April 28, 2014
Great Groupies Of The Sixties Series
One of the more vexing problems of biographical writing is that of Time and the River. According to Einstein Time is the Fourth Dimension and the River according to all the most august novelists is the course of one’s life. Marcel Proust managed to get both constructs into his novel In Remembrance of Time Past but I want to consider them separately here.
Not to be cantankerous but as to Einstein’s designation of Time as another dimension I cry: au contraire. Einstein was not the firstto consider the nature of Time, nor, I hope, the last. In fact not the last as here I am. I have nothing new to add for in this day and age the table is already set. Before Einstein, quite some time before, the social construct of Time had been a topic of dinner talk. There is some evidence, for instance, that Einstein was influenced by the English novelist H.G. Wells. Wells himself was just discussing a topic that had been under consideration for a decade or two.
Back before Time began when life was just a continuum punctuated by obvious things like seasons man, in his primeval primitiveness, wasn’t overly concerned with the passage of Time, probably didn’t even think about it. Certainly not as it is now understood. But needing to know such things as the timing of bird and animal migrations our ancestors looked around for a convenient starting point to calculate those appearances. It was there, as it had been before this beginning of Time.
Nothing was more obvious than that there was a tremendous war waged annually (a foreign concept at the time) between Light and Darkness. These two items may be the beginning of man’s social construct of Time. For half the period the Prince of Darkness seemed to keep driving the Prince of Light back toward extinction as the days grew shorter; then miraculously when the days were shortest, nights longest and cold increasing, the Prince of Light drove the Prince of Darkness back. The Unconquerable Sun had won another round.
In Greek mythology this battle was portrayed as Castor, the savior, shooting an arrow toward the summer solstice while his twin who is portrayed as a boxer fought a tough battle backtracking across the ring until Castor came to his rescue with his bow and arrow.
Gradually it dawned on our ancestors that this two part battle was a year, hitherto unrecognized. Time of a rough sort came into existence. Having pinpointed the shortest day in the year and after having discovered counting to a hundred or more our ancestors could count from the Sun’s victory (December 21, by our reckoning) to the returning avian migrants and other beasts to prepare themselves for some fresh food.
Our Old Ones created some marvelous prognosticators like Stonehenge further developing the concept of Time. To make things easier they made rough divisions of the day defined by the place of the Unconquerable Sun in the sky. Running through inventions like sun dials and water clocks we eventually arrived at the stop watch and marvel of marvels- the Atomic clock.
By the end of mid-nineteenth century then the burning question was how to define Time. It had become complicated apparently. Was there an objective entity that is corporeal or was Time just an intellectual construct to manage our daily and annual affairs which we had reduced to hours, minutes and seconds, today glorying in the nanosecond.
Until the birth of Jesus there was no convenient way in which to track the progression of years. Than a forward count began in the year one, which is actually tens of thousands of years after the prototype came into existence, until now we have arrived at 2014. In terms of negative numbers we can date back three or four thousand years historically and guess the rest.
That is all subjective time so the question is does objective Time, a Time that actually affects things exist? Wiser heads than Einstein’s existing before he gave his opinion answered no. Objective time did not exist. Camille Flammarion, a man as brilliant as Einstein in every way writing after 1860 demonstrated conclusively enough that Time had no objective existence.
Well, it might be said, people live for upwards of seventy years, isn’t that Time? No, that is the River. Everything has a beginning, a middle and end, a trinity. In living organisms the progression from beginning to end is the result of chemical reactions unaffected by an external agency such as Time.
Thus as with wine one has fresh new wine, mature wine at its peak and old wine going sour ending as vinegar. The difference between the first stage and the last is a series of chemical reactions. One confuses the issue when one refers to mature wine as aged- time had nothing to do with it, the method was chemical reactions occurring in sequence under conditions varying from poor to optimum.
So it is with the person. Development begins with conception comes to birth then follows a series of chemical changes and depending on chance and conditions the organism lives for perhaps a hundred year or maybe more. By years as a counting device one means revolutions of the Earth around the Sun. No Time involved. In former times years might have been expressed by the more primitive term summers. One lived seventy summers. Apparently those people had no concept of the year. Year being the more scientific embracing all the seasons rather than just summer.
Everything has a beginning, middle and end. This applies to political movements, styles and what have you. Although abstract things don’t have chemical reactions nevertheless their lifetimes follow a predictable course. If you are knowledgeable you can determine where in its life cycle a style or movement is.
I if have explained myself correctly I will now apply these concepts of Time and the River to the life of Cherry Vanilla or Kathie Dorritie as she known by her mother.
Kathie at this time is approaching the so-called age of reason, or thirty summers. She has led a wasted youth. Old acquaintances are giving up on her as her unsavory reputation precludes their associating with her. More and more she is sliding deeper into the netherworld of the lost souls of the Bohemian Village.
As ten or twelve years of younger fresher women have entered the river of life Kathie’s sexual desirability is waning. Chemical changes are altering her appearance. Never one to despair but now flailing about desperately seeking some driftwood on the river to keep her afloat she is recommended to Andy Warhol for a role in the London production of his play Pork. The play is beyond obscene, suitable for only the most degenerate while the female lead is degrading to the extreme. Who but the most desperate would have accepted it?
As this is the seventies Andy had died and been born again. Shot in 1968 by Valerie Solanas Andy had actually died on the operating table for a minute or two but was resuscitated. While famous as an artist Andy too had a terrible reputation. His atelier, the Silver Factory, his first, was shut down late in ‘67 when his lease was pulled probably because of his atrocious antics at the psychiatrists’ convention in January of ‘66.
He had just moved into the second factory when Valerie plugged him. While the Silver Factory had not been financially lucrative by 1968 Andy had been fortunate to have attracted some competent business oriented associates. Paul Morrissey had reorganized the film production to make it more commercial and profitable. Fred Hughes had set Andy on a portrait painting career that salvaged him financially.
Skillful associates such as Vincent Fremont who managed the financial end while Bob Colacello along with Hughes kept Andy on course although as flighty as ever, perhaps moreso being mentally affected by his near death experience. Andy kept an entourage of, shall we say, eccentrics while having shed the Silver Factory crew. So, in the seventies, if not actually more respectable, he was less objectionable.
Less is a relative term naturally as anyone who would produce Pork was not concerned with actual respectability. But times had changed, the River was murkier than ever. A few years earlier Andy would have been arrested for obscenity but now, in the seventies after A Clockwork Orange had been cinematized anything went. Deep Throat would be mainstream fare within a year or two.
Kathy appeared before Andy for an audition and, probably because there were no other applicants, was accepted. The play had already opened and closed far off Broadway so next stop London for its English premier.
This was a major turning point in Kathie’s life. Biologically she was transiting from youth to early middle age. The time is one of immense chemical reactions in the body as the track to death really begins. Although one might not feel it the period of growth or construction for the body has ended. Food becomes a fuel to maintain electricity rather than creating thus fewer calories are needed to sustain life. If you don’t cut back on caloric intake fat begins to accrue. You have to work harder to stay in the same place.
For the first time, at that age you can no longer pretend you are one with youth. Younger people appear different to yourself. A desperation seizes you if you haven’t begun to attain whatever success means to you. The future begins to look very bleak. Thus Andy’s offer of a nowhere role in his totally objectionable play seemed like a lifeline. However despite Andy’s wonderful reputation in Bohemia he was seen as a clown to the rest of society. Amusing but not to be taken seriously. Up to 1968 no one had profited from being associated with Andy with the possible exception of Gerard Malanga, Andy’s assistant and artistic double from the Silver Factory. Andy brutally cut Gerard loose sending him to Italy without adequate funds to get lost and abandoning him refused to send a ticket home.
As Gerard was as familiar with Andy’s methods as Andy himself he took the risk of screening a photo of Che Guevara and passing the screen off as a Warhol. It was in a way because of Gerard’s experience. At the very least it was a genuine Warhol-Gerard. Naturally no one could tell the difference. Gerard was successful in selling a few but rather than taking the money and getting the hell out he hung around long enough to be discovered. Repudiated by Andy he spent some time in an Italian jail for fraud limping back home after release.
Andy was not one for doing anything for anybody and the role of Amanda Pork was not a role to do anything positive for Kathie’s image, she now being known as Vanilla.
Just as the organism develops and declines so every cultural movement has its beginning, middle and end. As a cultural expression of the Depression and war baby generations Rock and Roll began in 1954 when Elvis began his ascent and Johnny Cash had returned from his Army tour of duty in Germany. From that beginning the records had developed and then crested sometime between 1966 and 1969.
The generation was coming of age, ready to move on to the next stage of life.
Actually the generation had reached its peak during the during the late sixties. The early baby boomers of the silver age, the seventies were entering into prominence but not with the universal acceptance of the two earlier generations. The seventies for the war babies was a period of greatest hits records, a rehash of the sixties, although a couple groups like Led Zeppelin held on but only through their 60s records as golden hits, classics, sold that well.
Fleetwood Mac who had existed in several configurations through the sixties and early seventies acquired Lindsay-Nicks as their front line and in a spectacular blaze of glory put a period to the rock and roll expression of the war baby generation. In fact the post-war world ended in 1978 when the war babies came of age.
Vanilla arrived in London just as the Punk explosion of those born in the mid to late fifties was about to disrupt the transmission belt to stardom of the war babies. The war baby crowd still ruled London and Vanilla was a war baby. Based on Warhol’s reputation that was probably bigger in London than New York the cast of Pork was the toast of London that summer. Their rehearsals over, the play, such as it was, was revealed.
Unless you were a pervert, a dedicated one, there really wasn’t anything in the play for you and little if you were. After the Warhol crowd had come and gone the audience dwindled to nothing. The actors were out of luck no longer toasts of the Hard Rock Café.
To top it off Vanilla had been as disillusioned with Warhol as Gerard Malanga had been. Having sacrificed whatever reputation she had by appearing in Andy’s abomination, at the opening night party Andy hadn’t even deigned to congratulate her, ignoring her completely, not even acknowledging her presence.
I would imagine Vanilla was completely devastated, even more than she indicates. Her big chance, her salvation was come and gone. That was it. She was now adrift in Europe with no direction home. The cast was given the option of a plane ticket to New York or the cash. With nothing to return to New York for Vanilla took the cash abandoning London for Paris until her scant funds ran out then returning to London.
But, wait a minute, all had not been lost. During her summer of glory as the toast of hip London, among others of the Rock royalty, she had met the baby boomer David Bowie and his spectacular wife, the ex-pat American, Angela. Angela had been impressed by Vanilla and Bowie always a marginal performer, was about to get as close to the center as he ever would. That would entail invading the US, New York, LA, all that glitter. Vanilla became useful because if she knew anything, she knew New York.
Thus we move along to Chapter V- Hot Times In The Old Town.
March 6, 2012
Edgar Rice Burroughs
The Accreted Personality
The post-French Revolution period begins the rapid development of the Aryan mind. The Enlightenment laid the foundation of that development. Shortly after mid-nineteenth century the French astronomer, Camille Flammarion, was able to announce that Astronomy and Psychology would be the key disciplines of the future. The break with the religious consciousness of the past ten thousand years or so would be fraught with immense dangers, dangers which we are still combating.
The social ideology of the present asserts that all people are of the same stage of mental development. This is, of course, absolute nonsense. There are still hundreds of millions if not a billion or two who still maintain a stone age view of the world. Nor are all of them in other parts of the world, a vast number are here in the Americas and Europe. In addition there are billions still enmeshed in a religious consciousness while only perhaps a hundred million or two have actually evolved into the scientific consciousness. Hence we have the terrifically repressive attempted subversion of science by the Semitic religions.
So, it should be clear at first glance that not all people are equally developed or endowed nor are all cultures of the same value.
The French scientist and neo-romantic novelist Camille Flammarion noted mid-nineteenth century that the two most important intellectual disciplines for the future would be Astronomy and Psychology. I think that has proven true.
A major discovery of the century was the notion of the split or multiple personality. A term currently in use is Dissociation. Neither is accurate. I advance the term Accretive Personality. That is one’s personality is made up of many personality variations as a result of growth and experience. In periods of stress it is quite easy to escape oppressive reality by slipping into what is essentially an alternate reality or a parallel personality, if you will.
This was not a new phenomenon, merely the shock of recognition. In Greek mythology, for instance, when the stress of the mid life crisis hit, the hero went through a period of madness, that is to say he adopted a parallel personality until he was able to reorganize his mental attitude to new realities.
In Europe, under the stress of an insane quasi-Semitic religion in which Satan took a prominent role, it was common for the stressed to become ‘possessed’ by demons or, in other words, to split the personality. That is the person showed a parallel personality. The transition point to the beginning of secular understanding came when Dr. Anton Mesmer matched his secular method of exorcism against the ecclesiastical method of exorcism and won. So one might say that modern psychology derived from the problem of the dual personality- the Jekyll and Hyde effect. However dual or multiple personality was not recognized as such until announced in Jean-Martin Charcot’s clinic at the Salpetriere hospital in Paris in the mid-eighties.
Charcot studied hysterics. Hysterics are dealing with a lot of stress, hence escape through an alternate personality would be an easy choice. Charcot and the Salpetriere aren’t exactly household words so let’s take a moment to explain the situation in which modern psychology was born.
It is also necessary to bear in mind changes in scale. What is good for one stage of growth is not good for another. As the scale of things progresses from tiny to small to medium to large to huge to gigantic new forms have to be adopted to suit the new circumstances. These transition points are difficult to adjust to but once adjusted to are considered so normal that those who resisted the old change are equally resistant to adapt to the next level. Of course the young of each scale is born into it and has no adaptation to make although they will at the next change of scale.
Thus the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era masked to a very large degree a major change of scale so that after Waterloo a seemingly complete break with the past had taken place. It was a new world in the morning. So in the years leading up to the Great War another change of scale had taken place that masked the new world that popped into place in the twenties. I picked up the concept from that astute observer, H.G. Wells, who noted the emerging change in scale at the turn of the century. That great ship, the Titanic, that went down in ‘12 may be considered as representative of that change.
Thus with the change of consciousness that actually took place in 1795 the new consciousness became clear after Waterloo. Gone was the religious notion of ‘possession by evil spirits’ to be replaced soon by the concept of multiple personality. Thus whereas in the past the insane had been treated as raving beasts, chained to walls and whatever a Dr. Pinel at Paris’ Salpetriere began a more humane treatment with an attempt to understand the causes of insanity. The approach was parodied amusingly by Edgar Allen Poe in his story The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether in which the inmates revolted and took over the asylum.
The Salpetriere was a large compound of several acres with thousands of residents, mainly women from whom the subjects who became the hysterics that the great Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot began to study as a neurologist, as the early psychiatrists were known. The field of Psychology is divided in two. On the one side psychiatrists who must be MDs and who believe mental ailments are biologically derived and hence to be treated medically with drugs or, one shudders to think of it, operations like pre-frontal lobotomy or electric or insulin shock ‘therapy.’ Psychologists, who are PhDs with little or no medical training treat neuroses and psychoses as malfunctions of reason caused by experiential traumas.
Charcot as an MD originally sought biological causes for the hysteria he studied although he was coming around to a psychological viewpoint just before he died in 1893. Thus from being chained before Dr. Pinel released them these women, hysterics, while being confined to the Salpetriere were given freedom of movement within the hospital with its flowers and walkways making for a much more pleasant environment for them and one unobtainable to them on the outside.
Now, the great Dr. Anton Mesmer introduced hypnotism to Europe as a discipline in the years just before the Revolution. Naturally something so new and seemingly revelatory did not find immediate acceptance, indeed, it was treated as nonsense. Nevertheless people of learning, doctors, persisted in experimenting with it. Thus, when Charcot came to be the director of the Salpetriere, to the dismay of his profession he introduced the practice in his treatment of his hysterics and thus legitimized its use. Hypnosis, too, was new and little understood.
The essence of hypnosis is suggestion and Charcot did not understand suggestion. The rival hypnosis school led by Auguste Liebeault and Hippolyte Bernstein at Nancy to the East of Paris was aware of the effect of suggestion but not necessarily the nature of what it was. Actually suggestion is whatever enters the mind and is accepted. If one wakes to a beautiful sunny morning it is suggested to oneself that the day will be a good day. Acting on that suggestion, post-hypnotic one might say, one will try to make the day a great one to hang onto that feeling. The mind is naturally open to suggestion as it must be; in an active mind one can discriminate to some extent as to what suggestions will be accepted and which rejected. Under hypnosis in which the mind has been put into a passive state the ability to discriminate and reject has been greatly reduced so that a hypnotist can plant a suggestion that then becomes what Charcot’s associate, Pierre Janet, called an idee fixe, or in other words, a fixation that will remain in your mind until executed. This notion may be imparted by a human agent, books, movies, radio or any medium that is capable of influencing the mind. One must be aware of this. It isn’t necessary to have a hypnotist standing in front of you saying ‘look into my eyes.’
As I say, Charcot was convinced that hysteria was biological, that is to say caused by a lesion to the brain, so that while he hypnotized his female subjects at the Salpetriere he wasn’t aware of the nature of suggestion.
Now, the eighteen seventies and eighties were terrifically exciting at all levels. They did things differently then. As has been said: The past is another country; they do things differently there. The past is never to be judged by current standards although the latter are useful for comparison. Thus when Lister suggested that antiseptics ought to be used in the operating room his suggestion was stoutly resisted although true and nearly universally accepted today. On the other hand Evolution although true is more stoutly resisted today in a religious reaction than it was in the last quarter of the nineteenth century so don’t feel all that superior.
While Charcot was arguing with himself as to whether hysteria was biological or mental, in the mid-eighties two of his associates easily grasped that hysteria was a mental problem. These two were Sigmund Freud and Pierre Janet.
Freud at that time, 1886, was making the transition to psychology from medicine. He was an MD. Charcot was not alone in dealing with mental matters. The understanding of dreams for instance was developing rapidly. When Freud published his Interpretation Of Dreams in 1900 he cited dozens of competent researchers dating as far back as the 1860s. In 1886 alone two novels dealing with the subconscious and split personality were published, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde and Marie Corelli’s Wormwood. Corelli cites Charcot as an influence so she very likely had attended his semi-public presentations of hysterics under hypnosis at his hospital.
Going back further, Freud, a German Jew, was undoubtedly familiar with the psychological work of the German romantics. At any rate he spent about four months at the Salpetriere studying Charcot’s work and methods. It is likely that the foundation of his psychoanalysis was laid there. While Charcot was struggling to determine whether hysteria was biological or mental, Freud, himself a neurologist, was able to perceive that, as he later put it, hysterics were suffering from reminiscences. In other words they fixated on past experiences which dominated their minds and behavior.
Pierre Janet, Charcot’s student and associate, came to the same conclusion probably at the same time. He expressed the problem more accurately when he determined that hysterics suffered from one or more idee fixes, that is a fixed idea or, in other words, a fixation centered around a specific past event or events.
Indeed, all the women at the Salpetriere had been battered and brutalized by life with no means of self-assertion or resistance. Unable to express their own will they retreated into ineffective hysterics finally ending up as semi-insane in Charcot’s hospital.
Now, split or multiple personality. No one, especially these women, have the personality they are born with. Over the course of our lives circumstances require us to respond in different ways, sometimes a personality is overwhelmed with a consequent personality adaptation or change and in extreme cases, insanity.
All very well, but what happens to the original and/or various personalities that were submerged. It is impossible for them to vanish from the mind so they must live on submerged by a more powerful personality impulse. Depending on the individual then, everybody must have at least one alternate personality. Stevenson and Corelli were demonstrating this in their novels.
The good Dr. Jekyll had had a wild streak in his youth that he forcefully repressed to become the totally respectable man of medicine. But, he longed for his rough and rowdy days so in Stevenson’s story he invents a potion, I’m sure whisky would have been just as effective, that allows him to free his original personality. In the course of his experiment the earlier personality suppresses the later one assuming control of Jekyll’s mind. Much the same thing happens in Corelli’s novel. Thus we have personality accretion.
Charcot’s hysterics, because of the side show atmosphere the Good Doctor created, became world famous, a sort of show people. Charcot even took them on the road for demonstrations and, heaven forbid, loaned them to other doctors for experimentation.
It was during one such loan in 1888 that Jules Janet, Pierre’s brother, made a startling discovery. He was experimenting on Blanche Wittman, the Queen of Hysterics, when having hypnotized her into what Charcot called the first state, instead of progressing to the second state, he decided to put her into a deeper trance. At that point Blanche was able to dissociate her personality from her normal state to what I assume was her original personality. She turned into a happy effervescent bubbly girl. In other words she had stripped every accreted personality adjustment to return to the period before society violated her womanhood.
One might ask where this personality came from? It is not necessary to assume either the supernatural or the paranormal. The personality did not come from outside her but was merely an early personality that had been submerged and denied existence by repeated abuse. If Jules Janet had pressed on he might have found three, four or more variations of Blanche Wittman. Indeed, when Charcot died in 1893 Blanche ceased having hysterical attacks and became quite normal assuming yet another personality although it was not recognized as such. She then took responsible employment at the hospital until she died under tragic circumstances.
Thus during one’s life one assumes many variations as one’s personal circumstances dictate. And one expresses them in many different ways. As an example of personality accretion I am going to use the history of the American fantasy and science fiction writer, Edgar Rice Burroughs. He has especial value as his biography is well developed and he has talked voluminously about his mental states through his large body of fiction which is all autobiographical in nature.
Part II follows.
February 13, 2011
A Contribution To The Erbzine
ERB Library Project
Review by R.E. Prindle
The sources of ERB’s work are always so rich that one is at a loss as to where to begin. This is certainly the case with Camille Flammarion. While little known today he had great influence in ERB’s early years. He incarnated in 1842 and disincarnated in 1925. That may be a fancy way to say born and died but appropiate to Flammarion’s way of thinking. He had very nearly established a superior reputation in his early twenties when his writings first began to appear. Indeed, the narrator of Urania seems to have been Flammarion himself as he is named Camille while the narrator is already very famous in his mid- twenties. Flammarion was a fabulous combination of the scientist and neo-Romantic. A perfect balance to my mind and a balance that I believe Burroughs sought to emulate.
ERB acknowledged that he based his vision of Mars on that of Flammarion. The question of when he read his available translated works probably can’t be answered but one would have to believe that Flammarion was fresh on his mind when he began writing in 1911. He had also been pondering Mars for some time as the trilogy of Under The Moons Of Mars is especially well thought out. Apart from his desperate situation one searches for the nudge that got him started.
The nudge may possible be found in a Chicago Tribune article of August 9, 1908 republished here on ERBzine by Bill Hillman. The article is entitled Are All The Planets Inhabited? The unnamed writer is essentially reviewing the thought of Camille Flammarion which he or she acknowledges. Flammarion wrote a number of sci-fi volumes about Mars many of which were apparently translated but which are unavailable now. There are a great many titles available from Print On Demand publishers in French but few in English. I have only three titles although they seem to contain the information in the Tribune article. It’s not impossible that ERB read only the books I have but it seems from the description I have of it he might also have read an 1864 title, supposedly translated, called Real And Imaginary Worlds.
Over all Flammarion wrote over fifty titles including what the English called Scientific Romances or proto-Sci-fi as well as popular astronomy titles and volumes based on psychic research. While he was not a member of the Society For Psychic Research he was aware of it and was in frequent contact with Arthur Conan Doyle who was a member. Doyle for a period of time visited him at his private observatory at his home at Juvisy near Paris. Flammarion considered psychic research a science. Spiritualism pervades the romances I have of him so once again it is unquestionable that ERB was conversant in spiritualism although he apparently rejected it.
Apart from Astronomy For Amateurs the volumes I have are titled Lumen and Urania: A Romance. I’ve already mentioned Lumen in my Edgar Rice Burroughs, Camille Flammarion and Theodore Flournoy essay here on ERBzine so I’ll concentrate on a review of Urania. She, Urania, as one of the nine muses of Greek Mythology, was the muse of astronomy and the head of the Muses. I have a POD facsimile reprint. Based on that I would have to say the original was a beautiful volume. The book was published in France in 1889, translated into English and published in 1891. ERB would have had plenty of time to have read it. The translation is by Augusta Rice Stetson. Between the original and the translation it is a stunningly well written book in the Romantic tradition. It reads as well as Charles Nodier’s Trilby, De La Motte Fouque or E.T.A. Hoffman, all great writers from the first Romantic period.
Urania seems to have been a major influence, perhaps a catalyst on the terrific neo-Romantic novels of George Du Maurier which I have also reviewed on ERBzine. Du Maurier was, of course, an ERB influence also. The tone of Urania is also similar to William Morris’ novels who, Lin Carter believes, as do I, was an influence on Burroughs. So a very strong romantic psychical infuence is operating in Burroughs’ imagination.
In addition to the wonderful translation of Urania by Miss Stetson the work was illustrated by no less than three artists with beautifully distinct styles. I think it’s worth picking up a copy just for the illustrations, or download the book at the link above. Really, reading the book was an ethereal experience. The first chapter is even entitled: A Dream Of Youth.
The book is divided into three parts. The first is an imaginary voyage through the universe, the second the love story that sets up the third part which is a wonderful discussion of Mars and its view of Earth. ERB toys with the this while it is very clear where he got his ideas.
All Across The Universe
Flammarion tells a charming story of an astronomy student who became fascinated by his professor’s clock which has a figure of Urania on it. Urania is the muse of astronomy in Greek Mythology. Pygmalion like this figure comes to life and the beautiful Urania conducts Camille on a tour of the universe. Thus the Romantic or Faerie World melds into the scientific. Very satisfying pyschologically.
Urania is apparently capable of traveling a few thousand times the speed of light because she take Camille to the edge of this universe where they behold other universes across immense stretches of empty space. Flammarion is demonstrating the concept of infinity.
Bearing in mind that he is writing in 1889, the concepts he is demonstrating would have been unthought by his readers, certainly unthought by Edgar Rice Burroughs as so much of this was adapted in his own writing virtually unaltered. John Carter’s translation to Mars can be compared to Urania’s trip across the universe. Indeed, on the way out she reaches Mars then gives a wonderful description of how Earth would look from that planet. Flammarion’s version is remakably close to how the Earth really does look from space as we now know from actual pictures.
Flammarion is convinced that life exists on all planets divising a concept of infinite variation of life forms. This is reflected in ERB’s depiction of animal and plant life in his Valley Dor on Mars, or Barsoom in his lexicon.
Flammarion, who studied double stars at his observatory at Juvisy has some spectacular descriptions of stellar phenomena which, once again, are fairly accurately corroborated by the fabulous photography of the Hubble telescope.
Now, having illustrated the concept of infinity, on the way back Urania demonstrates the meaning of eternal. According to Camille’s ideas light emanating from a source is a continual snapshot of that moment of that source. Thus at the speed of light one can intercept the wave at specific times in a source’s history, in this case, Earth. At the proper distance then one can observe, say, the Battle of Thermopolae, Waterloo or whatever one might choose enacted eternally, thus once created these images always exist in that light wave and wherever the wave touches at whatever distance the scene could be perceived, hence each moment is time is eternal.
In fact, no accurate view of the universe is possible because the light arrives from billions of light years distant. The light we see is so old that the stars may no longer exist. The configuration of that place in space is now probably entirely different from what we see. Flammarion is writing pure science fiction. While he is seldom credited with being one of the originators of science fiction it would appear that rather than there being a, or one father of science fiction there are several and Flammarion is one. I think the Scientific Romances of Hinton also qualify as well as Abbott’s Flatland. These years leading up to the twentieth century are very, very rich in absolutely wonderful lore if you approach it in the right frame of mind.
I am no believer in parapsychology and yet if you approach it from the point of view of these late Victorians as possible science then the period begins to glow in irridescent colors, flouresces before your eyes. Flammarion’s merging of romanticism and science is just stunningly beautiful.
So, having shown his character back to Earth Flammarion in an expert and entrancing way introduces the character of the second section, George Spero. I’m sure that Du Maurier found the catalyst that began his writing in Urania and Spero. The feel, the similarities are remarkable. Du Maurier read French so he could easily have read Urania in 1889 so the time frame is right. His books even look like Urania.
…to live like idiots if we do not think,
live like fools if we do.
This chapter sets up the denouement on Mars. As such it it concerns the love affair and death of Spero and his love, Iclea. Flammarion sets the scene, time and place in such a charming way I feel constrained to quote it. Part Second, Chapter One:
An intense evening glow floated in the atmosphere like a wondrous golden radience. From the heights of Passy the view extended over the whole of the great city, which at that time, more than ever before, was not a city, but a world. The Universal Exhibition of 1867 had lavished all the attractions and delights of the century on imperial Paris. The flowers of civilization were blooming in their most brilliant tints, wasting themselves away by the very ardour of their perfume- fading, dying in the full fervor of youth. The crowned heads of Europe had just heard a deafening trumpet-blast there, which was the last of the monarchy; science, arts, industry had sown their newest creations broadcast, with an inexhaustible prodigality. It was a general delirium of men and things. Regiments were marching, with music at their heads; swifty-rolling vehicles crossed each other from all directions, thousands of people were moving about, in the dust of the avenues, quais and boulevards; but as the very dust, gilded by the rays of the setting sun, crowned the splendid city like an aureole. The tall buildings, towers, and steeples were ablaze with reflection from the fiery orb; tones from a distant orchestra, mingled with a confused murmur of other sounds- the brilliant fit ending of a dazzling summer day- poured into the soul an undefined feeling of contentment, happiness, and satisfaction. There was a kind of symbolical summing up about it of the evidences of the vitality of a great people in the youth of its life and fortune.
Exhilarating what? The sense of discovery, the feeling of perfection just around the corner, the expectation of fulfillment when science- astronomy and psychology leading Flammarion’s way- reveals the blessed secret. The progression to perfection which existed in Flammarion’s paeon still cast a shadow in my childhood. I was raised on it but now I look in vain for evidence of it.
With that sense of the pursuit of the absolute, the squaring of the circle, George and Iclea prepare to step into the brave new world of their dreams.
The couple’s meeting is one of the loveliest I’ve read. Iclea, in Norway was standing on a hillock when she saw her reflection in the sky greatly enlarged and in full detail. George standing a little away but out of sight was also projected into Iclea’s celestial image. At that time he chose to lift his hat to the sinking sun which appeared to Iclea that he was greeting her, so she saw his features and gestures but he didn’t see hers or her.
What was a mytery to Iclea George could have explained as a natural phenomenon called an anthelion. Then the next day as they were boarding a ship to leave Norway, Camille, noticed Iclea staring fixedly at George as she recognized him as the figure in the sky. Then moving away he out of sight of Iclea but she within sight of him he repeated his previous gesture as a salute to Norway. Iclea once again mistook his gesture. Thus when they did meet in Paris it was a dream come true for the girl.
The courtship is charmingly described, as with the anthelion Flammarion faultlessly blends science with the faerie, the romantic as a mind exalting anthem. Quite astonishing, really. One of the central problems that Camille dealt with in the clash between the magical and the scientific world views was the question of immortality. The over riding fear of the scientific view was the elimination of life after death. Man can’t accept that he is materialistic, living for the moment and completely ceasing to exist upon death, even though that is so, thus Flammarion seeks a plausible reason for immortality. That quest is the real reason for the ‘science’ of the Society For Psychic Research which is merely a search for the proof of life after death. Just beautifully written though.
Thus George and Iclea have to die tragically to prove life after death ‘scientifically.’ The couple return to Norway where George is going to attempt to discover the height of the aurora borealis by a balloon ascent.
Sparing the details they rise to the height of fifteen thousand feet when the valve controlling the hydrogen gas bursts and the balloon begins to descend. They chuck everything overboard to slow the descent to no avail. Approaching free fall Iclea gives George one last kiss and then sacrificing herself to love she leaps out of the basket at several hundred feet. George bobs up to three thousand feet then he too throws himself out a la Romeo and Juliette to join his beloved in the great beyond. Whew!
We next see George’s friend and narrator, Camille, at a hypnotic seance in the university town of Nancy. Nancy was one of the two great hypnosis research centers in France. Jean-Martin Charcot presided at the Salpetriere in Paris while Hippolyte Bernstein and Auguste Liebault held court at Nancy. The seance is within the realm of then science but oh so romantic. There, Camille gains concrete evidence that life does exist after death. I transcribe the passage, this is good:
I do not recall how, but it happened that my conversation with him turned on the planet Mars. After describing to me a country situated on the shores of a sea known to astronomers under the name of Kepler’s Ocean, and a solitary island lying in the bosom of this sea; after telling me about the picturesque landscapes and reddish vegetation which adorned the shores, the wave-washed cliffs, and the sandy beaches where the billows break and die away- the subject, who was very sensitive, suddenly grew pale, and raised his hand to his head; his eyes closed, his eyebrows contracted; he seemed desirous of grasping some fugitive idea which obstinatley eluded him. ‘See!’ said Dr. B (ernstein?), standing before him with irresistable command; ‘see! I wish it.’
‘You have friends there,’ he said to me.
‘I am surprised at that,’ I said laughing; ‘I have done enough to deserve them.’
‘Two friends,’ he went on, ‘who are talking about you, this very minute.’
‘Ah, ha! Persons who know me?’
‘How is that?’
‘They have known you here.’
‘Here- on the earth.’
‘How long ago was it?’
‘I do not know.’
‘Have they lived on Mars long?’
‘I do not know.’
‘Are they young?’
‘Yes; they are lovers, who adore each other.’
Then the beloved image of my lamented friends rose distinctly in my mind; but I had no sooner seen them than the subject explained-
‘Yes, it is they!’
‘How do you know?’
‘I see,- they are the same souls, same colors.’
‘What do you mean by the “same colors”?
‘Yes, the souls are suffused with light.’
A few instants afterwards he added, ‘And yet there is a difference.’
Then he was silent, his forehead frowning in his effort to find out. But his face regained all its calmness and serenity as he added-
‘He has become the woman, she is now the man- and they love each other more than ever.’
Wow! There’s a twist. You really can kiss yourself. So, you see there were things going on on Mars. Perhaps the scene is reflected in Dr. Ras Thavas, the Mastermind Of Mars who could switch minds and bodies. As Burroughs let his mind, his imagination play, flickering across these details that he couldn’t replicate exactly he invented variations to amaze and stun us. Note the similarities of the balloon disaster to the balloon flight in ERB’s Pirate Blood.
The third part of Flammarion’s story Heaven And Earth deals with life on Mars. Let Urania seize your mind, lift it and transport it instantaneously through the void to the Red Planet.
Heaven And Earth
The magnetic seance at Nancy had left a strong impression on my mind. I often thought of my departed friend, and his investigations in the unexplored domains of nature and life, of his sincere and original analytical researches on the mysterious problem of immortality; but I could not think of him now without associating him with the idea of a possible reincarnation in the planet Mars.
-Camille Flammarion, Urania
If one looks at John Carter’s first translation to Mars one will remember that he disincarnated before the Arizona cave and reincarnated on Mars, that is he left his old body behind. It was sort of like dragging and dropping on your computer. You somehow magically create a doppelganger of the original. Carter was born again as a full grown man but naked came he. This is exactly the same situation as with George Spero and Iclea. They disincarnated on earth and reincarnated on Mars.
We wonder by what method Carter was transported. Flammarion has possible explanations:
This idea seemed to me to be bold, rash, purely imaginary if you like, but not absurd. The distance from here to Mars is zero for the transmission of attraction; [By this he means the gravitation attraction between the two planets.] it is almost insignificant for that of light, since a few minutes are enough for a luminous undulation to travel millions of leagues. I thought of the telegraph, [action at a distance] the telephone, and the phonograph; of the influence a hypnotizer’s will has on his subject many kilometers distant; [a mistaken idea of hypnotism] and I wondered if some marvelous advance in science might not throw a celestial bridge between our world and others of its kind in infinity.
Alright. ‘Transmission of attraction’ and celestial bridges.’ What kind of argument can one make against that. Transmission of attraction is gravity and as Flammarion explains when Mars and Earth are in alignment the two planets act on each other disturbing their orbits in a measurable degree. I want to be in on that next session with Dr. B. Anyway one or more of the above explanations must have worked for Burroughs although we’re sure that Carter didn’t use a celestial bridge. The distnace was zero by transmission of attraction which required only a short hop so J.C. just stepped from Jasoom to Barsoom shedding his drawers in the process. Right on!
Camille does admit though: …the fantastic ideas flitting through my brain prevented me from making a truly scientific observation. A caveat, no doubt, but then, …It is not this hypothesis which is absurd, it is the simplicity of the pedants. Ah, ha, the bases are covered.
Now after several pages of rumination on the possiblility of telepathy Camille is translated to Mars as in a dream. As a prelude he says, somewhat sagely:
…astronomy and psychology are most closely united to each other since, the psychic universe has the material world for its habitat, while astronomy has for its subject the study of regions of eternal life, and we could form no idea of these regions if we did not know them astronomically. In fact, whether we know it or not, we are living now, at this moment in heavenly regions, and all beings, whatever they may be, are eternally citizens of heaven. It was not without a secret divination of things that antiquity made Urania the muse of all sciences.
While I imagine not many have read the Book Of Urantia, a contemporary astronomical religious text, written during Burroughs time, that text seems directly inspired by Flammarion’s text also. Then in a hot summer ramble Flammarion rests beneath a tree and seems to fall asleep:
I was strangely surprised on waking up after a few minutes’ nap at no longer recognizing the landscape or the trees, nor the river flowing at the foot of the hill, nor the undulating meadows which stretched far away to the distant horizon. The setting sun was smaller than we are accustomed to see it, the air thrilled with harmonious sounds unknown to Earth, and insects as large as birds were fluttering about the leafless trees, which were covered with gigantic red flowers. Astonishment made me spring up with so energetic a bound that I found myhself on my feet feeling singularly light and bouyant. I had taken but a few steps before it seemed to me that more than half the weight of my body had evaporated during my sleep.
Compare that to Carter’s arrival in the Valley Dor of his second translation to Mars. As we know from Burroughs, citizens of Mars are able to communicate telepathically. No one on Earth does it but is there a possibility future evolvement might enable us to do so. On Mars Camille has a character say ‘our body is impregnated with the solar electricity that puts all Nature in vibration.’
Electricity is indeed the stuff of life. Let us see how life and evolution began on Earth. Life on Earth is essentially H2O, hydrogen and oxygen. Therefor it is evident that life began in a primordial ocean of water and certain dissolved chemicals whose elements are known. Over millennium it is evident these eventually combined in permutations and floated inert in the ocean until in some way Earth’s magnetic field, electricity, activated the chemicals making life on Earth and beginning the evolution resulting in life as we know it.
There is little doubt that man’s brain while being only superficially different to other mammals is superior to all beasts including apes. It is obviously superior and more highly evolved than any hominid predecessor although they had a certain something that separated them from the anthropoids. So if telepathy is possible then it must travel on electrical currents, radio waves. That means that one mind must act as a transmitter and another as a receiver. Presently our current is too low to allow transmission even if a mind was tuned to our frequency as a receiver. That’s the key problem for telepathy although technically it seems possible.
Camille having been translated to Mars and returned the next occurrence is even more startling. George Spero returns to Earth not as a woman but as a man. This stuff comes from an unusual mind. Remember that on Mars George and Iclea had switiched sexes so on Mars George left a female body behind but he appears here on Earth in his male form. so you can sort that out as you will with the following:
Shortly after the accident on Lake Tyrinfiorden he had felt like a man who awakes from a long and heavy sleep….He was alone in midnight darkness on the border of a lake; he knew that he was living, but could neither see nor feel himself. The air did not affect him; he was not only light but imponderable. Apparently what remained of him was solely a thinking faculty. His first idea on trying to remember was that he had awakened from the fall by the Norwegian lake; but when day broke he saw he was in another world. The two moons revolving rapidly in the sky in opposite directions made him surmise that he was upon our neighbor, Mars. He lived there for a while in the spirit state, and recognized there the presence of a very beautiful humanity, in which the feminine sex reigns supreme, from an acknowledged superiority over the masculine sex. These organisms are light and delicate, their density of body very slight, their weight slighter still. On the surface of this world natural force plays a secondary part in nature; delicacy of sensation checks everything. There is a large number of animal species, and several human races. In these species and races the feminine sex is stronger and handsomer (the strength consisting in the superiority of sensation; than the masculine sex, and it is she who rules the world.
Flammarion was obviously a feminist.
His great desire to know the life before him induced him not to remain long as an unlooker in the spirit state, but to come to life again under a corporeal form, and knowing the organic condition of the planet, in a feminine form.
Right. Be on the dominant side. Iclea apparently wishing to remain dependent to George chose the male sex. The two then unite into one being. It’s not clear what the status of a unisex was on Mars. Naturally Martians are much more advanced than Earthlings as are all extra-terrestrials in our imaginations. Of course they have to know more than we to get from where they were to where we are as the reverse is impossible for us. Like all extraterrestrials Martians know a lot.
They have invented , among other things, a kind of telegraphic apparatus, in which a roll of stuff [film?] constantly receives a picture of our world, and it is impressed by it, unalterably, as it unrolls. An immense museum devoted expressly to the planets of the solar system, preserves all these phtographic pictures, fixed forever in chronolgical order.
George Du Maurier calls these little bags of memory which he is fearful of losing on death. There’s a collecting mania that beats Andy Warhol all to pieces. George reveals that it was he on Mars who spoke to Camille in the form of a beautiful maiden extending his arms to George. Wow! There’s some implications there. As sci-fi this is very advanced.
‘But then,’ I cried, ‘if you are that Martial maiden, how can you appear to me in Spero’s form, when he no longer exists?’
‘I do not act upon your retina or your optic nerve,’ he replied, ‘but on your mental being and your brain. I am in communication with you now; I influence directly the cerebral seat of your sensations.’
I think I bought that bridge once, but excellent sales job here, certainly the reverse of what you see is what you get.
It is the same, too in conditions of hypnotic somnambulism. You see me and hear me, you feel me, too, by your brain, which is under influence; but I am no more in the form, which you see than the rainbow exists in the presence of the eyes that look at it.’
Isn’t that good? Flammarion is a genius even though he is a little off track, not his fault not that much was known then, especially the nature of hypnotism and its actions on the mind. Then here’s the clincher that proves ERB read and was influenced by this book:
‘I must confess,’ I answered, ‘that I cannot understand your Martial beings as having six limbs.’
And then when Flammarion looked away and looked back the apparition had disappeared. The watchman returned and the Martian story ends.
Thus begins the final chapter of the story The Fixed Point In The Universe in which Flammarion tries to tie up the Faerie and Science aspects of his story- the entwining of the Romantic and the Scientific. While it isn’t quite as noticeable in Burroughs, at least in the first burst of stories from 1911 to 1914, that is exactly what Burroughs tries to do, enclose the Faerie within the scientific. Ray Bradbury would try the same thing in his The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles.
Flammarion establishes the scientific aspect in a magnificent summation of man’s progress toward understanding the place of the Earth in the universe. I quote it because it is a superb understanding that I don’t believe is universally understood:
The Earth is not what it seems to be. Nature is not what we think….
The natural and direct impression given by the observation of Nature is that we inhabit a solid, stable Earth, fixed in the centre of the universe. It took long centuries of study and a great deal of boldness to free ourselves from that natural conviction, and to realize that the world we are on is isolated in space, without any support whatever, in rapid motion on itself and around the Sun. But to the ages before scientific analysis, to primitive peoples, and even today to three quarters of the human race, our feet are resting on a solid Earth which is fixed at the base of the universe, and whose foundations are supposed to extend into the depths of the infinite.
And yet from the time when it was first realized that it is the Sun which rises and sets every day; that it is the same Moon, the same stars, the same constellations which revolve about us, those very facts forced one to admit with absolute certainty that there must be empty space underneath the Earth, to let the stars of the firmament pass from their setting to their rising. This first recognition was a turning-point. The admission of the Earth’s isolation in space was astronomy’s first triumph. It was the first step, and indeed the most difficult one. Think of it! To give up the foundations of the Earth! Such an idea would never have sprung from any brain without the study of the stars, or indeed without the transparency of the atmosphere. Under a perpetually cloudy sky, human thoughts would have remained fixed on terrestrial ground like the oyster to the rock.
The Earth once isolated in space, the first step was taken. Before this revelation, whose philosophical bearing equals its scientific value, all manner of shapes had been imagined for our sublunary dwelling place. In the first place, the Earth was thought to be an island emerging from a boundless ocean, the island having infinite roots. Then the Earth, with its seas, was supposed to be a flat, circular disc, all around on which rested the vault of the firmament. Later, cubic, cylindrical, polyhedric forms, etc., were imagine. But still the progress of navigation tended to reveal its spherical nature, and when its isolation, with its incontestable proofs, was recognized, this sphericity was admitted as a natural corollary of that isolation and of the circular motion of the celestial spheres around the supposed central globe.
The terrestrial globe being from that time recognized as isolated, to move it was no longer difficult. Formerly, when the sky was looked upon as a dome crowning the massive and unlimited Earth, the very idea of supposing it to be in motion would have been not only absurd but untenable. But from the time we could see it in our minds, placed like a globe in the centre of celestial motion, the idea of imagining that perhaps this globe could revolve on itself, so as to avoid obliging the whole sky and the immense universe to perform this daily task, might come naturally into a thinker’s mind; and indeed we see the hypothesis of the daily rotation of the terrestrial sphere coming to light in ancient civilizations, among the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Indians, etc. It is sufficient to read a few chapters of Ptolemy, Plutarch, or Surya-Siddhanta for an account of these conjectures. But this new hypothesis, although it had been prepared for by the first one, was none the less bold, and contrary to the feelings inspired by the direct contemplation of Nature. Thoughtful mankind was obliged to wait until the sixteenth century, or, to speak more correctly, until the seventeenth century, to learn our planet’s true position in the universe, and to know by supported proofs that it has a double movement- daily about itself, and yearly about the Sun. From that time only, from the time of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton, has real astronomy existed.
A brilliant and remarkable synthesis of astronomical knowledge. Burroughs frequently mentions his debt to Flammarion while I have yet to see where he refers to Percival Lowell. Lowell, himself visited Flammarion at Juvisy where he, it would seem, learned from the master.
We have seen that in 1908 The Chicago Tribune recapitulated Flammarion’s vision of Mars and not Lowell’s on its pages with illustrations. Burroughs said that he based his vision of Mars on Flammarion and adapted to more correct knowledge when it appeared.
It seems clear that Burroughs was fully exposed to the paranormal/Theosophical viewpoints borrowing only what he found useful while rejecting the rest while very like believing none of it. Like Flammarion he accords telepathic powers to Martians but they are not effective with the Earthman, John Carter.
As the magical world of the fairies of the first Romantic period had metamorphosed into the pseudo-scientific paranormal Flammarion too has metamorphosed his magical longings into a scientific framework while accepting modern scientific astronomy. However he still confuses the two because of the longing for personality immortality. He accords full scientific values to the Society For Psychic Research because they seem to follow rigorous scientific methods yet the unconfirmed anecdotes they rely on he accepts as attested facts while they aren’t. It’s odd that with his trained mind he couldn’t see the fallacy.
And then while being a very able astronomer he merely decides that all the planets in the universe are inhabitable and then populates them. Thus he believes that Mars as a fact is fully peopled with flora and fauna like Earth’s but more exotic and spiritual.
He imagines a nearly infinite variety of life, that is human like intelligent life when in fact to this date all planets but Earth are barren of life. Venus isn’t even watery. What a blow that truth was.
Burroughs combined this wonderful fantastic fairyland displaced from Earth with evolution to imagine a fantastic array of life forms both on Earth and other planets, even beyond the farthest star.’
Both men were neo-Romantics although Flammarion having been born earlier was more heavily influenced by the first Romantic period while the much younger Burroughs was more acclimated to the scientific. By the time he began to write autos, planes, telephones and electricity had already transformed the world while radio and television were just round the corner. Talk about action at a distance and telepathy. God, Skype.
It was a wonderful time when all things were possible if improbable. Truly, astronomy and psychology would be he cornerstones of the Brave New World that awaits. Will it be Utopian or Dystopian?
August 2, 2009
Two, Three And Four Dimensional Burroughs
George McWhorter, the headmaster of our school, published a couple of very interesting letters in the Burroughs Bulletin, New Series #79, Summer 2009 issue.
In the first letter a Leo Baker from Nova Scotia proposed an idea to ERB. Burroughs gave a very interesting reply:
On March 16, 1920, I started a story along similar lines based on a supposed theory of angles rather than planes. If we viewed our surrundings from our own “angle of experience,” the aspect of the vibrations which are supposed to consitute both matter and thought were practically identical with those pervceived by all the creatures of the world that we know, whereas, should our existence have been cast in another angle, everything would be different, including the flora and fauna and the physical topography of the world.
The thought underlying the story was that wherefrom, viewed thus from a different angle, the vibrations that are matter took on an entirely different semblance, so that where before we had seen oceans, we might now see mountains, plains and rivers inhabited by creatures that might be identical with those which we had hithertoo been familiar, or might vary diametrically.
You see that it was a crazy story….
Now, Burroughs was a child of his times. Part of those times were some very remarkable speculative works by a remarkable thinker, Camille Flammarion. In his work Lumen for instance he demonstrates the non-existence of time. We know that ERB read Flammarion. We know that Burroughs went to lengths to demonstrate the non-existence of time. He may have drawn his own conclusions but as he read Flammarion say, by 1900, the notion at least was deposited in his mind where subconsciously it came to fruition prompted by Einstein no doubt. There were a couple other imaginative scientific writers of the late nineteenth century that my Burroughs studies led to me read. As has been said of old: When the student is ready the teacher will appear. I suppose I was ready and I read. Having read them they resonated quite strongly of ERB’s work but without anything other than ‘resonances’ to go on I didn’t dare suggest the ERB might have read them.
Other than Flammarion the two works I have in mind are Edwin Abbott’s Flatland: A Romance Of Many Dimensions and Charles Howard Hinton’s Scientific Romances. Flatland was published in 1884, Scientific Romances undoubtedly inspired by Flatland appeared in 1886. Flatland is still a famous if recondite book while Hinton is less well known.
Both works deal with lines and angles in a manner that as ERB suggests is ‘crazy.’ One has an unreal feeling in reading the books. Either ERB felt the same of his story or he was so close to Abbott and Hinton that he desisted. One notes, however, that his description of his 1920 story is very close to his Pellucidar stories and it was Pellucidar that was brought to my mind while reading Hinton and Abbott. ERB notices a theory of angles rather than planes combined with ‘vibrations.’ This suggests a continuing interest intitally excited by Abbott and Hinton combined with the originator of the theory of vibrations. The last is unkown to me at present.
While there are many who believe there is no intellectual depth to Burroughs I find a great deal of mounting evidence to suggest he was very interested in the intellectual and scientific ideas of his time and, indeed, built his entire corpus around them.
Both Hinton and Abbott are readily available, as well as Flammarion, if anyone want to join in a discussion.
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.
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