Mastermind ERB expresses the thought that he has a wife to whom he owes everything but who he hates. This strong emotion would be realized at his own Emma’s death.
In this novel Emma is represented by the brain of the horrid Xaxa. Ras Thavas, the demon mastermind of Mars and physician nonpareil, has transplanted the brain of Xaxa into the beautiful body of Valla Dia and vice versa. Dia is Latin for goddess. I don’t know what Valla means.
The body of Xaxa containing the brain of Valla Dia is held in suspended animation by Ras Thavas. Bringing the body to life Paxton is smitten by the beauty of Valla Dia’s brain. Knowing that her body is of incomparable beauty he conceives the notion of restoring her brain to her body and taking her to wife. Valla Dia may also be seen a version of Helen of Troy.
I interpret this to mean that ERB’s Anima ideal was the beautiful Valla Dia, perhaps as he had once viewed Emma. But to his mind Emma had developed an ugly mind that animated the body of his Anima ideal. the beautiful mind he sought was thus in an ugly body while an ugly mind was in a beautiful body. ERB’s dilemma was to shuck Emma and find a beautiful mind in a beautiful body. When he met Florence in 1927 he thought he had found his Anima ideal of a beautiful mind in a beautiful body. His problem then was how to rid himself of Emma.
On that level then ERB is struggling with his sexual problem. In this book his struggle would take the form of an astonishing number of dual and split personalities. This is quite a study in that sense and an indication of ERB’s extreme stress. Perhaps Mastermind is a worthy successor to Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde.
The second and less resolvable problem is the religious issue. At this moment in time the Jews of Hollywood have got ERB boxed. Indeed, they have cut off his legs. The logjam was about to be broken by FBO Studios which would free ERB up until the late thirties when he was forced into exile in Hawaii. For now though he has to deal with this very difficult problem. He has by now learned that freedom of speech ends where Judaism begins. If I am right he was denied publication of Marcia Of The Doorstep because of the manner in which he discussed his dilemma.
In Mastermind while the religious issue assumes primary importance ERB puts it into an ecumenical form denouncing all religion. Does he refer to his Jewish situation in any cloudy form? I think he does.
The god in this story is a huge several story high idol named Tur to which all must bow down. The name Tur is an odd name for a god, at least in my mind. I have said before you cannot talk about that which isn’t in your mind. If you haven’t studied religions there is nothing you can say about them. As ERB has a great deal to say it is obvious that he knows something about religion and religions. Theology isn’t the issue here, that is a separate matter.
Given ERBs method, when he learned he had a problem with Judaism I’m sure he went out and learned something about it. It isn’t necessary that he had a profound knowledge; it is only necessary that he learned some things. We can’t be sure what. The word Tur is signficant in Jewish historiography. His use of Tur may be a coincidence but there you have it- Tur is Tur any way you turn it, frontwards or backwards, Tur is Tur.
The word Tur appears in Judaic lore in this manner:
…Rabbi Jacob (Yaakov) ben Asher (1270-1343) the “Baal ha-Turim” compiled the Arba Turim, first printed in 1458. “Tur” is used as shorthand for both the title of the whole work and for Rabbi Asher himself since it is customary in Judaism to call a compiler by the name of his compilation. The Tur is the predecessor of Rabbi Joseph Karo’s Schulchan Aruch. The four part structure of the Tur and its division into chapters (simanim) were adopted by Karo in the later code, Shulchan Aruch. Each of the four divisions of the work is a Tur, so a particular passage is cited a Tur…
p. 127 Hoffman, Michael, Judaism Discovered, 2008
While one can’t be certain ERB learned the above fact it isn’t particularly recondite and might have been easily learned. At the least the use of Tur for the god is a remarkable coincidence.
Making Tur an idol to which all must bow would have been an egregious offence to the Jews and one which any knowledgeable Jew, who might have read the book, always a precondition, would have picked up on it whether Burroughs intended it or not. Paranoia strikes deep.
The idol itself could possibly be modeled on the Alexandrine Egypto-Greek god, Sarapis. Burroughs would have known of this from the Bible if not from his readings in the classics. We know he reread Plutarch’s Lives at least twice with one of those times just previous to writing Mastermind. If he read the Lives twice he undoubtedly read other classics so there is no reason to believe that he didn’t have knowledge in these matters.
The manner of Paxton’s posing as Tur and bamboozling the bamboozlers is a mockery of religion in general although given the context of the word Tur the application of the mockery might have been taken more personally.
Forced to use the most discreet measures to avoid accusations of anti-Semitism ERB may have thought he was undetectably clever while he is certainly having a good laugh. Paxton congratulates himself and gives himself a couple pats on the back at the success of his ruse.
The end result, of course, is that he frees the people from the bondage to the false religion of Tur.
I’m not quite clear on the nature of Ras Thavas who is named after the Ethiopian Prince Ras Tafari who became the Emperor Haile Selassie and the namesake of the Jamaican Rastafarians.
The book is a worthy of the attempted second birth of ERB’s faltering career. The characters are magnificent and finely drawn. Ras Thavas is surely one of the great characters of pulp fiction. Mastermind paired with The Synthetic Men Of Mars makes for one of the greatest diptyches of science fiction.
The Low Brow And The High Brow
An In Depth Study Of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Novels
The Mucker And Marcia Of The Doorstep
Marcia Of The Doorstep ERB’s Serious Literary Attempt
The ten year interval from the writing of The Mucker to Marcia Of The Doorstep were momentous years in the life of Edgar Rice Burroughs. When one looks back on those years from ERB’s personal side and from the societal side one is astonished at the changes both were going through. Both had changed greatly; neither ERB nor the world was the same as it had been before 1920.
While ERB evolved rapidly on the psychological side he was rather slow on the emotional side. He seems to have been slow to adjust to the new demands placed on him. On one level ‘Marcia’ records ERB’s inability to handle his newly minted money. ‘Marcia’ will record in metaphorical terms, ‘highly fictionalized,’ ERB’s running through a fortune to end in debt by 1924.
The story retells the history of the period from say 1900 when he married Emma to 1924, or his present. He is no longer the person who wrote ‘The Mucker.’ That book had wallowed in the low brow. The whole milieu of the story was set in low brow locations from the beginning in the great West Side of Chicago to the boxing milieu of New York City. The story is sort of an ode to the grungy side of life.
The following two novels of what is actually a quartet showed ERB evolving from a completely vulgar low brow guy through the Bridge of ‘Out There Somewhere’ tramping in search of himself and the ‘found’ Bridge of ‘Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid’ who returns to his aristocratic Virginian origins reunited with his Anima. Now returned to polite society in a Bohemian fashion in ‘Marcia Of The Doorstep’ ERB is writing a high brow version of ‘The Mucker.’ The coin has flipped from tails to heads.
The milieu has changed from Chicago streets and New York gyms to the parlors of wealthy New Yorkers and the conforts of middle class LA. ERB’s alter ego is now the grandson of a wealthy ex-Senator.
Whereas Byrne felt completely alien on entering Barbara Harding’s New York mansion Dick Steel, a lower class but aspiring to better things suitor of Marcia is introduced by her into the upper class environment where he is quite comfortable and at ease, chatting amiably with no faux pas. So, perhaps the trip from Grand Avenue to Riverside Drive within one lifetime is possible. In this sense perhaps Dick and Marcia are alternate personas for ERB and Emma. I think ERB was struggling to adapt himself to his new circumstances during the previous decade; perhaps the character of Marcia was meant to create his new persona for him. A second beginning as it were.
At the same time, if Marcia’s foster-father Marcus Aurelius Sackett is a version of himself, as he certainly is, then he sees himself as an impractical wastrel who even when handed the means for a prosperous life manages to lose the money. This easily parallels ERB’s own life as he was on the edge of ruin in 1924 when he wrote the story.
He defiantly says of Sackett that he had never learned the value of money and never would which was an accurate prediction of his future course. One has the feeling that despite present hardships ERB thought the money would never run out and that Emma’s financial worries were unfounded. Indeed, this proved to be the case as phenomenal income did continue to come in as comic strips, radio and a new lease on movie life for his Tarzan in an improvement on the film medium in the form or sound that was unthinkable in 1924. Tarzan money came in at a pace more slowly than he could spend it. Until late in life when he became too ill to spend ERB remained one step from the crest of the hill leading to the poor house.
His preposterous attempt to make a fortune as a hog farmer was ending in disaster. Rather than making money on his grade Duroc Berkshires he lost as much as thirty-nine thousand dollars in a single year.
At the same time he had managed to antagonize Hollywood so badly that after a very promising start in films, from 1921 to 1927 no movies of Burroughs novels were made. Thus ERB was cut off from a very lucrative stream of revenue at this critical time. Network radio wa just coming on stream in the twenties while ERB would earn nothing from the medium until the thirties. The comic strip which produced a handsome income stream also came at the end of the decade. As these forms of entertainment were incomparably more lucrative than publishing ERB’s income depending solely on books and magazines was severely curtailed during this period. The twenties then were a comparatively lean period for Burroughs.
I have never seen any evidence as to how the Otis Estate was paid for. The price of $125,000 seems a bargain in the burgeoning LA real estate market even today. Indeed, a friend of Herb Weston’s from LA speculated that ERB paid half a million for it. Whether ERB paid cash or what period of time he made payments so far as I know has never been revealed. Whether he had clear title to the property before he mortgaged it is unknown.
Originally looking for about twenty acres according to his correspondence with Herb Weston, within a couple weeks of arriving in LA he had purchased 540 acres. Typical Burroughs. And what an estate it was. In a letter of 3/14/19 to Weston ERB describes the ranch which was apparently renamed Tarzana from its inception. Thusly, p.83, ‘Brother Men.’
Tarzana is a delightful place. We have 540 acres on the State Highway (Ventura Blvd.) – a boulevard running from Los Angeles to San Francisco- in the San Fernando Valley foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains. The place is 23 miles from L.A. shopping district and 13 miles from the ocean- by auto road. The house stands on the top of a hill about half a mile from the boulevard and has- as nearly as I can count them- eighteen rooms & six baths. It is of Spanish architecture built around a patio in which are many flowers and shrubs. The hill comprises some fifteen acres set out in flowers, shrubs and trees. I think there are some two thousand trees of several hundred varieties- many of which were brought from Asia and Africa.
Half a mile up the canyon are the foreman’s house, bunk houses, barns, corrals, etc. I acquired five hundred head of pure bred Angora (mohair) goats, five horses, a cow, forty hens and a bum dog, beside farm implements and $8000.00 worth of iron and concrete piping. There is an abundance of water and I almost forgot a 12 acre grove of olive, lemon, apricot & orange trees, besides 250 English walnut trees.
In addition, during prohibition, the estate came with a fully stocked cellar of the finest liquors and wines.
ERB kept telling Weston Tarzana had drawbacks while Weston kept repeating incredulously: What drawbacks?
Within weeks of purchasing this Garden of Eden developers arrived at his door wishing to develop the City of Tarzana for him.
All the elements of prosperity were there for him. He had five producing orchards plus a large herd of Angora goats. Both the orchards and the goats should have been able to produce a substantial income if managed wisely. Not only was Tarzana a bargain but it should have been nearly self-supporting from day one not including being able to relax with a bottle of old vintage wine at day’s end.
Within two years of Tarzana’s purchase ERB was on the verge of bankruptcy deep into schemes to develop country clubs and sub-divisions in an effort to raise cash. Perhaps such efforts were merely schemes to display his business talents. If so they were nearly as ill-advised as his attempt to commercially raise hogs.
In his attempt to be high brow ERB seems to have been highly influenced by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Beautiful And Damned. The choice of the model is interesting. ERB’s first role model, Jack London, had died in 1916; his second, Booth Tarkington was still going strong strong winning Pulitzer Prizes in fact, one for ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’ and another for ‘Alice Adams.’ But Tarkington’s mindset belonged to the earlier era. After the sea change of the Bolshevik Revolution and the end of the War a new mood characterized society. The Flappers, the Roaring Twenties and the New Era were coming into prominence.
I find this interesting. ERB picked up on the change immediately attempting to adjust his writing to the New Era. His earlier ‘The Girl From Hollywood’ can also be seen in that light. ERB also honed in on the writer who epitomized the era. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel ‘This Side Of Paradise’ appeared in 1920. The Beautiful And Damned was published in 1922. A short two years later then ERB had recognized that Fitzgerald represented the new direction, bought his book soon after issue and immediately incorporated the book into his work. Between 1922 and ’24 then ERB had recognized that Fitzgerald represented the new direction. Remarkably, rather than condemning the new or rejecting it he readily accepted it trying to emulate it in Marcia. I don’t know about you but I admire that.
If ‘The Girl From Hollywood’ was a hybrid attempt in 1922, in 1923 ‘Marcia’ was conceived and delivered on the new model a year later. Of course ERB was still ERB but ‘Marcia’ is very interesting.
One can’t say for certain how Burroughs saw the progression of his writing career but by 1924 he was no longer stunning the world with creations like John Carter of Mars or Tarzan Of The Apes but was a more predictable quantity. After all, how could anyone actually know what the future held so he was trying to carve a new niche. Originally his puplisher McClurg’s wanted only to publish the Tarzan series, reluctantly beginning to publish the Mars series late in the second decade, so that none other of Burroughs huge output of the teens found its way to book form until the twenties. McClurg’s grudgingly put them in print, then sneeringly sold the plates to him as worthless toward the end of the decade as if to say, we told you so.
As publishers they may have evaluated the other titles as too rough for publication which opinion has some merit. Perhaps without movie revenues to flesh out his income during this period ERB put a lot of pressure on McClurg’s to publish the stuff in a desperate attempt to boost his income. That could explain some of the developing friction between the two.
Of all the titles published in the twenties ‘Marcia’ wasn’t one of them. The book didn’t see print until 1999 when Donald M. Grant took the risk. I find the book fairly interesting;, as a Bibliophile I could do no other, and while not a great novel I think that as a Burroughs title it would have made money without damaging his reputation. There is a great deal to it. I like ‘Out There Somewhere’ and ‘Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid’ better but I might give ‘Marcia’ the edge over ‘The Mucker.’ In fact, I would. I didn’t think ‘The Mucker’ was among ERB’s best.
Compounding Burroughs’ publishing problems was the fact that he was impetuous in his reaction to the Bolshevik Revolution rushing the condemnatory ‘Under The Red Flag’ to publishers. The novel, or possibly tract, was universally rejected. As originally written the story may have been a polemic which was not suitable for the magazines to which he submitted it. The story may have been too shrill in any event.
As if by magic the Red/Liberal faction appeared from nowhere to dominate publishing, the arts, education, religion and innumerable little rivulets of society. All of a sudden the previously dominant Republican administrations that had been so solidly entrenched since the Civil War was in a minority. They were able to hang on through the Harding, Coolidge and Hoover administrations but then their ideology was completely overturned by the twenty years of treason of the FDR-Truman administrations.
Thus Burroughs identified himself with the minority counterrevoltionary party. Already ridiculed by the publishing world he would find it increasingly difficult to publish over the next two decades. He would be under constant attack both at home and abroad. As he owned the magnificent intellectual property of Tarzan- and really, all his other work pales beside the Big Bwana- he couldn’t be completely disposed of although it should not be forgotten that as the decade of the twenties closed he turned to self-publication. This may have been from greed as he publicly said but it should be remembered that a few blackballed writers like Upton Sinclair who were denied publication through the regular channels also turned to self-publication about the same time.
ERB’s novels of the early twenties apart from the Tarzan and Mars series were 1922’s ‘The Girl From Hollywood and 1923’s ‘The Bandit From Hell’s Bend.’ He complained that ‘The Girl From Hollywood’ was sabotaged, taken off the market, that it was selling well and could have sold better which is undoubtedly true. The novel while not great, is on a par with Harry Leon Wilson’s ‘Merton Of The Movies’ or the Graham Bros. ‘Queer People.’
All three novels were early examples of the Hollywood novel at the time TInseltown was in its infancy and did not yet glory in its immorality. The movies were assuming a central place in American culture. Novel and novel of the times makes reference to the movies or Hollywood. The Grahams’ ‘Queer People’ was a completely negative vision of the movie capitol and is still worth reading. The Queer in the title does not refer to homosexuality but to strange and weird such as Weston referred to ERB. The novel was the Grahams’ way of saying sayonara, as they were run out of town after the book was published. There’s a tribute for ya.
ERB’s ‘The Girl From Hollywood’ falls in between ‘Merton’ and ‘Queer People.’ ERB’s book may have displeased the moguls but because of his standing he couldn’t be run out of town. It is possible they were the people who were interfering with the publication of ‘Girl’ behind the scenes forcing its discontinuation. The filming of Tarzan movies did end about the time of ‘Girl’s’ publication. The hiatus in Tarzan films may have been a result as a punishment. The second half of ‘Marcia’ which is also a Hollywood story is all sweetness and compliments to the film industry so probably ERB was trying to make amends.
His ‘Bandit From Hell’s Bend’ was the first of his two Westerns. As Westerns go it is a good book. Set in Arizona ERB was writing about country he knew. Contrary to his protestations that he wrote as well or better of places he had only imagined rather than seen he writes better of the seen. You can’t take public statements at face value.
Then in 1924 he took up his pen to write ‘Marcia Of The Doorstep.’ This may have been an attempt to write a blockbuster that would alleviate his financial distress. Also he tired of being called a low brow and a hack writer. He put his heart and soul into the book but he was never able to sell it. The book was rejected by every publisher until he finally gave up. Once again, he was possibly denied publication as a punishment.
Is it any good? Well, it’s characteristically Edgar Rice Burroughs. He manages to compress what should have been the final two hundred pages into fifty. Still, while perhaps not great literature, after you’ve read a number of novels of the era I don’t think it compares unfavorably. I think the book could have been published profitably which in business is all that counts. If the public liked ‘The Girl From Hollywood’, ‘Marcia’ should have sold OK. As it is it’s historically valuable.
I don’t regret having read it once nor as a Burroughs scholar do I regret having read it four times. It does improve with each reading. Being no fan of Scott Fitzgerald I don’t consider it much inferior to ‘The Beautiful and Damned’ on which the main frame of Marcia is based.
In discussing ‘Marcia’ I would like to break the book down into components. The first is the cast of characters. ERB obviously intended the book to break him into the big slicks like Collier’s or the Saturday Evening Post. He had heard of fifty thousand dollar paydays to people like Zane Grey. The money would have been especially welcome in 1924. I think the book was good enough for those magazines myself but I wasn’t the editor.
In writing about the New York theatre and Hollywood it was inevitable that Jewish characters should have a central part. Both the New York stage and the Big Screen were controlled by that ethnic group. ‘Marcia’ has a fairly large cast of Jews. Abe Finkel and Max Heimer, both early bi-coastals. And there was Judge Berlanger the attorney from New York. Jews are also discussed by the characters Della Maxwell and the Sacketts. Della is especially caustic.
The immigrant scene was in a state of rapid transition. The dialect comedy had not yet disappeared although with the cessation of unrestricted immigration and the establishemnt of the ADL the type of story was in decline, however the dialect joke persisted into my boyhood when we were suddenliy forbidden to laugh. In 1955-56 my class was assigned reading from Leo C. Rosten’s ‘The Education Of Hyman Kaplan’ which is about a Jewish immigrant in night school. Rosten not only wrote this book as late as 1937 but he rather belatedly wrote a sequel ‘The Return Of Hyman Kaplan’ in 1959.
In ‘Marcia’ ERB makes mention of the Jewish comedy characters Potash and Perlmutter in relation to Finkel and Heimer as movie producers. Potash and Permutter was the creation of Montague Glass from 1909 to 1914. Glass ceased writing the stories in the latter year at the request of the AJC and ADL. The stories appeared in the Saturday Evening Post where ERB undoubtedly saw them. While no book exists in ERB’s library they were collected in a couple volumes of which I have obtained one. For whatever reason Samuel Goldwyn revived the characters for the movies in 1923, 1924 and subsequently.
The first was titled ‘Postash And Perlmutter.’ The second was ‘In Hollywood With Potash And Perlmutter.’ It was undoubtedly this last film that inspired ERB to bring his character Abe Finkel out from New York and unite him with Max Heimer as movie producers. He either reviewed the dialogue in Glass’ stories or remembered it.
ERB grew up with dialect comedy as the immigrants integrated themselves into American society. He would have been familiar with many stage dialect acts including many Jewish ones. The stage was full of plays like ‘Abie’s Irish Rose’ and ‘Potash And Perlmutter.’
These times of his youth were when immigrants were especially greenish. They spoke with accents and characteristic phrasing. They couldn’t be accurately produced without replicating the accents. The great story of the period is that when an Italian push cart vendor was asked: You have no bananas? replied: Yes, we have no bananas today. The phrase was overheard, turned into a popular song and for some reason caught the fancy of America.
The Jews of the period had their verbal mannerisms and ERB copied them in the character of Max Heimer, a shyster lawyer. He is careful to designate Max as ‘Jews of this type.’ His other Jewish lawyer, Judge Isaac ‘Ike’ Berlanger, is meant to balance the Jewish characterization as he is the epitome of respectability speaking perfect English. But balance isn’t the issue.
The anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith had been organized in 1913. The organization then began to censor the media to remove any comment tthat could possibly be considered derogatory to Jews. It is not improbable that Montague Glass stopped writing the ‘Potash And Permutter’ stories at the request of the ADL. He thereafter concentrated on other ethnic groups.
It seems remarkable that ten years later Goldwyn revived the stage play for his movie. As Janis Garza in the NYTimes review comments:
In 1923 he (Goldwyn) decided to make a film of the play (also written by Glass and Charles Klein), which went against the preference of most moguls of the day- they shunned anything Jewish, although most of them were Jewish themselves. The ethnic comedy was Goldwyn’s first as an independent producer.
The moguls didn’t so much as shun Jewish subjects as that the ADL was closely monitoring their activities. Perhaps Goldwyn bucked the ADL because in his insecurity as an independent producer he felt such Jewish self-deprecation would be well received by the gentiles and his own people. If so, he was right.
Is it to be wondered then that ERB probably thought he was on safe ground in his own comic characterization since he was only doing what Jews were doing? After all the immigrant culture in this diverse, multi-cultural paradise was as much his as it was theirs. What does multi-culturalism mean if the cultures can’t be shared by everyone? Exclusivity is not the way.
Still, as I said, balance isn’t the issue. One was supposed to depict jews only of the Berlanger type. So I’m sure one of the principal reasons the book wasn’t published was the character of Max Heimer and his partner Abe Finkel.
At this time the concept of the Melting Pot, which itself was a Jewish invention, was still the immigration ideal although the vision had been all but shattered for the Old Stock side by the Great War. The period through at least 1925 was that of 110% Americanism as a reaction to perceived immigrant disloyalty during the war and since the Bolshevik Revolution. The period also saw the flourishing of the second Ku Klux Klan which was nearing its apogee at this time. Great pressure was being put on immigrants to be ‘American.’
The Jewish battle with Henry Ford had not yet been settled so I imagine Max Heimer drew some unwanted attention to Burroughs.
The beginnings of the concept of the Diversity were taking form in a shift away from the concept of the Melting Pot. Elements of the immigrants who didn’t wish to merge their ethnic identity in a Melting Pot fought back to impose their ethnicity on the old stock, which, after all was only to be expected.
The leaders of the movement were the Jews and Italians both of which the old stock had always feared were unassimilable. Their fears were justified as neither group have been assimilated to this day. Witness the Sopranos.
If one is to have a concept of diversity then perforce each element must have a character of its own; they must be different to a degree that is obvious. If no one is different then there is no diversity. Ergo- don’t you think? Therefore it would be wrong not to depict these differences. Well, it is. Except in the movies for some reason.
At this particular time the Jews were especially sensitive. Hollywood, as Neal Gabler said, was an empire of the Jew’s own. All the important studios were under Jewish ownership. The American Jewish Committee, the B’nai B’rith and its terrorist unit the anti-Defamation League patrolled the corridors of publishers and studios to prevent anything they didn’t want published or filmed. I think ERB’s portrayal of the shyster lawyer Max Heimer fell within the prohibition.
That ERB was innocent of any attempt to defame Jews, or anyone else for that matter, was irrelevant. However in response to accusations his portrayal of the worthy Jewish gentleman in his ‘Moon Maid’ may have been an attempt to conciliate the AJC and ADL.
ERB had previously been contacted by the AJC on May 10, 1919. (See Hillman-Burroughs Bio Timeline 1910-1919). The American Jewish Committee is a killer watchdog outfit operating in conjunction with the ADL. The latter was six years old in 1919. The AJC thirteen. The ADL was already disliked and feared as the Jewish enforcer. The AJC isn’t particularly well known. My aunt who has been active in all kinds of Jewish protests hadn’t even heard of it when I mentioned the agency to her so I’m surprised the AJC itself contacted Burroughs rather than the ADL. I wonder why.
The letter was not addressed to him in Tarzana but forwarded from his old address at 700 Linden in Oak Park, so the contact may have originated at the end of 1918 or the beginning of 1919. These two years would have been critical for the Jews who became very active in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution.
The letter requests (demands) that ERB sign a card endorsing a ‘Jewish Bill Of Rights.’ I’m a student of Jewish history but I had never heard of the Jewish Bill Of Rights before reading of it in the Timeline. The Jewish Bill Of Rights was an appeal to end the persecution of and discrimination against Jews. Now, in fact, this ‘request’ was a threat. If you did not sign and return it one must therefore be considered an ‘anti-Semite.’ As an anti-Semite one would need your own Bill Of Rights.
Apparently the AJC sent a copy of the Jewish Bill Of Rights for ERB to read which, according to Hillman and Danton Burroughs ERB did, in some detail. In his reply ERB was ambivalent enough to mark him as at least a latent anti-Semite who bore watching.
On May 21, 1919, fairly promptly, ERB replied that ‘he had always peen perplexed by the intolerance and inhumanity that all religions- Jews, Christians, Moslems, Pagans, etc.- had exhibited toward each other.’ This was not the appropriate response. First, he compared Jews to other religions as equals: secondly, he said that Jews also were guilty of intolerance and inhumanity and thirdly, ERB excludes himself from any religious category speaking down to them as some misguided souls of an inferior mentality. As one of a Scientific Consciousness ERB could do no other- he was above the Religious Consciousness, but his reply must have branded him as a latent or real anti-Semite. There is no freedom of conscience in the Religious Consciousness.
Let me repeat, the AJC is top Jewish watchdog. While the ADL whose director is perforce high profile as the Enforcer, no one is aware of who the director of the AJC is. That ERB was contacted, then, is significant. Either he wrote something the AJC objected to or possibly the agency was winnowing out writers in its postwar offensive. If the Jewish Bill Of Rights was sent to all writers then their replies would identify them as philo- or anti-Semites.
ERB then compounded his error by objecting to clause 6 of this Jewish Bill Of Rights. He found the clause unclear ‘as he always believed that every alien should be expected to read and write in the language of the country to which they were immigrating.’
Every ‘alien.’ Oops!
Without having read this Jewish Bill Of Rights, based on my studies, I opine what clause 6 probably meant was this: At that time, as now, the Jews were seeking complete autonomy in the US, as they had been in Czarist Russia. In 1918-19 they thought they had attained their goal in the Soviet Union. In Russia they had always wanted to make Yiddish an official second language on a par with Russian. This meant that the Russians would have to learn Yiddish. Eventually then Yiddish would displace Russian as the premier language. From Yiddish to Hebrew would then be a short leap. Sound far fetched? Consider, within a hundred years the Jews had wiped the name of Russia from the map. The country was then known as the Union Of The Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics. Not bad work, huh?
They also hoped to make Yiddish the official other language of the US, much as the Mexicans are working toward doing with their language today, which would eventually displace English to be replaced in turn by Hebrew. In the long run then Yiddish would become the lingua franca of the West eventually the whole world to be succeeded by Hebrew and the triumph of the Revolution. Not as difficult as it might look.
This may be what ERB refers to as being unclear to him. Once again, by questioning, even denying, Jewish goals he made himself a marked man. He had failed the AJC test. He would be carefully watched. Thus his characters of Max Heimer and Abe Finkel probably made his book unpublishable. (See my ERB and FLA Exit The Twenties on ERBzine). As he never tried to publish Marcia under his own imprint that would imply that he finally got the message. The message was forget ‘Marcia.’
As Max Heimer is the male protagonist, Della Maxwell is the female protagonist. She has an importance that might go unnoticed by the casual reader. Della is actually a finely drawn character integrated into the story in a meaningful way. Della represents the Chicago aspects of ERB’s origins. She was from Chicago although her antecedents aren’t clear.
A significant category of books in the library are Chicago novels. One that that isn’t there but which ERB may have read is Theodore Dreiser’s ‘Sister Carrie.’ In Dreiser’s novel Carrie was a young girl down from Wisconsin who was seduced by an older man named Hurstwood. They left Chicago for New York where he slowly disintegrated while Carrie became a star of of the stage.
Della not only had an illicit romance with a married man in Chicago but the fellow was a bigamist also marrying Della. So while Marcia was a doorstep child she was legitimate after a fashion. Della was only seventeen or eighteen when Marcia was born so she couldn’t have older than fifteen or sixteen when she began her relationship with her ‘husband.’ As Della was an experienced actress when she hit the Big Apple she must have been on the stage by at least fifteen at the time she was filling that long engagement in Chicago.
Learning that she was her husband’s second wife she left him going to NYC shortly before Marcia was born. Thus Burroughs duplicates the story of ‘Sister Carrie’ approximately which could be just a coincidence or he might be influenced by Dreiser here.
It doesn’t seem plausible that she could have known the Sacketts before as Burroughs indicates but she apparently did. Knowing them as the finest of the fine she left Marcia on their doorstep.
The next day she arrives as a long lost friend to take rooms with them. Thus while she never identifies herself as the baby’s mother she lives with and has a hand in rearing her child. While Max Heimer gets the story moving on the Animus side Della does the same from the Anima side.
Now, Della bears a great resemblance to a number of Burroughs’ other representations of his Anima figure. For instance, Maud the nursemaid of ‘The Outlaw Of Torn’ or Hetty Penning, the girl thrown from the car in ‘Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid among others who represent the failed Anima of Burroughs. It is not surprising then, that Della gives birth to the replacement Anima figure of Marcia and is around until Marcia is able to unite with the Animus figure Chase III. Della’s dying letter is responsible for removing the barrier to Marcia and Chase III’s marriage.
In terms of Burroughs’ psychology Della represents the Anima betrayed in his confrontation with john The Bully. Marcia then represents his new Anima (Barbara Harding, Gail Prim, Marcia to match John Chase I, II and III) born from the dishonor of his old Anima- in other words Marcia was born of an illicit romance between Della and a married man.
Marcus Aurelius Sackett as ERB then lives in his house with his wife Clara (Emma), Marcia Aurelia, named after himself, and therefor an integral part of his existence as his replacement Anima and his old failed Anima, Della Maxwell. An interesting solution to ERB’s problem.
This also brings up numerical problems. Marcia is explicitly said to have been left on the Sackett doorstep on 4/10/06. The numbers add up to twenty. Twenty is the age ERB’s Anima replacements have to be. Why isn’t clear. Thus Marcia won’t be twenty until 1926. On 4/6/27 when Marcia would have still been twenty ERB began his play ‘You Lucky Girl.’ The commencement of the play coincides with his meeting of Florence Gilbert so Marcia now twenty coincides with Florence who may very well have been intended as the ‘Lucky Girl.’
I don’t know the reason why but numbers in the corpus are significant.
Della is the equivalent of the golden hearted prostitute who first appears in ERB’s work in 1913-14’s ‘The Girl From Farris’s. Della is a hard case but with the good sense Sackett lacks. Psychologically this would be in keeping as, when John The Bully emasculated Burroughs making him a dependent personality he lost the ability to act in his own self-interest always deferring to the wishes of others at critical junctures.
Always the great good friend of the Sacketts Della saves the day from the grave for Marcia and Jack Chase III.
The story’s not bad although the execution may not be up to the highest standards of literary fiction which this story attempts to be. I’ve already given my opinion of Scott Fitzgerald’s influence and I might add that to Edith Wharton of ‘The House Of Mirth’, also in Burroughs’ library, was another signficant influence on Marcia.
The Sacketts while central figures in the book are passive. Things happen to them but they do little to make things happen. The couple is obviously based on ERB and Emma. ERB accurately portrays himself as an unrealistic, good hearted, bumbling wastrel without one shred of common sense. In the splitting of his personality common sense remained with his old Anima which was no longer of any use to him.
Clara Sackett is portrayed as his long suffering but devoted and loving wife. It is easy to imagine that her worries about financial matters were those of Emma herself. Beginning in 1913 when ERB first came into money the stuff had been water in his hands. He had literally gone through a million dollars from 1913 to the time this story was written and was actually deep in debt near bankruptcy. If ERB really wanted to be a businessman he should have gone to night school.
In the story when Mark Sackett receives the money from Chase I Clara is nearly beside herself in fear he will squander this very large sum. In fact the first thing Mark does is draw out some old blueprints for a yacht which he has been cherishing. Clara shudders when she comes upon him studying the plans. She is desperate because the couple is getting older and they have no other savings to fall back on.
Her worst fears are realized when Mark uses the money to organize a Shakespearean touring company. I think we can equate this with ERB’s purchase of the Otis Estate. However the tour is a great success but Sackett is cheated out of not only the earnings of the tour but his original twenty thousand dollars by Max Heimer who he had retained as his business manager. Thus stranded in LA, symbolically, the couple is again penniless.
This was precisely ERB and Emma’s own position in 1924 when Burroughs through his own mismanagement had all but lost Tarzana. I think, then, that Clara Sackett is a fairly accurate idea of how Burroughs perceived his wife.
As in real life the couple begins well but a long decline in their fortunes begins which leaves them destitute. Clara’s jewelry is gone. Pawned and lost just as Emma’s had been in the couple’s dark hour around 1910. The jewelry also figures importantly in ‘Tarzan The Untamed.’ Then Max Heimer extorts the twenty thousand dollars from Chase I which at least get the couple to LA.
Nineteen thirteen’s ‘The Mucker’ had been a low brow novel dealing with low brow themes in low brow millieux. Marcia, a decade later, psychologically light years later, is meant to rehabilitate ERB as a high brow. He has spent the last ten years trying to realize his ambition to be a prince. However as he wrote at the end of ‘The Mucker’, it takes more than one lifetime to travel from Grand Avenue to Riverside Drive. ERB wasn’t going to be allowed to make that journey in this lifetime.
Thus he makes Sackett, which is to say himself, a Shakespearean actor, the ultimate in high brow, of the old cultured school who abjures the low brow flicks. In Chicago Emma had acquainted Our Man with the stage which obviously completely entranced him. I don’t know for sure who ERB modeled Sackett on but in Marcia he trots out his knowledge of the stage by mentioning such stellar lights as Henry Irving, Forbes-Robertson, Julia Marlowe, E.H. Sothern and a few others. Wherever he acquired his knowledge of the stage, I haven’t been able to locate any such books in his library, either the books have been lost or he himself made use of the public library; no computers in those days. On the other hand they’re just names.
Of course, there is one other possible source, always overlooked, that source would be his wife Emma. As a voice student in Chicago Emma would have become steeped in the lore of the theatre. For instance while performing aboard ship Marcia sings ‘The Jewel Song’ from Faust followed by Gottschalk’s ‘The Girl I Loved.’ I could be wrong but personally I don’t believe ERB knew Gottschalk from Yellin. If he had ever heard ‘The Jewel Song’ from Faust it was from Emma’s lips. I will return to this topic in a moment but if this novel doesn’t betray an influence from Emma I don’t know what does.
Yet, again Burroughs amazes by the range of his knowledge. One should always bear in mind that nothing can come out of your brain that isn’t in it. Creativity doesn’t mean that you can invent knowledge, knowledge is the substance of creativity, thus ERB had to do some studying to be able to write this book as well as his others. He must also have had an excellent memory without which study is useless.
In addition to presenting the great names of the theatre ERB is allowed to present himself as a learned and cultured high brow fella. He has spent the last ten years attempting to shed himself of his post-confrontation origins, to return to his interrupted destiny as a prince.
You can feel his yearning for respectability, for an entrance into polite society or at least the pages of Collier’s or The Saturday Evening Post. Hollywood, the then unoffical porn capitol of the world, now officially, was no place to look for polite society but as there are affected people everywhere, it may have seemed so. As the publishers tossed ‘Marcia’ back in his face he wasn’t going to make any grand entrance into society as a result of this book.
After the rejection of ‘Marcia’ Burroughs would be allowed to write nothing but Tarzans and science fiction. Even though his two Apache novels were published in this decade his second Western, which is more than good enough for the genre, was rejected.
ERB was condemned to continue as a low brow writer.
In 1923-24 ERB was treading financial deep water as was Sackett not knowing whether he was going to sink or swim. The move to LA was becoming a financial disaster. His ill-advised plan of becoming a pig farmer was draining him of cash. The hiatus in the production of Tarzan movies meant that he was cut off from the easy movie money which made his intellectual property so valuable. During this period he had to rely exclusively on magazine sales and book royalties which were inadequate for his inflated life style.
As is common with artists who pursue the glamour rather than the substance and as usual with ERB he had spent his earnings as he had gotten them. As Hillman points out in his 1920 Timeline Burroughs incurred phenomenal expenses immediately after acquiring the Otis Estate which was also immediately renamed Tarzana as though ERB had been planning it a long time.
For the year 1920: Tarzana undergoes major renovations: central heating, a three car garage, servants rooms, workshop, a study that doubles as a home school room, a ballroom/movie theatre/playroom, projection booth, swimming pool, golf course, lion and monkey cages, riding trails, hen house, hog pen, dairy barn and horse stalls, maintenance etc.
And that doesn’t include three cars for the garage, his pedigreed grade Duroc Berkshire swine, horses and other live stock which consumed enormous amounts of money with no return as ERB knew little or nothing about farming or stock raising.
ERB went into this with the romantic notion of getting back to the land. Herb Weston warned him about the attitude advising him that if he himself were to go into farming he would run the farm as a factory with strict cost/return controls. One wonders whether ERB ripped out the fruit and nut orchards to make room for the golf course. I suspect so.
As was predictable by mid-year 1922 ERB was seeking a loan to cover his losses. He realized he lacked the know how and skills to run a profitable working farm so in January of 1923 as per Hillman’s Timeline he ‘…disposes of his livestock and farm equipment in an auction.’ It is also significant that a couple months later on March 2nd he incorporated himself as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. The move may have been for the economic reason of reducing taxes but perhaps an even more compelling reason was the defensive one of placing his most valuable assets beyond the reach of his creditors in case he had to declare bankruptcy. As all his copyrights and literary assets as well as the other properties of the corporation would be beyond the reach of his creditors.
The strategic move may also have prevented his creditors moving on him as what was left as assets was more trouble than it was worth. His creditors may have thought it better to let him try to dig himself out since the property would ultimately be theirs anyway than to incur the expense of disposing of the real property themselves.
However as Burroughs could no longer use the income accruing to the corporation the question is where did he get the money to retire his personal debts. You know, the problem really needs some explanation.
Burroughs was desperate for cash. Looking longingly across LA to Santa Fe Springs and Signal Hill with their spectacular oil strikes ERB attempted to find oil in Tarzana. Unfortunately there isn’t any in the San Fernando Valley.
It is to be noted that Chase III gets involved in oil schemes in ‘Marcia.’ This aspect of ERB’s finaglings should be examined more closely too.
In what I would call near desperation ERB came up with schemes for his El Caballero Country Club and subdividing Tarzana. He was renting sites on the ranch to movie companies for productions. This sort of income would have been separate from his salary as an employee of ERB, Inc. All such oil or real estate income could be applied to his personal debt.
Turning his home into a clubhouse necessitated his moving from the ranch to LA. By early 1925 he was forced to borrow $200,000.00 to stay afloat. Thus ERB could tailor John C. Fremont’s quip: ‘When I came to California I was penniless…now I owe two millions of dollars.’ to his own situation.
Incredibly ERB’s magnificent earnings of the last ten years of a million or so had been turned into a debt of 200,000 dollars. That’s some work; not everyone can get loans of that magnitude.
‘Marcia Of The Doorstep’ rather faithfully portrays this course of events. The Sacketts begin moderately prosperous sinking into some real povery when they are rescued by the virtual gift of Max Heimer. One can read that as his first income from novels. Sackett, like Burroughs, has little idea of the value of money. He spends it as fast as he gets it then loses everything. The Sacketts are dead broke.
Interestingly they learn of their impoverishment in San Francisco the town from which Billy Byrne was shanghaied. I am unfamiliar with ERB’s connection with Baghdad By The Bay. While Byrne went to sea the Sacketts find their way to LA. ERB talks of leaving the land of fog for the Sunny Southland so he must have had some experience with SF.
Sackett is too proud to go into movies so he exhausts his few resources being ultimately turned out of lodgings by his landlady in a fictionalized account of ERB’s actual situation in Tarzana.
Now arises a problem with Emma that probably contributed to ERB’s divorcing her. P. 222:
Marcus Aurelius Sackett found that three hundred dollars did not go very far in Los Angeles. Even a modest room was expensive and food was as high as in New York- also Marcus Aurelius Sackett had not yet learned the value of money. He never would. After he had invited several old friends to dine with them at the Montmartre Clara had taken what was left from him and put him on an allowance that was barely sufficient to cover cigars and carfare. It was the first time in their married life that Clara had taken the reins into her own hands; but as she told Marcus, she didn’t purpose being thrown on the charity of a strange city any sooner than was absolutely necessary.
After having watched her new husband gamble away their last forty dollars in 1904, gone through the first real money they had seen in 1913 and now watching their assets disappear in 1924 it appears that Emma took matters in hand to take control of finances from ERB.
While ERB was probably confident that the money would always come in they couldn’t have been sure of it nor guessed at the substantial amounts that would always be on the horizon. Are to this day. Besides giving money to ERB was like giving matches to a pyromaniac. The guy didn’t even put it in his pocket before he spent it. Also I’m not sure that Emma wasn’t entitled to a little more sayso than ERB allowed her.
Clara Sackett is portrayed by ERB as an inveterate reader of novels. She is always putting a novel down. He makes a point of indicating this. This was probably true of Emma also. So, let us assume that Emma had good literary sense. ERB always gave his stories to Emma to read before he submitted them. She was kept on the payroll after the divorce as a reader. Further, let us assume that an ERB manuscript looked something like ‘Tarzan And The Forbidden City’ which an uncharitable reviewer might say was a collection of notes. There is a noticeable decline in the quality of ERB’s writing after the divorce.
Now suppose that, while not actually taking a hand in the writing, Emma provided editorial skills to whip a manuscript into shape. Every writer can use a good editor and I suspect ERB more than most. Thus if Emma had provided editorial skills and services, I don’t say she rewrote anything, over the years she may have had more of a hand in ERB’s success than one thinks. Bear in mind I don’t say she did any of the writing or affected the imaginative quality of the stories, only that she was active possibly as a contributing editor.
So, Marcia is a highly fictionalized account of ERB’s exodus from Chicago and the four year debacle to 1925.
I think that if you squint your eyes and let your imagination view the story you will find a fairly accurate portrayal of ERB and Emma. Of course he left out the squabbles. Emma comes off extremely well. Perhaps ERB’s subconscious appreciation of the woman got the truth from him.
Within the context of Burroughs, ‘Marcia’ is really an incredible story. The amazing thing is that with all these financial worries ERB was able to not only continue to turn out his two books a year but to keep up on his reading. The library contains a large number of books that were purchased in these years and read.
Apparently the strain was great enough that ERB didn’t have time to maintain his correspondence with Herb Weston. From June 1919 to August 1926 there is a hiatus in the correspondence. Either Weston lost the letters or ERB was too stressed to write.
Central to the story are the Chases- John Hancock Chase I, II and III. The initials JC are the same as both John Carter and John Clayton. Here we have a total of five Johns so ERB’s fixation with John The Bully is given a positive twist. If ERB didn’t change his own name to John he gave it to his supreme heroes.
John Hancock Chase I as the name implies is of fine Old Stock. John Hancock was one of the preeminent heroes of the American Revolution who wrote his name large on the Declaration Of Independence so that King George could read it without his spectacles. Thus the Chases are connected with the Puritan founding fathers. He was also originally from the South, Baltimore, and lives in New York thereby uniting the country from New England and the Middle States to the South.
How old he is isn’t clear. He lost his wife in childbirth forty-six years previously which would have been c. 1875-76 depending on whether the story commences in 1922 or not. If he maried at thirty that would make him eighty-nine in 1922. Probably still had that old ramrod military bearing but definitely an Ancient Mariner. In 1924 he would have been 91. If one assumes he married young at twenty make it 81 which is also plausible. An element of Chase I’s character may be that of George T., ERB’s father. He was born in 1833 so that if Chase I was born in 1833 he was eighty-nine. A little old but I’m betting on a birth date of 1833.
Still another source may be that fine old Southern gentleman portrayed by Thomas Dixon, Jr. in his novels. Chase I is from Maryland so that he is from the South living in New York City. That ERB does not make him a Virginian may mean he was not of the first water as was John Carter. Anent Carter, the Carter’s were in real life one of the first families of Virginia. However it is interesting that his antecedents cover the Puritans, the Cavaliers, and the middle colony of New York. Thus in a Dixonian sense he has reunited the country, ‘The Birth Of A Nation’, in the person of Chase I, healed all those Reconstruction wounds.
Another possible interpretation is that while ERB professed to love his father there was enough resentment to demote him to Maryland. As Baltimore appears frequently in the corpus while there is no indication that Burroughs visited the city its importance may be simply as the place Poe died. Burroughs would likely have been familiar with the poem ‘The Streets Of Baltimore’ commemorating Poe by the ever prolific Anon. The poem, by the way, can be found in the collection entitled ‘The Best Loved Poems Of The American People’ available since 1936.
Burroughs was probably familiar with most of the poems, athough perhaps not the book, as the poems are written mostly in the galloping rhythmic style of Kipling that ERB himself emulated. While Burroughs was influenced by novels and non-fiction one should never forget the cornpone verse and song lyrics he loved that may have had as much or more influence on him than anything else. He indirectly references many poems such as Will Carleton’s ‘Over The Hill To The Poor House.’ At about the time he was writing this book he was honored by a visit from ‘Uncle’ Walt Mason who wrote prose poems in the same galloping rhythm. He was apparently so infatuated with Mason’s stuff that he visited the writer at his home in Emporia, Kansas on his 1916 cross country trip. Thus poets like Mason and H.H. Knibbs, who he also made a point of looking up- Robert W. Service, Kipling and others may have been as influential on his development, or moreso, than writers like London or Tarkington even. He could have looked up Zane Grey who had a place in Pasadena but he never did. I am convinced he would have looked up London but for the latter’s untimely death.
In ‘Marcia’ he names the captain of the Lady X ‘Danny’ Dever after Kipling’s poem of the same name. It is quite possible that many of his characters can be traced back to well known poems or those that are obscure or forgotten. Verse was everywhere in thos days from the pages of pulps to newspapers. ERB had a copy of Edgar A. Guest’s newspaper verse, which was syndicated, in his library so the guy obviously loved paperly verse. Eugene Field. Get yourself a copy of ‘The Best Loved Poems Of The American People’ and familiarize yourself with them.
The Boy stood on the burning deck,
Whence all but he had fled:
The flames that lit the battle’s wreck
Shone round over the dead.
Felicia Hemans- Casabianca
Think about it.
If Chase I was influenced by ERB’s father while being a Southern Gentleman from Maryland where did the Southern influence come from: Very popular at this time was Thomas Dixon, Jr. and his Reconstruction novels- The Leopard’s Spots, The Clansman and The Traitor. ERB had a copy of ‘The Traitor’ in his library, while it would seem likely he had read the first two volumes of the trilogy and certain that he had seen D.W. Griffith’s 1915 movie adaptation of the trilogy- The Birth Of A Nation.
A large part of the Southrons alive would have experienced Reconstruction and its Jim Crow aftermath. the victors hadn’t yet written the censored history of the period so opinion was as yet quite varied as ‘The Birth Of A Nation’ indicated.
Chase I resonates the fine old Southern Gentleman in Dixon’s novels. It is quite possible then that Burroughs has moved one of Dixon’s Southern gentlemen North to New York City. This may possibly have been meant to humanize the Northern industrial magnate of whom Dixon is as caustically critical as any Gustavus Myers. And on sounder grounds too.
Chase I may then have been a portrait of the type of father ERB would have liked to have had. Cultured, wealthy, kind and generous but stern.
Chase II, who as a married man, lives in his father’s house along with his young son, Chase III, gets into a problem with a woman that isn’t explained very well. Chase II at some celebration drank so much that he blacked out for nine hours. Max Heimer somehow picked him up in this drunken condition taking him to his own apartment. Heimer had apparently been living with the woman Mame Myerz for several years. Although she later states that she wasn’t home that night Heimer concocts a scheme in which she was supposed to have conceived a child by Chase II. Nine months later Heimer returns to begin blackmailing Chase II. Unable to bear the shame Chase II shoots himself.
Obviously Mame Myerz is Jewish. The correct spelling of her name must have been Meyers or Meiers but perhaps ERB didn’t have the courage to make both her and Heimer clearly Jewish or perhaps she changed the spelling of her name to avoid appearing Jewish as was commonly done.
Ever on the qui vive it is this story that Heimer exploits sixteen years later when he learns Marcia was left with the Sacketts on about the same date, 4/10/06. If you note, those numbers add up to 20. Pretty Freudian, huh?
Chase II then, represents ERB’s failed Animus on the street corner with John the Bully while Mame Myerz blends with Della Maxwell as the failed Anima. Burroughs despises his failed Anima but as part of himself he can’t hate it. His Anima representations always start out as ‘bad’ girls but he then rehabilitates them. Perhaps by separating out Mame Myerz from Della Maxwell he can vent his hatred twice removed.
Chase III born of his failed Animus represents ERB as he would like to have been. Tall, clean limbed, clean living, thoroughly clean. The emphasis on clean is probably because John The Bully besmirched ERB’s Animus making him feel dirty as did Norman in ‘The Outlaw Of Torn.’ Rather than making Chase III an Army officer, for some reason ERB makes him a Naval officer. However, stationed in Hawaii. The Islands were becoming a fixation of Burroughs probably influenced by Jack London’s stories of the Islands. The Islands will figure importantly in ERB’s later life. All roads are trending toward Hawaii.
Thus, Marcia, his Anima replacement and Chase III, his new Animus, meet in paradise on the waters of his subconscious. Marcia first sees Chase III rising from the waters, as it were, as he climbs over the side of the yacht. I asume the yacht is anchored in Pearl Harbor although ERB makes it appear to be on the open ocean. Chase III then takes Marcia to the land for her first time. Thus ERB and Florence honeymooned in Hawaii while they later lived on the Honolulu side of Pearl. There is an interesting passage in Marcia on pp. 237-8 where the sailor Crumcrow, the name indicates his worthlessness, soliloquizes as he spies on the pirate camp:
“That Bledgo…Say, that guy’s the toughest nut I ever seen. Talk about hard boiled! Gee! Hard boiled is soft alongside o’ him. I wonder what he’d say if I walked in there right now. Probably knock my block clean off. Wisht I’d kept my bazoo shut. They’re havin’ a good time there an’ we ain’t never had a good time in our camp- nothing but watch and work. I’m sick o’ work. that guy Chase gives me a pain. Nothin’ but work and watch, an’ you can’t kick ’cause the damn boob does it himself. I’d like to be an officer. You’d bet your pants I’d not work or watch either. What do I have to work for him for? I ain’t in the army no more. And say, wouldn’t it give you a swift pain the way I say ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir’ him an’ salute him. Every time I see that guy’s mug I snap to attention. Gee! It makes me sick. I don’t know what makes me do it, and he hit me once, too, knocked me coo-coo- the dirty —–.”
That’s a quick encapsulation of ERB’s life between John The Bully and his brief army career. Bledgo here represents John The Bully beside whom a hard boiled egg is soft. Forty years later the memory of his confrontations with John is as green as the day it happened. And rightly so, John changed his life.
ERB also changed the status of his own life when he entered the Army forsaking his chance to be an officer. Thus Chase III represents ERB as he would like to have been who orders the shadow of his former self around. ‘You used to be in the army?’ Chase asked Crumcrow.
Crumcrow then deserts to John/Bledgo’s side passing out of ERB’s life, hopefully.
By 1924 ERB was rebooting his life and able to see his earlier character from a distance.
ERB put a lot of loving care into the creation of Marcia. Late in the book he actually describes her as Cinderella. That fairy tale figure began life well but was dispossessed being turned into a servant girl who swept the ashes from the fire. Her innate role of a princess was discovered by the Prince because of her unique foot which retored her to her true position. Something like the unique birthmark that identifies the real Prince.
As ERB’s Anima figure there can be no doubt that ERB is recapitulating his own history. He makes Marcia impossibly sweet and beautiful but then novels are filled with these sweet and beautiful women who are so difficult to find in real life.
Everyone loves Marcia while she fits in everywhere, perhaps as ERB wished he did. Only sixteen when she is adopted by the Ashley’s, grown men like Banks von Spiddle and Chase III fall head over heels in love with her. Although she came from an impoverished stage actors background she is able to adapt to high society manners in a trice and without any glitches, unlike Billy Byrnes. Born to the manner and manor as they say. The Ashleys invite her to take a trip with them on their yacht where it seems as a tyro sixteen year old she might be slightly out of place. Marcia however has the social aplomb and sophisticated patter of a woman much older than herself.
As with Billy Byrne and Barbara Harding, Marcia and Chase III are marooned on a desert island. Chase III and Harding change places while Marcia assumes in her relationship to Chase III that of Byrne to Barbara.
The Samurai are replaced by Bledgo and the IWW malcontents. Bledgo is the shadow of John the Bully who continues to haunt ERB’s imagination. He is knocked unconscious as Marcia and Chase III try to evade him. His end is unknown as it is not known whether he sailed with the pirate crew or not nor is it any concern. Thus ERB hopefully disposes of the hateful memory of John and his former self in the shape of Crumcrow; maybe he has exorcised their files from his memory banks. He hopes so.
ERB’s Anima an Animus are reunited climbing the slopes of the mountain spiritually cleansed by the torrential driving rain. The rain storm of course remains a symbol for sexual passion. This is terrific stuff; ERB has his moments.
Across the crest they are reunited with the society people from whom they had been separated by John the Bully, symbolically represented by their taking different boats during the disaster at sea. The people of his former existence had landed on the other side of the island.
Marcia’s seeming happiness is delayed when in Manila she receives Berlanger’s letter advising her that she and Chase III are brother and sister.
Fleeing her lover on the eve of their reunion/wedding she takes ship to California on which is a movie director who…
But I will save that for the play by play description of the book in Part V.
The essentials of her role have been dealt with.
The writing of Marcia was a virtual financial disaster for ERB. He had taken a whole year to write it while the fifty thousand that he hoped to receive never materialized. The year returned nothing to him at this very critical juncture in his finances. The experiment was so costly he never tried it again.
In 1066 and succeeding centuries the Norman conquerors enslaved the Anglo-Saxons of East Anglia which was an affront deeply resented. Take a lesson.
In the sixteenth century when the printed Old Testament became universally available the East Anglians identified with the enslaved Hebrews of Exodus. They elected themselves as a Chosen People and developed the compensatory Utopian attitude of inherent virtue as a Chosen People of God.
In the seventeenth century New England (Anglia) was settled by emigrants from East Anglia. Not just English but East Anglians. Virginia was settled by descendents of the Norman conquerors of 1066. The Virginians once again chose slavery as their method of labor. First indentured White people then Africans.
While Utopian ideals developed in New England the abolitionist movement began which resulted in the Civil War/War Between The States, war between regions or actually war between ideologies. There was no chance the South was going to discontinue slavery anytime soon no matter what anyone says.
In revenge for 1066 the Cavaliers (Whites) of the South were absolutely crushed giving up all rights by surrendering unconditionally.
The nascent Liberal Party of Puritans elevated the Africans over the Cavaliers thus establishing a protectorate over the ‘victims’ which is characteristic of the faith while establishing their power over dissident Whites. Thus the Liberals ultimately aligned themselves with all colored revolutionary movements in the world against White European conquerors.
Within the United States they viewed immigrants as ‘victims’ of the Old Stock pathologizing the Old Stock as ‘bigots’ no better than Cavaliers of the Old South. All opponents to their Liberal religious ideology which included the intellectual mindset of Science thus became wrong headed vile ‘bigots’ who had no right to live. After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 the utopian Communist ideology became their politics; call it Socialism it all comes out the same.
As Edgar Rice Burroughs was not a Liberal, not a Communist and not religious but Scientific he unwittingly placed himself in opposition to the Liberal Coalition. On that basis a serious attempt was made to abort his career while subsequently an attempt to erase his name and work from history is being conducted.
Thus the twenties ushered in a new changed era fraught with new adjustments which were misunderstood or not understood at all. Burroughs’ career after 1920 has to be seen in the light of this concealed antagonism that he had to counter without being clear as to the causes.
Part V of The Mucker and Marcia Of The Doorstep follows in another post.
The Low Brow And The High Brow
An In Depth Study Of Edgar Rice Burroughs’
The Mucker And Marcia Of The Doortstep
Background Of The Second Decade- Personal
Erwin Porges’ ground breaking biography Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Invented Tarzan is the basic source for the course of ERB’s life. John Taliaferro’s Tarzan Forever is heavily indebted to Porges adding little new. Robert Fenton’s excellent The Big Swinger is a brilliant extrapolation of Burroughs’ life taken from the evidence of the Tarzan series.
Porges, the first to pore though the unorganized Tarzana archives, is limited by the inadequacies of his method and his deference for his subject. His is an ideal Burroughs rather than a flesh and blood one. Matt Cohen’s Brother Men: The Correspondene Of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Herbert T. Weston has provided much fresh material concerning ERB’s character.
Bearing in mind always that Weston’s evaluation of Burroughs in his August 1934 letter in reply to Charles Rosenberg, whoever he was, about ERB’s divorce is one man’s opinion nevertheless his statements can be corroborated by ERB’s behavior over this decade as well as throughout his life. My intent is not to diminish ERB in any way. Nothing can take away the fact that Burroughs created Tarezan, but like anyone else he was subjected to glacial pressures that distorted and metamorphosed his character.
During the Second Decade as he experienced a realization of who he was, or who he had always thought he should be, or in other words as he evolved back from a pauper to a prince, he was subjected to excruciatingly difficult changes.
A key to his character in this period is his relationship to his marriage. It seems clear that he probably would never have married, stringing Emma along until she entered spinsterhood while never marrying her. He seemingly married her to keep her away from Frank Martin. As he later said of Tarzan, the ape man should never have married.
Rosenberg in his letter to Weston (p.234, Brother Men) said that ‘…Ed says he has always wanted to get rid of Emma….’ The evidence seems to indicate this. After ERB lost Emma’s confidence in Idaho, gambling away the couple’s only financial resources, his marriage must have become extremely abhorrent to him. I’m sure that after the humiliations of Salt Lake City this marriage had ended for him in his mind. That it was his own fault changes nothing. He may simply have transferred his self-loathing to Emma.
That Emma loved and stood by Burroughs is evident. that he was unable to regain her confidence is clear from his writing. The final Tarzan novels of the decade in one of which, Tarzan The Untamed, Burroughs burns Jane into a charred mess identifiable only by her jewelry show a developing breach. Probably the jewelry was that which ERB hocked as the first decade of the century turned. Now, this is a fairly violent reaction.
ERB states that he walked out on Emma several times over the years. In Fenton’s extrapolation of Burroughs’ life from his Tarzan novels this period was undoubtedly one of those times. There seems to have been a reconciliation attempt between Tarzan and Jane between Tarzan The Untamed and Tarzan The Terrible. Then between Tarzan And The Golden Lion and Tarzan And The Ant Men ERB’s attempt to regain Emma’s confidence seems to have failed as Jane chooses the clown Tarzan- Esteban Miranda-, one of my favorite characters- over the heroic Tarzan -ERB – in Tarzan And The Ant Men.
This undoubtedly began ERB’s search for a Flapper wife which took form in the person of Florence Gilbert beginning in 1927.
Weston says of ERB in his disappointment and rage over ERB’s divorce of Emma that ‘…the fact that Ed always has been unusual, erratic and perhaps queer, has been his great charm and attraction for me…’ (p.223, Brother Men) There’s a remote possibility that ‘queer’ may mean homosexual but I suppose he means ‘odd’ or imcomprehensible in his actions. The evidence for this aspect of ERB’s character is overwhelming while being well evidenced by his strange, spectacular and wonderful antics during the second decade. When Weston says of him that ‘…there is no woman on earth that would have lived with him, and put up with him, except Emma…’ there is plenty of reason to accept Weston’s opinion.
Part of ERB’s glacial overburden came from his father, George T. who died on February 13, 1913. Burroughs always professed great love for his father, celebrating his birthday every year of his life, although one wonders why.
Apparently George T. broadcast to the world that he thought ERB was ‘no good.’ His opinion could have been no secret to Burroughs. Weston who says that he always maintained cordial relations with George T., still thought him a difficult man, always dropping in to visit him on trips through Chicago said that George T. complained to him, ERB’s best friend, that his son was no good. While without disagreeing with George T. up to that point, Weston said that he thought there was plenty of good in ERB but that he just hadn’t shown it yet. Kind of a back handed compliment, reminds me of Clarence Darrow’s defense of Big Bill Haywood: Yeah, he did it, but who wouldn’t?’
Such an opinion held by one’s father is sure to have a scarring effect on one’s character. How exactly the effect of this scarring worked itself out during this decade isn’t clear to me. Perhaps Burroughs’ mid year flight to California shortly after his father’s death was ERB’s attempt to escape his father’s influence. Perhaps his 1916 flight was the same while his move to California in 1919 was the culmination of his distancing himself from his father. That is mere conjecture at this point.
Now, what appears erratic from outside follows an inner logic in the subject’s mind unifying his actions. What’s important to the subject is not what obsevers think should be important.
The scholars of the Burroughs Bulletin, ERBzine and ERBList have also added much with additional niggardly releases of material by Danton Burroughs at the Tarzana archives. One of the more valuable additions to our knowledge has been Bill Hillman’s monumental compilation of the books in ERB’s library.
Let’s take a look at the library. It was important to ERB; a key to his identity. Books do furnish a mind, as has been said, so in that light in examining his library we examine the furnishing of his mind. The shelves formed an important backdrop to his office with his desk squarely in front of the shelves. ERB is seated proudly at the desk with his books behind him.
How much of the library survived and how much was lost isn’t known at this time. Hillman lists over a thousand titles. Not that many, really. The library seems to be a working library. There are no the long rows of matching sets by standard authors. The evidence is that Burroughs actually read each and every one of these books. They found their way into the pages of his books in one fictionalized form or another. Oddly authors who we know influenced him greatly like London, Wells, Haggard and Doyle are not represented.
Most of the works of these authors were released before 1911 when Burroughs was short of the ready. Unless those books were lost he never filled in his favorites of those years. That strikes me as a little odd.
It is generally assumed that he picked up his Martian information from Lowell, yet in Skelton Men Of Jupiter he says: ‘…I believed with Flammarion that Mars was habitable and inhabited; then a newer and more reputable school of scientists convinced me it was neither….’ The statement shows that Camille Flammarion’s nineteenth century book was the basis for Burroughs’ vision of Mars while Lowell was not. Further having committed himself to Flammarion’s vision he was compelled to stick to it after he had been convinced otherwise. When that understanding was obtained by him we don’t know but at sometime he realized that the early Martian stories were based on a false premiss.
Thus, his Mars became a true fiction when his restless, searching mind was compelled by judicious reasoning of new material to alter his opinion. That he could change his mind so late in life is an important fact. It means that behind his fantasy was a knowledge of solid current fact. The results of his pen came from a superior mind. It was not the maundering of an illiterate but amusing boob.
Organizing the books of his library into a coherent pattern is difficult. I haven’t and I Imagine few if any have read all his list. Based on my preliminary examination certain patterns can be found. He appeared to follow the Chicago novel by whomever, Edna Ferber’s So Big is a case in point. Seemingly unrelated titles can be grouped aorund certain Burroughs’ titles as infuences.
In 1924 when Marcia Of The Doorstep was written ERB had already formed his intention of leaving, or getting rid, of Emma. He began a fascination with Flappers that would result in his liaison with Florence.
After the move to Hollywood in 1919 a number of sex and Flapper potboilers find their way into his library. The tenor of literature changed greatly after the War showing a sexual explicitness that was not there prior to the Big Event. To be sure the graphic descriptions of the sex act current in contemporary literature was not permissible but the yearning to do so was certainly there. Language was retrained but ‘damn’ began to replace ‘d–n’ and a daring goddamn became less a rarity.
Perhaps the vanguard of the change came in 1919 when an event of great literary and cultural import took place. Bernarr Macfadden whose health and fitness regimes had very likely influenced Burroughs during the first couple decades decided to publish a magazine called “True Story.” The magazine was the forerunner of the Romance pulp genre while certainly being in the van of what would become the Romance genre of current literature.
The advance was definitely low brow, not to say vulgar, indicating the direction of subsequent societal development including the lifting of pornographic censorship. Pornography followed from “True Store” as night follows day.
The magazine coincided with the emergence of the Flapper as the feminine ideal of the twenties. In literature this was abetted by the emergence in literary fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald. His Beautiful And Damned is a key volume in Burroughs’ library forming an essential part of Marcia. To my taste Fitzgerald is little more than a high quality pulp writer like Burroughs. I can’t see the fuss about him. He riminds me of Charles Jackson’s The Lost Weekend and vice versa. In fact, I think Jackson mined the Beautiful And Damned. Plagiarize would be too strong a word.
“True Story” caught on like a flash. By 1923 the magazine was selling 300,000 copies an issue; by 1926, 2,000,000. Low brow was on the way in. Vulgarity wouldn’t be too strong a word. Macfadden had added titles such as “True Romances” and “Dream World” to his stable. His magazine sales pushed him far ahead of the previous leader, Hearst Publications, and other publishers. Pulpdom had arrived in a big way.
Where Macfadden rushed in others were sure to follow. The sex thriller, the stories of willful and wayward women, which weren’t possible before, became a staple of the twenties in both books and movies.
ERB’s own The Girl From Hollywood published in magazine form in 1922, book form in 1923, might be considered his attempt at entering the genre. Perhaps if he had thrown in a few Flapper references and changed the appearance and character of his female leads he mgiht have created a seamless transition from the nineteenth century to the twenties. A few Flapper terms might have boomed his ales much as when Carl Perkins subsititued ‘Go, cat, go’ for go, man, go’ in his Blue Suede Shoes and made sonversts of all us fifties types.
Certainly ERB’s library shows a decided interest in the genre from 1920 to 1930. Whether the interest was purely professional, an attempt to keep up with times, or personal in the sense of his unhappiness in his marriage may be open to question. I would have to reread his production of these years with the New Woman in mind to seek a balance.
Still, during the period that led up to his affair with Forence ERB seems to have been an avid reader of Flapper and New Woman novels.
He had a number of novels by Elinor Glyn who was the model of the early sex romance. He had a copy of E.M. Hull’s The Sheik, that shortly became the movie starring Rudolph Valentine with its passionate sex scenes. A ‘Sheik’ became the male synonym for Elinor Glyn’s ‘It’ girl.
Of course, the influence of Warner Fabian’s Flaming youth of 1923, both book and movie, on ERB is quite obvious.
Just prior to this relationship with Florence he read a number of novels by Beatrice Burton with such sexy titles as The Flapper wife-The Story Of A Jazz Bride, Footloose, Her Man, Love Bound and Easy published from 1925 to 1930.
I would like to concentrate on Burton’s novels for a couple reasons; not least because of the number of her novels in ERB’s library but that when Burroughs sought publication for his low brow Tarzan in 1913-14 he was coldly rebuffed even after the success of his newspaper serializations. The disdain of the entire publishing industry was undoubtedly because Burroughs was the pioneer of a new form of literature. In its way the publication of Tarzan was the prototype on which Macfadden could base “True Story.” Not that he might not have done it anyway but the trail was already trampled down for him. In 1914 Burroughs violated all the canons of ‘polite’ or high brow literature.
A.L. Burt accepted Tarzan Of The Apes for mass market publication reluctantly and only after guarantees for indemnification against loss. Now at the time of Beatrice Burton’s low brow Romance genre novels, which were previously serialized in newspapers, Grosset and Dunlap sought out Burton’s stories publishing them in cheap editions without having been first published as full priced books much like Gold Seal in the fifties would publish paperback ‘originals’ which had never been in hard cover. Writers like Burton benefited from the pioneering efforts of Burroughs. G& D wasn’t going to be left behind again. Apparently by the mid-twenties profits were more important than cultural correctness.
As ERB had several Burton volumes in his library it might not hurt to give a thumbnail of who she was. needless to say I had never read or even heard of her before getting interested in Burroughs and his Flapper fixation. One must also believe that Elinor Glyn volumes in ERB’s library dating as early as 1902 were purchased in the twenites as I can’t believe ERB was reading this soft sort of thing as a young man. Turns out that our Man’s acumen was as usual sharp. Not that Burton’s novels are literary masterpieces but she has a following amongst those interested in the Romance genre. The novels have a crude literary vigor which are extremely focused and to the point. This is no frills story telling. The woman could pop them out at the rate or two or three a year too.
Her books are apparently sought after; fine firsts with dust jackets go for a hundred dollars or more. While that isn’t particularly high it is more than the casual reader wants to pay. Might be a good investment though. The copies I bought ran from fifteen to twenty dollars, which is high for what is usually filed in the nostalgia section. Love Bound was forty dollars. I bought the last but it was more than I wanted to pay just for research purposes.
There is little biographical information about Burton available. I have been able to piece together that she was born in 1894. No death date has been recorded as of postings to the internet so she must have been alive at the last posting which woud have made her a hundred at least.
She is also known as Beatrice Burton Morgan. She was an actress who signed a contract with David Belasco in 1909 which would have made her fifteen or sixteen. Her stage name may have been Beatrice Morgan. The New York Public Library has several contracts c. 1919 in her papers.
One conjectures that her stage and film career was going nowhere. In The Flapper Wife she disparages Ziegfeld as Ginfeld the producer of the famous follies.
Casting about for alternatives in the arts she very likely noticed the opening in sex novels created by Macfadden and the Roaring Twenties. The Flapper Wife seems to have been her first novel in 1925. The book may possibly have been in response to Warner Fabian/Samuel Hopkins Adams’ Flaming Youth.
As the motto for his book he had “those who know, don’t tell, those who tell, don’t know.’ The motto refers to the true state of mind of women. Burton seems to have taken up the challenge- knows all and tells all. Flapper Wife was an immediate popular success when taken from the newspapers by G&D. Critics don’t sign checks so while their opinion is noted it is irrelevant.
Burton apparently hit it big as the movies came afer her, Flapper Wife was made into a movie in 1925 entitled His Jazz Bride. Burton now had a place in Hollywood. Burroughs undoubtedly also saw the movie. What success Burton’s later life held awaits further research. As there is no record of her death on the internet it is safe to assume that when her copyrights were renewed in the fifties it was by herself.
There are a number of titles in the library having to do with the Flapper. The library, then gives a sense of direction to ERB’s mental changes. There are, of course, the Indian and Western volumes that prepared his way for novels in those genres. As always his off the top of his head style is backed by sound scholarship.
The uses of the various travel volumes, African and Southeast Asian titles are self-evident. I have already reviewed certain titles as they applied to Burroughs’ work; this essay involves more titles and I hope to relate other titles in the future. So the library can be a guide to Burroughs’ inner changes as he develops and matures over the years.
The amont of material available to interpret ERB’s life has expanded greatly since Porges’ groundbreaking biography. Much more work remains to be done.
The second decade is especially important for ERB’s mental changes as his first couple dozen stories were written beginnng in 1911. Moreso than most writers, and perhaps more obviously Burroughs work was autobiographical in method. As he put it in 1931’s Tarzan, The Invincible, he ‘highly fictionalized’ his details. For instance, the Great War exercised him greatly. From 1914 to the end of the War five published novels incorporate war details into the narrative: Mad King II, Beyond Thirty, Land That Time Forgot, Tarzan The Untamed, and Tarzan The Terrible as well as unpublished works like The Little Door. Yet I don’t think the extent that the War troubled him is recognized. The man was a serious political writer.
Thus between the known facts and his stories a fairly coherent life of Burroughs can be written. My essays here on the ERBzine can be arranged in chronological order to give a rough idea of what my finished biography will be like.
Burroughs was a complex man with a couple fixed ideas. One was his desire to be a successful businessman. This fixed obsession almost ruined him. He was essentially a self-obsessed artist and as such had no business skills although he squandered untold amounts of time and energy which might better have been applied to his art than in attempts to be a business success.
In many ways he was trying to justify his failure to be a business success by the time he was thirty rather than making the change to his new status as an artist.
As a successful artist he was presented with challenges that had nothing to do with his former life. These were all new challenges for which he had no experience to guide him while he was too impetuous to nsit down and thnk them out properly. Not all that many in his situation do. Between magazine sales, book publishing and the movies he really should have had a business manager as an intermdiary. Perhaps Emma might have been able to function in that capacity much as H.G. Well’s wife jane did for him. At any rate book and movie negotiations diverted time and energy from his true purpose of writing.
His attempt to single handedly run a five hundred plus acre farm and ranch while writing after leaving Chicago ended in a dismal failure. Even his later investments in an airplane engine and airport ended in a complete disaster. Thank god he didn’t get caught up in stock speculations of the twenties. As a businessman he was doomed to failure; he never became successful. It if hadn’t been for the movie adaptations of Tarzan he would have died flat broke.
Still his need was such that he apparently thought of his writing as a business even going so far as to rent office space and, at least in 1918, according to a letter to Weston, keeping hours from 9:00 to 5:30. Strikes me as strange. Damned if I would.
At the end of the decade he informed Weston that he intended to move to Los Angeles, abandon writing and, if he was serious, go into the commercial raising of swine. The incredulousness of Weston’s reply as he answered ERB’s questions on hog feed comes through the correspondence.
Think about it. Can one take such flakiness on ERB’s part seriously? Did he really think his income as a novice pig raiser would equal his success as a writer with an intellectual property like Tarzan? Weston certainly took him seriously and I think we must also. There was the element of the airhead about him.
A second major problem was his attitude toward his marriage and his relationship with Emma.
He appears to have been dissatisfied with both at the beginning and decade and ready to leave both at the end. According to the key letter of Weston ERB was an extremely difficult husbnad with whom Emma had to be patient. As Weston put it, no other woman would have put up with his antics. Unfortunately he doesn’t give details of those antics but the indications are that Emma was a long suffering wife.
ERB’s resentment of her apparently became an abiding hatred. Danton Burroughs released information about ERB’s third great romance with a woman named Dorothy Dahlberg during the war years of WWII through Robert Barrett the BB staff writer in issue #64.
After having been estranged from her husband for about a decade Emma died on 11-05-44, probably of a broken heart. ERB returned to Los Angeles from Hawaii to dispose of her effects. Arriving on 11/19/44 after visiting his daughter he met with Ralph Rothmund in Tarzana where he proceeded to get soused, apparently in celebration of Emma’s death.
To quote Barrett, p. 25, Burroughs Bulletin #64.
After Ed met with Ralph Rothmund, he opened a case of Scotch and took out a bottle after which he drove to Emma’s home in Bel-Air- where he and Jack “sampled” the Scotch a couple times.” From Bel-Air Jack drove Ed to the Oldknows, some friends also in Bel-Air, where they continued to sample the Scotch. After this visit Ed and Jack returned to Emma’s home at 10452 Bellagio Road, where Jack brought out a nearly full bottle of bourbon. Jack asked the maids to postpone dinner for 30 minutes, while they waited for Joan and Joan II. This evidently irritated the two maids as they both quit and walked out on them! Ed reported in his diary that after the two maids walked out, ‘we had a lovely dinner and a grand time.”
That sort of strikes me as dancing on the grave of Emma which indicates a deep hatred for her on the part of ERB. We are all familiar with the storyof ERB’s pouring the liquor in the swimming pool humiliating Emma in front of guests which she stood so Weston must have known what he was talking about.
There is a certain hypocrisy in Burroughs now getting blotto in celebration of Emma’s death. Between the two of them in the space of a couple hours ERB and his son, John Coleman, finished a fifth of Scotch and went ripping through a bottle of bourbon. I don’t know how rough and tough you are but that would put me under the pool table.
In this inebriated and hostile state they apparently had words with what I assume to have been Emma’s long time maids. Maids don’t walk out because you ask them to hold dinner for a few minutes. Being a maid is a job; they don’t respond that way to reasonable requests. So in his drunken state ERB must have been offensive about Emma or the maids causing their reaction.
Thus sitting totally soused in the ‘alcoholic’ Emma’s home they ‘had a lovely dinner and a grand time.’ The woman was both good to him and good for him but it isn’t incumbent on any man to see his best interests. There was a crtain dignity lacking in ERB’s behavior at this good woman’s death, not to mention the hypocrisy of getting thoroughly jazzed.
The decade also witnesses the unfolding of ERB’s psyche from the repressed state of 1910 to an expanded and partially liberated state at the end of the decade when he fled Chicago. Pyschologically ERB was always a dependent personality. He let his editors both magazine and book bully him and take advantage of his good will. He also needed a strong role model which is one reason his literary role models are so obvious.
From 1911 to 1916 he seemed to lean on Jack London as his role model. The problem with London is that we can’t be sure which of his books ERB read as he had none of his books in his library. It seems certain that he read London’s early Gold Rush books. ERB’s hobo information is probably based on London’s The Road and then he may possibly have read The Abyssmal Brute which is concerned with the results of the Jack Johnson-Jim Jeffries fight and a preliminary to The Valley Of The Moon.
It is difficult to understand how Burroughs could have read much during this decade what with his writing schedule and hectic life style. Yet we know for a fact that between 1913-15 he found time to read Edward Gibbon’s massive The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire.
At the same time additions to his library from this decade are rather sparse, the bulk of the library seems to have been purchased from 1920 on. Still, if one assumes that he read all the books of London including 1913’s Valley Of The Moon, then it is possible that his cross=country drive of 1916 may have been partially inspired by Billy and Saxon Roberts’ walking tour of Northern California and Southern Oregon in that book as well as on ERB’s hobo fixation. Certainly London must have been his main influence along with H.H. Knibbs and Robert W. Service. He may have wished to emulate London by owning a large ranch.
I suspect he meant to call on London in Sonoma during his 1916 stay in California but London died in the fall of that year which prevented the possible meeting. With the loss of London Burroughs had to find another role model which he did in Booth Tarkington. He does have a large number of Tarkington’s novels in his library, most of which were purchased in this decade. Tarkington was also closely associated with Harry Leon Wilson who also influenced ERB with a couple two or three novels in his library, not least of which is Wison’s Hollywood novel, Merton Of The Movies. Just as a point of interest Harry Leon Wilson was also a friend of Jack London.
ERB’s writing in the last years of the decade seems to be heavily influenced by Tarkington as in Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid, The Efficiency Expert and The Girl From Hollywood.
Burroughs was an avid reader and exceptionally well informed with a penetrating mind so that his ‘highly fictionalized’ writing which seems so casual and off hand is actually accurate beneath his fantastic use of his material. While he used speculations of Camille Flammarion and possibly Lowell on the nature of Mars he was so mentally agile that when better information appeared which made his previous speculations untenable he had no difficulty in adjusting to the new reality. Not everyone can do that.
I have already mentioned his attention to the ongoing friction between the US and Japan that appeared in the Samurai of Byrne’s Pacific island. In this connection Abner Perry of the Pellucidar series is probably named after Commodore Matthew Perry who opened Japan in 1853. After all Abner Perry does build the fleet that opened the Lural Az. Admiral Peary who reached the North Pole about this time is another possible influence. The identical pronunciation of both names would have serendipitous for Burroughs.
As no man writes in a vacuum, the political and social developments of his time had a profound influence on both himself and his writing.
The effects of unlimited and unrestricted immigration which had been decried by a small but vocal minority for some time came to fruition in the Second Decade as the Great War showed how fragile the assumed Americanization and loyalty of the immigrants was. The restriction of immigration from 1920 to 1924 must have been gratifying to Burroughs.
I have already indicated the profound reaction that Burroughs, London and White America in general had to the success of the Black Jack Johnson in the pursuit of the heavyweight crown. The clouded restoration of the crown through Jess Willard did little to alleviate the gloom. Combined with the sinking of the Ttitanic and the course of the suicidal Great War White confidence was irrevocably shaken.
Burroughs shared with London the apprehension that the old stock was losiing its place of preeminence to the immigrants. This fear woud find its place in Burroughs writing where he could from time to time make a nasty comment. His characterization of the Irish is consistently negative while his dislike of the Germans first conceived when he saw them as a young man marching through the streets of Chicago under the Red flag was intense. Their participation in the Haymarket Riot combined with the horrendous reports of German atrocities during the War reinforced his dislike almost to the point of fanaticism. While the post-war German reaction in his writing was too belated he had been given cause for misinterpretation.
Always politically conservative he was a devoted admirer of Teddy Roosevelt while equally detesting Woodrow Wilson who was President eight of the ten years of the Second Decade. When the Bolsheviks took over Russia in 1917 polarizing public opinion into the Right and Left ERB was definitely on the Right.
By the end of the decade the world he had known from 1875 to 1920 had completely disappeared buried by a world of scientific and technological advances as well and social and political changes that would have been unimaginable in his earlier life. The changes in sexual attitudes caused by among others Krafft-Ebbing, Havelock Ellis and Margaret Sanger would have been astounding.
The horse had been displaced by the auto. Planes were overhead. The movies already ruled over the stage, vaudeville and burlesque. Cities had displaced the country. The Jazz Age which was the antithesis of the manners and customs of 1875-1920 realized the new sexual mores so that the Flapper and Red Hot Mama displaced the demure Gibson Girl as the model of the New Woman.
When ERB moved from Chicago to LA in 1919 he, like Alice, virtually stepped through the looking glass into a world he never made and never imagined. A Stranger In A Strange Land not different in many ways from the Mars of his imagination.
Go to Part III- Background Of The Second Decade Social And Political
September 6, 2008
The Low Brow And The High Brow
And In Depth Study Of The Edgar Rice Burroughs Novels
The Mucker And Marcia Of The Doorstep
By the time Burroughs took up his pen to write at the age of 36 he had a lifetime of frustration and humiliation behind him. Born into an affluent family, their means had petered out by the time young Burroughs reached manhood. Thus he who had been born a prince had become a pauper. ERB felt this keenly. His problem became how to regain his position, his exalted destiny.
The most direct and possible approach was to become an officer in the Army. Burroughs closed that avenue early in life by botching his relationship with Colonel Rogers and Charles King of the Michigan Military Academ.
He began a promising career at Sears, Roebuck but he found success there would be of a very anonymous sort as the member of the team. Fearing to disappear into mercantile obscurity he aborted that career abruptly quitting his job with no prospects.
In what may have been one of the most important decisions of his career he joined up with a patent medicine manufacturer named Dr. Stace. This phase of his career has not been properly investigated. Reasoning from inferences in the Corpus it seems reasonable that he and Stace ran afoul of the law.
A Pure Food And Drug Act had been passed in 1906 which temporarily at any rate made the sale of patent medicines illegal. A few years later the Supreme Court would once again legitimize their sale provided the contents were properly labeled. For the time being there was a problem with the law. Erwin Porges’ Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Invented Tarzan briefly discusses the relationship in this manner. p. 105:
Stace, whom Ed found very likable, had grown ashamed of the patent medicine business and was casting about for a more reputable type of livelihood. His qualms may have been reinforced by the dubious attitude of the United States Government: “Alcola cured alcoholism all right, but the Federal Pure Food And Drug people tooke the position that there were worse things than alcoholism and forbade the sale of Alcola.”
The portion in quotes is presumabley from Burroughs although Porges fails to properly identify it if so.
Since the Pure Food And Drug people acted against Dr. Stace it is only fair to assume the police were involved and depending on how far Dr. Stace fought it, probably a Grand Jury. It is probable then that Burroughs’ seeming intimate knowledge of police methods and Grand Juries was learned at this time.
As Stace’s office manager it is possible that ERB bought into the company and was therefore more intimately involved. Certainly he did not sever his relationship with Dr. Stace as a result of these legal actions, but instead formed a corporation or partnership with him immediately after to sell courses in salesmanship. Hardly more respectable than patent medicines.
As one usually found advertisements for such courses in the back of pulp magazines one can conjecture the status of the enterprise and also its chances of success. The company bearing the name Burroughs-Stace did fail quickly. Notice that Burroughs name came before that of Stace.
Now, Alcola being an illegal product it could not have done ERB’s reputation much good to be associated with it. Continuing his relationship with Dr. Stace in another questionable business would only confirm ERB’s rputation for operating on the legal borderline. In later years Burroughs, while not denying that he had been associated with Stace, claimed to have never seen those people since the time thus attempting to dissociate himself from them.
Thus ERB’s prospects loomed shakily. As these events occurred in 1909-10 he was facing a lifetime of marginal jobs leading ever downward or taking the million to one chance of becoming a successful author. Not too long after terminating his relationship with Dr. Stace he took up his pen. Fate began to blow a strong wind into his sails, so to speak.
However, if I am correct, he was now looked at askance by ‘polite’ society.
His first writing efforts were a success. So successful that he could get anything he wrote into print. this began to bear fruit in 1913, two years after he began writing, when he could throw over his day job and become a self-supporting writer.
Thus he was able to realize his ambition to regain his status of a prince after an interim of nearly thirty years.
He still had to explain himself to himself and Emma as well as to Chicago in general. Much of his output of 1913 would attempt to do just that; especially the first of the two works under consideration here: The Mucker.
The psychological baggage Burroughs brings to his writing to exorcise is considerable. When H.G. Wells portrayed ERB as insane in Mr Blettsworthy Of Rampole Island there was an element of truth while the case was overstated. ERB was apparently able to disappear into himself whiie he was writing thus living an alternate reality which is what Wells was talking about.
The ability to do so is probably why Burroughs’ writing has such immediacy, why his improbabiities are so believable. One wonders what would have become of his mind if he hadn’t become a successful writer. Perhaps the pseudonym he adopted for his first book, Normal Bean, was more to convince himself than others. Bean as slang for head or mind. Certainly his reaction to his success appears to border on the irrational.
His psychological compression was so great that he nearly went off the rails in 1913 in his first blush of success. It is impossible that he wasn’t being observed by others. It is impossible that others didn’t consider him a phenom. The Mars Trilogy and Tarzan were such strange creations for the times that he had to be viewed with wonder. While one can never be sure when he is being referred to in the fiction of other writers it seems to me that there are resonances of Burroughs in such writers as John Dos Passos and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
If he had designed his actions to get talked about he couldn’t have come up with anything more spectacular than his trip to California mid-1913 after a successful half year. For the full year he would earn over ten thousand dollars. This sum in 1913 was reaching the lower limits of super affluence. You couldn’t add much to your comfort with more than ten a year, the rest was conspicuous consumption. It all depends on which multiplier you use but the one I use brings the income out in today’s dollars as between three and five hundred thousand dollars.
Sudden affluence after years of scrabbling for a living can do strange things to your mind. ERB’s was rocked to its foundations. He went crazy in his rush to spend his money. A clothes horse like his wife Emma came into her own. In his rush to spend ERB spent his income before it was earned. He was literally broke between checks from his publishers.
Then in mid-1913 an event occurred which might have triggered his flight from Chicago to California. The Black boxer, Jack Johnson was conceded his title in 1910 when he defeated the White favorite, Jim Jeffries. He had actually won the title in 1908 when he defeated then champion Tommy Burns. Whites were reluctant to acknowledge his claim to the title until he had fought Jeffries who the Whites thought was the ‘real’ champion because he had retired undefeated.
Having disappointed White hopes by defeating Jeffries, Johnson was then set up on a morals charge and convicted in what amounted to a kangaroo court. About to lose his appeal Johnson skipped the country in July of ’13 rather than go to jail as an innocent man.
The Affair Jack Johnson had had a tremendous effect on Burroughs who was an ardent boxing fan. Thus his novel The Mucker deals extensively with the Johnson Affair. I believe that since his assocition with Dr. Stace Burroughs was considered quasi-legit at best and hence in the same boat with a Johnson.
When Johnson split it seemed to cause an equal reaction in Burroughs. Johnson went East to Europe while ERB went West to California. In july of ’13 ERB began work on his realistic Chicago novel The Girl From Farris’s. This work was undoubtedly intended to explain his actions between 1899 and 1911. Once he got started he immediately ran into writer’s block being unable to continue the novel. Before he could continue he had to work out several issues. Thus he did what was for him a very unusual thing. He began the book in July of ’13 only finishing it in March of ’14. In between he wrote five other novels in his usual rapid fashion. the were, in order The Mucker, The Mad King Pt. 1, The Eternal Lover Ptl 1, Beasts Of Tarzan and The Lad And The Lion. The entire set of six stories then are all closely related and should properly be understood only as aspects of the same novel- The Girl From Faris’s.
We are going to consider only the first of the inner five, The Mucker, here. Thus the trip to California begins to work out the redemption or Salvation of Edgar Rice Burroughs. The whole set might be titled: Edgar Rice Burrougs In Search Of Himself.
One must not underestimate the influence of the two or possibly three central events in Burroughs’ life; his confrontatin with John The Bully in 1884-85, the 1899 trip to New york with the Martins and his dramatic relationship with Dr. Stace. One cannot devalue his relationship with his father or Charles King, nor the very influential visit to Idaho where he came under the influence of Lew Sweetser, but his first three seem to dominate his life and work.
A major consequence of his confrontation with John The Bully is that it declassed him. ERB’s Animus became part prince, part pauper; part outlaw, part orthodox as demonstrated in The Outlaw Of Torn. The trip in the private rail car showed him how far down the economic scale he was and how far he had to climb. Although he won the hand of Emma from Martin I think it very likely that when he and Emma returned from Idaho Martin renewed his attentions to Emma. He undoubtedly drove one of the big new automobiles with which the impoverished ERB could not compete. About all he could do if he thought Emma’s affection were wobbling was to get her pregnant. In 1908 and 1909 the couple had two children in rapid succession although they could afford them no more than in their first eight years of marriage.
Thus ten years after had taken Emma to Idaho, for reasons that are unclear to us, he took her to California. Always the wastrel he made the trip in the most expensive way possible. The family went first class.
As Porges quotes him ERB says: “I had decided I was too rich to spend my winters in Chicago so I packed my family, all my furniture, my second hand automobile and bought transportation to Los Angeles.
This was not the most rational move for a man who had written an “Ode To Poverty” not too long before. He had no assurance of being able to write or sell stories, without the sale of which he would be stranded, broke twenty-five hundred miles from his home. Of course he still had all his furniture. There was no one who could help him financially. It is interesting to speculate on what sort of job he would have applied for.
Why would a man do this? ERB had apparently bought his used car, a Velie, at the beginning of 1913 when for all practical acounts he was still broke. Why the urgent need to hop a train? I think the reason can be traced back to Frank Martin. The humiliation of the trip East in a private railcar in 1899 and the subsequent stay in the Bowery while the Martins lived on Riverside Drive had to be compensated. While ERB couldn’t afford a new car he rushed out to buy a used one which was apparently as much as he thought he could afford at the time. On the other hand as his characters always say of themselves: For me. to think is to act. if the Martins among other ‘plutocrats’ wintered in Florida then as ERB could still not compete with them financially he went West.
Arriving in LA he and family drove the second hand Velie down to San Diego with the furniture apparently entrained for the same destination.
During this period ERB’s behavior is absolutely zany. Unable to stay put in LA he moved to Coronado which is a sand spit on the west side of San Diego Bay. North Island Naval Air would be built on the North end of it. The Carriers used to be docked on the ocean side as their draft was too great for the Bay. Disliking Coronado he moved back across the bay to the first low ridge of hills that separates the city proper from the Bay. He apparently was near the crest as he said he could look over it to the East. When I was in the Navy in San Diego I thought this small ridge only a couple miles in length had the most deligthful climate on Earth. I still think it does. So, in 1913-14 before 101 became a major noisy highway at the base of the hill ERB was living in as close to paradise as anyone in this world can ever get.
It was here he explored his psychological problems.
Burroughs because of his encounter with John The Bully, had been rendered susceptible to ‘low brow’ influences. His subsequent life with its constant moving from school to school, from Illinois to Idaho, to Connecticut, to Michigan, to Arizona and back to Illinois had not put into contact with too many ‘high brow’ influences.
In constrast, his wife Emma Hulbert, had been trained to high brow avocations from childhood. I’m sure that one of the objections of her parents to ERB was that he was so detestably low brow. Emma, afer all, had been trained to the opera which is the epitome of high brow. Emma often referred to ERB as a low brow during their marriage which can be somewhat trying. If one contrasts The Mucker with Marcia Of The Doorstep it will become immediately apparent that the former is low brow and the latter is intended to be high brow. So the dominating theme of The Mucker is between the low brow Billy Byrne and the high brow Barbara Harding. The problem as it surfaces when the two come into contact is how Barbara is to turn the low brow mucker into a high brow or at least into a low brow with good speech and mannerisms. This may have been a daily conflict between ERB and Emma in real life.
The first question is how far ERB identifies with Billy Byrne. It is my contention that Billy is an alter ego conditioned by ERB’s confrontation with John The Bully.
I have explained elsewhere that terror may be used to introduce a hypnotic suggestion. Terror opens the mind to suggestion. In ERB’s case when he was in terror of John he accepted the suggestion that because John was terrorizing him he was an admirable person to be emulated. Of course this went against the teaching of his family so that ERB now divided his Animus nearly equally between his father/family and John. Even though his family training commanded his first allegiance, John declassed him so that he mentally assumed the traits of this hoodlum Irish boy. In a sense ERB split his personality.
As would be expected the assumption of John’s characteristics caused a personality conflict which it was necessary to resolve. One must assume that by 1913’s Mucker ERB was aware of his peronality conflict and began the attempt to write it out.
For those new to the term a mucker was one who wallowed in the muck of society, a low class person with very little or no redeeming social value. Thus Burroughs is dealing very harshly with both himself and Byrne/John.
It may be assumed beyond doubt that John was first generation immigrant. As he was twelve when he confronted ERB in 1884-85 he must have been born in 1872. He may actually have been born in Ireland or was at least the son of immigrants hence his Irish prejudices against the English would be very strong while the Irish at the time were considered on a social and racial par with the Negro or perhaps even below. Combining these social disadvantages he was raised in Chicago’s great West Side which ERB with undisguised horror describes.
He also very carefully indicates that Byrne was not an inherently bad person but was strictly a product of his environment. He could have been anything raised in a different social setting. Nurture over nature. An interesting liberal opinion in an age when heredity was accredited to a criminal type. By explaining Byrne as a product of his environment Burroughs was also justifying himself. Indeed, how could he have learned the social graces to which he was entitled by birth having been brought up viewing the underbelly of society. Probably ERB did not become acquainted with the social graces or high brow point of view until he married Emma.
If his social education began with his marriage to Emma then Byrne’s begins when he and Barbara Harding are brought into close contact on ‘Manhattan Island’ in the river of their Pacific island locale where they ‘play house.’ Thus there is more than sufficient evidence to indicate that Byrne and Burroughs are similar. Both names even begin with a B.
As he is part of Burroughs’ psyche ERB has to exonerate Byrne as well as rehabilitate him into someone at least that Burroughs can respect. This is the burden of the book.
After a youthful life in which Byrne makes the best of a bad situation, during which he became competent to survive and dominate in a difficult environment, Byrne takes a step up by becoming involved in boxing. Thus he goes from a no brow to a low brow. Already a fearsome street brawler Byrne becomes a formidable scientific boxer as well. He is good enough to be a sparring partner with the Big Smoke himself. This must have been before July 1913 but no earlier than say 1911.
Sometime in 1912 or early 1913 Byrne is falsely accused of murder by one Sheehan who Byrne had defeated in a fight when they were twelve. Billy had earlier saved a policeman’s life who was being savagely beaten by a rival gang on Byrne’s turf. The policeman now returns the favor by advising Byrne to get out of town which advice Billy take seriously not unlike Jack Johnson. Thus Johnson goes East, Byrne goes West at exactly the same time. Coincidence?
Billy bobs up in San Francisco about the same time that ERB shows up in the sunny Southland. They both reach California at the same time. Another coincidence?
Unfortunately for Billy he gets shanghaied by the guy he intends to roll. He is taken aboard the Half Moon. The ship on which Henry Hudson explored New York’s Hudson River was named the Half Moon so there is a little joke here as Barbara and Byrne reside on a Manhattan Island in their Pacific location.
Being shanghaied wasn’t the worst thing that could have happened to Byrne for while he is aboard he is forced to learn discipline- putting a little organization into his chaotic mind. The Half Moon might also stand for the MMA in ERB’s memory. He was more or less shanghaied into attendance when his father made him return after he had run away from the school. Then, under the tutelage of Charles King who he respected he learned the rudiments of self-discipline.
Even though Byrne is a sort of wildman Burroughs shows the greatest respect for him.
Byrne’s next civilizing lesson comes when the Half Moon pretending distress captures the Harding yacht aboard which Byrne is transferred.
The yacht named the Lotus, perhaps after Tennyson’s poem ‘The Lotus Eaters.’ The Lotus Eaters sat around all day in idle forgetfulness which was a pretty good description of the Harding party and another joke. Burroughs had a copy of Tennyson’s poems in his library so the association is probable, besides which as Burroughs had a strong grounding in Greek mythology he would have been familiar with the Lotus Eaters from his Homer.
Burroughs, who had never been to sea, knew nothing of the ocean. His source for sea matters most probably was Jack London. ERB was a great admirer of London but as he had nothing in his library one can only guess at what he had read. There’s pretty good evidence for The Call Of The Wild and The Sea Wolf. He may have picked up his South Seas lore from London’s Son Of The Son (The Adventures of Captain David Grief in my edition). The last book was published in 1911 but Burroughs probably had read it. As he would project the making of Melville’s Typee into a movie in the ’30s it is possible that he was already familiar with that book and Melville’s other South Sea romance, Omoo at least as early as 1913.
Both myself and other researchers are pretty liberal about ERB’s reading list but as I have cautioned before the bulk of his reading for these early stories had to be done between 1900 and 1911 when he was a very busy man with troubles in mind not to mention excruciating headaches. Along with newspapers and magazines he surely couldn’t have read more than two or three hundred books if that many. He may have read a number of sea stories in various magazines at any rate, but his sea lore is second hand, unreliable and unknowledeable.
He has the Lotus tending Southwest toward the Philippines having begun in Hawaii. The Philippines is a large archipelago blending into the massive archipelago just South of it, the Lotus should have been in Equatorial waters where the trade winds blow. Most of your monster storms are further North or South. I was in the Navy making one tour from California in the East to China in the West, South to Australia and North to Japan. I had the terrifying experience of passing through a typhoon off Japan which if it wasn’t the storm of the millenium I can’t imagine a greater. Quite seriously, we all thought we were going to die. My only thought was that the water was going to be awfully cold when I hit it.
I do not jest when I say the waves were seventy-five feet high, you’re right, why not make them a hundred, maybe they were a hundred, two would be stretching it. I was standing on the bridge twenty-five feet above the water line looking straight up at the crest of the waves when we were in the trough. OK. A hundred twenty-five then. We were so far down in the trough there was no wind, nor did the waves break over us, they just slid under the ship raising us to the crests and then we slid down the other side. I kid you not.
Then, as we came down from the crest, way up there, at the bottom of the trough the ship slammed into a current bringing it to a complete halt left and right and fore and aft. These troughs were not rows of waves and troughs, no no, but huge bowls perhaps a mile or more long. Our ship was three hundred six feet long so there we were a speck, an atom, a proton sitting quietly in the midst of this huge bowl waiting for the swatter of fate to fall.
I had been thrown across the deck from port to starboard when we slammed into the current. I scrambled to my feet, noticed that the starboard watch, Engelhardt, was on the way over the side for a tete a tete with Davy Jones. I knew that Jones didn’t have the time for an ordinary Seaman like Engelhardt or me so I grabbed his belt and pulled him back aboard, then ran over to port to wait to die.
Now that was a storm. I don’t know how we rode it out, I thought the end had come, was past. So, why did I tell that? Because ERB’s storms are ludicrous and in the wrong place. A cloud appears, the next thing you know a few indeterminate big waves show up and the ship sinks but the lifeboats survive. All this in equatorial waters. Well, if you’ve never been in it, it might sound alright.
It doesn’t matter because those sudden squalls in ERB’s stories represent his confrontation with John The Bully. Within the twinkling of an eye ERB’s whole direction of life changed.
His had been for the worse but Byrne’s was for the better. This then reflected the change in Burroughs’ own fortunes.
Byrne and the crew are thrown up on an unidentified island somewhere in the South seas but a fairly large one. In those years one could believe that there were islands yet to be discovered. This one has a river big enough to allow for a largish island in the middle. It is here that Byrne will get his introduction to the finer side of life. However not before some very exciting and exotic adventures showing Burroughs at his best.
Apart from Jules Verne, who might also be an influence on this book through his The Mysterious Island that had a tremendous influence on Burroughs though the book was not in his library. ERB seems to be familiar with a number of French authors. He had The Mysteries Of Paris by the incredible Eugene Sue in his Library, while it is fairly obvious he had been suitably impressed by Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. The sewer scene in his next book, The Mad King, is indicative of that while Theriere in this book may be a variation on Thenardier. He was also familiar with Dumas’ The Three Musketeers as there are several references to that one including the sequel to The Mucker, Out There Somewhere, when he indicates an intent to create his own three Musketeers in Byrne, Bridge and Burke.
As indicated in my Only A Hobo, ERB was probably immersed in US-Japanese relations that were fairly hot at this time as well as remembering the Japanese exhibit at the Columbian Expo of 1893. He gets his facts right too.
In this case the island is populated by an indigenous population that has been blended with a group of Samurai warriors from Japan. Burroughs correctly indicates that the Samurai had come to the island just before Japan was closed to the world in the early seventeenth century. From about 1620 to about 1860- Perry opened Japan in 1853- no one had been allowed to enter or leave Japan so ERB has been doing his homework. Over the three hundred years a degenerate society of militant Samurai had combined with the indigenes to create a culture of savages. An interesting anthropological notion not too unlike The Lord Of The Flies that has been a literary staple for the last sixty years.
Byrne and Theriere engage in a terrific conflict to rescue Barbara Harding from the Samurai during which Theriere is killed and Byrne seriously wounded. Barbara Harding nurses him back to health in an idyllic glen by a babbling brook.
At this point Byrne is reunited with his Anima ideal. Barbara is going to rehabilitate this guy. He has made some few steps toward his own redemption but the following is the quality Barabara had to work with as described by ERB p. 17:
…Billy was mucker, a hoodlum, a gangster, a thug, a tough. When he fought he would have brought a flush of shame to the face of His Satanic Majesty. He had hit oftener from behind than before. He had always taken every advantage of his size and weight and numbers that he could call to his assistance. He was an insulter of girls and women. He was a bar-room brawler, and a saloon corner loafer. He was all that was dirty, and mean, and contemptible and cowardly in the eyes of a brave man, and yet, notwithstanding all this Billy Byrne was no coward. He was what he was because of training (conditioning) and environment. He knew no other methods, no other code.
As Burroughs says, up to this time Byrne had been an insulter of women, abusive to the whole female sex, probably including his mother. It is only now that his eyes begin to open to what Jack London would call the wonder of woman. How far Byrne reflects ERB’s general attitude toward women isn’t clear although by the end of his life his misogyny was becoming pronounced. He was certainly no ladies man prior to is marriage to Emma. I am not certain he would have married if it hadn’t been for the competition with Martin. The suddenness of his marriage after the Toronto incident indicates a Martin influence or else he was bonkers after the blow. When he later said Tarzan should never have married he was undoubtedly talking about himself. He certainly never placed Emma first, being always ready to accept an army commission, fight in Central America, seek a commission in the Chinese army or become a war correspondent all of which would have left Emma and the kids at home.
At the same time Barbara who had detested Byrne becomes softened to him preparing her to love him once they moved downstream to Manhattan Island. This may be some romanticized version of ERB’s relationship with Emma after Toronto although she seems to have been fixed on Burroughs from childhood. At any rate the relationship comes to fruition downstream where the high brow Barbara attempts so raise the brow level of Byrne.
If one takes high brow, low brow seriously being thought of as a low brow, that is inferior, can be annoying. Since Burroughs has chosen in his first novel within the cocoon of Girl From Faris‘s to write around the theme of a low brow hero I think it fair to believe it irritated him to be thought of as a low brow; especially so as in most instances he was much better educated than those who so named him. Chief among these was his wife Emma. Whereas she had been trained ot operatic arias ERB played the hillbilly tune Are You From Dixie? over and over again on his phonograph. Hillbilly music really irritates the operatic type. There must have been constant conflict in the household.
Emma especially looked down on boxing as low brow. ERB was an ardent boxing fan, while here he chooses a low brow boxer as hero. ERB could have some startling opinions on what was high brow. He thought auto races were high brow. I don’t know what the crowds were like back then but I’ve been to the stock car races where I found high brows conspicuous only by their absence.
But, to the Mucker. Moving downsteam after his recovery on this rather large river coming closer to the estuary they hit an island. Being bounded as it were by a Hudson on one side and East River on the other they named the island Manhattan. There’s a nice Expo twist and joke here as in Chicago on the Wooded Island one came upon a Japanese settlement in the middle of the city; here on a Samurai Island in the Pacific one comes upon a Manhattan Island of Americans. Kind of cute reversal, don’t you think?
As Billy has to know some details about Manhattan to keep the story moving, Burroughs rather lamely invents a couple trips Billy had made to New York with the Goose Island Kid. As the boxing scene Burroughs describes, with the exception of the Big Smoke is entirely Irish one might note the origin of the name of The Goose Island Kid. Goose Island was an area in the Chicago River inhabited by the poorest of the Irish, so the Kid comes from the bottom of the social scale even below Byrne’s origins. One should contrast this with Burroughs prized English ancestry.
Burroughs is writing from experience either psychological or real. Thus one asks when was ERB in New York to acquire his knowledge of the city. Well, let’s see: He had an extended stay in 1899. That was the trip when he got bashed in Toronto. Then he had a short stay at the the invitation of Munsey. Most of what he knew must have come from the 1899 trip.
On their desert Manhattan Island Barbara, who up to this time had been repelled by Byrne makes an attempt at deconditioning Byrne from a Mucker and reconditioning him as an upper class New Yorker. the conditioning consists of ridding him of the horrific characteristics attributed to him by ERB while teaching him to speak in an educated manner. As there was no tableware she couldn’t teach him which fork to use.
Possibly this scene may reflect on the first couple years of Burroughs’ married life. Remember that ERB hadn’t been much around polite society from the years of twelve to twenty-five during which he was conditioned to his low brow attitudes. Emma had been brought up in a high brow environment so that she may have felt the need to isntruct her new husband in some of the finer points of good manners.
When Frank Martin (see my Four Crucial Years) asked ERB to go to New York with him in 1899 he did so with a heart full of malice. He was competeing with Burroughs for Emma Hulbert’s favors and, as is commonly believed, he felt all’s fair in love and war.
The evidence points to the fact that he intended to have ERB murdered in Toronto to clear his path to the woman. Along the way he must have done his best to humiliate his rival- the mucker Ed Burroughs.
ERB was moving in much faster company than he was used to. While coming from a once affluent family his people had fallen on hard times. ERB’s income was little more than sixty dollars a month while Frank Martin the son of a millionaire could blow that much on dinner every night of the week.
Riding in Martin’s father’s private railcar one imagines that ERB’s suit compared to the fabulous duds of Martin was laughable. The contrasts between their two stations must have been even more laughable and very satisfying to Martin. Martin would have considered himself a high brow to Burroughs’ low brow.
Once in New York Martin’s hospitality didn’t extend to living quarters. ERB gives no indication of how much money he took along or where he got it. I should be surprised if he had so much as two hundred dollars, certainly no more. However much he had there was no way he could have kept up with the Martins.
His address while in New York was down on the Bowery while the Martin’s was in a better part of town, perhaps Riverside Drive. Danton Burroughs has a picture of the three of them- Burroughs, Martin and Martin’s other companion, R.H. Patchin, on Coney Island. One hopes Danton will release the photo to ERBzine along with any other information he may have. Coney Island would be good low brow entertainment to offer Burroughs, something he could afford.
A possible account of how Burroughs felt during his dependency on Martin can be found in one of the volumes in ERB’s library: The House Of Mirth by Edith Wharton. The reading of it must have brought pangs of recognition to ERB.
In The Mucker Billy Byrne speaks of Riverside Drive and the Bowery in this way:
“Number one, Riverside Drive,” said the Mucker with a grin, when the work was completed: “an’ now I’ll go down on the river front and build the Bowery.”
“Oh, are you from New York?” asked the girl.
“Not on your life,” replied Billy Byrne. “I’m from good old Chi but I been to Noo York twict with the Goose Island Kid, so I knows all about it. De roughnecks belong on de Bowery, so dat’s what we’ll call my dump down by de river. You’re a high brow, so youse gotta live on Riverside Drive, see?’ and the mucker laughed at his little pleasantry.
In 1913 the only real experience Burroughs had with New York was the 1899 trip so that one can guess that when the Martin party detrained Burroughs as a ‘roughneck’ went to the Bowery while Martin and his group went to Riverside Drive or its equivalent. Surely Burroughs realized he had been duped at this point and felt it keenly. Or, perhaps, he didn’t catch on until much later having thought about it for a while. Referring to the Irish Martin as The Goose Island Kid who took him to New York may be a belated disguised slap in the face. If Martin read the book I’m sure he would have understood.
At this point is the novel Barbara begins Byrne’s deconditioning teaching him the Riverside patois thus giving him true English as a second language to his native Muckerese. Thus Byrne is to some extent rehabilitated as a human being; this follows fairly close that of Jean Val Jean of Les Miserables, however as Billy ruefully learned there is more to reconditioning than language.
At this point Byrne has a dual personality. He is the low brow mucker and a high brow mucker in that he has learned certain mannerisms and he can speak both forms of English.
If the scene on Manhattan Island to some extent reflected the relationship between ERB and Emma then the seeds of his discontent which will result in divorce have already been sown. The parting from Barbara at the end of the story may be the first prefiguration of his divorce.
On the other hand Byrne has been temporarily reunited with his Anima figure somewhat in the manner of Eros and Psyche in Greek mytholotgy which makes him a complete being, his X and Y chromosomes being reconciled. They are soon split apart again as he and Barbara find their separate ways to NYC.
Upon Byrne’s return to NYC Burroughs begins to wrestle with the problem of the displacement of a White heavyweight boxing champ with a Black one. In our age when boxing has become a totally Black sport it is difficult to see the real significance of Jack Johnson’s assumption of the championship for both Whites and Blacks. The success of Johnson also came at a time when in competition with immigrants the Anglo ‘old stock’ was being displaced from a feeling of rightful preeminence in a country it had made.
This displacement by immigrant’s also occured at the time when the ranks of the European conquerors of the world had reached their limitations and the conquered began to roll them back. Thus one has such volumes of the period as Madison Grant’s The Passing Of The Great Race and Lothrop Stoddard’s The Rising Tide Of Color. The world was mysteriously changing slipping from beneath the White Man’s feet.
Complementary to the works of Grant and Stoddard, but not influenced by them, was the world of such writers as Zane Grey, Jack London and Burroughs. A common thread in the world of all three is the displacement of the ‘old stock’ by immigrants. London has a telling phrase in his excellent and highly recommended Valley Of The Moon when his character Billy Roberts is told that the ‘old stock’ had been sleeping and that now like Rip Van Winkle they were awakening to a new world that had changed while they slept. This theme would reappear in such works as Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Amerberson’s and Burroughs’ own The Girl From Hollywood of the next decade.
The social conflicts are treated almost identically by all three authors.
Richard Slotkin in his Gunslinger Nation attempts an exhaustive treatment of the problem from the Gustavus Myers’ immigrant/unskilled labor point of view which may be contrasted with that of our three masters. I will discuss this a little later.
Great changes were in progress. To try to characterize them from a single point of view as the Myers’ school does is both foolhardy and pernicious. While the immigrants and unskilled labor have their story it is only their story, a small part of the whole. While one can sympathize with anyone, anywhere, one cannot necessarily accept their point of view as definitve on which point they do insist. My heart goes out to everyone but does not rule my head.
The argument then breaks down broadly between the Liberal Coalition and what name is appropriate for the other side? -the rational? the realistic?, the conservative?. Why not settle for the Conservative with all its limitations. Yes, I am unapologetically conservative. No more limitating actually than calling the irresponsibility of the Coalition liberal. I fail to see the liberality.
The argument devolves into the two factions of the ‘old stock’ with the convervative wing being hopelessly outnumbered when the liberal wing aligned themselves along national and racial lines with the immigrants and Blacks and along poltical and religious lines with the Judaeo-Communists or more conveniently- the Reds. Reds is shorter.
That writers of the bent of Burroughs, London and Grey have survived at all, let alone remained popular, in such an environment is remarkable indeed.
From 1910 to 1919 major events that affected our writers occurred and typified the decline of Euroamerica from its pinnacle of self-satisfaction. The Great War which ran from 1914 to 1918 shattered the image of Euroamerica before the rest of the world Successful resistance not only appeared possible to the defeated peoples but probable. Note the advantage Japan took of the debacle.
A second event almost prefiguring the Great War was the sinking of the great ship RMS Titanic in 1912. Billed as unsinkable it represented the peak of Euroamerican scientific and technological skill. When that Grat Ship went down on its maiden voyage it took a great deal of the West’s confidence down with it. While the West watched in dismay and horror the rest of the world cheered the West’s discomfiture. Unsinkable indeed!
But perhaps the single most disastrous blow to the pride of Euroamericans was when the Black Jack Johnson laid the pride of the Whites, Jim Jeffries, down in the fourteenth on July 4, 1910. The might Casey, Jim Jeffries, had struck out. The much despised Negro, Jack Johnson, walked away wearing the world heavyweight championship belt.
The Whites howled, they rioted but they had shot their best shot and there was no backup. No contender. No hope.
Jack London actually reported the fight. He was there. Ringside. Nor was he charitable toward Jack Johnson. He said things that might better have remained unsaid. We have no indication as to what Burroughs thought at the time. By the time he spoke publicly in The Mucker he had had time to mature his thoughts.
The effect on London was traumatic. In 1911 he published his book The Abyssmal Brute, his first thoughts on the fight. The fight not yet out of his system London expressed himself still further in his 1913 novel The Valley Of The Moon. I’ve said it before. I’m no Jack London fan. I’ve only read him more or less at the insistence of ERBzine’s Bill Hillman. If I had gone to the grave without reading The Call Of The Wild or The Sea Wolf I wouldn’t have considered it a loss. Not the same with Valley Of The Moon. This book along with ERB’s Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid is one of the neglected masterpieces of twentieth century American literature. It alone justifies London’s excellent reputation.
The story is that of two Oakland, California young people, Billy Roberts and his sweetheart Saxon Brown. While lamenting the displacement of the ‘old stock’ by the immigrants London also makes this a boxing story along the same lines as The Mucker.
In fact the stories are quite similar in conception. If one didn’t know that the authors were writing at the same time 2500 miles from each other one would think they may have written on the same theme as a bet. London, too, must have been influenced by the midnight flight of Johnson from Chicago. London makes Roberts an outstanding boxer in the Bay Area. Roberts gives up boxing because of the fate of boxers and because of the low brow fans. Later in the book London says that Roberts sparred with both Jim Jeffries and Jack Johnson.
After a long period of unemployment in an attempt to win a hundred dollar prize to relieve his and Saxon’s poverty he agrees to go back in the ring, the squared circle, as Burroughs always refers to it. The fight with the Chicago Terror is very reminiscent of the Jeffries-Johnson battle. Like Jeffries Roberts hadn’t fought for a long time. Like Jeffries he was out of condition. After retiring in 1905 Jeffries had taken up farming, blossoming out to three hundred pounds. When the call came to redeem the honor of the White species sometime after 1908 Jeffries had to quickly get into condition losing all the extra tonnage.
He had certainly not regained his top form, timing and mental focus when he climbed into the ring to face Johnson. I make no excuses for him but as Jeffries said he saw his openings but his unconditioned reflexes didn’t allow him to take advantage of them. His failure broke the hearts of his followers.
The battle between Roberts and the Chicago Terror, johnson must have been intended, is probably a replay of the 1910 fight as seen by London. Out of condition and rusty Roberts gets mauled from start to finish. In an attempt to salvage special pride London has Roberts at least stay on his feet till the twentieth unlike the fourteenth round fall of Jeffries.
Toward the end of Valley Of The Moon London has Roberts climb nto the ring again, this time against a Big Swede, sort of polar to the Big Smoke. In the second of two bouts Roberts has difficulty putting the Big Swede away until the fourteenth. Also a replay of the Jeffries-Johnson fight with Roberts/Jeffries winning this one, if only in Jack’s dreams.
Thus the anguish of the loss surfaces three years after. Now, that the two events, the Titanic and fight get confused in this shuddering defeat of Euroamerica is interestingly made evident in the song Jack Johnson and the Titanic. In the song Jack Johnson goes down to the steamship line in England to buy passage for his White wife and himself. He is told that no Black Folks are allowed on the Titanic. As some sort of divine punishment for refusing him the Great Ship sinks.
Obviously Jack Johnson couldn’t have been refused as in 1912 he was still in Chicago fighting to stay out of jail. But the two White disasters became mingled in imagination.
While London was wrestling with the Johnson Affair in Valley Of The Moon, Burroughs was doing the same in his Mucker. One wonders what a further seach of popular literature would reveal.
In The Mucker Burroughs has gotten Byrne back in New York City. Broke and with no means of a livelihood the big man-beast turns to the only thing he can do which is boxing. While London, who had witnessed the fight essentially retold it in Valley Of The Moon, Burroughs who didn’t prepares Byrne to redeem the Whites by fighting and defeating the Big Smoke. Burroughs doesn’t mention Johnson by name. He uses Big Smoke, big dinge.
Burroughs immediately places Byrne in the role of the next hope. At the time these Whtie boxers were known only as hopes, the term Great White Hope in the completely derogatory sense evolved later. Like London Burroughs minces no words about Jim Jeffries being his favoirte. Not only does Byrne imitate Jeffries by fighting from a crouch but ‘Professor’ Cassidy his trainer says:
For a few minutes Billy Byrne played with his man, hitting him when and where he would. He fought, crouching, just as Jeffries used to fight, and in his size and strength, was much that reminded Cassidy of the fallen idol that in his heart of hearts he still worshipped.
Winning the fight Byrne went on to meet the #1 contender who he handily defeated. Having evoked the ghost of Jim Jeffries Burroughs brings in his other hero, Gentleman Jim Corbett.
The following morning the sporting sheets hailed “Sailor Byrne” ( tribute to Jack London whose hobo moniker was Sailor Jack) as the greatest white hope of them all. Flashlights of him filled a quarter of a page. There were interviews with him. Interviews of the man he had defeated. Interviews with Cassidy. Interviews with the referee. interviews with everybody, and all were agreed that he was the most likely heavy since Jeffries. Corbett admitted that, while in his prime, he could doubtless have bested the new wonder, he would have found him a tough customer.
Jeffries, Corbett, Byrne, a combination with so much magic in the names couldn’t help but win back the title to salve the wounded pride of the White species.
Cassidy wired a challenge to the Negro’s manager, and received an answer that was most favorable. The terms were, as usual, rather one sided but Cassidy accepted them, and it seemed before noon that the fight was assured.
Assured in dreams, of course, as this is only a novel.
It would be quite easy to pass over this part of the tale without realizing its significance but it shows the pain and suffering, the loss of pride that occurred when the championship went Black. While Burroughs has no difficulty invoking the names of the fallen idol, Jeffries and Corbett, he cannot bring himself to name Johnson referring to him only as The Big Smoke, the big dinge, or the Negro. The White world was in a deal of pain.
One can only guess how Burroughs intended to resolve his dilemma of having the fictional Byrne fight the living Johnson or perhaps the story was only a magic incantation to arouse the true hope. At any event when Byrne next appears in story in 1916’s Out There Somewhere, Jess Willard had already taken the championship back although under dubious circumstances. By 1916 Byrne’s boxing career is forgotten; there is no mention of it in the sequel.
Having solved the problem of the championship Burroughs returns to his Anima problem in the romance with Barbara Harding. Billy remembers she lives in New York City and decides to call on her. But…
…a single lifetime is far too short for a man to cover the distance from Grand Avenue to Riverside Drive…
While the above words were spoken about Billy, Byrne too came to the same conclusion:
But some strange influence had seemed suddenly to come to work upon him. Even in the brief moment of his entrance into the magnificence of Anthony Harding’s home he had felt a strange little stricture in the throat- a choking, a half-suffocating sensation.
The attitude of the servant, the spendor of the furniture, the stateliness of the great hall and the apartments opening upon it- all had whispered to him that he did not “belong.”
So Byrne feeling his inability to fit in walks away in bitter pride forswearing his love for Barbara Harding. Still, he could remember her saying back on that other Manhattan Island:
I love you Billy for what you are.
Thus the epic of the low brow Billy ends as he walks down the street a study of dejection with Barbara’s words ringing through his mind.
The question here is how much the relationship between Byrne and Barbara is a ‘highly fictionalized’ account of ERB’s own relationship with Emma. We can’t know for sure how hurt Burroughs may have been by Emma’s calling him a low brow. Perhaps he longed to hear her say: I love you, Ed, just the way you are.
Certainly the stories enveloped by The Girl From Faris’s all deal with his relationship with Emma as his Anima ideal. The Mad King which follows this story details the problems of the hero getting on the same wave length with the Princess Emma. He even uses his wife’s real name. The following title – The Eternal Lover – speaks for itself, Beasts Of Tarzan features a wild chase with Tarzan trying to find Jane who is lost in the jungle, while the last of the series, The Lad And The Lion, details the troubles of the Lad finding his desert princess. After the Lad he got past his mental block being able to close The Girl From Faris’s.
So if these stories are read consecutively they record the struggle going on in ERB’s mind to reconcile Emma to his Anima ideal and his Anima to his Animus. This is a task for not any but the most dedicated Burroughs scholar but I would interested in learning the opinion of any who might attempt it.
Read only Book One of Mad King and the first part, Nu Of The Neocene, of Eternal Lover in this context.
Ten years later ERB tackled the problem from the high brow point of view in Marcia Of The Doorstep.
Go To Part Two
Background Of The Second Decade- Personal