A Review

Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars

The Chessmen Of Mars

Post II

Part I

The Dance Of Barsoom

See Post I for Intro.


     The twenties were a difficult financial period for ERB, indeed, as was the rest of his life to be.  The substantial sums he had made in Chicago were spent before he left.  ERB had saved nothing.  He arrived in LA with no other resources than his current income.  That income was very substantial by any measure but unequal to ERB’s massive spending capabilities so that at the time he wrote Chessmen he was already strapped for cash and headed for deep debt.

     Always envious of the fabulous sums paid Zane Grey by the slick magazines ERB wanted to sell this story for ten thousand dollars to one of the big slicks.  There were no takers so that the story went to the pulps for thirty-five hundred.  Adding insult to injury he was told that the stories were too preposterous to be considered.

     Part of ERB’s literary problem was that genre categories were not yet well developed.  H.G. Wells’ early sci-fi efforts were labeled Fantasias, a term that could be understood by the literary arbiters, while still considered what we would call today, literary fiction.  Even George Du Maurier’s  trilogy of essentially science fiction novels- Peter Ibbetson, Trilby and The Martian have never been considered anything but literary fiction.  They are three terrific stories of psychological dissociation  while it would seem certain that Burroughs read them and was probably influenced by them.  I can heartily recommend them.  Very choice.

     So the genres were taking shape at the period but had not yet evolved as they would during the thirties, forties and fifties until today fantasy, horror and sci-fi dominate the fiction best seller lists.  If Chessmen was thought preposterous in 1920 one wonders what his critics would have thought of such movies as The Exterminator or The Predator.  God, those people were so awkward and unevolved.  Well, it’s the price you pay for being an innovator.  Remember what the Pope told Galileo.

     So, ERB was stuck in the pulps.  Perhaps smarting from this rejection ERB would try to break out of his pulp rate with several realistic novels.  the first was The Girl From Hollywood, a very decent attempt at a literary novel, that ERB’s long time publisher refused to publish.  Following in the burro tracks of Zane Grey ERB wrote a couple of Westerns only one of which he could get published at the time.  I read a lot of Westerns in the fifties while a kid.  I thought ERB’s efforts were as good as what I read then.  They’re all potboilers, even the so-called classics.

     He even attempted a couple of Indian epics that I found so-so but I know other people who liked them a lot.  Not so critical as myself, I guess.  Oh, right, he couldn’t get Marcia Of The Doorstep published either.  So he was type cast as a sci-fi/fantasy writer.  At least he knew he could do that very well.

     Zane Grey wrote some pretty strange Westerns.  He himself was quite a womanizer and his novels pander quite successfully to the distaff side.  He knew women well.  Probably that was why he was paid those great prices by the Saturday Evening Post et al.  Oh heck, ERB was just too outre for the Post.

     In Chessmen ERB gives feminine appeal his best shot.  I would imagine he was trying to reach the ladies when he describes Tara’s fabulous bath.  Either that or he was trying to titillate us boys.  Worked with me.  But let’s assume he was trying to broaden his appeal as the title was offered to the slicks.

     Chessmen was based on his three favorite novels as are all his books- The Viginian, Prince And The Pauper and Little Lord Fauntleroy.

     Thus Tara teases Papa John as her ‘Virginian.’  We are then introduced to Gahan of far Gathol.  ERB presents him first in his princely guise as, indeed, he is a prince of Gathol.  ERB chooses to present him as a fop dressed all in diamonds and platinum.  Tara forms an ill impression of him as she thinks no real fighting man  would dress in such a fashion.  Shortly Gahan will exchange his dress duds for the plain leather gear of the Martian mercenary thus changing from prince to pauper.  Of course he will resume his role of Prince by novel’s end.

     Fauntleroy was born to the manor in England but spent his youth learning what it meant to be a real American boy before reassuming his English title.  Ah, American dreaming.

     Recalling his battle for Emma’s favors with Frank Martin Tara has been betrothed since at least young girlhood to Djor Kantos whose father is friends with the family.  So like ERB Gahan has to overcome this parental resistance.  Speaking of Frank Martin Chessmen is the only novel I can recall in which the hero doesn’t get bashed on the head two or three times.

     At the ball being given Djor Kantos fails to claim Tara in time for the first dance so that Gahan leads Tara in the Dance Of Barsoom.  Some sort of Grand March.  ERB explains that before Barsoomian youths can attend balls they have to first have learned three formal dances- The Dance Of Barsoom, that of their country and that of their city.  After that they can take up stuff like the Martian equivalents of the Grizzly Bear, Bunny Hug, Charleston and Black Bottom.  Kids being kids on Barsoom the same as on Jasoom.

     While the concept is quite charming one wonders of the source.  Burroughs himself was no slouch concerning the hit parade.

     I think we can trace the rigamarole back to the patron saint of old timey music, Henry Ford.

     Amongst all his many other enterprises Henry was revolted by the music and dances of the Jazz Age as the twenties are sometimes known.  Even though his very own flivver is billed as being responsible for some new objectionable habits and traditions Henry clung stubbornly to the old.  Thus in full revolt against the Jazz Age Henry was promoting the dances and music of his youthof around, oh say, 1880 or so.

      Ford had begun his publication of the Dearborn Independent in 1920 making him a newspaper man also.  It seems clear from internal references in Marcia Of The Doorstep that ERB was following developments in the Independent.  He would then certainly have learned of the evils of the new music and the virtues of the old.

     Just as Henry Ford was trying to rivive the old dances on Jasoom, on conservative, behind the times Barsoom Jazz has never even been given a chance.  The Dance Of Barsoom is just as fresh and lovely as the first time it was danced millennia before.  Martian kids didn’t mess with tradition so much so Gahan led Tara in that lovely old relic of Mars- The Dance Of Barsoom.

     Pledging his love during the dance Gahan was sternly rebuffed by Tara.

     The preliminaries finished the story begins in earnest.

     The following day Tara is fascinated by a cloudy stormy sky which is such a rare occurrence on Mars that she had never seen one before.  As I mentioned in the intro ERB borrows the next sequence from Baum whose Dorothy was wafted to Oz on a tornado.  Tara ascends into this tornado like storm where her flier is caught by the winds and she is driven before them.  When she lands she had been driven like Dorothy to Oz to a far land that has been all but forgotten if it had ever been thought of.

     The hero and heroine of Chessmen are Tara of Helium and Gahan of far Gathol, or rather, they are the Anima and Animus of ERB.  ERB always writes Anima and Animus novels.  As dreamers will he may have recognized the X chromosome or Anima in the green pastures of his sleep or, it is quite possible that as a Latin scholar at Chicago’s Harvard School he was required to read the myth of Psyche and Eros from Apuleius’ The Golden Ass.  I only mention a couple of possibilities.  He may or may not have been familiar with Psyche and Eros but he was certainly familiar with the fairy tales derived from it such as Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.

     While Apuleius is given credit for the story his version is certainly only a redaction of the tale or philosophical speculation dating much further back in history.  The Ancients were well familiar with the concept of both the male and female versions of the Anima and Animus.  In popular mythology the male chromosome is represented by the Goddess as X chromosome and the Bull as the y.  The female is represented by the two snakes as in the pictorial representations of Crete.  It will also be remembered that the Greeks imported Cretan priests to manage the Apollonian shrine at Delphi.

     The myth is that the two aspects were once united then driven apart wandering the world in search of each other.  Duly at long last they do find each other are reconciled and allowed by the Goddess of Love to reunite.  Thus the stories of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty evolved from Psyche and Eros and who knows how many other stories besides those of Burroughs.

     The question is was Burroughs only following a plot line, a pattern he had absorbed or was he consciously aware of what he was doing?  Had he thought the problem out?  Just as Tarzan and Jane were apparently mismatched in Burroughs’ dreamscapes so were ERB and Emma in real life.  In Tarzan And The Golden Lion Tarzan and Jane had no sooner returned home from Pal-ul-don than Tarzan fled to his Anima in far off dreamland Opar leaving Jane/Emma to more or less shift for herself in a very dangerous world.  Misfortune usually hit her too.

     In ERB’s dream couple of John Carter and Dejah Thoris the Anima and Animus seem to be united although we see little of Dejah Thoris in the series and not at all in this novel.  Even their son who may represent ERB is not present at all.  Even with Carter and Dejah Thoris the classic separation and reuniting form a major part of the Martian Trilogy.

     In this dream tale with Tara and Gahan ERB follows the classic formula- separation, the long pursuit and final reconciliation.  He appears to know what he is talking about but since he never discussed his ideas on the subject we can only infer that he did or doubt or deny that he did.  The psychological motifs he expresses throughout Chessmen leads me to believe he did.

     What are dreams and what is a dream story?  Freud originated the rational approach to dream interpretation.  ERB gave some thought to the problem.  Once can’t be sure he had read Freud’s Interpretations Of Dreams although in his short story Tarzan’s First Nightmare ERB used elements contained in Freud’s theory to explain the causes of Tarzan’s nightmare.  At the very least we can say that dreams and nightmares from which ERB suffered all his life were of great interest to him.  In the thirties he would buy at least one book on scientific dream interpretation.

     What is the basis of dreams?  It can only be experiences combined with memory.  That’s it.  Think about it.  You don’t have to look any further.  Nothing mysterious about them.  The basic problem can be expressed in the question of what is the unconscious or subconscious.  Is it some ultra mysterious process of the mind that can’t be penetrated, understood or accurately located?  Is it as Freud believed an organ independent of the body and mind yet which somehow controls the actions of the individual from outside him?  Or, once again, is it merely a combination of experience and memory, a faculty for interpeting the experiences of the day?

     Freud touched on a key concept when he realized that the mind, which never rests, processes the incidents of the previous day in the sleeping and dreaming state.  Burroughs also takes this approach in Tarzan’s nightmare whether he picked it up from Freud, Sweetser or realized it himself.

      In point of fact experience happens to us so rapidly and from so many angles at the same time that it is impossible for the conscious mind to process it all as it is happening.  Can’t be done.  So, it follows that the subconscious or back up mind retains, as it were, photographs of the day’s activities that it reviews in sleep for either discarding, repression or action.  How many times have you awakened with possible solutions to problems facing you?

     The problem with the subconscious mind is that analysis of situations is affected by fixations, more expecially by the central childhood fixation.  Childhood is that perilous time of life when the inexperienced mind is subject to being presented with challenges for which it has no programmed or immediately adequate response.  Defeated in analysis the challenge is encrypted and encysted in the subconscious where it interprets all similar challenges through the lens of the defeated challenge and response.  Thus all those strange compulsive behaviors we have.

     As it chances we know Burroughs’ central childhood fixation.  That was when he was eight or nine and he was challenged on a street corner on the way to school by a twelve year old Irish bully.  Terrified ERB broke and ran apparently thereafter branded as a coward.  Thus the central theme of his work is fight or flight and the state of cowardice.  He examines the matter endlessly throughout the entire body of his work.  These elements are all especially prominent in Chessmen.

     We know that ERB was stressed to the breaking point as he wrote in 1921.  Whenever he was stressed his personality fragmented, splitting at least once.  In Chessmen the Kaldanes are two separate entities, the physical Rykors and the mental Kaldanes.  Tara and Gahan, the ritual Burroughs’ surrogates are driven apart by the terrific storm.

     This is a dream story abounding in dream images.  One can provide an analysis of the storm scene based on the incidents occurring in ERB’s life at the time.

     The image presented to us is of this very rare Martian storm of very high winds as in a tornado.  Tara although warned against it takes her flier up.  Perhaps ERB was warned against buying Tarzana, I would certainly think that Emma was at the least apprehensive.  Tara navigates well beneath the clouds but wants to be in a cloud where she has never been before, i.e. Burroughs buys Tarzana.  Here she is buffeted about so to escape she rises above the cloud or storm where the winds abate.  But she has to get back down so she must reenter the storm.  She is then taken by the winds tumbled head over heels by their extreme violence arriving half dead in the land of the Kaldanes.

     Now, how does this represnet ERB’s actual situation in dream images.

     ERB left Chicago under one presumes, sunny skies.  His original intent was to buy twenty acres to raise hogs.  Instead he bought over five hundred acres.  He then began a massive building and improvement program with what appears to have been a substantial payroll and a not very well thought out plan.  He overspent his income so that by 1921 his bills must have been greater than his income forcing him to borrow.  He found he had neither the skills nor the talent bo be a ‘Gentleman Farmer’ so that he was forced to auction off most of his tools, implements and livestock in an effort to raise money and cut expenses.  Also at this time his sources of income came under attack as the movies refused to film his intellectual properties while his royalties also came under attack.

     In what I consider a purely defensive move he was forced to incorporate himself assigning all his income, copyrights and what not to the corporation in an effort to secure the means of his livelihood by putting his income beyond the reach of his creditors.  In what I consider a questionable move he subsequently transferred a portion of Tarzana to the corporation.  So, shortly after this storm broke on his head he became merely an employee of his corporation.

     At the time he wrote Chessmen then he was caught in the turbulence of this storm he had created.  Unable to get back down as with Tara he tried to rise above it in some way but was forced back into the problem where he was being blown along head over heels no longer in control of his affairs.

     In the relative calm of 1924 he wrote Marcia Of The Doorstep that chronicles and looks back at this period.

     Tara’s flight then is ERB’s day to day situation presented in dream images.

     The rest of the book deals with past and present in a series of dream images to which  we proceed.


The High Brow And The Low Brow

The Mucker And Marcia Of The Doorstep

Part V

Marcia Explicated


R.E. Prindle


     The contrast between The Mucker and Marcia Of The Doorstep can be seen as a response to two different challenges united by Burroughs’ personal psychological development.

     He took the whole of 1924 to write this story so it may have been a real struggle.  Unlike his other novels he doesn’t record a beginning and ending date in Porges so we have no accurate idea of how long it took him.  It is possible that he had taken so much time, felt the need for money so intensely, that he rushed the ending through to try to sell the story.  One the other hand he usually scamps his endings.

     An indication that Emma may have been an influence in the planning and organization of the story is that it concerns matters that were very familiar to her.  Just as she was a voice student as a girl, so Marcia.  As Emma had to give up the studies so does Marcia.

     The milieu of the stage would have been more familiar to Emma, although having gotten involved with the movies ERB might also have familiarized himself with the stage somewhat.  I would have to opt for more involvement from Emma though.  (For further thoughts on this read Part VI)

     Unlike the other novels which feel as though they were written from the top of the head, Marcia has indications of more careful plotting.  If that is true I don’t think ERB would have been capable of it so that would argue for more involvement by Emma once again.  This is also a fairly complex plot that differs from ERB’s usual style.

     Unless I’m mistaken the novel, even though unpublished, landed him in hot water with the AJC and ADL.  I’m sure the reason would have been a mystery to ERB.  If you’ve read Part II, Section II what I have to say will be clear, if you haven’t read the Parts I recommend it.

     According to the Religious Consciousness there is no freedom of speech concerning the specific religion.  The Religion will control who is speaking, what is said and how expression is to be allowed.  ERB was not a member of the Jewish religion and as he was speaking unacceptably he was perforce an anti-Semite as the religion he was discussing was Judaism.  Had he been discussing Liberalism he would have been pathologized as a crazy bigot.  As Judaism was part of the diversity composing the Coaliton, Liberals would have considered him a bigot anyway.  Bigot is the Liberal equivalent of anti-Semite.

     The character in question is the shyster Jewish lawyer, Max Heimer.  Max is an expecially well drawn character from the viewpoint of the Scientific Consciousness, which is to say, Max is accurately drawn.  Whether from life or not is not yet known.

     Max is the protagonist of the story.  That anything happens at all is because of him.  He is not an admirable character but on the other hand he is neither truly malicious or evil.  The only thing that matters to Max, and would especially offend  the sensibilities of the AJC and ADL, is the bucks.  Max would probably stoop to outright thieving but he is a blackmailer, a swindler and a cheat.  While what he does is criminal it is done in such a way as to escape detection.  Even if you know he’s guilty the chances are you could never get a conviction.

     But, he’s not really a bad guy at heart and by his lights he’s darn near a philathropist.

     Max is always on the qui vive.  One has the impression that he never lets an opportunity pass.  Thus, one night he came across a drunken gentleman on the street, John Hancock Chase II.  Chase II for some reason was totally incapacitated.  Heimer took him home sensing an opportunity.

     Max had been living with a woman, out of wedlock, named Mame Myerz.  Although Mame wasn’t at home Max conceived the notion to tell the married Chase II that he had had sexual relations with Mame which he did nine months later when he showed up to tell Chase II he was a proud papa.  Max would keep this a secret for a fee.  Unable to sustain the blackmail Chase II shoots himself ruining a perfectly good source of income for Max.  This is no skin off Max’s nose as he blithely goes about his and other people’s business for the next sixteen years.

     That fine old gentleman, John Hancock Chase I bears the loss of his son stoically.

     As it happened Della Maxwell bore her child and left it on the Sackett’s doorstep on 4/10/06.

     If Max is finely drawn, no less can be said about Marcus Aurelius Sackett and his wife Clara, the long suffering wife of the air headed Mark, who is especially finely depicted.  Just a few deft strokes but she is always in the background worrying over her man.  Either I’m projecting from knowledge or ERB is able to portray a large loving woman who accepts the foibles of her husband, tolerating him and perhaps even loving him for them.

     Both she and Mark are overjoyed at the child left on their step.  They are no less overjoyed when Della shows up next day to move in with them.  Della Maxwell is a well chosen name.  Max-bad, Max-well.

     Mark Sackett is ably portrayed as an actor of the old school who while he fumes at the modern trash of the stage is nevertheless the kind of trooper who doesn’t leave his fellows in the lurch.  At this time in New York City he is working for Abe Finkel.  Abe is obviously another Jew modeled on the producers Klaw and Erlanger.  This is at the time of the development of movies from 1905 to 1914 or so.

     In 1919 ERB moved to Hollywood where he would have been privy to all the stories of the origins of the studio owners who with few exception were Jewish.  Most were from New York while Carl Laemmle was from Chicago via Wisconsin.  They all had risen from mundane occupations to real wealth.  Samuel Goldwyn had been a glove salesman.  Harry Cohn had been a street car conductor, Louis Mayer had had a string of jobs worthy of ERB himself so it will be historically accurate for both Max and Abe to turn up in Hollywood as studio owners.

     ERB was very good at weaving real life stories into his writing.  There are probably real life models for many of these characters and their stories may be based on true stories as they say in Hollywood.  For instance, Marcia’s first boyfriend Dick Steele goes to Hollywood as a stunt pilot where he meets his death, some mgiht say committed suicide, in a spectacular airplane stunt.  As it turns out ERB didn’t make this story up from scratch but merely, fictionalized an actual event that occurred on a movie lot in 1920.  William K. Klingaman tells the story ERB used in his popular history ‘1919’ of 1987.

     Lieutenant Ormer Locklear moved to Hollywood in February 1920, where he originated many of the airplane stunts used in the movies.  (He was the first aviator charged with reckless driving in the air, when he looped the loop over a public park in Los Angeles in April.)  In the summer of 1920 he was working on a film called, “The Skywayman”; the last stunt was supposed to be a shot of a pilot plunging to his death with the plane in flames.  Just before he ascended to film the sequence on the evening of August 3, Locklear turned to friends and said: ‘I have a hunch that I should not fly tonight.’  Spectators on the ground watched and marveled at the stuntman’s skill.  Then they suddenly saw the plane only two hundred feet from the ground, struggling to right itself.  It crashed in flames.  Locklear died instantly, the farewell letter to his mother that he always carried with when he flew was found undamaged.

     As ERB had no experience with the theatre and as his stage stuff seems fairly authentic and knowledgeable he may have borrowed stories like the Locklear tale and adapted them for his uses or else Emma had a fund of stories which she supplied for the novel.  At an rate these first 125 pages are full of charming detail about the theatre.

     Now safe in LA ERB even takes a loving poke at hometown Chicago.  Della Maxwell explaining her breaking of an engagement in Chicago says on p. 30:

“I couldn’t stand (Chicago) any longer, Uncle Mark…It’s a hick town, filled with coal dust, wind and tank town talent.  And slow, say, if I’d smoked a cigarette on the street I’d a been pinched for sure.”

     Max Heimer keeps the story moving along when he visits the Sackett household as the legal representative of some unpaid actors.  While there he notices the sixteen year old Marcia.  Learning that she is sixteen his mind clicks back to 1906 when his and Mame’s plan fizzled when Chase II committed suicide.  Ever on the qui vive he learns that Marcia was left on the Sackett’s doorstep on 4/10/06 which conincidence he can put to use.

     Ever shameless and brazen, they call it chutzpah, he contacts Chase I to advise him that he has found Chase II’s illegitimate daughter.  He’s picked the wrong man because the Senator, that fine old example of early American manhood, refuses to have anything to do with him however he has his Jew, that fine old examplar of the race, Judge Isaac ‘Ike’ Berlanger contact Heimer for him.  If his son’s daughter is out there the fine old gentleman feels obligated to take care of her.

     Probably already in deep for selecting a chosen person for a villain ERB begins here to really compound his error in the confrontation between ‘Ike’ Berlanger and the wily Max Heimer.  Woodrow Wilson during his first administration appointed the first Jew to be a justice of the Supreme Court.  This was Louis D. Brandeis of Louisville, Kentucky.  Just as the Liberal Coalition propaganda machine remorselessly pilloried its victims so it equally exalted its favorites.  Brandeis has been depected as a wise old saint for so long no one questions it.  FDR in his administration referred to Brandeis as our ‘Isaiah’ whatever that might mean.

     ERB doesn’t usually go far to find his models so I’m suggesting that Louis D. Brandeis was the model for Judge Berlanger.  Alright.  ERB probably thinks he’s going to get away with portraying ‘a Jew of the type; of Heimer by presenting a ‘fair and balanced’ picture of a ‘Jew of the type’ of Brandeis/Berlanger.  Doesn’t work that way as Charles Dickens, who was accused of being an anti-Semite, found to his dismay when he balanced a Jew of probity against the villainous Jew, Fagin, of Oliver Twist.

     One should always bear in mind that the very worst of a Chosen People is better than the best of the rest.  Thus all heroes must be from the Chosen while the villains must be from the rest.  So it is that all the villains currently have Anglo-Saxon/Teutonic names while all the heroes are of the Liberal Coalition.

     Thus ERB was very ill advised to meddle in these proto-Politically Correct matters.  Even though the entertainment industry of the twenties had been thoroughly Judaized he should have made Heimer an Anglo-Teuton while he was on track by making Berlanger an element of the Coalition.

     The exchange between Berlanger and Heimer very likely sealed ERB’s fate for the next several years while he confessed his error in his portrait of the wise old Jew in The Moon Maid in attempt to do his penance.  I can’t recall any more references to Jews in the corpus after this period.  If you know of any, let me know.

     The result of the conference between the two Chosen ones is that Senator Chase I is to settle twenty thousand on the Sacketts while providing Marcia with an income of a thousand a month.

     Here ERB goes into some interesting ruminations on the effect of coming into money when you’ve never had any.  Probably by 1924 he was wishing he had his finances to do over although he does say of Mark Sackett that he would never learn the value of money.

     The intention of Heimer was to receive the twenty thousand from Chase, keep fifteen for himself and give five to the Sacketts.  Berlanger is ahead of him giving the twenty directly to the Sacketts.  Don’t rule out Max yet though; he’s one canny Scot.

     Watching Mark come into money provides some amusing moments and an insight of how it had been with ERB.  Mark goes out and buys a car which allows ERB to work in his accident with the taxi in Chicago.  Charming passage though.

     The old ham Sackett decides to use the money to bring back the glories of the stage; he wants to organize a touring Shakespearean company.  There is some really nice wordplay as he attempts to inform Max of his plans.  Max on the gui vive.  He had not been denied that twenty thousand he had only been forestalled.  He appoints himself the tour’s business manager so not only will he embezzle the tour’s profits but the original capital.  But I get ahead of myself.

      Bear in mind that all along Della Maxwell is aware of what a shyster Max is as she knows for a fact that Chase II wasn’t close to being the father of Marcia and she is also absolutely certain that Mame Myerz isn’t the mother.  She keeps trying to warn Mark of what a shyster Max is without giving herself away to Mark.

     As far as Max and the Sacketts go in the first 125 pages of the book, that covers it.  The first third is of very nice quality, notwithstanding the ‘Politically Incorrect’ aspects.  If ERB could have sustained this level of concentration throughout the book he would have had a truly excellent story.

     Marcia is the other story line which has to be followed.  When this precocious girl comes into her money, and twelve thousand dollars a year was nothing to sneeze at in 1922, her life changes also.  Prior to the advent of her wealth she had been virtually betrothed to young Dick Steele.  Marcia is troublesome as a character becasue ERB portrays her with such incredible maturity for a young girl.  She’s barely legal, completely inexperienced but handles herself so well.

     Dick with quick prescience realizes that this is the end of the line for his hopes but he’s going to hang on as best he can.  He immediately quits school and gets a job in an airplane plant to make lots of money fast because he knows he’s going to need it.  This employment leads to his job as a stunt pilot.

     Marcia had been taking voice lessons for some time where she had met a wealthy young socialite named Patsy Kellar.  When Patsy learns that Marcia is worth twelve thousand a year she invites her to join her circle.  Marcia snaps into place like a memory stick in a digital camera.  Personally I think ERB is pushing his luck here.  The only thing that makes Marcia’s ability to fit in plausible is that she comes from a family of actors who may have aped the manners of the well-to-do.  Indeed, ERB has speeches coming out of Sackett’s mouth that prove his ability to use the King’s English just in case anyone thought ERB was an illiterate, fantasy writer.  ERB shows ’em how to in this one.

     The Ashtons to whose circle Patsy belongs are about to take a cruise into the South Seas in their yacht, the Lady X.  They think this sixteen year old flower of youth would be a delightful addition to their party.  Which, in fact, she turns out to be.

     Patsy takes her on a buying trip for clothes during which Marcia finds out how little a thousand dollars is.  This also allows ERB to build some female interest a la Zane Grey to appeal to the lady readers of the Saturday Evening Post.  So, the crew splits for Hawaii via San Francisco.

     Now, when Chase II chose to exit rather than face the music he had a little son, Chase III.  J.H. Chase III is now a twenty some odd Lieutenant in the US Navy and is stationed in- ready?  Hawaii.  Does he know Patsy Kellar and the Ashtons?  Darn right.  Old buddies.  Welcome aboard.  Chase III could have used his leave to go back to NYC to visit Grandpa but he opts for those soft South Sea breezes instead.  Who can fault him except Grandpa and Grandpa doesn’t.  Alright.  So now he’s on board the Lady X with Marcia.  All sixteen lovely years of her.  Now begins the action of the middle part of the book.

     ERB begins to fall back into his old ways although he has two stories to keep going.  In the story of the Sacketts everyone considers Mark’s dream of bringing quality theatre to the heartland of America the height of foolishness but, I’ll be darned, the Heartland flocks to Mark’s performances to lap up the Bard.  A little touch of culture really finishes off the man, you know.  The tour is a huge success playing to SRO houses everywhere.  The fly in the ointment is Max.  The guy just can’t keep his hands off the money.  He embezzles everything except for pocket cash of 300.00 for the Sacketts.

     Stranded in San Francisco again, Max got the loot while the Sacketts got the hotel bill.  The question is where did ERB get the story?

     I had the haunting feeling the story was familiar.  ERB didn’t have any theatre experience, nor did Emma, so he must have gotten the story, or combination of stories, really, from somewhere.

     By 1924 he had been in LA for four years so he’d plenty of time to pick up theatre lore.  The story of the tour sounds very close to the tour that brought Charlie Chaplin West.  Chaplin wasn’t doing Shakespeare on that tour, that tour may have been another one ERB heard of.  As I recall the Chaplin tour went bust in Salt Lake City also with Chaplin hoofing it to Hollywood.

     In Salt Lake Max tells Mark that the jig is up, the show has gone bust, financially that is.  Mark is incredulous as he has been playing to sold out houses but Max tells him there is no money and that is a fact difficult to argue about.  Mark accepts the fact and, indeed, even if he knew Max had embezzled the money whatever records Max kept he said he had sent back to New York while as Mark was broke he couldn’t afford to sue anyway.

     Now, let’s look to see if we can relate this to ERB’s life.  ERB had had his best year ever after the move to LA in 1921 in which he earned approximately  one hundred thousand dollars which might equate to the twenty thousand Mark received.  While Mark lost his money in this improbable Shakespeare tour, or rather it was embezzled, ERB lost his on his pig farm.  Who knows what was going on there? ERB had his income from 1919, 1921 and 1922 which must have amounted to from 200,000 to 250,000.  Multiply that by fifty or so for inflation and that is a tremedous expenditure.  It seems improbable that anyone could spend that much on a pig farm.  Perhaps ERB thought someone had embezzled from him.  Probably could use some investigation if for no other reason than to clear it up.

     OK.  Why Salt Lake City?  If ERB is following Chaplin’s story then Salt Lake City would logically follow.  However Salt Lake is one of ERB’s critical geographical locations.  His interest in the Mormons hasn’t been properly examined although Dale Broadhurst made a stab in that direction.  ERB made a special visit to Salt Lake in 1898 just after he purchased his stationery store.  That was his first visit.  Then in 1904 he and Emma resided there for several months during a very crucial period in his life, even a terrifying, desperate, excoriating one.

     One that had him at his wit’s end shaking in his boots.  While it is difficult to accurately pinpoint when his attitude toward Emma turned sour the several months in Salt Lake as a railroad shack may have been it.

     Thus the tour breaking up in Salt Lake City may represent the beginning of the breaking up his marriage in 1904.  The city certainly held a lot of memories for him.

     Mark and Clara are left high and dry in SF.  While Clara is out Mark turns on the gas and sticks his head in the oven.  I’ve read that exact story before too but I can’t remember where.  Or, perhaps, it is standard theatre fare.

     From the Land of Fogs Mark and Clara wend their way down the coast to the Land of Smogs, the mecca of all actors.  Mark is still too proud to work in the movies…but, we’ll leave the Sacketts in Hollywood while we follow out the story line of Marcia.  This one is pure Burroughs.

     While ERB has written Emma and himself into the story as Mark and Clara Sackett, Chase III and Marcia also represent his Anima and Animus.  This central section is essentially a retelling of The Mucker ten years after.  ERB no longer feels like the low brow scuzzy Billy Byrne, who was nevertheless ‘all man’, but is attempting the high brow Chase III.  ERB has changed back from the Pauper to the Prince.  His Anima presents a different problem.  He didn’t feel up to Barbara Harding so he married her off to Byrne in Out There Somewhere.  In Bridge And The Kid   he scaled down from a New York socialite to the daughter of a big man in a small town.  Gail Prim was apparently too much for the beat up hommy he was so now he scales down even further to a girl who is an orphan left on a doorstep to be brought up by strangers.  Thus the role of Harding and Byrne are reversed.  The Animus, Chase III, now has social standing while the Anima, Marcia does not.  However everybody loves her and she is acceptable wherever she goes.  There is some competition for her between the foppish socialite Banks Von Spiddle, the humorous name is a giveaway, and the military officer Chase III while the latter wins as might be expected given ERB’s prejudices.  This very likely reflects the competition between ERB and Frank Martin that ERB won and is a recurring theme in his writing from his unpublished first story, Minidoka, and this one.

     Just as there was a shipwreck in The Mucker so there is one here.  Here ERB produces a new variation in that there are two life boats in one of which the best people were to go while in the other the muckers.  In the turmoil of the storm and sinking Chase III and Marcia are separated from the first boat ending up with the muckers including the terrible Bledgo who obviously represents John the Bully as the storm represents the encounter on the street corner.

     After the usual interval of several days adrift on the sea the crew spots the inevitable desert island.  Going ashore the better people separate themselves from the worst of the muckers forming two parties which sends Bledgo searching for Chase III and Marcia.  As the Animus represents the spermatic side of the body while the Anima represents the ovate Bledgo is really searching for the two aspects of Burroughs’ personality- the one he wishes to kill and the other to rape.

     As the rest of Chase’s party realize that Bledgo only wants Chase III and Marcia they urge the pair to flee which they do.  Bledgo doesn’t give up the search but pursues the pair up the mountain.  There is a fight during which Chase III brings the butt of his revolver down on the forehead of Bledgo, reminiscent of ERB’s bashing in Toronto.  The pair then continue their flight up the mountain.

     In this sequence Burroughs takes vengeance on John the Bully by defending himself and his Anima as he felt he should have on the streetcorner while retaliating the horrific blow to the head he received in Toronto on his ancient enemy.

     Thus as Chase III and Marcia continue up the mountain in a torrential downpour ERB’s Anima and Animus are reunited.  He is a whole person again.

     Reaching the top of the ridge they discover the best people singing, playing on the beach on the sunny side of the mountain.  Thus ERB rejoins the people he was supposed to be among but was separated from by his encounter with John.  How well this squares with real life is uncertain.  It may just be wishful thinking especially as ERB is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

     Incest and cannibalism are two recurring themes in ERB.  The latter was a concern on the boat, the former now rears its ugly head.  Chase III and Marcia reach the Philippines where they are to be married the next day however Marcia opens the mail waiting for her which includes a letter from Judge Berlanger.  The letter advises her that Jack Chase is her half brother.  Horrified and chagrined Marcia steals away in the night to take ship for San Francisco.  SF and disaster again.  It always happens that way for ERB in Baghdad By The Bay.  Wonder why.

      Aboard ship an entertainment is organized for which Marcia agrees to sing and act in a skit.  She’s emaciated but that can’t mask her loveliness.  Also aboard is a famous Hollywood producter.  Needless to say Marcia is ‘discovered.’  A movie contract awaits her in Hollywood.

     As I pointed out earlier there was a hiatus in the production of movies from Burroughs’ books from about the time he wrote Girl From Hollywood  until 1927.  Part was probably due to ERB’s writing on Jews in this novel but part was also due to his very negative portrayal of Hollywood in ‘Girl’.  Thus just as he portrays a venerable Jew in The Moon Maid  to atone for his portrayal of Heimer et al., here in this novel he lauds Hollywood as the home of the most wonderful people in the world.  He reverses his portrayal of the director Wilson Crumb in the character of the kindly upright director Otto Appel, who also sounds Jewish.

     ERB has now told two thirds of his story and is at page 295 of 351.  He’s got a lot of story to go that he crams into the remaining fifty of so pages.  Honestly, he needs at least two hundred to flesh out his story properly.  Perhaps he had been at work on the story for most of 1924 during which he had generated no new income and wished to get the story off to the Saturday Evening P{ost for that fifty thousand dollar paycheck plus book rights.  The amazing thing is that ERB doesn’t seem to have received advances from his publishers at any time.  Also at this time things were getting strained between McClurg’s and himself.  It won’t be too long before he breaks with them.  We need more information on this aspect of his career.

     So, Jack and Marcia are separated again while Jack has no idea where she may be.  In the interval between their leaving and returning the world as they knew it had broken apart.  No one was where they had been except Grandpa.  Chase III runs into Pilkins, one of the sailors in SF.  Pilkins had taken the same ship back with Marcia so he advises Chase III that she has gone to LA to be in the movies where Chase III follows.

     I can’t think of a positive reference to SF in ERB’s writing.  Either he just didn’t like the city or something happened there.  If so, it would be good to know what.

     At this time we have a whole crew in LA:  The Sacketts, Marcia, Dick Steele, Banks Von Spiddle, Chase III, Max Heimer and Abe Finkel with Ike Berlanger to follow.  This may be the alternative version of how the West was won.

     I wish ERB had put more effort into this ending.  Fleshed out this would be a pretty good story of the exodus of the entertainment industry from New York to Hollywood.  This would be good first hand history of Hollywood at least, of which ERB was actually a fairly significant figure.  I get kind of excited trying to piece together how it may have been.

     ERB at one time had been allowed on the lots so we may assume that his production scenes were authentic as well as his depiction of Poverty Row.  the latter was real where the more impoverished companies had their quarters.  Mack Sennet had his quarters on Poverty Row.  Sennet’s autobiography is well worth reading.  Poverty Row is where F&H Studios set up business.  Yes, after embezzling that thirty thousand dollars from Mark Sackett Max Heimer ran into his old acquaintance Abe Finkel.  The two combined to form F&H.  They are the one’s who give Dick Steele his start as a stunt pilot.

     Max is about town where he runs into Mark Sackett frequently.  Max is not a bad guy, in the same circumstances many another who had injured a man would hate him contriving to injure him further.  Not Max.  Once he’s got the money he’s a congenial fellow.  He presses small loans on Mark who after all is only receiving his own again.  Max, who undoubtedly has developed some pull, gives Mark leads to jobs that if Mark had taken them would probably have led to decent prosperity if not more.  As Mark is too proud to accept movie roles he doesn’t follow up but Max does his best by him.

     As I pointed out in Part III,  Sam Goldwyn had revived the Potash and Permutter stories of Montague Glass filming the Broadway play in 1923 which was a great success.  In 1924 he filmed In Hollywood With Potash and Perlmutter that was an equal success while probably charming ERB so much that he based the F&H Studios of Finkel and Heimer on the movie.

     Here ERB compounded his error of the first part of the book by making the two Jews humorous and despicable.  The inference is that because of their cheapness they were responsible for Dick Steele’s death.

     Remember Mame Myerz?  No sooner does Max make a few dollars than he takes up with a gorgeous starlet.  Mame gets wind of this back in the Big Apple where she goes berserk.  She immediately tramps into Judge Berlanger’s office attempting to sell him the true story of Marcia.  The old Judge doesn’t give in that easy so Mame spills the beans that she isn’t Marcia’s mother and she wasn’t anywhere near Chase II.

     Thus the way is cleared for Marcia and Chase III to marry; no danger of incest.  Max hears of this putting the screws to Mame to retract her statement which she does.  Now there’s enough doubt in Marcia’s mind that the marriage is off once again.

     In Max’s last scene, I kinda hated to see the little guy go, Judge Berlanger, also now in LA confronts Max with the theft of Mark’s money.  Chutzpah deserts the wily little attorney.  Unable to brave it out with Berlanger Max accepts defeat turning his assets over to Mark.  He was forbidden LA and New York in which places he hasn’t been seen to this day.  By stories end I kind of liked Max Heimer although it would be best to go the other way if you saw him coming.

     Marcia was lost track of after the Philippines.  She has lost track of everyone else.  She becomes a star but as she had taken another name no one knows where she is.  They don’t go to her movies, apparently.  Mark and Clara’s fortunes continue to decline becasue of his bullheadedness until finally their landlady turns them out into the street.  This was probably how ERB and Emma felt when they had to leave Tarzana after only four years.

     ERB’s situation must have created a lot of gossip.  After all a famous author comes to town buys a huge estate, c;mon 540 acres? and within two years is in financial difficulties and after four a virtual bankrupt forced from the estate.  Tongues must have wagged.  I’d sure like to know what they were saying.  Just exactly how ERB’s Hollywood contemporaries thought of him.

     In the meantime, completely destitute, Mark accepts movie work.  He is sitting on a lounge on the set when the star, Marian Sands, walks on the set.  She sees Mark who recognizes her as Marcia and the family is reunited again.

     Chase III arrives in LA in search of Marcia.  He apparently never goes to the movies so he doesn’t make a connection between Marian Sands and Marcia Sackett.  He enters a career of dissipation turning to drink and gambling.  Too proud to contact granddad he runs through his money. 

     He has some amusing encounters with oilmen which probably reflect ERB’s own as he floundered around trying to find ways to make money fast.  There’s a lot to be done here in researching ERB’s business doings in LA.  Later in the decade he will get involved in the Apache airplane engine and airport development so it seems unlikely that he wasn’t trying to be a business success in the early and mid-twenties.  Dearholt showed up a couple years later with movie schemes that ERB bought into so what was he doing in the business sense?

     Chase III who has been hanging around the studios looking for Marcia rather than studying theatre marquees gets into the movies finally locating his loved one.  Some direct borrowing from Merton Of The Movies here.  Moving very rapidly and sketchily ERB throws in a couple suicide attempts as the couple get together.  Resemblance between Edith Wharton and Scot Fitzgerald here.

     Together again there is still no hope of marriage because of possible incest, even though Marcia will never love another or marry.

     OK.  Della Maxwell.  Remember her?  She’s back in Chicago in the hospital dying a slow death.  Well, you know, she is Marcia’s mother.  On her death bed, I mean, the pen falls from her fingers as she signs the letter to Marcia, she makes a clean breast of it telling the story, sending the bigamist marriage license, birth certificate, everything so there will be no doubt that Marcia is semi-legit and not related to Chase III.

     We’re almost there do you think?  Not by a long shot and there’s only ten pages left.  The mail train with Della’s package is held up somewhere in Arizona.  The bandits disappearing over the border with the swag that contains Della’s letter and little metal box.

     Wow?  What next?  OK, ERB’s got a twist or two still hidden up his sleeve.  Banks Von Spiddle- yes, he’s out there, too- has a ranch down in Mexico that the Revolutionaries of 1914 failed to expropriate.  A guy with a name like Banks Von Spiddle ought to get lucky once in a while I should think.

     He and his vaqueros go out coyote hunting.  They have a good day, getting a full bag.  The last coyote tries to hole up in a small cave where Von Spiddle blasts the life out of him.  While he’s drawing the coyote from the cave he notices a decayed leather mail pouch kind of thing.  What do you suppose that might have been?  Yeh, right.  Della’s letter and little metal box intact.  Von Spiddle can be small or he can be big.  He chooses to be big giving the info to Chase III and Marcia so they can be married and live happily for however long marriages last in Hollywood.

     Thus ERB manages to compress a marathon into a hundred yard dash in the last fifty pages.

     Over all a good enough story.  Neither Collier’s, Saturday Evening Post nor anyone else wanted it so ERB lost a year with no income, or income from new work anyway.  If he was living on edge at the beginning of the year he was still on the edge at the end.  Whew!

     How did he get out of that financial bind?

Part VI and End is the next post.


A Review

The Low Brow And The High Brow

An In Depth Study Of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Novels

The Mucker And Marcia Of The Doorstep

Part IV

Marcia Of The Doorstep ERB’s Serious Literary Attempt


R.E. Prindle

     The ten year interval from the writing of The Mucker to Marcia Of The Doorstep  were momentous years in the life of Edgar Rice Burroughs.  When one looks back on those years from ERB’s personal side and from the societal side one is astonished at the changes both were going through.  Both had changed greatly; neither ERB nor the world was the same as it had been before 1920.

     While ERB evolved rapidly on the psychological side he was rather slow on the emotional side.  He seems to have been slow to adjust to the new demands placed on him.  On one level ‘Marcia’  records ERB’s inability to handle his newly minted money.   ‘Marcia’  will record in metaphorical terms,  ‘highly fictionalized,’ ERB’s running through a fortune to end in debt by 1924.

     The story retells the history of the period from say 1900 when he married Emma to 1924, or his present.  He is no longer the person who wrote  ‘The Mucker.’  That book had wallowed in the low brow.  The whole milieu of the story was set in low brow locations from the beginning in the great West Side of Chicago to the boxing milieu of New York City.  The story is sort of an ode to the grungy side of life.

     The following two novels  of what is actually a quartet showed ERB evolving from a completely vulgar low brow guy through the Bridge of ‘Out There Somewhere’ tramping in search of himself and the ‘found’ Bridge of ‘Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid’ who returns to his aristocratic Virginian origins reunited with his Anima.  Now returned to polite society in a Bohemian fashion in ‘Marcia Of The Doorstep’ ERB is writing a high brow version of ‘The Mucker.’  The coin has flipped from tails to heads.

     The milieu has changed from Chicago streets and New York gyms to the parlors of wealthy New Yorkers and the conforts of middle class LA.  ERB’s alter ego is now the grandson of a wealthy ex-Senator.

     Whereas Byrne felt completely alien on entering Barbara Harding’s New York mansion Dick Steel, a lower class but aspiring to better things suitor of Marcia is introduced by her into the upper class environment where he is quite comfortable and at ease, chatting amiably with no faux pas.  So, perhaps the trip from Grand Avenue to Riverside Drive within one lifetime is possible.  In this sense perhaps Dick and Marcia are alternate personas for ERB and Emma.  I think ERB was struggling to adapt himself to his new circumstances during the previous decade; perhaps the character of Marcia was meant to create his new persona for him.  A second beginning as it were.

     At the same time, if Marcia’s foster-father Marcus Aurelius Sackett is a version of himself, as he certainly is, then he sees himself as an impractical wastrel who even when handed the means for a prosperous life manages to lose the money.  This easily parallels ERB’s own life as he was on the edge of ruin in 1924 when he wrote the story.

     He defiantly says of Sackett that he had never learned the value of money and never would which was an accurate prediction of his future course.  One has the feeling that despite present hardships ERB thought the money would never run out and that Emma’s financial worries were unfounded.  Indeed, this proved to be the case as phenomenal income did continue to come in as comic strips, radio and a new lease on movie life for his Tarzan in an improvement on the film medium in the form or sound that was unthinkable in 1924.  Tarzan money came in at a pace more slowly than he could spend it.  Until late in life when he became too ill to spend ERB remained one step from the crest of the hill leading to the poor house.

     His preposterous attempt to make a fortune as a hog farmer was ending in disaster.  Rather than making money on his grade Duroc Berkshires he lost as much as thirty-nine thousand dollars in a single year.

     At the same time he had managed to antagonize Hollywood so badly that after a very promising start in films, from 1921 to 1927 no movies of Burroughs novels were made.  Thus ERB was cut off from a very lucrative stream of revenue at this critical time.  Network radio wa just coming on stream in the twenties while ERB would earn nothing from the medium until the thirties.  The comic strip which produced a handsome income stream also came at the end of the decade.  As these forms of entertainment were incomparably more lucrative than publishing ERB’s income depending solely on books and magazines was severely curtailed during this period.  The twenties then were a comparatively lean period for Burroughs.

     I have never seen any evidence as to how the Otis Estate was paid for.  The price of $125,000 seems a bargain in the burgeoning LA real estate market even today.  Indeed, a friend of Herb Weston’s from LA speculated that ERB paid half a million for it.  Whether ERB paid cash or what period of time he made payments so far as I know has never been revealed.  Whether he had clear title to the property before he mortgaged it is unknown.

     Originally looking for about twenty acres according to his correspondence with Herb Weston, within a couple weeks of arriving in LA he had purchased 540 acres.  Typical Burroughs.  And what an estate it was.  In a letter of 3/14/19 to Weston ERB describes the ranch which was apparently renamed Tarzana from its inception.  Thusly, p.83, ‘Brother Men.’

     Tarzana is a delightful place.  We have 540 acres on the State Highway (Ventura Blvd.) – a boulevard running from Los Angeles to San Francisco- in the San Fernando Valley foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains.  The place is 23 miles from L.A. shopping district and 13 miles from the ocean- by auto road.  The house stands on the top of a hill about half a mile from the boulevard and has- as nearly as I can count them- eighteen rooms & six baths.  It is of Spanish architecture built around a patio in which are many flowers and shrubs.  The hill comprises some fifteen acres set out in flowers, shrubs and trees.  I think there are some two thousand trees of several hundred varieties- many of which were brought from Asia and Africa.

     Half a mile up the canyon are the foreman’s house, bunk houses, barns, corrals, etc.  I acquired five hundred head of pure bred Angora (mohair) goats, five horses, a cow, forty hens and a bum dog, beside farm implements and $8000.00 worth of iron and concrete piping.  There is an abundance of water and I almost forgot a 12 acre grove of olive, lemon, apricot & orange trees, besides 250 English walnut trees.

In addition, during prohibition, the estate came with a fully stocked cellar of the finest liquors and wines.

ERB kept telling Weston Tarzana had drawbacks while Weston kept repeating incredulously:  What drawbacks?

Within weeks of purchasing this Garden of Eden developers arrived at his door wishing to develop the City of Tarzana for him.

All the elements of prosperity were there for him.  He had five producing orchards plus a large herd of Angora goats.  Both the orchards and the goats should have been able to produce a substantial income if managed wisely.  Not only was Tarzana a bargain but it should have been nearly self-supporting from day one not including being able to relax with a bottle of old vintage wine at day’s end.

Within two years of Tarzana’s purchase  ERB was on the verge of bankruptcy deep into schemes to develop country clubs  and sub-divisions in an effort to raise cash.  Perhaps such efforts were merely schemes to display his business talents.  If so they were nearly as ill-advised as his attempt to commercially raise hogs.


     In his attempt to be high brow ERB seems to have been highly influenced by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Beautiful And Damned.  The choice of the model is interesting.  ERB’s first role model, Jack London, had died in 1916; his second, Booth Tarkington was still going strong strong winning Pulitzer Prizes in fact, one for ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’ and another for ‘Alice Adams.’  But Tarkington’s mindset belonged to the earlier era.  After the sea change of the Bolshevik Revolution and the end of the War a new mood characterized society.   The Flappers, the Roaring Twenties and the New Era were coming into prominence.

     I find this interesting.  ERB picked up on the change immediately attempting to adjust his writing to the New Era.  His earlier ‘The Girl From Hollywood’ can also be seen in that light.  ERB also honed in on the writer who epitomized the era.  F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel ‘This Side Of Paradise’ appeared in 1920.  The Beautiful And Damned was published in 1922.  A short two years later then ERB had recognized that Fitzgerald represented the new direction, bought his book soon after issue and immediately incorporated the book into his work.  Between 1922 and ’24 then ERB had recognized that Fitzgerald represented the new direction.  Remarkably, rather than condemning the new or rejecting it he readily accepted it trying to emulate it in Marcia.  I don’t know about you but I admire that.

     If  ‘The Girl From Hollywood’ was a hybrid attempt in 1922, in 1923 ‘Marcia’ was conceived and delivered on the new model a year later.  Of course ERB was still ERB but ‘Marcia’ is very interesting.

     One can’t say for certain how Burroughs saw the progression of his writing career but by 1924 he was no longer stunning the world with creations like John Carter of Mars or Tarzan Of The Apes but was a more predictable quantity.  After all, how could anyone actually know what the future held so he was trying to carve a new niche.  Originally his puplisher McClurg’s wanted only to publish the Tarzan series, reluctantly beginning to publish the Mars series late in the second decade, so that none other of Burroughs huge output of the teens found its way to book form until the twenties.  McClurg’s grudgingly put them in print, then sneeringly sold the plates to him as worthless toward the end of the decade as if to say, we told you so.

     As publishers they may have evaluated the other titles as too rough for publication which opinion has some merit.  Perhaps without movie revenues to flesh out his income during this period ERB put a lot of pressure on McClurg’s to publish the stuff in a desperate attempt to boost his income.  That could explain some of the developing friction between the two.

     Of all the titles published in the twenties ‘Marcia’ wasn’t one of them.  The book didn’t see print until 1999 when Donald M. Grant took the risk.  I find the book fairly interesting;, as a Bibliophile I could do no other, and while not a great novel I think that as a Burroughs title it would have made money without damaging his reputation.  There is a great deal to it.  I like ‘Out There Somewhere’ and ‘Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid’ better but I might give ‘Marcia’ the edge over ‘The Mucker.’  In fact, I would.  I didn’t think ‘The Mucker’ was among ERB’s best.

     Compounding Burroughs’ publishing problems was the fact that he was impetuous in his reaction to the Bolshevik Revolution rushing the condemnatory ‘Under The Red Flag’ to publishers.  The novel, or possibly tract, was universally rejected.  As originally written the story may have been a polemic which was not suitable for the magazines to which he submitted it.  The story may have been too shrill in any event.


     As if by magic the Red/Liberal faction appeared from nowhere to dominate publishing, the arts, education, religion and innumerable little rivulets of society.  All of a sudden the previously dominant Republican administrations that had been so solidly entrenched since the Civil War was in a minority.  They were able to hang on through the Harding, Coolidge and Hoover administrations but then their ideology was completely overturned by the twenty years of treason of the FDR-Truman administrations.

     Thus Burroughs identified himself with the minority counterrevoltionary party.  Already ridiculed by the publishing world he would find it increasingly difficult to publish over the next two decades.  He would be under constant attack both at home and abroad.  As he owned the magnificent intellectual property of Tarzan- and really, all his other work pales beside the Big Bwana- he couldn’t be completely disposed of although it should not be forgotten that as the decade of the twenties closed he turned to self-publication.  This may have been from greed as he publicly said but it should be remembered that a few blackballed writers like Upton Sinclair who were denied publication through the regular channels also turned to self-publication about the same time.

     ERB’s novels of the early twenties apart from the Tarzan and Mars series were 1922’s ‘The Girl From Hollywood and 1923’s ‘The Bandit From Hell’s Bend.’  He complained that ‘The Girl From Hollywood’ was sabotaged, taken off the market, that it was selling well and could have sold better which is undoubtedly true.  The novel while not great, is on a par with Harry Leon Wilson’s ‘Merton Of The Movies’ or the Graham Bros. ‘Queer People.’

     All three novels were early examples of the Hollywood novel at the time TInseltown was in its infancy and did not yet glory in its immorality.  The movies were assuming a central place in American culture.  Novel and novel of the times makes reference to the movies or Hollywood.  The Grahams’ ‘Queer People’ was a completely negative vision of the movie capitol and is still worth reading.  The Queer in the title does not refer to homosexuality but to strange and weird such as Weston referred to ERB.  The novel was the Grahams’ way of saying sayonara, as they were run out of town after the book was published.  There’s a tribute for ya.

     ERB’s ‘The Girl From Hollywood’ falls in between ‘Merton’ and ‘Queer People.’  ERB’s book may have displeased the moguls but because of his standing he couldn’t be run out of town.  It is possible they were the people who were interfering with the publication of ‘Girl’ behind the scenes forcing its discontinuation.  The filming of Tarzan movies did end about the time of ‘Girl’s’ publication.  The hiatus in Tarzan films may have been a result as a punishment.  The second half of ‘Marcia’ which is also a Hollywood story is all sweetness and compliments to the film industry so probably ERB was trying to make amends.

    His ‘Bandit From Hell’s Bend’ was the first of his two Westerns.  As Westerns go it is a good book.  Set in Arizona ERB was writing about country he knew.  Contrary to his protestations that he wrote as well or better of places he had only imagined rather than seen he writes better of the seen.  You can’t take public statements at face value.

     Then in 1924 he took up his pen to write ‘Marcia Of The Doorstep.’  This may have been an attempt to write a blockbuster that would alleviate his financial distress.  Also he tired of being called a low brow and a hack writer.  He put his heart and soul into the book but he was never able to sell it.  The book was rejected by every publisher until he finally gave up.  Once again, he was possibly denied publication as a punishment.

     Is it any good?  Well, it’s characteristically Edgar Rice Burroughs.  He manages to compress what should have been the final two hundred pages into fifty.  Still, while perhaps not great literature, after you’ve read a number of novels of the era I don’t think it compares unfavorably.  I think the book could have been published profitably which in business is all that counts.  If the public liked ‘The Girl From Hollywood’, ‘Marcia’ should have sold OK.  As it is it’s historically valuable.

     I don’t regret having read it once nor as a Burroughs scholar do I regret having read it four times.  It does improve with each reading.  Being no fan of Scott Fitzgerald I don’t consider it much inferior to ‘The Beautiful and Damned’ on which the main frame of Marcia is based.


      In discussing ‘Marcia’ I would like to break the book down into components.  The first is the cast of characters.  ERB obviously intended the book to break him into the big slicks like Collier’s or the Saturday Evening Post.  He had heard of fifty thousand dollar paydays to people like Zane Grey.  The money would have been especially welcome in 1924.  I think the book was good enough for those magazines myself but I wasn’t the editor.

     In writing about the New York theatre and Hollywood it was inevitable that Jewish characters should have a central part.  Both the New York stage and the Big Screen were controlled by that ethnic group.  ‘Marcia’ has a fairly large cast of Jews.  Abe Finkel and Max Heimer, both early bi-coastals.  And there was Judge Berlanger the attorney from New York.  Jews are also discussed by the characters Della Maxwell and the Sacketts.  Della is especially caustic.

     The immigrant scene was in a state of rapid transition.  The dialect comedy had not yet disappeared although with the cessation of unrestricted immigration and the establishemnt of the ADL the type of story was in decline, however the dialect joke persisted into my boyhood when we were suddenliy forbidden to laugh.  In 1955-56 my class was assigned reading from Leo C. Rosten’s ‘The Education Of Hyman Kaplan’ which is about a Jewish immigrant in night school.  Rosten not only wrote this book as late as 1937 but he rather belatedly wrote a sequel ‘The Return Of Hyman Kaplan’ in 1959.

     In ‘Marcia’ ERB makes mention of the Jewish comedy characters Potash and Perlmutter in relation to Finkel and Heimer as movie producers.  Potash and Permutter was the creation of Montague Glass from 1909 to 1914.  Glass ceased writing the stories in the latter year at the request of the AJC and ADL.  The stories appeared in the Saturday Evening Post where ERB undoubtedly saw them.  While no book exists in ERB’s library they were collected in a couple volumes of which I have obtained one.  For whatever reason Samuel Goldwyn revived the characters for the movies in 1923, 1924 and subsequently.



     The first was titled ‘Postash And Perlmutter.’  The second was ‘In Hollywood With Potash And Perlmutter.’  It was undoubtedly this last film that inspired ERB to bring his character Abe Finkel out from New York and unite him with Max Heimer as movie producers.  He either reviewed the dialogue in Glass’ stories or remembered it.

     ERB grew up with dialect comedy as the immigrants integrated themselves into American society.  He would have been familiar with many stage dialect acts including many Jewish ones.  The stage was full of plays like ‘Abie’s Irish Rose’ and ‘Potash And Perlmutter.’

     These times of his youth were when immigrants were especially greenish.  They spoke with accents and characteristic phrasing.  They couldn’t be accurately produced without replicating the accents.  The great story of the period is that when an Italian push cart vendor was asked:  You have no bananas?  replied: Yes, we have no bananas today.  The phrase was overheard, turned into a popular song and for some reason caught the fancy of America.

     The Jews of the period had their verbal mannerisms and ERB copied them in the character of Max Heimer, a shyster lawyer.  He is careful to designate Max as ‘Jews of this type.’  His other Jewish lawyer, Judge Isaac ‘Ike’ Berlanger, is meant to balance the Jewish characterization as he is the epitome of respectability speaking perfect English.  But balance isn’t the issue.

     The anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith had been organized in 1913.  The organization then began to censor the media to remove any comment tthat could possibly be considered derogatory to Jews.  It is not improbable that Montague Glass stopped writing the ‘Potash And Permutter’ stories at the request of the ADL.  He thereafter concentrated on other ethnic groups.

     It seems remarkable that ten years later Goldwyn revived the stage play for his movie.  As Janis Garza in the NYTimes review comments:

In 1923 he (Goldwyn) decided to make a film of the play (also written by Glass and Charles Klein), which went against the preference of most moguls of the day- they shunned anything Jewish, although most of them were Jewish themselves.  The ethnic comedy was Goldwyn’s first as an independent producer.

     The moguls didn’t so much as shun Jewish subjects as that the ADL was closely monitoring their activities.  Perhaps Goldwyn bucked the ADL because in his insecurity as an independent producer he felt such Jewish self-deprecation would be well received by the gentiles and his own people.  If so, he was right.

     Is it to be wondered then that ERB probably thought he was on safe ground in his own comic characterization since he was only doing what Jews were doing?  After all the immigrant culture in this diverse, multi-cultural paradise was as much his as it was theirs.  What does multi-culturalism mean if the cultures can’t be shared by everyone?  Exclusivity is not the way.

     Still, as I said, balance isn’t the issue.  One was supposed to depict jews only of the Berlanger type.  So I’m sure one of the principal reasons the book wasn’t published was the character of Max Heimer and his partner Abe Finkel.

     At this time the concept of the Melting Pot, which itself was a Jewish invention, was still the immigration ideal although the vision had been all but shattered for the Old Stock side by the Great War.  The period through at least 1925 was that of 110% Americanism as a reaction to perceived immigrant disloyalty during the war and since the Bolshevik Revolution.  The period also saw the flourishing of the second Ku Klux Klan which was nearing its apogee at this time.  Great pressure was being put on immigrants to be ‘American.’

     The Jewish battle with Henry Ford had not yet been settled so I imagine Max Heimer drew some unwanted attention to Burroughs.

     The beginnings of the concept of the Diversity were taking form in a shift away from the concept of the Melting Pot.  Elements of the immigrants who didn’t wish to merge their ethnic identity in a Melting Pot fought back to impose their ethnicity on the old stock, which, after all was only to be expected.

     The leaders of the movement were the Jews and Italians both of which the old stock had always feared were unassimilable.  Their fears were justified as neither group have been assimilated to this day.  Witness the Sopranos.

     If one is to have a concept of diversity then perforce each element must have a character of its own; they must be different to a degree that is obvious.  If no one is different then there is no diversity.  Ergo- don’t you think?  Therefore it would be wrong not to depict these differences.  Well, it is.  Except in the movies for some reason.

     At this particular time the Jews were especially sensitive.  Hollywood, as Neal Gabler said, was an empire of the Jew’s own.  All the important studios were under Jewish ownership.  The American Jewish Committee, the B’nai B’rith and its terrorist unit the anti-Defamation League patrolled the corridors of publishers and studios to prevent anything they didn’t want published or filmed.  I think ERB’s portrayal of the shyster lawyer Max Heimer fell within the prohibition.

     That ERB was innocent of any attempt to defame Jews, or anyone else for that matter, was irrelevant.  However in response to accusations his portrayal of the worthy Jewish gentleman in his ‘Moon Maid’ may have been an attempt to conciliate the AJC and ADL.

     ERB had previously been contacted by the AJC on May 10, 1919.  (See Hillman-Burroughs Bio Timeline 1910-1919).  The American Jewish Committee is a killer watchdog outfit operating in conjunction with the ADL.  The latter was six years old in 1919.  The AJC thirteen.  The ADL was already disliked and feared as the Jewish enforcer.  The AJC isn’t particularly well known.  My aunt who has been active in all kinds of Jewish protests hadn’t even heard of it when I mentioned the agency to her so I’m surprised the AJC itself contacted Burroughs rather than the ADL.  I wonder why.

     The letter was not addressed to him in Tarzana but forwarded from his old address at 700 Linden in Oak Park, so the contact may have originated at the end of 1918 or the beginning of 1919.  These two years would have been critical for the Jews who became very active in the wake of the Bolshevik Revolution.

     The letter requests (demands) that ERB sign a card endorsing a ‘Jewish Bill Of Rights.’  I’m a student of Jewish history but I had never heard of the Jewish Bill Of Rights before reading of it in the Timeline.  The Jewish Bill Of Rights was an appeal to end the persecution of and discrimination against Jews.  Now, in fact, this ‘request’ was a threat.  If you did not sign and return it one must therefore be considered an ‘anti-Semite.’  As an anti-Semite one would need your own Bill Of Rights.

     Apparently the AJC sent a copy of the Jewish Bill Of Rights for ERB to read which, according to Hillman and Danton Burroughs ERB did, in some detail.  In his reply ERB was ambivalent enough to mark him as at least a latent anti-Semite who bore watching.

     On May 21, 1919, fairly promptly, ERB replied that ‘he had always peen perplexed by the intolerance and inhumanity that all religions- Jews, Christians, Moslems, Pagans, etc.- had exhibited toward each other.’  This was not the appropriate response.  First, he compared Jews to other religions as equals: secondly, he said that Jews also were guilty of intolerance and inhumanity and thirdly, ERB excludes himself from any religious category speaking down to them as some misguided souls of an inferior mentality.  As one of a Scientific Consciousness ERB could do no other- he was above the Religious Consciousness, but his reply must have branded him as a latent or real anti-Semite.  There is no freedom of conscience in the Religious Consciousness.

     Let me repeat, the AJC is top Jewish watchdog.  While the ADL whose director is perforce high profile as the Enforcer, no one is aware of who the director of the AJC is.  That ERB was contacted, then, is significant.  Either he wrote something the AJC objected to or possibly the agency was winnowing out writers in its postwar offensive.  If the Jewish Bill Of Rights was sent to all writers then their replies would identify them as philo- or anti-Semites.

     ERB then compounded his error by objecting to clause 6 of this Jewish Bill Of Rights.  He found the clause unclear ‘as he always believed that every alien should be expected to read and write in the language of the country to which they were immigrating.’

     Every ‘alien.’  Oops!

     Without having read this Jewish Bill Of Rights, based on my studies, I opine what clause 6 probably meant was this:  At that time, as now, the Jews were seeking complete autonomy in the US, as they had been in Czarist Russia.  In 1918-19 they thought they had attained their goal in the Soviet Union.  In Russia they had always wanted to make Yiddish an official second language on a par with Russian.  This meant that the Russians would have to learn Yiddish.  Eventually then Yiddish would displace Russian as the premier language.  From Yiddish to Hebrew would then be a short leap.  Sound far fetched?  Consider, within a hundred years the Jews had wiped the name of Russia from the map.  The country was then known as the Union Of The Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republics.  Not bad work, huh?

     They also hoped to make Yiddish the official other language of the US, much as the Mexicans are working toward doing with their language today, which would eventually displace English to be replaced in turn by Hebrew.  In the long run then Yiddish would become the lingua franca of the West eventually the whole world to be succeeded by Hebrew and the triumph of the Revolution.  Not as difficult as it might look.

     This may be what ERB refers to as being unclear to him.  Once again, by questioning, even denying, Jewish goals he made himself a marked man.  He had failed the AJC test.  He would be carefully watched.  Thus his characters of Max Heimer and Abe Finkel probably made his book unpublishable.  (See my ERB and FLA Exit The Twenties on ERBzine).  As he never tried to publish Marcia under his own imprint that would imply that he finally got the message.  The message was forget ‘Marcia.’


      As Max Heimer is the male protagonist, Della Maxwell is the female protagonist.  She has an importance that might go unnoticed by the casual reader.  Della is actually a finely drawn character integrated into the story in a meaningful way.  Della represents the Chicago aspects of ERB’s origins.  She was from Chicago although her antecedents aren’t clear.

     A significant category of books in the library are Chicago novels.  One that that isn’t there but which ERB may have read is Theodore Dreiser’s ‘Sister Carrie.’  In Dreiser’s novel Carrie was a young girl down from Wisconsin who was seduced by an older man named Hurstwood.  They left Chicago for New York where he slowly disintegrated while Carrie became a star of of the stage.

     Della not only had an illicit romance with a married man in Chicago but the fellow was a bigamist also marrying Della.  So while Marcia was a doorstep child she was legitimate after a fashion.  Della was only seventeen or eighteen when Marcia was born so she couldn’t have older than fifteen or sixteen when she began her relationship with her ‘husband.’  As Della was an experienced actress when she hit the Big Apple she must have been on the stage by at least fifteen at the time she was filling that long engagement in Chicago.

     Learning that she was her husband’s second wife she left him going to NYC shortly before Marcia was born.  Thus Burroughs duplicates the story of ‘Sister Carrie’ approximately which could be just a coincidence or he might be influenced by Dreiser here.

     It doesn’t seem plausible that she could have known the Sacketts before as Burroughs indicates but she apparently did.  Knowing them as the finest of the fine she left Marcia on their doorstep.

     The next day she arrives as a long lost friend to take rooms with them.  Thus while she never identifies herself as the baby’s mother she lives with and has a hand in rearing her child.  While Max Heimer gets the story moving on the Animus side Della does the same from the Anima side.

     Now, Della bears a great resemblance to a number of Burroughs’ other representations of his Anima figure.  For instance, Maud the nursemaid of ‘The Outlaw Of Torn’ or Hetty Penning, the girl thrown from the car in ‘Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid among others who represent the failed Anima of Burroughs.  It is not surprising then, that Della gives birth to the replacement Anima figure of Marcia and is around until Marcia is able to unite with the Animus figure Chase III.  Della’s dying letter is responsible for removing the barrier to Marcia and Chase III’s marriage.

     In terms of Burroughs’ psychology Della represents the Anima betrayed in his confrontation with john The Bully.  Marcia then represents his new Anima (Barbara Harding, Gail Prim, Marcia to match John Chase I, II and III) born from the dishonor of his old Anima- in other words Marcia was born of an illicit romance between Della and a married man.

     Marcus Aurelius Sackett as ERB then lives in his house with his wife Clara (Emma), Marcia Aurelia, named after himself, and therefor an integral part of his existence as his replacement Anima and his old failed Anima, Della Maxwell.  An interesting solution to ERB’s problem.

     This also brings up numerical problems.  Marcia is explicitly said to have been left on the Sackett doorstep on 4/10/06.  The numbers add up to twenty.  Twenty is the age ERB’s Anima replacements have to be.  Why isn’t clear.  Thus Marcia won’t be twenty until 1926.  On 4/6/27 when Marcia would have still been twenty ERB began his play ‘You Lucky Girl.’  The commencement of the play coincides with his meeting of Florence Gilbert so Marcia now twenty coincides with Florence who may very well have been intended as the ‘Lucky Girl.’

     I don’t know the reason why but numbers in the corpus are significant.

     Della is the equivalent of the golden hearted prostitute who first appears in ERB’s work in 1913-14’s ‘The Girl From Farris’s.  Della is a hard case but with the good sense Sackett lacks.  Psychologically this would be in keeping as, when John The Bully emasculated Burroughs making him a dependent personality he lost the ability to act in his own self-interest always deferring to the wishes of others at critical junctures.

     Always the great good friend of the Sacketts Della saves the day from the grave for Marcia and Jack Chase III.


      The story’s not bad although the execution may not be up to the highest standards of literary fiction which this story attempts to be.  I’ve already given my opinion of Scott Fitzgerald’s influence and I might add that to Edith Wharton of ‘The House Of Mirth’, also in Burroughs’ library, was another signficant influence on Marcia.

     The Sacketts while central figures in the book are passive.  Things happen to them but they do little to make things happen.  The couple is obviously based on ERB and Emma.  ERB accurately portrays himself as an unrealistic, good hearted, bumbling wastrel without one shred of common sense.  In the splitting of his personality common sense remained with his old Anima which was no longer of any use to him.

     Clara Sackett is portrayed as his long suffering but devoted and loving wife.  It is easy to imagine that her worries about financial matters were those of Emma herself.  Beginning in 1913 when ERB first came into money the stuff had been water in his hands.  He had literally gone through a million dollars from 1913 to the time this story was written and was actually deep in debt near bankruptcy.  If ERB really wanted to be a businessman he should have gone to night school.

     In the story when Mark Sackett receives the money from Chase I Clara is nearly beside herself in fear he will squander this very large sum.  In fact the first thing Mark does is draw out some old blueprints for a yacht which he has been cherishing.  Clara shudders when she comes upon him studying the plans.  She is desperate because the couple is getting older and they have no other savings to fall back on.

     Her worst fears are realized when Mark uses the money to organize a Shakespearean touring company.  I think we can equate this with ERB’s purchase of the Otis Estate.  However the tour is a great success but Sackett is cheated out of not only the earnings of the tour but his original twenty thousand dollars by Max Heimer who he had retained as his business manager.  Thus stranded in LA, symbolically, the couple is again penniless.

     This was precisely ERB and Emma’s own position in 1924 when Burroughs through his own mismanagement had all but lost Tarzana.  I think, then, that Clara Sackett is a fairly accurate idea of how Burroughs perceived his wife.

     As in real life the couple begins well but a long decline in their fortunes begins which leaves them destitute.  Clara’s jewelry is gone.  Pawned and lost just as Emma’s had been in the couple’s dark hour around 1910.  The jewelry also figures importantly in ‘Tarzan The Untamed.’  Then Max Heimer extorts the twenty thousand dollars from Chase I which at least get the couple to LA.

     Nineteen thirteen’s ‘The Mucker’ had been a low brow novel dealing with low brow themes in low brow millieux.  Marcia, a decade later, psychologically light years later, is meant to rehabilitate ERB as a high brow.  He has spent the last ten years trying to realize his ambition to be a prince.  However as he wrote at the end of ‘The Mucker’,  it takes more than one lifetime to travel from Grand Avenue to Riverside Drive.  ERB wasn’t going to be allowed to make that journey in this lifetime.

     Thus he makes Sackett, which is to say himself, a Shakespearean actor, the ultimate in high brow, of the old cultured school who abjures the low brow flicks.  In Chicago Emma had acquainted Our Man with the stage which obviously completely entranced him.  I don’t know for sure who ERB modeled Sackett on but in Marcia he trots out his knowledge of the stage by mentioning such stellar lights as Henry Irving, Forbes-Robertson, Julia Marlowe, E.H. Sothern and a few others.  Wherever he acquired his knowledge of the stage, I haven’t been able to locate any such books in his library, either the books have been lost or he himself made use of the public library; no computers in those days.  On the other hand they’re just names.

     Of course, there is one other possible source, always overlooked, that source would be his wife Emma.  As a voice student in Chicago Emma would have become steeped in the lore of the theatre.  For instance while performing aboard ship Marcia sings ‘The Jewel Song’ from Faust followed by Gottschalk’s ‘The Girl I Loved.’  I could be wrong but personally I don’t believe ERB knew Gottschalk from Yellin.  If he had ever heard ‘The Jewel Song’ from Faust it was from Emma’s lips.  I will return to this topic in a moment but if this novel doesn’t betray an influence from Emma I don’t know what does.

     Yet, again Burroughs amazes by the range of his knowledge.  One should always bear in mind that nothing can come out of your brain that isn’t in it.  Creativity doesn’t mean that you can invent knowledge, knowledge is the substance of creativity, thus ERB had to do some studying to be able to write this book as well as his others.  He must also have had an excellent memory without which study is useless.

     In addition to presenting the great names of the theatre ERB is allowed to present himself as a learned and cultured high brow fella.  He has spent the last ten years attempting to shed himself of his post-confrontation origins, to return to his interrupted destiny as a prince.

     You can feel his yearning for respectability, for an entrance into polite society or at least the pages of Collier’s or The Saturday Evening Post.  Hollywood, the then unoffical porn capitol of the world, now officially, was no place to look for polite society but as there are affected people everywhere, it may have seemed so.  As the publishers tossed ‘Marcia’ back in his face he wasn’t going to make any grand entrance into society as a result of this book.

     After the rejection of ‘Marcia’ Burroughs would be allowed to write nothing but Tarzans and science fiction.  Even though his two Apache novels were published in this decade his second Western, which is more than good enough for the genre, was rejected.

     ERB was condemned to continue as a low brow writer.

     In 1923-24 ERB was treading financial deep water as was Sackett not knowing whether he was going to sink or swim.  The move to LA was becoming a financial disaster.  His ill-advised plan of becoming a pig farmer was draining him of cash.  The hiatus in the production of Tarzan movies meant that he was cut off from the easy movie money which made his intellectual property so valuable.  During this period he had to rely exclusively on magazine sales and book royalties which were inadequate for his inflated life style.

     As is common with artists who pursue the glamour rather than the substance and as usual with ERB he had spent his earnings as he had gotten them.  As Hillman points out in his 1920 Timeline Burroughs incurred phenomenal expenses immediately after acquiring the Otis Estate which was also immediately renamed Tarzana as though ERB had been planning it a long time.

     For the year 1920:  Tarzana undergoes major renovations: central heating, a three car garage, servants rooms, workshop, a study that doubles as a home school room, a ballroom/movie theatre/playroom, projection booth, swimming pool, golf course, lion and monkey cages, riding trails, hen house, hog pen, dairy barn and horse stalls, maintenance etc.

     And that doesn’t include three cars for the garage, his pedigreed grade Duroc Berkshire swine, horses and other live stock which consumed enormous amounts of money with no return as ERB knew little or nothing about farming or stock raising.

     ERB went into this with the romantic notion of getting back to the land.  Herb Weston warned him about the attitude advising him that if he himself were to go into farming he would run the farm as a factory with strict cost/return controls.  One wonders whether ERB ripped out the fruit and nut orchards to make room for the golf course.  I suspect so.

     As was predictable by mid-year 1922 ERB was seeking a loan to cover his losses.  He realized he lacked the know how and skills to run a profitable working farm so in January of 1923 as per Hillman’s Timeline he ‘…disposes of his livestock and farm equipment in an auction.’  It is also significant that a couple months later on March 2nd he incorporated himself as Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.  The move may have been for the economic reason of reducing taxes but perhaps an even more compelling reason was the defensive one of placing his most valuable assets beyond the reach of his creditors in case he had to declare bankruptcy.  As all his copyrights and literary assets as well as the other properties of the corporation would be beyond the reach of his creditors.

     The strategic move may also have prevented his creditors moving on him as what was left as assets was more trouble than it was worth.  His creditors may have thought it better to let him try to dig himself out since the property would ultimately be theirs anyway than to incur the expense of disposing of the real property themselves.

     However as Burroughs could no longer use the income accruing to the corporation the question is where did he get the money to retire his personal debts.  You know, the problem really needs some explanation.

     Burroughs was desperate for cash.  Looking longingly across LA to Santa Fe Springs and Signal Hill with their spectacular oil strikes ERB attempted to find oil in Tarzana.  Unfortunately there isn’t any in the San Fernando Valley.

     It is to be noted that Chase III gets involved in oil schemes in ‘Marcia.’  This aspect of ERB’s finaglings should be examined more closely too.

     In what I would call near desperation ERB came up with schemes for his El Caballero Country Club and subdividing Tarzana.  He was renting sites on the ranch to movie companies for productions.  This sort of income would have been separate from his salary as an employee of ERB, Inc.  All such oil or real estate income could be applied to his personal debt.

     Turning his home into a clubhouse necessitated his moving from the ranch to LA.  By early 1925 he was forced to borrow $200,000.00 to stay afloat.  Thus ERB could tailor John C. Fremont’s quip:  ‘When I came to California I was penniless…now I owe two millions of dollars.’  to his own situation.

     Incredibly ERB’s magnificent earnings of the last ten years of a million or so had been turned into a debt of 200,000 dollars.  That’s some work; not everyone can get loans of that magnitude.

     ‘Marcia Of The Doorstep’ rather faithfully portrays this course of events.  The Sacketts begin moderately prosperous sinking into some real povery when they are rescued by the virtual gift of Max Heimer.  One can read that as his first income from novels.  Sackett, like Burroughs, has little idea of the value of money.  He spends it as fast as he gets it then loses everything.  The Sacketts are dead broke.

     Interestingly they learn of their impoverishment in San Francisco the town from which Billy Byrne was shanghaied.  I am unfamiliar with ERB’s connection with Baghdad By The Bay.  While Byrne went to sea the Sacketts find their way to LA.  ERB talks of leaving the land of fog for the Sunny Southland so he must have had some experience with SF.

     Sackett is too proud to go into movies so he exhausts his few resources being ultimately turned out of lodgings by his landlady in a fictionalized account of ERB’s actual situation in Tarzana.

     Now arises a problem with Emma that probably contributed to ERB’s divorcing her.  P. 222:

     Marcus Aurelius Sackett found that three hundred dollars did not go very far in Los Angeles.  Even a modest room was expensive and food was as high as in New York- also Marcus Aurelius Sackett had not yet learned the value of money.  He never would.  After he had invited several old friends to dine with them at the Montmartre Clara had taken what was left from him and put him on an allowance that was barely sufficient to cover cigars and carfare.  It was the first time in their married life that Clara had taken the reins into her own hands; but as she told Marcus, she didn’t purpose being thrown on the charity of a strange city any sooner than was absolutely necessary.

     After having watched her new husband gamble away their last forty dollars in 1904, gone through the first real money they had seen in 1913 and now watching their assets disappear in 1924 it appears that Emma took matters in hand to take control of finances from ERB.

     While ERB was probably confident that the money would always come in they couldn’t have been sure of it nor guessed at the substantial amounts that would always be on the horizon.  Are to this day.  Besides giving money to ERB was like giving matches to a pyromaniac.  The guy didn’t even put it in his pocket before he spent it.  Also I’m not sure that Emma wasn’t entitled to a little more sayso than ERB allowed her.

     Clara Sackett is portrayed by ERB as an inveterate reader of novels.  She is always putting a novel down.  He makes a point of indicating this.  This was probably true of Emma also.  So, let us assume that Emma had good literary sense.  ERB always gave his stories to Emma to read before he submitted them.  She was kept on the payroll after the divorce as a reader.  Further, let us assume that an ERB manuscript looked something like ‘Tarzan And The Forbidden City’ which an uncharitable reviewer might say was a collection of notes.  There is a noticeable decline in the quality of ERB’s writing after the divorce.

     Now suppose that, while not actually taking a hand in the writing, Emma provided editorial skills to whip a manuscript into shape.  Every writer can use a good editor and I suspect ERB more than most.  Thus if Emma had provided editorial skills and services, I don’t say she rewrote anything, over the years she may have had more of a hand in ERB’s success than one thinks.  Bear in mind I don’t say she did any of the writing or affected the imaginative quality of the stories, only that she was active possibly as a contributing editor.

     So, Marcia is a highly fictionalized account of ERB’s exodus from Chicago and the four year debacle to 1925.

     I think that if you squint your eyes and let your imagination view the story you will find a fairly accurate portrayal of ERB and Emma.  Of course he left out the squabbles.  Emma comes off extremely well.  Perhaps ERB’s subconscious appreciation of the woman got the truth from him.

     Within the context of Burroughs, ‘Marcia’ is really an incredible story.  The amazing thing is that with all these financial worries ERB was able to not only continue to turn out his two books a year but to keep up on his reading.  The library contains a large number of books that were purchased in these years and read.

     Apparently the strain was great enough that ERB didn’t have time to maintain his correspondence with Herb Weston.  From June 1919 to August 1926 there is a hiatus in the correspondence.  Either Weston lost the letters or ERB was too stressed to write.


       Central to the story are the Chases- John Hancock Chase I, II and III.  The initials JC are the same as both John Carter and John Clayton.  Here we have a total of five Johns so ERB’s fixation with John The Bully is given a positive twist.  If ERB didn’t change his own name to John he gave it to his supreme heroes.

     John Hancock Chase I as the name implies is of fine Old Stock.  John Hancock was one of the preeminent heroes of the American Revolution who wrote his name large on the Declaration Of Independence so that King George could read it without his spectacles.  Thus the Chases are connected with the Puritan founding fathers.  He was also originally from the South, Baltimore, and lives in New York thereby uniting the country from New England and the Middle States to the South.

     How old he is isn’t clear.  He lost his wife in childbirth forty-six years previously which would have been c. 1875-76 depending on whether the story commences in 1922 or not.  If he maried at thirty that would make him eighty-nine in 1922.  Probably still had that old ramrod military bearing but definitely an Ancient Mariner.  In 1924 he would have been 91.  If one assumes he married young at twenty make it 81 which is also plausible.  An element of Chase I’s character may be that of George T., ERB’s father.  He was born in 1833 so that if Chase I was born in 1833 he was eighty-nine.  A little old but I’m betting on a birth date of 1833.

     Still another source may be that fine old Southern gentleman portrayed by Thomas Dixon, Jr. in his novels.  Chase I is from Maryland so that he is from the South living in New York City.  That ERB does not make him a Virginian may mean he was not of the first water as was John Carter.  Anent Carter, the Carter’s were in real life one of the first families of Virginia.  However it is interesting that his antecedents cover the Puritans, the Cavaliers, and the middle colony of New York.  Thus in a Dixonian sense he has reunited the country, ‘The Birth Of A Nation’, in the person of Chase I, healed all those Reconstruction wounds.

     Another possible interpretation is that while ERB professed to love his father there was enough resentment to demote him to Maryland.  As Baltimore appears frequently in the corpus while there is no indication that Burroughs visited the city its importance may be simply as the place Poe died.  Burroughs would likely have been familiar with the poem ‘The Streets Of Baltimore’ commemorating Poe by the ever prolific Anon.  The poem, by the way, can be found in the collection entitled ‘The Best Loved Poems Of The American People’ available since 1936.

     Burroughs was probably familiar with most of the poems, athough perhaps not the book, as the poems are written mostly in the galloping rhythmic style of Kipling that ERB himself emulated.  While Burroughs was influenced by novels and non-fiction one should never forget the cornpone verse and song lyrics he loved that may have had as much or more influence on him than anything else.  He indirectly references many poems such as Will Carleton’s ‘Over The Hill To The Poor House.’  At about the time he was writing this book he was honored by a visit from ‘Uncle’ Walt Mason who wrote prose poems in the same galloping rhythm.  He was apparently so infatuated with Mason’s stuff that he visited the writer at his home in Emporia, Kansas on his 1916 cross country trip.  Thus poets like Mason and H.H. Knibbs, who he also made a point of looking up- Robert W. Service, Kipling and others may have been as influential on his development, or moreso, than writers like London or Tarkington even.  He could have looked up Zane Grey who had a place in Pasadena but he never did.  I am convinced he would have looked up London but for the latter’s untimely death.

     In ‘Marcia’ he names the captain of the Lady X ‘Danny’ Dever after Kipling’s poem of the same name.  It is quite possible that many of his characters can be traced back to well known poems or those that are obscure or forgotten.  Verse was everywhere in thos days from the pages of pulps to newspapers.  ERB had a copy of Edgar A. Guest’s newspaper verse, which was syndicated, in his library so the guy obviously loved paperly verse.  Eugene Field.  Get yourself a copy of ‘The Best Loved Poems Of The American People’ and familiarize yourself with them.

The Boy stood on the burning deck,

Whence all but he had fled:

The flames that lit the battle’s wreck

Shone round over the dead.

Felicia Hemans- Casabianca

     Think about it.

     If Chase I was influenced by ERB’s father while being a Southern Gentleman from Maryland where did the Southern influence come from:  Very popular at this time was Thomas Dixon, Jr. and his Reconstruction novels- The Leopard’s Spots, The Clansman and The Traitor.  ERB had a copy of ‘The Traitor’ in his library, while it would seem likely he had read the first two volumes of the trilogy and certain that he had seen D.W. Griffith’s 1915 movie adaptation of the trilogy- The Birth Of A Nation.

     A large part of the Southrons alive would have experienced Reconstruction and its Jim Crow aftermath.  the victors hadn’t yet written the censored history of the period so opinion was as yet quite varied as ‘The Birth Of A Nation’ indicated.

     Chase I resonates the fine old Southern Gentleman in Dixon’s novels.  It is quite possible then that Burroughs has moved one of Dixon’s Southern gentlemen North to New York City.  This may possibly have been meant to humanize the Northern industrial magnate of whom Dixon is as caustically critical as any Gustavus Myers.  And on sounder grounds too.

     Chase I may then have been a portrait of the type of father ERB would have liked to have had.  Cultured, wealthy, kind and generous but stern.

     Chase II, who as a married man, lives in his father’s house along with his young son, Chase III, gets into a problem with a woman that isn’t explained very well.  Chase II at some celebration drank so much that he blacked out for nine hours.  Max Heimer somehow picked him up in this drunken condition taking him to his own apartment.  Heimer had apparently been living with the woman Mame Myerz for several years.  Although she later states that she wasn’t home that night Heimer concocts a scheme in which she was supposed to have conceived a child by Chase II.  Nine months later Heimer returns to begin blackmailing Chase II.  Unable to bear the shame Chase II shoots himself.

     Obviously Mame Myerz is Jewish.  The correct spelling of her name must have been Meyers or Meiers but perhaps ERB didn’t have the courage to make both her and Heimer clearly Jewish or perhaps she changed the spelling of her name to avoid appearing Jewish as was commonly done.

     Ever on the qui vive it is this story that Heimer exploits sixteen years later when he learns Marcia was left with the Sacketts on about the same date, 4/10/06.  If you note, those numbers add up to 20.  Pretty Freudian, huh?

     Chase II then, represents ERB’s failed Animus on the street corner with John the Bully while Mame Myerz blends with Della Maxwell as the failed Anima.  Burroughs despises his failed Anima but as part of himself he can’t hate it.  His Anima representations always start out as ‘bad’ girls but he then rehabilitates them.  Perhaps by separating out Mame Myerz from Della Maxwell he can vent his hatred twice removed.

     Chase III born of his failed Animus represents ERB as he would like to have been.  Tall, clean limbed, clean living, thoroughly clean.  The emphasis on clean is probably because John The Bully besmirched ERB’s Animus making him feel dirty as did Norman in ‘The Outlaw Of Torn.’  Rather than making Chase III an Army officer, for some reason ERB makes him a Naval officer.   However, stationed in Hawaii.  The Islands were becoming a fixation of Burroughs probably influenced by Jack London’s stories of the Islands.  The Islands will figure importantly in ERB’s later life.  All roads are trending toward Hawaii.

     Thus, Marcia, his Anima replacement and Chase III, his new Animus, meet in paradise on the waters of his subconscious.  Marcia first sees Chase III rising from the waters, as it were, as he climbs over the side of the yacht.  I asume the yacht is anchored in Pearl Harbor although ERB makes it appear to be on the open ocean.  Chase III then takes Marcia to the land for her first time.  Thus ERB and Florence honeymooned in Hawaii while they later lived on the Honolulu side of Pearl.  There is an interesting passage in Marcia on pp. 237-8 where the sailor Crumcrow, the name indicates his worthlessness, soliloquizes as he spies on the pirate camp:

     “That Bledgo…Say, that guy’s the toughest nut I ever seen.  Talk about hard boiled! Gee!  Hard boiled is soft alongside o’ him.  I wonder what he’d say if I walked in there right now.  Probably knock my block clean off.  Wisht I’d kept my bazoo shut.  They’re havin’ a good time there an’ we ain’t never had a good time in our camp- nothing but watch and work.  I’m sick o’ work.  that guy Chase gives me a pain.  Nothin’ but work and watch, an’ you can’t kick ’cause the damn boob does it himself.  I’d like to be an officer.  You’d bet your pants I’d not work or watch either.  What do I have to work for him for?  I ain’t in the army no more.  And say, wouldn’t it give you a swift pain the way I say ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir’ him an’ salute him.  Every time I see that guy’s mug I snap to attention.  Gee!  It makes me sick.  I don’t know what makes me do it, and he hit me once, too, knocked me coo-coo- the dirty —–.”

     That’s a quick encapsulation of ERB’s life between John The Bully and his brief army career.  Bledgo here represents John The Bully beside whom a hard boiled egg is soft.  Forty years later the memory of his confrontations with John is as green as the day it happened.  And rightly so, John changed his life.

     ERB also changed the status of his own life when he entered the Army forsaking his chance to be an officer.  Thus Chase III represents ERB as he would like to have been who orders the shadow of his former self around.  ‘You used to be in the army?’  Chase asked Crumcrow.

     Crumcrow then deserts to John/Bledgo’s side passing out of ERB’s life, hopefully.

     By 1924 ERB was rebooting his life and able to see his earlier character from a distance.


     ERB put a lot of loving care into the creation of Marcia.  Late in the book he actually describes her as Cinderella.  That fairy tale figure began life well but was dispossessed being turned into a servant girl who swept the ashes from the fire.  Her innate role of a princess was discovered by the Prince because of her unique foot which retored her to her true position.  Something like the unique birthmark that identifies the real Prince.

     As ERB’s Anima figure there can be no doubt that ERB is recapitulating his own history.  He makes Marcia impossibly sweet and beautiful but then novels are filled with these sweet and beautiful women who are so difficult to find in real life.

     Everyone loves Marcia while she fits in everywhere, perhaps as ERB wished he did.  Only sixteen when she is adopted by the Ashley’s, grown men like Banks von Spiddle and Chase III fall head over heels in love with her.  Although she came from an impoverished stage actors background she is able to adapt to high society manners in a trice and without any glitches, unlike Billy Byrnes.  Born to the manner and manor as they say.  The Ashleys invite her to take a trip with them on their yacht where it seems as a tyro sixteen year old she might be slightly out of place.  Marcia however has the social aplomb and sophisticated patter of a woman much older than herself.

     As with Billy Byrne and Barbara Harding, Marcia and Chase III are marooned on a desert island.  Chase III and Harding change places while Marcia assumes in her relationship to Chase III that of Byrne to Barbara.

     The Samurai are replaced by Bledgo and the IWW malcontents.  Bledgo is the shadow of John the Bully who continues to haunt ERB’s imagination.  He is knocked unconscious as Marcia and Chase III try to evade him.  His end is unknown as it is not known whether he sailed with the pirate crew or not nor is it any concern.  Thus ERB hopefully disposes of the hateful memory of John and his former self in the shape of Crumcrow; maybe he has exorcised their files from his memory banks.  He hopes so.

     ERB’s Anima an Animus are reunited climbing the slopes of the mountain spiritually cleansed by the torrential driving rain.  The rain storm of course remains a symbol for sexual passion.  This is terrific stuff; ERB has his moments.

     Across the crest they are reunited with the society people from whom they had been separated by John the Bully, symbolically represented by their taking different boats during the disaster at sea.  The people of his former existence had landed on the other side of the island.

     Marcia’s seeming happiness is delayed when in Manila she receives Berlanger’s letter advising her that she and Chase III are brother and sister.

     Fleeing her lover on the eve of their reunion/wedding she takes ship to California on which is a movie director who…

     But I will save that for the play by play description of the book in Part V.

     The essentials of her role have been dealt with.

     The writing of Marcia was a virtual financial disaster for ERB.  He had taken a whole year to write it while the fifty thousand that he hoped to receive never materialized.  The year returned nothing to him at this very critical juncture in his finances.  The experiment was so costly he never tried it again.

To recapitulate:

     In 1066 and succeeding centuries the Norman conquerors enslaved the Anglo-Saxons of East Anglia which was an affront deeply resented.  Take a lesson.

     In the sixteenth century when the printed Old Testament became universally available the East Anglians identified with the enslaved Hebrews of Exodus.  They elected themselves as a Chosen People and developed the compensatory Utopian attitude of inherent virtue as a Chosen People of God.

     In the seventeenth century New England (Anglia) was settled by emigrants from East Anglia.  Not just English but East Anglians.  Virginia was settled by descendents of the Norman conquerors of 1066.  The Virginians once again chose slavery as their method of labor.  First indentured White people then Africans.

     While Utopian ideals developed in New England the abolitionist movement began which resulted in the Civil War/War Between The States,  war between regions  or actually war between ideologies.  There was no chance the South was going to discontinue slavery anytime soon no matter what anyone says.

     In revenge for 1066 the Cavaliers (Whites) of the South were absolutely crushed giving up all rights by surrendering unconditionally.

     The nascent Liberal Party of Puritans elevated the Africans over the Cavaliers thus establishing a protectorate over the ‘victims’ which is characteristic  of the faith while establishing their power over dissident Whites.  Thus the Liberals ultimately aligned themselves with all colored revolutionary movements in the world against White European conquerors.

     Within the United States they viewed immigrants as ‘victims’ of the Old Stock pathologizing the Old Stock as ‘bigots’ no better than Cavaliers of the Old South.  All opponents to their Liberal religious ideology which included the intellectual mindset of Science thus became wrong headed vile ‘bigots’ who had no right to live.  After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 the utopian Communist ideology became their politics; call it Socialism it all comes out the same.

     As Edgar Rice Burroughs was not a Liberal, not a Communist and not religious but Scientific he unwittingly placed himself in opposition to the Liberal Coalition.  On that basis a serious attempt was made to abort his career while subsequently an attempt to erase his name and work from history is being conducted.

     Thus the twenties ushered in a new changed era fraught with new adjustments which were misunderstood or not understood at all.  Burroughs’ career after 1920 has to be seen in the light of this concealed antagonism that he had to counter without being clear as to the causes.

Part V of The Mucker and Marcia Of The Doorstep follows in another post.