Pt. I: Only The Strong Survive

March 30, 2012

Only The Strong Survive

Part I

An Examination Of Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid

(The Oakdale Affair)

As Created By Edgar Rice Burroughs


R.E. Prindle


Part I

Background And Sources



E.R. Burroughs: Out There Somewhere (The Return Of The Mucker), 1916

Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid (The Oakdale Affair) 1917

David A. Adams: ERB/London Connection, ERBzine #1298, 2005

Philip R. Burger: Whatever It Is, Gets You And Me, ERBzine 1412, 2005

R.E. Prindle: Only A Hobo, ERBzine #1329-34, 2004



Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid, published as The Oakdale Affair was written shortly after Burroughs posed for the famous picture of himself standing on the rock above the sea in Santa Monica in 1916.

Let’s take a moment to put these titles into perspective with Burroughs’ career. Let’s try to identify some of the changes he’s going through. It is safe to assume that in 1911 at 36 years of age when he sat down to write A Princess Of Mars he was in a state of terror that life had passed him by, that he had failed the big test from which there is no recovering. If he says that he considered writing to be an unmanly occupation then he was desperately grasping at the last straw. If he failed as a writer then he would have had an excuse as it was a sissy occupation but he still would have been psychologically destroyed.

But Princess sold and then too did Tarzan Of The Apes. Buoyed by these successes he continued to write achieving during the year 1913 a pinnacle of success achieved by few writers. Most importantly Burroughs could for the first time in his adult live perceive himself as a somebody, as the man he always thought he was or should be.

The miracle of 1913 continued and with the confidence of a seemingly inexhaustible pen promised to continue. Burroughs indulged his whims during those fantastic years between 1913 and 1916. He apparently bought everything that he had ever wanted. When he left on that fabled drive from Chicago to L.A. in addition to a car, a truck and a driver he had 2 1/2 tons of, pardon the expression, junk.

He was living in a dream. I envision the surreal picture of this caravan pulling to the side of the road away out there on the road to anywhere with Burroughs pitching his white and blue striped circus tent while the kids aged about eight, seven and three cranked up the record player. They didn’t need electricity in those days, you would wind the record player up. Then as the horn blared out ‘Are You From Dixie’ singing lustily the family danced in the moonlight. Place the picture against a rising full moon.

Imagine a country rube happening along on Old Dobbin to see such a scene. It’s just like Toad and his caravan from Wind In The Willows, isn’t it? What Memories the children must have had.

And all the time Burroughs’ personality was unraveling as he metamorphosed into a new persona.

Let’s take a look at that picture by the seashore closely. It is revealing. There is no reason not to believe that this picture was carefully thought out and posed by ERB. The photo is frequently cropped so as to put Burroughs in the center but in its uncropped state the sea stretches far to the left making the subjects of the photo both ERB and the feminine sea. Burroughs is standing on the right on a rock high above the water. Let us believe that was his intent. In his novel Somewhere Out There written from January to March 1916 the theme is the poem by H.H. Knibbs also titled Out There Somewhere in which the dream lover is waiting in the South by the sea. Obviously ERB has an idea fixed in his mind.

As he finished the novel he began his tramp South to San Diego and the sea. Thus the sea, the waters of the subconscious, the fructifying water of the female represents both the destructive and constructive aspects of the female. Standing on the rock, as opposed to the shifting sands, high above the waters represents Burroughs’ hopeful reunion with and dominance of the Anima.

Burroughs’ persona itself, his Animus is equally interesting. He is very expensively dressed. That overcoat is a very new one, either a Kuppenheimer or a Hart, Shaffner and Marx, as Burroughs combines the two names in a reference in Bridge And The Kid. It is also unnecessary in California at any time of the year. His shoes are shined, top quality also, probably Florsheim. His hat is pulled low over his face as he stands above the photographer looking down on him or her with a wry, bemused hint of a smile with which he endows his creations. His hands are in his pockets with the thumbs, the sexual symbol exposed. Thumbs are a sexual symbol of potency, as in ‘under my thumb’ so he is feeling confident in his success if not cocky. He is the Mysterious Stranger. The Shadow. The lurker in every mind. He is at the very height of his success and yet facing the problems his success has brought. This photo represents the high summer of his life. It is never going to be this good again.

Out There Somewhere pointed to a resolution of his psychological problems while Bridge And The Kid apparently resolved them, at least, for the moment.

There is an interesting numerical relationship in Burroughs’ visits to the coast. His first was in 1913, the second visit was in 1916 and he would move permanently to California in 1919- three year intervals, and each time he stayed about nine months- time to be born again. These are stress points. One wonders at what time in his life he began his California dreaming.

Thus Burroughs began Bridge And The Kid in a state of exhilaration. It took him nearly six months to finish it which for him was a long time.

His period of extreme fecundity was also over. In the future he would be driven to work because he needed the money but his psychological release was finished with these two novels.



Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid is one of Burroughs most finely crafted novels. It is extremely rich in content. Because of the apparent ease with which Burroughs writes one disregards the components of the tale and there are many in what I consider the most detailed and intriguing novel.

ERB began the hobo theme in vol. 1 of this trilogy, The Mucker, developed it in the sequel Out There Somewhere (The

Jack London

Return Of The Mucker) and continues it not only in the character of Bridge and the Kid but in the criminal gang and throughout the novel. The hobo obviously intrigued ERB and why not? Rather than just discuss the hobo theme as elements of the story let’s look more closely at the subject.

Just as today the so-called homeless occupy an amazing amount of social attention so in Burroughs’ time the hobo was an inescapable phenomenon. He was ubiquitous, he was everywhere as a reading of Out there Somewhere and Bridge and The Kid indicate. Burroughs found the hobo fascinating and even to a degree identified with him.

Every town of any size had a Main Stem on which the Hoboes congregated. Chicago itself with most rail lines converging on it from all directions was the Main Stem of hoboing while Madison was the Main Stem of Chicago. As it chances the offices of the American Battery Company were on Madison Street thus the young Burroughs would have had plenty of opportunity to observe and study the hobo.

As a yard policeman in Salt Lake City in 1904 he would have had further opportunity to familiarize himself with the species. His first writing effort- Minidoka- in 1908 or so gives the Hobo a prominent place actually siting Chicago as the Hobo capital of the country.

In both these novels he give a very unflattering picture of the Hobo. In both novels the Hoboes figure as criminals, even murderous criminals. In Bridge And The Kid they are responsible for the crime wave in normally placid Oakdale.

When the Kid stumbles upon a lair of six hoboes all are willing to rob her while an actual cold blooded attempt on her life was made by Dopey Charlie.

Burroughs associates one, the General, with Coxey’s Army of 1894. Eighteen-ninety-three was the beginning of a severe depression perhaps equal to the depression of the thirties. In 1994 Jacob Coxey organized a march on Washington of the unemployed seeking relief. The host was known as Coxey’s Army.

Burroughs who was frequently unemployed and hard up yet always found jobs to scrape by, exhibited all the pride of the resourceful by condemning the ‘soldiers’ of Coxey’s Army as bums who wouldn’t work, hence the General had never held a job and never would. He preferred to rob and kill rather than work.

One of the more memorable episodes of the book is when morning dawns on Jeb Case’s farm and the hoboes come streaming out of the barn and haystacks as Case takes up a shotgun to make sure they move on.

Burroughs who had no use for the IWW- the Industrial Workers Of The World- or Wobblies, introduces them also in the character of Sky Pilot. As the Wobblies were composed almost entirely of the hobo class they might easily have been classed as hoboes pure and simple. The Sky Pilot is I believe based on Big Bill Haywood of the Western Federation of Miners, the WFM, and then when he was expelled from that organization for being too aggressive, of the IWW where you couldn’t be too aggressive.

Big Bill is one of the great figures of the era, he has a great autobiography, and he figures indirectly in the history of the Burroughs Boys so ERB would have concentrated on his career. The battles of the hard rock miners in Colorado, Idaho and the West in general with the mine owners were ferocious. The resistance to their just demands by the mine owners forms one of the most disgraceful chapters in American history.

Big Bill was at the center of the dispute. In Idaho the governor who resisted the WFM was Frank Steunenberg. He had appointed Harry and George Burroughs as delegates to a mining conference so the Burroughs had an association with him.

When Steunenberg left the governor’s chair in 1905 he was blown to bits by a bomb placed in his mailbox. Big Bill didn’t place the bomb but it does seem likely that he planned the bombing. ERB thought so. In one of the most famous trials of the era Haywood was defended by Clarence Darrow who got him off with lamest defense ever.

Governor Frank Steunenberg

Thus Burroughs describes the Sky Pilot as the man who planned the crimes but was always somewhere else when they were committed. He made people ‘disappear’ in the manner in which Steunenberg disappeared.

From the WFM Big Bill went on to be the leader of the Wobblies. There can be no doubt that Burroughs was opposed to the Wobblies. In book after book in this period he denounces the outfit. After the Great War broke out in 1914 the IWW became especially active leading to the speculation that their activities were funded by the Kaiser’s gold. This was never proven at the time but it seems very probable as the Germans wanted to disrupt American productivity while Big Bill and the Wobblies wanted to take over industry and the government on behalf of the ‘working’ man, who had nothing to do with them. The crime wave of Oakdale caused by the hoboes may have been a fictionalization of a wave of IWW activity which resulted in a large number of violent strikes in 1916 shortly before this book was written. Thus Burroughs wove Big Bill Haywood, Coxey’s Army, The Western Federation of Miners and the ‘16 Wobbly actions into the story in ‘a highly fictionized’ manner.

If fact Burroughs may have been recapitulating several decades of labor history as he introduces the great Chicago

Big Bill Haywood

detective Burton. Obviously based on one level on Allan Pinkerton of the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency which was employed to control labor unrest. In fact the Pinkertons had kidnapped Big Bill as operatives against the WFM turning him over to Idaho after Steunenberg was murdered. One of their operatives, Charlie Siringo, was instrumental in breaking up the miners in the Coeur D’Alene area. Wonderful story he tells in his A Cowboy Detective.

Not only does Burton represent the Pinkertons but after withholding his first name throughout the story, as an inside joke, Bridge who knows Burton hails him as Dick. Of course slang for detective was a ‘dick’ as in Dick Tracy but also Dick is short for Richard. So Burton was Richard Burton. Richard Francis Burton was the famous African explorer so Burroughs weaves in another historical reference.

By the time the book was finished on 6/12/17 the United States was involved in the war with Germany so at that point the activities of the IWW were treasonous.


The Incomparable Charlie Siringo


Burroughs’s novels are always more complex than they seem on the surface. Like any novelist he has to have a story to tell but that story arises from conscious and subconscious motives. Some of the conscious motives are in the relation of his disguised feelings about unskilled labor, the hoboes and the IWW. The subconscious motives emerge in his depiction of his heroine, Abigail Prim and the hero, the Happy Hobo, Bridge. As this is an Anima/Animus story it should be clear that Abigail Prim represent ERB’s Anima and Bridge represents his Animus. The two characters are not original to this story but a variation on all his heroines and heroes whose adventures are a variation of the adventures of all his heroes and heroines.

The Great Detective 1862 Allan Pinkerton

Burroughs entered the hobo theme in the first novel of this trilogy, The Mucker, then developed the theme in the middle volume, Out There Somewhere, which introduces his stellar character Bridge, the Happy Hobo.

As it chances one of Burroughs’ literary heroes was Jack London. London (1876-1918) was an exact contemporary, Burroughs being born in September, London in the following January. He was actually born eleven days after Emma.

It has been suggested that the death of London in 1916 influenced Burroughs’ writing of Out There Somewhere. As the book was written between January and March and London died in November of that year the connection seems unlikely.

It does seem likely that Burroughs read everything he came across of London’s. He seems to have thought he knew enough about London’s life to write a biography of him. If he was that familiar with London that is an interesting detail. It is impossible to know for certain what he read of London’s as there are no London titles in the Library as published on the ERBzine. While ERB seems to have made little attempt to fill in his library with titles that he read before he came into money it would seem likely that between 1913 and 1916 he would have picked up some London titles.

London was a very prolific writer penning dozens of novels, some few volumes of non-fiction and hundreds of short stories that appeared in dozens of magazines. It would seem highly probable that Burroughs would have read as much as he could find.

While London made a circuit of the United States and Canada in 1894 as a knight of the road not a great deal of his hobo writing had made it to print by 1916. The most significant of his hobo writing was a volume titled The Road of 1908. It would seem probable that Burroughs read at least this if he associated London with the road.

Perhaps more importantly London was uppermost in his mind in 1916 since W.R. Hearst had hired London to cover the Mexican Revolution in 1914. Bridge is introduced in Out There Somewhere on his way to Mexico. So that if Bridge is to be associated with London his despatches from Mexico were probably the immediate reason.

Even though Burroughs admired London as a writer they were at opposite poles politically. London claimed to be a confirmed socialist although he doesn’t write like one. As a revolutionist which he claimed to be he was in opposition to ERB.

Their views of the hobo were also in opposition so one wonders exactly what Burroughs was thinking. Burroughs makes Bridge the only honest hobo on the road while all others are depicted as violent criminals. In the first hobo scene in Out There Somewhere Bridge and Byrne are accosted by murderous hoboes who are defeated by the pugilist Byrne. The whole cast of hoboes in Bridge And The Kid are hardened criminals of the first water.

London on the other hand apologizes for his hoboes. When not victims of society they are philosophers who can astonish college professors with their learning. Thus London tends to whitewash the criminal aspects of the hobo. So, the question might arise as to whether Burroughs was correcting the image presented by his hero attempting to give him his take on the tribe. Remember London was still alive when Out There Somewhere was written and published in magazine form. It could have been meant for his eyes.

London was only eighteen when he made his tour of the country. He had already shipped out on a tour of the orient when seventeen. His moniker was Sailor Jack. He enlisted as a recruit in a clone of Coxey’s Army known as Kelly’s Army which left for DC from California.

As Burroughs mentions Coxey’s Army in Bridge And The Kid while he associates the Army with the IWW, then Wobbly activities may have called to mind London’s hobo experience. Obviously all these elements are interconnected.

If George Mc Whorter of the BB and Philip Berger are right and the L. in Bridge’s name refers to London Bridge that would be in keeping with the punning on the name Dick Burton.

London could be an element in the character of Bridge but not necessarily the dominant one while Byrne would also represent Jack London. It seems clear that Burroughs had been fascinated by the character of the hobo from an early age. As noted, the hobo appears as a significant character in his very first attempt at writing, Minidoka.

Burroughs may have affectionately joined his persona with that of London as Bridge is a declassed aristocrat which is almost a necessity for a Burroughs hero. In this case Bridge is a ‘Virginian’, a natural gentleman as well as a cultivated one. The Virginian in American history is the antithesis of the Puritan.

The Virginian was thought to be an innate gentleman, one of the ‘quality’ as opposed to the ‘equality’. The prototype of the manly man. Nearly all of Burroughs’ heroes are Virginians. Jack London didn’t have that distinction so in my opinion he represented Burroughs in his declassed state.

As a Virginian gentleman Bridge, apparently an unconventional sort, ‘volunteered’ to be a hobo because he rejected the settled life but he can reenter the aristocracy at will as he does at the end of the book. Hence while all other ‘boes are criminals or at least suspect Bridge is honest and above board. He’s known far and wide to the authorities as the only honest hobo. He’s the hobo who has Burton’s confidence.

In Out There Somewhere he is in search of the woman of his dreams. In Bridge And The Kid he finds her.

‘She’ is obviously Abigail Prim. Gail is a Cinderella figure. Her mother died. Jonas Prim, her father, remarried. Her stepmother, Pudgy Prim, while not conventionally wicked nevertheless does not wish the best for her step-daughter.

As the story opens, this is kind of hard to follow, Pudgy has sent her daughter to live with the man she has chosen as Gail’s future husband to see if she couldn’t learn to like him a little better. I’m sure I must have missed a connection somewhere but that is how I read it.

The man Pudgy has chosen for her is more than twice Gail’s nineteen years with the attendant infirmities. They used to age rapidly in those bygone days. ERB doesn’t tell us how old Gail was when her mother died but it seems strange that her father wouldn’t do more than grumble about this odd plan of his second wife.

While Gail appears to accept her step-mother’s decision to the extent of getting on a train bound for her suitor’s town she gets off early returning to Oakdale where she disguises herself as a boy then burgles her own property to take up a life on the road as a hobo. Of course ERB conceals from us that the girl Gail and boy burglar are one and the same.

Having looted herself of a fairly good sized fortune, a necklace alone was appraised by the General, a hobo, at fifty thousand dollars while she was carrying at least two thick wads of bills worth thousands as mixed in with the greenbacks, few of which were ones, were many yellow backs. There’s some currency information for you. Researching currency on the web it appears that yellow backs were hundred dollar bills while other denominations were all greenbacks. Completing the burglary she heads on down the road as night falls. After a couple misadventures with a dog and a bull Gail falls in with six criminal ‘boes in an abandoned shed.

A true innocent she flashes her fortune in front of the startled eyes of the ‘boes, hardened criminals every one. Mocking her naiveté one of the ’boes claims to know her as the Oskaloosa Kid who is out robbing and murdering at that very moment. Gail doesn’t know this, misses the joke and assumes the character of the Oskaloosa Kid.

After a failed robbery attempt by the ’boes Gail runs down the road in a gathering storm with the hoboes in pursuit. As she comes to a fork in the road she encounters the Happy Hobo, Bridge, who is apparently oblivious of the coming storm. He is merrily tramping along reciting some of his favorite poetry- out loud. The meter comes through better that way although the practice might raise comment from casual observers.

Bridge and the Kid join destinies.

So what is Burroughs talking about here in the psychological sense? He is following the same scheme he follows in all his Anima stories. Usually a sudden storm takes place on a yacht at sea and the survivors find themselves on a desert island. The plot develops that ERB used in the Outlaw Of Torn also. In that plot the little Prince’s nurse was murdered by a fencing instructor who then dressed as a woman to serve as the little Prince’s Anima. The Prince in Outlaw Of Torn was torn from his secure position in the world as Burroughs was in his.

In this story Gail has a wicked step-mother who wants to marry her off to an undesirable man. Gail voluntarily dresses and poses as a boy so that fencing master and boy serve the same function with the sexes reversed so that Gail is prepared to reveal herself and assume the role of Burroughs’ Anima returned to female form.

In Outlaw the Prince who becomes an outlaw, or outcast, Norman, is torn from his high station where he is declassed as an outlaw. In this story Bridge voluntarily declasses himself because he ’prefers’ life on the road among the criminals.

This book was written four years after Outlaw so Burroughs psychology has evolved. The emotional problem centers on Burroughs’ confrontation when he was eight or nine years old with a bully on the way to Brown school. ERB was so terrorized by the incident that his Animus was emasculated and his Anima was nearly annihilated. (The fencing master kills the nurse Maud and assumes the identity of the Anima.) As I have pointed out this means that Burroughs in his terror was hypnotized into accepting certain beliefs about himself. These are prime psychological facts which control one’s behavior. While under the influence of the hypnotist (John the Bully in this case) certain suggestions (Burroughs subconscious interpretation of the terror, his psychotic response) were fixated in his subconscious. These suggestions then influence or control the actions of the subject so long as they are active. They may be exorcised in the course of time, resolved in some manner, or they may control one’s actions for life as improbable as that seems to some people.

The purpose of analysis should be to locate these suggestions and resolve them. Freud called this ’the talking cure.’ Burroughs is doing the same thing in his writing, discussing the fixation (embedded suggestion) from many angles in an attempt to resolve it thus freeing himself from its control. All of his writings from 1911 to this novel contributed to its solution. In the Bridge Trilogy ERB succeeded in understanding his fixation but apparently lacked the follow through to eliminate it as a spirit of malaise followed him throughout his life.

In meeting his reconstituted Anima in boy’s disguise at the fork in the road or street corner, the crossroads in Outlaw, the original scene of hypnosis, he has recreated the original hypnotic incident. The hoboes pursuing Gail represent the bully. Symbolically they will all be joined in the haunted house during the storm. In this case the house takes the place of the desert island.

Thus Bridge leaves the broad, well-traveled road of happiness, (the yacht sinks) to join his destiny with the Kid on the less traveled hazardous road.

They enter the abandoned farm house which represents Burroughs’ self after the confrontation with John the Bully. Thus ERB’s Animus and Anima are once again together in his self or house although his Anima is disguised as a male and he doesn’t recognize her.

In this unresolved state the real Oskaloosa Kid drives by. He throws a woman from an open tonneau in a driving rain storm no less, firing a shot after her. The shot misses, the girl is stunned but otherwise uninjured. Thus ERB’s previous Anima is returned to him but unlike Maud she is unconscious but alive. The three are joined by the dual aspects of the bully spending the night together with them in a room of the farmhouse. So that is the set and setting.



ERB is accused of being unduly influenced by his readings. This may be true. As a dependent personality as a result of his encounter he is highly influenced by those he admires. He has a high level of suggestibility as a result of his hypnosis. He seems to have been very willing to accept suggestions from his publishers such as Metcalf at All Story who suggested a medieval story which ERB undertook against his better judgment as Outlaw Of Torn.

However imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. ERB was a very flattering sort of guy. In this book he mentions several influences whose manner he imitates to some degree. But he always has a very original story.

The first issue is that of why a hobo hero. The hobo was an unacceptable topic for literature at that time, still is. In fact Burroughs’ two hobo novels are rather daring departures from tradition. There may be a genre of hobo novels, if so these two stories are bedrock of the genre. They may have been the first hobo novels published.

They were certainly intended as a tribute to Jack London. Although Burroughs acknowledges deep respect for London none of his volumes are found in Burroughs’ existing library. The library seems to consist of childhood books and volumes Burroughs purchased after he came into money. He doesn’t seem to have gone back and picked up old favorites. In such case we can’t know for sure how much of London’s Burroughs actually read.

London was prolific writing dozens of novels and collections of short stories along with some few non-fiction titles. Among the last was a record of his hoboing experience entitled: The Road. Published in 1908 there is a good chance Burroughs may have read it. An indirect proof might possibly be found in the sobriquet the Oskaloosa Kid. There is an Oskaloosa in both Kansas and Iowa. When London took his hobo trip from Oakland across the US and back by way of Canada in 1894 as part of Kelly’s Industrial Army he makes mention of incidents in Oskaloosa Iowa. If Burroughs read The Road the name Oskaloosa may have stuck in him memory.

London himself had difficulty getting The Road published as his publishers didn’t believe the hobo a suitable subject for treatment. If London ever intended a hobo novel he never wrote it. He did author several hobo related short stories. One can’t be certain which of the short stories, if any, Burroughs read. Certainly he couldn’t have read them all.

London was also sent to Mexico by the Hearst papers to cover the Mexican Revolution in 1914 so it is very possible that Out There Somewhere deals with the Mexican Revolution. Burroughs may have been more directly inspired by London’s Mexican dispatches.

In any event these two volumes are generally agreed to have a direct reference to Jack London with which conclusion I agree.

I did discuss the Bridge Trilogy in my Only A Hobo which elicited the response from fellow writer David Adams that I should have read Martin Eden if I wanted to understand Burroughs’ The Mucker. I had read it. I read it again. Unfortunately David failed to refer to the passages that would have enlightened me.

Reinforcing the hobo image of the two books is Burroughs use of hobo poetry throughout Out There Somewhere and the first half of Bridge And The Kid. Central to the first volume is HH Knibbs poem Out There Somewhere after which ERB’s story is named. The theme of that poem most important to Burroughs is that his dream woman or Anima awaits him in the South down by the sea. Weaving through these images and through Bridge And The Kid is Robert Service’s The Road To Anywhere. It doesn’t hurt to be familiar with these two poems.

If writing a hobo novel was avant garde, building one work around the work of another writer was no less daring. One can only say that ERB was fearless.

There is a possibility that Burroughs may have intended Out There Somewhere as an introduction to both Knibbs and London. He left for an extended stay in California shortly after completing the novel during which he may possibly have intended a trip North to Sonoma to visit London but his favorite author chose this unpropitious moment to cash in. November 22 is also the death date of John F. Kennedy and Aldous Huxley although forty-seven years later. If Jack hadn’t been in such a hurry he might easily have made it a three way termination.

It is noteworthy that Burroughs did extend an invitation to HH Knibbs who wrote the poem around which the novel was built and who did accept the invitation.

The hobo theme may also have been suggested by an increasing feeling of restlessness which resulted in the familial hoboing across the country after Out There Somewhere was completed in 1916.

Assuming the hobo influences of the IWW, London, Knibbs and Service, it would not seem necessary to look for others but Burroughs was able to cram more into a hundred fifty pages than any author I have read. On page one of Bridge And The Kid he mentions Sherlockian which refers to Conan Doyle, Raffleian which refers to the Raffles of Doyle’s son-in-law E.W. Hornung and the Alienist which refers to psychologists of some type.

Doyle was an ever present influence on Burroughs. His admiration for Doyle’s detective, Sherlock Holmes, permeates his work. He is forever trying to write a good detective story of which Bridge And The Kid is an excellent example if not the most perfect example of his Holmsian stories. A great many of his other novels have detective stories concealed within them.

Bridge And The Kid is one of the best. I’m sure everyone is able to guess that the Kid is a girl in disguise before the story ends but the question is how early? I don’t know exactly when I did but by the time the Kid went out to ‘rustle grub’ his relationship with Willie Case gave it away for sure. Still, even knowing did not diminish enjoyment of the rest of the story. Both Bridge and the Kid are excellent characters as was Burroughs’ detective Burton. Loved all three. Actually I loved all the characters including Beppo which were all drawn vividly.

One wonders if Burroughs knew that Hornung was Doyle’s son-in-law. If so the union of the two in one story is clever and piquant. Hornung and Raffles are probably not so well known now but Raffles was a very popular character for a long time. Whereas Doyle created the master detective his son-in-law created a mirror image master thief. Doyle didn’t take kindly to Hornung’s character, Arthur J. Raffles, for that was his name. Raffles was a gentleman thief or ‘amateur cracksman’ who stole from his hosts on country weekends. His sidekick was named ‘Bunny’. The Kid, Gail in disguise, is of course a counterpart to Holmes’ Watson and Raffle’s Bunny.

As a further inspiration then we have Holmes and Watson and Raffles and Bunny for Bridge and the Kid. Pretty amazing, huh? You can see why Philip Farmer got carried away in Tarzan Alive.

Then later in the book in a fit of exuberance Burroughs mentions H. Rider Haggard and Jules Verne although I can’t find references to their work in this story. Just ERB liked their stuff.

Finally we have to mention the Alienist. This certainly implies that Burroughs took more than a passing interest in psychology. As wide ranging as his interests were one is forced to believe that he knew who Freud and Jung were by 1917. What he knew of their work is open to conjecture although the story Tarzan’s First Nightmare of this period follows Freud’s dream theory pretty closely.

I would imagine he knew something of William James and I am convinced of FWH Myers. Beyond that I can’t say. It seems clear to me that Burroughs is attempting some careful psychological portrayals in this book.

Having discussed the preliminaries let’s see how Burroughs develops set and setting in this very delightful story of times, places and landscapes that will never be seen again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s