If Pigs Had Wings

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Three Trips West

by

R.E. Prindle

Edgar Rice Burroughs

     During the years 1911 to 1919 ERB visited Southern California three times, once in 1913, again in 1916 and his final visit in 1919 when he established himself there.  The question is why, what motivation did he have for those visits.

     After 1911 life began to move very fast for ERB in dizzying leaps of change while all the time his mind disgorged a lifetime’s worth of stories based on his reading and experience from 1875 to 1911.

     One of the most important influences of this early period was the OZ books of L. Frank Baum.  The whole Mars series of Burroughs can be seen as the transportation of OZ to Mars as filtered through Burroughs’ mind.  John Carter can easily be seen as the Wizard while Dejah Thoris is perhaps Ozma rather than Dorothy.

     Baum while not a native Chicagoan lived in that city at least through the nineties.  In 1900 he began to turn out his OZ stories that so impressed ERB.  Then he moved to San Diego, California which city he left for Hollywood in 1910.  At that time Hollywood was just a town on the outskirts of LA.  The movies didn’t arrive until 1914 so the films had no bearing on Baum’s choice to live there or ERB’s visit.  I believe that one purpose of ERB’s visit was to present himself to Baum with his own stories as an entree.  There is hard evidence that at this time ERB made a trip to LA to see Baum and I believe it certain that he did.

     Now, it is debated whether Burroughs ever had any interest in Theosophy.  David Adams, so far as I know was the first to suggest he did.  Once again we’re on thin ice in saying that he learned something of it most likely during this visit but the ice isn’t all that thin.

     Baum himself had been a card carrying Theosophist since about 1883, his mother-in-law much longer.  there are those who argue that the OZ stories are virtual treatises on Theosophy.  They make a good case.  It follows then that Burroughs must have imbibed a good deal of Theosophical talk from Baum, including discussion on Madame Blavatsky if not beginning in 1913 then at least in 1916 when we do have a record of his visiting  Baum.

     In San Diego in 1913 ERB first stayed in Coronado across the Bay from San Diego.  Across the narrows from North Island just above Coronado is Point Loma.  The Point Loma Theosophical Society under the guidance of Katherine Tingley had a spectacular campus reminiscent of the Columbian Exposition of ’93 in miniature.  Tingley built the first Greek Theater in America there.  I should think it impossible that ERB and Emma didn’t visit the campus at least once.  With ERB’s curiosity in religion I think it probable that he spent some time there familiarizing himself with their texts in emulation of his own hero, Baum.

     Also by 1913 Max Heindel’s Rosicrucian Society had been in operation for several years in Oceanside just a skip from Point Loma.  I can make no claims that ERB also took Rosicrucianism in but a man of his interests may easily have done so.

     Baum was one reason for Burroughs to visit San Diego in 1913 which was also his earliest opportunity.

     ERB’s mental turmoil in dealing with success was exacerbated in the first quarter of the year by the death of his father.  I’m sure this event had a terrific impact on ERB.  His was a difficult relationship with his father.  While ERB regretted his father’s death I suspect he rejoiced in it too.

     According to Herb Weston, George T., the father, humiliated his son by publicly declaring that he was worthless.  Thus on the one hand ERB created an ideal father figure in John Carter, but way off on Mars.  He also created an evil fatgher figure in the deaf and dumb looney who tortured the Lad of Lad And The Lion.  that book was written over March and April of 1914 almost exactly a year after his father’s death.

     Perhaps his father’s death caused a reaction where he had to get far away from the memory of that hateful father.  After writing The Lad And The Lion on the anniversary of his father’s death, as it were, he was able to return to Chicago.

     Another reason for his leaving for San Diego may have been the need to rectify and reverse the disastrous trip with Emma to Idaho in 1903.  In that instance they packed their furniture and all their belongings to go West.  The trip to Idaho may have been in emulation of  Owen Wister’s Virginian in which the Virginian and his wife lead an idyllic existence away out there.  The experiement ended in disaster a year later when after serving as a railroad dick in Salt Lake City while trying to run a boarding house  the couple was forced to sell their belongings at auction although returning to Chicago first class.

     The failure nearly disrupted the marriage while apparently causing ERB no end of personal grief.  As he did in his stories ERB believed that by reversing the results by a subsequent action he erased the actual occurrence of the first.  Thus in 1913 once again the family now of five packed all their belongings including their second hand car and traveled first class to Los Angeles as the only rail service into San Diego was from LA.  It should be noted here that the IWW or Wobblies invaded San Diego in 1913 so ERB was probably present at that debacle which is worth reading about.

     After some months in San Diego the couple once again sold all their belongings including the second hand car before returning to Chicago.  This time ERB could return in comfort knowing that he was solvent in Chicago. On his return he bought the same car, a Hudson, that his hero Baum drove.

     Still, a very strange interlude.

     Once back in Chicago ERB remained there in what sounds like one the finer houses of  the city for two years until 1916 when he returned a second time to San Diego.

     Tremendous events occurred between his arrival back in Chicago and his second departure for San Diego.  Of course, the Great War broke out shortly after his return.  I don’t mean to say that the war didn’t overshadow everything else but I don’t think it over shadowed everything else in ERB’s mind.

     There were at least two other events of signal importance for Burroughs not including the Jack Johnson Affair.  These were busy times.  The first was the creation of the Panama Canal that was completed in 1913, opened in 1914.  The canal overwhelmed ERB’s mind.  A few years later he and Emma would voyage through the canal, the only trip outside the US with Emma of which we have knowledge.

     The second was the announcement of the construction of the Lincoln Highway from NYC to San Francisco.  The highway was dedicated in 1913 but would not become a reality until long after ERB decided to make the trip in 1916.

See http://lincolnhighway.jameslin.name/history/part1.html

     In 1912 there were almost no good roads to speak of in the United States.  Tje relatively few miles of improved roads were around towns and cities.  A road was “improved” if it was graded; one was lucky to have gravel or brick.  Asphalt and concrete were yet to come.  Most of the 2.5 million miles of road were just dirt, bumpy and dusty in dry weather, impassible in wet weather.  Worse yet, the roads didn’t really lead anywhere.  They spread out aimlessly from the center of the settlement.  To get from one settlement to another, it was much easier to take the train.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/lincoln_highway

     According to the Association’s 1916 Official Road Guide a trip from the Atlantic to the pacific on the Lincoln Highway was “something of a sporting proposition” and might take 20 to 30 days.  To make it in 30 days the motorist would need to average 18 miles an hour for 6 hours per day, and driving was only done in daylight hours.  the trip was thought to cost no more than $5 a day per person, including food, gas, oil, and even “five or six meals in htoels.” Car repairs would of course, increase the costs.

     Since gasoline stations were still rare in manyparts of the country, motorists were urged to top off their gasoline at every opportunity, even if they had done so recently.  Motorists should wade through water before driving through to verify the depth.

     So ERB;s little caravan seems to have been a wise precaution.  J.C. Furnas in his book Great Times says that 60 days for the trip was a more likely figure so ERB wasn’t  too out of line in what seems like an overlong journey.  Furnas born in 1906 probably remembers something of the hoopla first hand.  He remembers the route terminating in San Diego which was where ERB ended up at any rate.

     The trip was obviously a first rate adventure for which ERB was prepared but which he didn’t care  to repeat.  Of course his children who were free of cares enjoyed things immensely.

     An object influencing ERB’s decision to make the trip was the Panama-Pacific Exhibition in San Diego in 1916.  The opening of the Panama Canal benefited California directly.  The route whether from the East Coast or Europe was shortened immensely.  Thus both San Francisco and San Diego had exhibitions.  the one in San Francisco ended in 1915 so many of those exhibits shifted to San Diego.  One can’t expect the San Diego Expo to rival that of the great Columbian Expo of 1893 but I suppose it was still something.   There was one exhibit that probably had a profound effect on ERB’s future.  Furnas, Great Times, p. 186:

The also highly California purpose of the whole doings was candidly to promote settlement and land sales in this relatively undeveloped corner, as the most original feature was what the advertising called “moving, throbbing, real life” demonstrations.  That instead of just showing the latest farm machinery in an Agricultural Hall, here was an impressively extensive model farm with the machines actuallyout there plowing, cultivating, ditching.  For the other kind of farmer, here was a model five acres to show what irrigations could do to intensive cultivation-orchards of walnuts and four different fruits with all kinds of garden truck flourishing between the rows of trees and a model farm family inhabiting a model California bungalow with such fancy modern gadgets as an automatic electric pump and a vacuum cleaner.

     Sounds like it might have given ERB ideas that came to fruition three years later.

     We know for sure that ERB made the trip in 1916 to Hollywood to visit L. Frank Baum.  Baum called his residence Ozcot after his famous wonderland.  I’m sure ERB was very impressed so that it comes as little surprise that he named the estate he bought in 1919 Tarzana.

     A question I would dearly like answered is did ERB make a trip to San Francisco in either 1913 or 1916?  San Francisco appears in a few novels from The Mucker to Marcia Of The Doorstep always with negative connotations.  It would be nice to know what if anything happened to sour ERB on Baghdad By The Bay.  It will be remembered that Billy Byrne was shanghaied from San Francisco in 1913’s The Mucker when ERB was already in California.

     At any rate the family returned to Chicago to spend a year or two before they made the final move to California in 1919.  In 1917 the US entered the war.  ERB had earlier tried to enter the fray as a war correspondent but was refused.  Now he found a place in the Illinois National Guard as a Major.  He stands so proudly in his uniform, an officer finally after all those years.

     The war brought out an aspect of his character that may have caused him harm hastening his departure from Chicago.

     ERB was acutely aware of having a split personality or, as he put it being two different people a la Jekyll and Hyde.  While one finds a reflection of a deep thinking man in his novels many of his actions reveal a very gauche side to his character.  I have read very few of his public pronouncements that show him in a truly positive light.

     The writing of his anti-German story The Little Door which was presented with little approval from his publishers being rejected by all.  The amazingly prescient Beyond Thirty was also coldly received.  Even his published writing found tough sledding from time to time.  It seems that both Metcalf and Bob Davis of Munsey’s had mixed feelings about him.  The manner in which Davis writes to him I find fairly insulting.  Of course, as time went on publishers wanted only Tarzan stories from him accepting anything else only grudgingly or even, in two notable cases rejecting the stories outright.  Nor was ERB ever accepted by the Chicago literary establishment.  Chicago in the teens had a vibrant literary scene to which ERB rightfully belonged yet the only literary club he was able to join was the White Paper Club that any scribbler or wannabe could join.  There was something in the character of ERB that obviouslyput people off.

     Porges, in discussing ERB’s wartime activities is openly ambivalent about this.  Porges describes some of his actions as ‘interperate.’  Something I wish he hadn’t done at the this period that I think was inconsiderate was, as Porges says, p. 288:

     In this and other articles Ed revealed how he had been influenced by the wave of public suspicion directed at German-Americans.  He admitted that his methods for selling Liberty Bonds may not have been ethical:  “We went out in selected groups decked out in all the panoply of war and armed with a bunch of yellow cards each of which bore the name of some suspected German sympathizer… He endorsed this as a way to “spear a Hun right here at home.”  (Italics mine)

     Only suspected.  That’s something I wish a hero of mine hadn’t done.  while no one probably said anything to him in wartime I suspect there were repercussions after the Armistice.  Many people who hadn’t before probably looked at him askance.  His wartime actions were too at variance with his more thoughtful writings.  Of course, so far I’m about the only critic who perceives the deep reflection in his stories.  Most people then probably thought his novels were pure balderdash.  Still he was a best selling author whose main creation had become a household word within six years or less and has since become one of the best known literary characters in the world.

     Nevertheless not too long after the Armistice ERB upped stakes making his third and final trip West.  His send off by his Chicago clubmates at the White Paper Club was less than sterling to my mind.  The cover of the menu showed a pig with wings flying West.

     This was ostensibly in reference to his statement that he was going West to be a hog farmer.  Still the phrase ‘when pigs have wings’ is usually a negative reference.  I can’t escape the notion that there was an element of ‘good riddance’ in his farewell party.

     Regardless of how ambiguous his position in Chicago had been he left the Chicago phase of his career behind in January of 1919.  It was a new world in the morning when he arrived in LA.  But strangely it soon took a Chicago turn.  Tarzana awaited him

 

Edgar Rice Burroughs On Mars

A Review

The Chessmen Of Mars

Part 6

by

R.E. Prindle

 

The Golden Handcuffs

     And now comes the part that readers find the most fascinating, that of the contest on The Field Of Honor.  Gladiatorial contests are frequent occurrences in the novels of ERB.  This one seems to combine Arthurian influences as well as Roman.

     Burroughs’ tenure of a couple years at the Chicago Harvard Latin School must have made an indelible impression on him.  The recurrent, one might say underlying, Homeric influence from the Odyssey of Homer would indicate that the school concentrated on that work of Homer although not on The Iliad as there seem to be few references to the latter poem.  In later years ERB would complain that he had learned Latin before English cramping his English style.

     Perhaps, but I don’t see anything glaringly wrong with his English style.  His psychology makes him a little stiff but that’s not through a lack of understanding English.  It would be nice to know the curriculum of the Latin School and what texts he did study.  Late in life when he wrote I Am A Barbarian his background as evidenced by the reading list he appended was shallow while not mentioning the great classical scholars.  Still Roman themes are a recurring motif in the corpus.  About this time he was rereading Plutarch’s Lives that compares the lives of various Greeks and Romans so that the Lives may have been a text at school.  Especially as he says that while rereading it he discovered that Numa was the name of a Roman king while he thought he had invented the name for the Lion.

     Also Arthurian references pop up in Chessmen.  In 1912 when his editor Metcalf of Munsey’s asked him to write a medieval story that turned out to be the Outlaw Of Torn he claimed to have little knowledge of the period.  Now, the Manatorian party leaving the city after Gahan entered is more reminiscent of Arthurian stories than Roman.  The city of Manator itself also has a decidedly Camelot feel.  The party’s subsequent return and capture of Tara and Ghek has more of the courtly flavor than the Roman.  In 1928’s Tarzan, Lord Of The Jungle ERB would create a medieval society of lost Crusaders deep in the heart of darkness.  So while he claimed to know nothing of medieval themes in 1912 by this time he seems to have done some reading in the field.

     In many ways Manator bears a great resemblance to Mythological, Graustarkian and Ruritanian stories that he did admire as a young man.  Combining all those influences with the Oz of Baum we have Manator.

     Thus in addition to Roman gladiatorial contests we also have a similarity to medieval battle melees where the favors of women were of paramount importance.

     Here we have the great mock battles and actual battles to the death played out on a gigantic Jetan board.  Burroughs modifies the Earthly game of Chess to create a similar Martian game of Jetan complicated by the grotesque addition of battles to the death between the live ‘pieces.’  Indeed as is explained there had been games recorded in which the only survivors were the the two female prizes and one of the Jeds.  Once again mimicking Arthurian literature ERB describes sword blows that cleave the opponent through the brain pan down to the breast bone.  ERB seems to delight in the most violent and gruesome details.  And lots of them.

     A-Kor, his cellmate, fills Gahan in on what he must do to enter the games conveniently giving the latter enough money to bribe his team, get this, while returning the remainder to his purse.

     The strategy is all very probable.  The number of slaves from Gathol in Manator is enormous so Gahan has no difficulty in enrolling a team of Gatholians who will be fighting for their freedom.  Gahan is famiiar with Jetan as played elsewhere on Mars on a board so he has no difficulty with strategy.  The main change in strategy is that when a piece captures another the pieces then draw swords and fight to the finish.  Thus a piece can successfully evade capture negating strategy.

     Relying on the prowess of his men and his own incomparable swordsmanship Gahan then makes a drive directly for the opposing Jed, U-Dor.

     Can it be a coincidence that he who stands between himself and Tara is a man called U-Dor (door)?  Considering the important roles doors play in these stories it would seem that U-Dor is one more door he must hack his way through to get to his objective.

     The only other work I’ve seen where doors were so important was the old TV show, The Mod Squad.  In that TV series doors of every description were constantly being slammed; not just closed but slammed.  I haven’t quite figured out ERB’s obsession with doors as yet.

     While Chess and one imagines Jetan are supreme games of strategy Gahan seemingly abandons the fine points and gamesmanship and makes a drive straight for U-Dor.  ERB says he was a good Chess player while I have never played to perhaps the moves he describes are possible especially as any move is good or bad depending on which player is the better swordsman.  Gahan is the best so he experiences no difficulty in reaching U-Dor who he cuts down.

     Tara and he are seemingly reunited.  But while Tara thought she killed I-Gos he was only wounded.  Present at the games he denounces Gahan and Tara who flee as aforesaid to the pits.  Then begins the spectacular double climax; that of Gahan/ERB’s triumph over John the Bully/O-Tar and the subsequent triumph of Gahan/ERB over Frank Martin/O-Tar.

2.

     To a large extent Chessmen is an examination of ancestor worship.  Certainly the Taxidermist of Mars preserved ancestors going back at least five thousand years to the reign of O-Mai.  ERB explains Gahan’s and perhaps his own ideas on the significance of ancestors.

     Gahan, a man of culure and high intelligence held few if any superstitions.  In common with nearly all races of Barsoom he clung more or less inherently, to a certain exalted form of ancestor worship, though it was rather the memory of legends of the virtues and heroic deeds of his forefathers that he deified rather than themselves.  He never expected any tangible evidence of their existence after death; he did not believe that they had the power either for good or for evil other than the effect that their example while living might have had on following generations; he did not believe therefore in the materialization of dead spirits.  If there was a life hereafter he knew nothing of it, for he knew that science had demonstrated the natural phenomenon of ancient religions and superstitions.

     The above is probably as close to a confession of faith as ERB is going to give.  It is certainly one that I can accept for myself.  The above may also be a reference to spiritual seances in which dead ancestors supposedly spoke through mediums.  Harry Houdini was debunking such seances around this time much to the chargrinof ERB’s literary hero, Conan Doyle of Sherlock Holmes fame, who did believe is such ancestral contacts.

     There may be a joke in that case when Gahan arose from O-Mai’s bed ululuing and putting the fear of God into O-Tar exposing him as a coward.

     Having thus disposed of O-Tar/John ERB turns to debunking  O-Tar/Martin.

     When Gahan was playing his joke on O-Tar I-Gos stole Tara away.  He delivers her to O-Tar who is so smitten that he decides that he will marry her and take his chances with this she-banth.

     O-Tar immurs Tara in a tower not unlike the story of Rapunzel.  Her location is pointed out to Gahan who then makes a perilous climb of the tower in order to tell her that no matter what it looks like on the morrow’s wedding date he will rescue her and she is not to commit suicide.

     While talking to her through the grated window a eunuch sleeping at the foot of the bed awakes moving toward him sword in hand.  Tara instead of shrinking back removes her little blade from her harness running the eunuch through the heart.

     There must be significance to this scene as ERB is retelling the story of both John and Martin.  If Emma was with ERB on the corner and abandoned him to his fate by walking on it would appear that ERB never forgave her while having Anima trouble ever after.  Here he rectifies the situation by having Tara come to his defense acting with a both a blade and heart of steel.  Thus not only has his Animus surrogate Gahan proved John/O-Tar to be the coward but Tara the Anima figure defends Gahan/ERB from a similar attack by John absolving his Anima.

     We now go to the wedding.  Of course, having read the book several times in my case we know the story so I will just follow it.  In the book John Carter tells ERB the details after the fact.

     I-Gos has allied himself with Tara and Gahan against O-Tar.  Before the wedding O-Tar retires to the Hall of Ancestors to commune with the dead.  I-Gos has let Gahan into the hall where he sits as though stuffed on a stuffed Thoat.  When O-Tar pauses beside him  Gahan falls on him striking him on the forehead with the butt of a heavy spear.

     Thus we establish that at this point O-Tar has become Frank Martin.  Just as Gahan/ERB proved O-Tar a coward by merely rising in O’Mai’s bed and making weird noises so now he reverses the situation in Toronto.  Instead of ERB being struck on the forehead Gahan/ERB strikes O-Tar/Martin in the same place leaving him for dead.

     Now, this is strange.  Donning O-Tar’s Golden Mask Gahan goes foth in O-Tar’s guise to marry Tara.  The Golden Mask undoubtedly refers to Martin’s money bags to which ERB undoubtedly attributes whatever success Martin had with Emma.  Why Gahan/ERB wore O-Tar’s mask is fairly clear but why ERB would have isn’t.  Also if O-Tar hadn’t recovered from the blow Gahan would have been married to Tara in O-Tar’s name.

     Perhaps ERB in a reversal means to imply that Emma would actually have been marrying him but won by Martin’s ‘golden mask.’  By the process of reversal then ERB would have recovered and stolen Emma from Martin on the altar so to speak.  Or, as he actually did.

     The symbolism of the golden handcuffs then would mean that the proposed wedding of Emma and Martin would have a mere commercial transaction.  Or, perhaps, he felt himself attached to Emma for financial reasons when he’d rather not be.  Complications, complications.

     While the two antogonists Gahan and O-Tar are staring each other down the ‘cavalry’ Gahan sent for has arrived.  Carter and troops from Helium, Gathol and Manatos arrive to end the story.

     O-Tar himself then falls on his sword like a true Roman thus redeeming his miserable life.  Perhaps ERB is saying that that is what Martin should have done- left the couple alone rather than constantly interfering.

3.

Conclusions

     If as Sigmund Freud argued dreams are based on wish fulfillment the Chessmen of Mars proves his case.  In this series of dreams or nightmares ERB attempts to reverse the results of the three greatest disasters of his life.

     John the Bully and Frank Martin are a matter of history.  That ERB links his fiancial disaster with these two earlier disasters indicates that he knows he has crossed the line in his mistaken purchase of the Otis estate.  He knows that he as no way out as he has the ‘cavalry’, John Carter and the united forces of Helium, Gathol and Manatos come to the rescue.  In the final denouement of this error in 1934’s Tarzan And The Lion Man even the cavalry can’t help.  Tarzan/ERB  leaves the burning castle of God a defeated man.

     His great dream of getting back to the land and becoming a Gentleman Farmer has crashed to the ground.  His attachment to his fantasy can be traced in his letters with Herb Weston.  Weston warned him as strongly as friendship would allow that it would be a mistaken approach to farming in any other way than on a factory basis with profit firmly in mind.  ERB chose to ignore this sound advice probably believing that between books, magazines and movies his future was golden.

     Unfortunately for himself his income crested in this very year, 1921.  Undoubtedly because of his strong anti-Communist stance and his resistance to the Semitism being imposed on him his sources of income came under attack.  Nineteen twenty-two was the last year he received income from movies until 1927-28.  Publishing difficulties with McClurg’s and G&D increased.  His long time publisher, McClurg’s, even refused outrightly to publish his opus of 1924, Marcia Of The Doorstep.

     His foreign royalties once so promising slowly dried up because of political pressures.  Later in the decade his troubles with McClurg’s became so intense that he was forced to abandon that long standing relationship.  No other major publisher would touch him.  Why, will probably never be clear.  After a tentative stab with a less established publisher he turned to forming his own publishing company.  This move was apparently successful enough to float him through the early part of the thirties before the spring of his inspiration began to dry up.

     In a desperate attempt to save Tarzan he attempted many expedients, none successful.  He incorporated himself to protect his income from creditors.  He subdivided a portion of Tarzana, he attempted to sell off acreage, he tried to turn part of the estate into an exclusive golf club, he turned part into a movie lot attempted to lease that out, he invited oil geologists to find oil on his land.  He invested in airplace engines and airports.  Nothing came of anything.  In the end the magnificent estate slipped through his hands.

     A premonition of all this can be found in the The Chessmen Of Mars.  Even the name of the story indicates the he is involved in a chesslike game of many moves.

     Stress was now to be ERB’s other name.

     A world famous figure, nominally rich, still retaining many of the trappings of wealth he had gone from prince to pauper, regained his princely stature and now slipped back to the role of a prince in exile from the Promised Land.

     Nothing daunted he went on working.  In the end his magnificent intellectual property, Tarzan Of The Apes, would always save him from a fate worse than death.  A form of wish fulfillment in itself, I guess.

 

The ERB Library Project

Zane Grey, Edgar Rice Burroughs And The Animus And Anima

Part III

The Rainbow Trail

Bad Blood In The Valley Of Hidden Women

by

R.E. Prindle, Dr. Anton Polarion And Dugald Warbaby

Texts:

Burroughs, Edgar Rice: Corpus 1911-1940

Grey, Zane:  The Riders Of  The Purple Sage, 1912

Grey, Zane:  The Rainbow Trail, 1915

Grey, Zane:  The Mysterious Rider, 1921

Prindle, R.E.:  Freudian Psycology Updated To Modern Physics, ERBzine, 2004

Prindle, R.E.:  Something Of Value Books I, II, III, Erbzine, 2005.

     The protagonist of this continuation of Riders Of The Purple Sage is named John Shefford.  The appeal of this book and Mysterious Stranger to ERB is evident since John Bellounds and John Shefford are both Johns which was ERB’s favorite male name for both heroes and villains.  Shefford is the hero here while Bellounds was a villain.

     Symbolical of the religious problems of the period Shefford had been pushed into the ministry, some undefined sect, by his parents.  But  he had his doubts.  These doubts found expression in his sermons to his flock.  This may have been just after the Civil War to keep time periods straight.  Not sharing his doubts the faithful threw him out of their church.  So on the religious level Shefford is searching for a belief system.  His old one had been ruined by Science.  So we have the science-religion dichotomy here.

     Shefford’s congregation was in Beaumont, Illinois which is where Venters and Bess of Purple Sage took Night and Black Star and their bag of gold.  They had told their story to Shefford who found Bess strange and wonderful deciding that where she came from there must be others and that he was going there to get him one.  In my youth, they called it Kansas City but this is not the case here.

     When they told him the story of Fay Larkin he decided to go in search of her himself and locate this duplicate of Bess known as Fay Larkin.  We should note that a fay is a fairie, so Fay Larkin is in essence a fairy princess.  Thus Shefford is not only looking for redemption for his Animus but he seeks to reconcile his Anima.  This is not much different from the Hungarian myth where the Anima was imprisoned in bridge footing, here the Anima is imprisoned in Surprise Valley just over the Arizona line in Utah.  Get this, at the foot of the Rainbow Bridge.  How elemental can you get.

     With the blessing of Venters and the unmasked Rider, Bess, Shefford sets out for the desert in search of redemption.  So, we have the religious dilemma of the period caused by Darwin and other scientific advances as the foundation of the story coupled with the Anima-Animus problem of the male.

     The book was published in magazine form as The Desert Crucible.  For the meaning of this metaphor for Grey check out his 1910 novel The Heritage Of The Desert.  For Grey the desert tries a man’s soul either making or breaking him.  The hero of Heritage, John Hare, was a ‘lunger’, that is tubercular, who was healed both physically and mentally in the desert crucible.  In Shefford’s case he tapped his breast and said:  ‘I’m sick here.’ meaning his heart or soul.  I haven’t read a lot of Grey but of what I have read he never deviates much from his basic story; it’s all pretty much the same told from different perspectives.  Shefford will have his heart or ‘soul’ healed just as Hare had his lung healed while finding himself as a man ‘way out there.’  Out There Somewhere as Knibbs and Burroughs would say.

     Pretty much the same notion as Burroughs who believed a return to nature was the solution of the urban problem.  Neither writer was unique in this respect but symptomatic of the times.

     Whereas the desert was lush in Purple Sage under the dominion of the Great Mother, now under the control of the Patriarchal Mormon men viewed through the heartsick eyes of John Shefford the desert is dry as a bone, the water and the Great Mother are gone, all is barren and bleak.

     Even the old landmarks have disappeared.  No one has ever heard of Deception Pass although they think it may have been what is now known as the Sagi.  Amber Spring has dried up.  The town of Cottonwoods razed, only a few walls standing, while nobody reallys wants to discuss it.  Verboten.  No one has ever heard of Surprise Valley, which after all was sealed off from the world.  But the name Fay Larkin does ring a bell.  Hope in the wilderness.

     Purple Sage took place in 1871, this is twelve years later, hence 1883.  The United States Government, interfering in both religious and sexual matters, declared polygamy illegal in 1882 in response to this Mormon threat.  In the background then is the US tribunal trying to root out the Mormon vice of polygamy.  Time is moving right along on the last frontier.

     In Grey and Burroughs’ real time, this book was published in 1915, the problem would have been a different Semitic intrusion, the Jews, who were manipulating US policy, certainly vis-a-vis Czarist Russia, for their own ends.  Both writers would have been aware of Jewish political activities as well as the Great War that broke out in 1914.  The Mormon-US confrontation may very well be also an examination of the Jewish-Gentile situation which was felt more keenly by contemporaries than the history books wish to tell as well as concern for the Big One in Europe.

     The consequences of the situation described by Grey in Purple Sage would have been a serious one for the Mormon government.  Clearly the situation had been allowed to get out of hand by Bishop Dyer and Elder Tull.  Direct action should never have allowed to develop; it should have been kept more covert as any well managed operation should be.  My god, the number of Mormons and others who died should have been a scandal.  Wars have reported fewer deaths.  The fact that Cottonwoods was destroyed, Amber Spring stopped up, and whatever indicates it was the Mormons who were trying to wipe the past from the history books.  No need to talk about this one.  One may compare this incident to Egyptian history.  When the female Pharaoh Hatshepsut died her name was chiseled off every monument in the land.  The idea that you can change the past by chiseling it out of the history books is current as well today.

     The Mormons did not forget Lassiter and Jane walled up in Surprise Valley but there was no entry to get at them.  Grey, a better writer than astute geologist, hastens erosion in the valley.  More erosion occurred in these twelve years than in the previous two or three thousand.  There were constant landslides and then the really Big One occurred when the canyon wall opposite the cliff dwellings gave way allowing for an entrance but still too formidable for an escape.

     A watching Piute, Navajos are Grey’s noble savages, the Piutes his ignoble savages, Twain excoriated them too, informs the Mormons who invade the Valley seizing Lassiter and Jane.  Lassiter had, of course, left his empty guns outside the Valley eleven years before and was unarmed or, in other words, emasculated.

     The Mormons were going to string the Hammer up from his own sour apple tree when they decide to spare him if he and Jane will give them Fay Larkin for a fate worse than death, that is being given to a Mormon as one of his multiple wives and educated to the faith.  It’s not clear why they asked as Jane and Uncle Jim had no power to refuse.  At any rate, they considered it a square deal.  The Mormons took the girl, apparently leaving Uncle Jim with his hands tied and the hempen noose still around his neck.  Rather ludicrous vision when you think that he was attired in a fairly loose fitting garment made of  jackrabbit hides.

     Thus as the story begins Lassiter and Jane are alone in Surprise Valley, Fay Larkin is being educated to be the youngest wife of a Mormon Elder but as yet untouched, the US Government  is pursuing the Mormons to prevent polygamy and John Shefford is in search of god and himself slogging knee deep through sand dunes in search of an obliterated past.

     Do you believe in magic?  You’re going to have to.

     Because of US pressure the Mormons have gotten very devious.  They have moved their extra wives across the Utah border into Arizona in a village of hidden women called Fredonia which means Free Women, are you laughing yet, apparently in the sexual sense.  An oxymoron if there ever was one as these women were definitely not free.  I find it difficult to follow Grey’s thinking here.

     The Mormons forbid men to visit here while they themselves make periodic visits to their wives and children.  That these are quality time visits is evidenced by the large numbers of children and no resident men.  Hmm, freaky, Fredonia huh?

     Of course supplies have to be brought in by men but these are men the Mormons ‘trust.’  Shefford links up with the trader Willets who is one of the trusted ones who vouches for the stranger Shefford so that he is allowed into the Valley Of Hidden Women.

     Grey is incredible, in Purple Sage there was only one woman in Surprise Valley, now in Fredonia there is a whole village of delectable females.  Willets encourages Shefford to mingle with them, get to know them, make them like him, but don’t touch.

     On his way to the ladies Shefford has to pass through the crucible of the desert.  It’s hard work but, boy, your muscles feel good, the air is great too.  On the way Shefford is befriended by the Navajo, Nas Ta Bega, the navvy actually making him his brother.  Say Nas Ta Bega rapidly three or four times and it almost comes out Nasty Beggar. Coincidence.  This is the beginning of Shefford’s new religion.

     For the Navajos religion was material, they worshipped the sun, the rocks, the winds, anything they see or feel.  The natural rock formation, Rainbow Bridge, is their greatest terrestrial god, none daring approach it.

     Shefford meets Mary his first day in Fredonia.  We all know Mary is Fay Larkin and really so does Shefford but he has to make her say it.  As she is his Anima figure they naturally love each other at first sight but as she is the affianced of Elder Waggoner he has to get her away from him.

     This is not 1871, there is no longer any wild gunslinging.  The law is here.  In fact a court of inquiry is taking place in Stonebridge just across the border in Utah.  Interesting how closely Grey follows ancient legends of which he probably had no knowledge.  The Mormon wives are immured in a hidden valley on the other side of the border from Stonebridge not unlike the Anima figure entombed in the bridge foundation on the other side of the river in Hungarian myth.

     The US judge has no luck in making the women admit to being other wives, in fact, to Grey’s horror, they allow themselves to be thought of as prostitutes rather than admit to polygamy.  Apparently the US was unable to prove one case of polygamy anywhere in Utah.  Them Mormons was close lipped.

     Shefford still has to get Fay Larkin away from her prospective Mormon husband.  As with all of Grey’s protagonists Shefford procrastinates and vacillates.  Fay Larkin invites him into her house, obviously on a sexual pretext which he is slow to pick up.  While he is allowing for the information to seep into his brain bootsteps are heard on the porch.  It is not the milkman.  Fay wants Shefford to kill Waggoner but Shefford has strong moral principles against killing for any reason.  As Fay looks imporingly to him for protection her husband is opening the door.  Shefford dives through an open window running as fast as his legs will carry him.

     Grey seems to consider this natural as Shefford has an aversion to killing; strangely, Fay Larkin does not seem to resent his hasty departure leaving her to the mercy of her husband whose intent is to impose a fate worse than death on her.

     In fact, Shefford’s will seems to be paralyzed from here to the end of the story not unlike the paralysis Jane inflicted on Lassiter.  Something about those Withersteen women.  Fay has after all been renamed Mary after the Mother Mary.  Everyone else does things for Shefford as he wanders about in a daze; he seems to be able to do nothing for himself.

     Fay’s husband is found dead on her doorstep the next morning.  She thinks Shefford did it and is pleased; he thinks she did it and is horrified.  Actually the Navajo, Nas Ta Bega, Shefford’s Bi Nai, or blood brother,  did it for him.  Is Grey thinking about the contemporary Jews?  Bi Nai is awfully close to the B’nai of  B’nai B’rith.  B’nai means brother or brotherhood.  B’nai B’rith means Brothers of the Ceremony.  I can’t say for certain but it is the little details that give you away.

     Nas Ta Bega has been doing the legwork for Shefford all along.  He actually discovered that Mary was Fay larkin for certain.  Whereas no one had ever heard of Surprise Valley Nas Ta Bega had found it.  Shefford is too paralyzed to kill Waggoner so n=Nas Ta Bega does it for him.  While Shefford himself could never shed blood and he was horrified that Fay Larkin might have done it he is relieved that Nas Ta Bega did it accepting the gift without any qualms.  Grey is a strange one.

     There is some resemblance here to Daddy Warbucks of Orphan Annie fame where Warbucks himself kills no one but his confederates the Indian Punjab and indeterminate Asp eliminate people by the dozen for him.   Thus Warbucks’ hands are always clean but the job gets done anyway.  Here Shefford remains innocent of the murder shuffling the guilt off to Nas Ta Bega his blood brother.

     The bunch heads to Surprise Valley to get Lassiter and Jane out.  It requires pegs and ropes to get into the valley but there they find a very relaxed, one might even say, comatose, Uncle Jim who says ‘Shore’ to everything, for shore.  Very amiable guy for a man with the blood of dozens of Mormons on his hands.

     He and Jane are released and now begins a very complicated escape plan down the Colorado River then through the rapids to safety on the Arizona side.  The Mormons at this stage of history thought that Utah extended to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon although the US authorities thought differently.

     The story effectively ends with the release of  Lassiter and Jane from Surprise Valley.  Shore, it does.  But Grey throws an extra forty pages in the ending mainly to give a description of a boat ride down the rapids of the Colorado which he has apparently taken.  Lassiter and Jane are reunited with Venters and Bess, Night and Black Star back in Beaumont, Illinois.  Shefford finds his Anima, redeems his soul, finds a true religion and lives happily ever after.

2.

     G.M. Farley, the editor of Zane Grey Collector, in his charming appreciation of Zane Grey for the ERBzine says that Grey wrote no fantasy, but these two novels, Purple Sage and Rainbow, are just that, pure fantasy.  Lassiter, Venters and Shefford are archetypes.  Surprise Valley nor anything like it ever existed nor did the Valley Of The Hidden Women.  Both these books are pure fantasy.  If appreciated properly these two books should stand as the cornerstones of Grey’s literary legacy.  Much better than his ordinary cornpone Westerns.  When it come to Westerns I will take those of Burroughs over Grey every day.

     Burroughs is absolutely learned compared to Grey.   The former’s insatiable curiosity is very evident in his writing while Grey gives the impression of having read nothing.  Of course if you’re writing several months out of the year and out to sea for the rest perhaps there isn’t much time for reading.  The contrast between land and water in Grey’s fiction was lived out in his real life.  Psychoogically land represents the hard, dry Animus while water is representative of the creative Anima.  As Roger Miller said, he had too much water for his land which is to say that he was subject to wild flights of fantasy but unable to govern his life.  He also said quite correctly, Squares, that is people with a lot of land, make the world go ’round.  Thus the Mormon squares controlled the situation while ‘hipsters’ Jane and Lassiter ended up buried in the canyon.

     Thus Grey’s concentration on the desert as compared to farmland or the forest is signficant.  The opening scenes of  Rainbow when Shefford slogs through the sand drifts to arrive at a bitter waterhole is significant of his inner barrenness; a nonfunctioning Anima.  Contrast the bitter water with the sweet water Amber Spring of Purple Sage.  When Shefford is united with his Anima figure, Fay Larkin, they travel through harsh desert to leave finally on a raging  torrent washed over with water until they are nearly drowned to land on a hospitable South shore of the Colorado in Arizona not Utah.

     Likewise Grey lived his life between the desert and the sea.  On the sea angling for the big fish a la Jonah or perhaps the fish of wisdom of Sumerian Oannes.

     Certainly the epic is a search for both wisdom and redemption.  Having been disowned by his church Shefford has been set adrift without any new guidelines or directions home.

     As Shefford explains to Fay Larkin:

      “So when the church disowned me…I conceived the idea of wandering into the wilds of Utah to save Fay Larkin from that canon prison.  It grew to be the best and strongest desire of my life.  I think if I could save her that it would save me.  (Right.) I never loved any girl.  I can’t say that I love Fay Larkin.  How could I when I’ve never seen her- when she is only a dream girl?  But I believe if she were to become a reality- a flesh and blood girl- that I would love her.”

     So that Shefford hopes to find redemption in Fay Larkin.  He might indeed love her- if she were a flesh and blood girl as well as his Anima ideal- but the Anima ideal can never become a real flesh and blood girl.  Real women are different.

     Shefford’s situation seems to be that of the Hungarian myth with the Anima trapped in a sealed in valley rather than the buttress of a bridge.  As it doesn’t appear that Grey read or studied much, this understanding must have been a realization of his own situation which he was able to objectify on paper.

     In many ways this then is exactly what Burroughs was searching for as most of his novels are Anima/Animus novels although ERB did not have such a clear grasp while being much more involved with the psychoses of the subconscious.

     And then there were the other two themes: the search for the realization of manhood, or the escape from emasculation , and finding a new religious identity.

     As noted, Grey thought the desert brought out manhood.  His trip West with Buffalo Jones a few years before Purple Sage must have been a real eye opening experience.  The Grand Canyon with its contrast between desert and water must have really inspired the author.

     Thus Shefford, before he finds his Anima first learns to be a man ‘way out there.’  The test of manhood involves the carrying of a large stone that proved Navajo manhood.

     A few passages:

     “Joe placed a big hand on the stone and tried to move it.  According to Shefford’s eye measurements the stone was nearly oval (egg shaped), perhaps three feet high, but a little over two in width. (Big egg)  Joe threw off his sombrero, took a deep breath and, bending over, clasped the stone in his arms.  He was an exceedingly heavy and powerful man, and it was plain to Shefford that he meant to lift the stone if that were possible.  Joe’s broad shoulders strained, flattened; his arms bulged, his joints cracked, his neck corded, and his face turned black.  By gigantic effort he lifted the stone and moved it about six inches.  Then as he relaxed his hold he fell, and when he sat up his face was wet with sweat.

      Lucky he lived through that.

            “Try it,” (Joe Lake) said to Shefford, with his lazy smile.  “See if you can heave it.”

            Shefford was strong, and there had been a time when he took pride in his strength.  Something in Joe’s supreme effort and in the gloom of the Indian’s eyes (Nas Ta Bega) made Shefford curious about this stone.  He bent over and grasped it as Joe had done.  He braced himself and lifted with all his power, until a red blur obscured his sight and shooting stars seemed to explode in his head.  But he could not even stir the stone.

“Shefford, maybe you’ll be able to lift it some day,”  observed Joe.  Then he pointed to the stone and addressed Nas Ta Bega.

     The Indian shook his head and spoke for moment.

     “This is the Isende Aha of the Navajos.” explained Joe.  “The young braves are always trying to carry this stone.  As soon as one of them can carry it he is a man.  He who carries it farthest is the biggest man.  And just so soon as any Indian can no longer lift it he is old.  Nas Ta Bega says the stone has been carried two miles in his lifetime.  His own father carried it the length of six steps.”

     So, manhood consists of lifting a stone, carrying that weight.  It would seem to me that pale-faced education would have less to do with being built like Louis Cyr or Man Mountain Dean.  I, myself, don’t feel any less a man because I can’t lift a 350 lb. rock.

     Talking about fantasy:  If the stone were moved two miles in Nas Ta Bega’s lifetime while his mighty father movied it six toddling steps, if only ten percent  of the Navajos were big enough to move the stone then the Navajos should have been as populous as the sands of the desert.

     As as a Patriarchal Mormon Joe Lake could lift the stone, as a Matriarchal Gentile Shefford couldn’t and it was impossible for the completely emasculated Indian, Nas Ta Bega, what we have here is a lesson in masculinity.

     For myself, I’ve carried that weight for decades but I wouldn’t waste my time and kill myself by trying to lift some rock.

     The search for manhood and faith went on but we’re getting closer if no less ridiculous.  Another quote,  Shefford to Fay Larkin:

     “Listen,” his voice was a little husky, but behind it there seemed a tide of resistless utterance.  “Loss of faith and name did not send me into this wilderness.  But I had love- love for that lost girl, Fay Larkin.  I dreamed about her till I loved her.  I dreamed that I would find her- my treasure- at the foot of a rainbow.  Dreams!…When you told me she ws dead I accepted that.  There was truth in your voice, I respected your reticence.  But something died in me then.  I lost myself, the best of me, the good that might have uplifted me.  I went away, down upon the barren desert (Oh Dan, can you see that great green tree where the water’s running free…) and there I grew into another and a harder man. Yet strange to say, I never forgot her (Water) though my dreams were done.  (Clear) As I suffered and changed I loved her, the thought of her- (Water) more and more.  Now I have come back to these walled valleys- to the smell of pinon, to the flowers in the nooks, to the wind on the heights, to the silence and loneliness and beauty.”

“And here the dreams came back and she is with me always.  Her spirit is all that keeps me kind and good, as you say I am.  But I suffer and I long for her live.  If I loved her dead, how could I love her living!  Always I torture myself with the vain dream that- that she might not be dead.  I have never been anything but a dreamer.  And here I go about my work by day and lie awake at night with that lost girl in my mind.  I love her.  Does that seems strange to you?  But it would not if you understood.  Think.  I have lost faith, hope.  I set myself a great work- to find Fay Larkin.  And by the fire and iron and the blood that I felt it would cost me to save her some faith must come to me again…My work is undone- I’ve never saved her.  But listen, how strange it is to feel- now- as I let myself go- that just the loving her and the living here in the wilderness that holds her somewhere have brought me hope again.  Some faith must come, too.  It was through her that I met the Indian, Nas Ta Bega.  He has saved my life- taught me much.  What would I have ever learned of the naked and vast earth, of the sublimity  of the the vast uplands, of the storm and night and sun, if I had not followed the gleam she inspired?  In my hunt for a lost girl perhaps I wandered into a place where I shall find a God and my salvation.  Do you marvel that I love Fay Larkin- that she is not dead to me?  Do you marvel that I love her, when I know, were she alive, chained in a canon, or bound, or lost in any way my destiny would lead me to her, and she should be saved?’

      Wow!  You get old Zane wound up and he’s hard to stop.  This guy must have been a terror with the girls.  Dazzled ’em.  Stars in their eyes.  Remember from eight to seventeen Fay was locked up in Surprise Valley where with the passing years Jane and Uncle Jim spoke less and less as they slowly became as clams.  Now as an eighteen year old girl with absolutely no human intercourse and Jane and Jim weren’t speaking  she has been undergoing a heavy course of indoctrination in Mormonism while being isolated in her cabin.  Could she understand this torrent of words from Shefford?  Think about it.  She’s a nature girl from the Stone Age moving into the nineteenth century in the twinkling of an eye.

     It seems pretty clear to us, astute in varying degrees, that Shefford is going to find salvation in Fay but how about religion.  Once again, bear in mind that Grey has displaced the contemporary situation in 1915 back to 1883.  In that way he doesn’t have to deal with all those troubling immigrants while the major religious war between the Semites and Gentiles can be discussed under cover of the conflict between the Mormons and the Gentiles.  Polygamy might be compared to the Semitic concept of the Chosen People.  End either one and the source of conflict would disappear.

     Just as Jane and Lassiter have reverted to the Stone Age so Grey goes to his noble savages, the Navajos, to find Shefford’s religious solution:

     The Navajo, dark, stately, inscrutable, faced the sun- his god.  This was the Great Spirit, the desert was his mother, but the sun was his life.  To the keeper of the winds and rains, to the master of light, to the maker of fire, to the giver of life the Navajo sent up his prayer:

Of all the good things of the earth let me always have plenty.

Of all the beautiful things of the earth let me always have plenty.

Peacefully let my horses go and peacefully let my sheep go.

God of the Heavens, help me to talk straight.

Goddess of the Earth, my Mother, let me walk straight.

Now all is well, now all is well, now all is well, now all is well.

Hope and faith were his.

     Hope and faith may be the essence of religion.  As I say, I doubt if Grey read much but he has certainly captured the essence of mythology.  The bit about the sun as keeper of the wind and rains is astute.  As Grey said, the Navajo religion was materialistic.  Pantheistic too, perhaps.  There is nothing spiritual here just a prayer for plenty of what makes life enjoyable for the Navajo combined with the essence of morality which is to talk and walk straight.  Quite admirable really.  I can imagine the ERB was very nearly in awe as he read it.  Of course, by 1915 ERB had already smashed the old religious system on Barsoom supplanting it with his own vision of the man-god but I’m sure he concurred with Grey.

     Then Grey sums up the turbulent Colorado:

“Life was eternal.  Man’s immortality lay in himself.  Love of a woman was hope- happiness.  Brotherhood- that mystic ‘Bi Nai” of the Navajo- that was religion.

     Yes, as they passed under the Rainbow Bridge at the foot of the rainbow it all become clear.  What happened later when reality hit I don’t know.

     Grey’s formula reads well:  Life in the general sense, in whatever form, will last for a long time but hardly eternally.  ‘Man’s immortality lay in himself’ is difficult to parse.  Not exactly sure what that means.  ‘Love of a woman was hope- happiness.’  Possibly, if he’s talking about a reconciliation of the X and y chromosomes into a unified whole but for an old philanderer like Grey he should amend his statement to love of any or many women, a quick one in other words.  And the mystic and grand “Bi Nai.’  Yep.  That was religion.

     I imagine ERB was goggle eyed when he finished this one and lovingly patted it back on the shelf.

     The good things of this world had come the way of Grey and Burroughs in abundance.  Grey was able to ‘get back to the land’ six months of the year while testing his manhood like Ahab landing the big fish on the seas the other part of the year.  I used to love those travelogues on Saturdays when they showed those heroes trolling the seas for swordfish off Florida proving that had to be a real man to land those big fellas.

     Then they would show the little woman standing proudly by her catch towering over her.  They fished ’em out by the time I was in a position to prove my manhood.  I’ll have to take up skydiving or bungee jumping; to heck with climbing Everest.

     Burroughs also got back to the land in a big way.  Some of the letters in Brother Men, the collection of his and Herb Weston’s letters are quite delightful as ERB exults about planting every known species of vegetable while raising most of the better known food animals in great quantities.  Just that he couldn’t figure out how to make a profit at it.  All expense the way he went about it.  That wasn’t according to plan.

     In their own way both Grey and Burroughs retreated from the social realities of their day both in their fiction and in their lives.  Depending on how one defines fantasy both men retreated into fantasy rather than deal with an uncomfortable reality.  At the same time both tried to come up with solutions to the pressing social and relgious problems of their times in fiction.

     Of the two I much prefer Burroughs because of his wider ranging intellectual interests as well as his highly developed sense of humor.  There isn’t one grain of humor in Grey; the man is deadly serious all the time; he must have played shortstop in baseball.

     Times change.  I find nothing enduring in Grey save the Purple Sage/Rainbow diptych and that because of his amazing portrayal of the Anima/Animus problem.

     Burroughs has a certain quality to what he does.  Herb Weston in Brother Men seemed put off by ERB’s Mastermind Of Mars.  the novel first appeared in Amazing Stories; Weston thought the story was truly amazing.  So do I.  I can’t explain exactly why I think Mastermind is an enduring story because on one level it isn’t a very good book; yet on another, while Ras Thavas is a great character there is something being said which still escapes me but seems important.

     As Grey and Burroughs are representative of the period 1890-1910 just let me say that I really love this period of history in the United States.  I like most of the writers and Burroughs and Grey are two of my favorites.  They probably read each other but their intellects were so disparate that I doubt if they could have gotten along if they had met.

     Fortunately this is a moot point as they didn’t.

     Happy trails to you hoping that if you look you can find Surprise Valley and The Valley Of The Hidden Women.  Just don’t take your guns to town, Son, leave the Bad Blood at home.

 

    

    

 

    

 

 

 

 

A Review

The Low Brow And The High Brow

An In Depth Study Of Edgar Rice Burroughs’

The Mucker And Marcia Of The Doortstep

by

R.E. Prindle

Part II

Background Of The Second Decade- Personal

 

     Erwin Porges’ ground breaking biography Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Invented Tarzan is the basic source for the course of ERB’s life.  John Taliaferro’s Tarzan Forever is heavily indebted to Porges adding little new.  Robert Fenton’s excellent The Big Swinger is a brilliant extrapolation of Burroughs’ life taken from the evidence of the Tarzan series.

     Porges, the first to pore though the unorganized Tarzana archives, is limited by the inadequacies of his method and his deference for his subject.  His is an ideal Burroughs rather than a flesh and blood one.  Matt Cohen’s Brother Men: The Correspondene Of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Herbert T. Weston has provided much fresh material concerning ERB’s character.

     Bearing in mind always that Weston’s evaluation of Burroughs in his August 1934 letter in reply to Charles Rosenberg, whoever he was, about ERB’s divorce is one man’s opinion nevertheless his statements can be corroborated by ERB’s behavior over this decade as well as throughout his life.  My intent is not to diminish ERB in any way.  Nothing can take away the fact that Burroughs created Tarezan, but like anyone else he was subjected to glacial pressures that distorted and metamorphosed his character.

     During the Second Decade as he experienced a realization of who he was, or who he had always thought he should be, or in other words as he evolved back from a pauper to a prince, he was subjected to excruciatingly difficult changes.

     A key to his character in this period is his relationship to his marriage.  It seems clear that he probably would never have married, stringing Emma along until she entered spinsterhood while never marrying her.  He seemingly married her to keep her away from Frank Martin.  As he later said of Tarzan, the ape man should never have married.

     Rosenberg in his letter to Weston (p.234, Brother Men) said that ‘…Ed says he has always wanted to get rid of Emma….’  The evidence seems to indicate this.  After ERB lost Emma’s confidence in Idaho, gambling away the couple’s only financial resources, his marriage must have become extremely abhorrent to him.  I’m sure that after the humiliations of Salt Lake City this marriage had ended for him in his mind.  That it was his own fault changes nothing.  He may simply have transferred his self-loathing to Emma.

     That Emma loved and stood by Burroughs is evident.  that he was unable to regain her confidence is clear from his writing.  The final Tarzan novels of the decade in one of which, Tarzan The Untamed, Burroughs burns Jane into a charred mess identifiable only by her jewelry show a developing breach.  Probably the jewelry was that which ERB hocked as the first decade of the century turned.  Now, this is a fairly violent reaction.

     ERB states that he walked out on Emma several times over the years.  In Fenton’s extrapolation of Burroughs’ life from his Tarzan novels this period was undoubtedly one of those times.  There seems to have been a reconciliation attempt between Tarzan and Jane between Tarzan The Untamed and Tarzan The Terrible.  Then between Tarzan And The Golden Lion and Tarzan And The Ant Men ERB’s attempt to regain Emma’s confidence seems to have failed as Jane chooses the clown Tarzan- Esteban Miranda-, one of my favorite characters- over the heroic Tarzan -ERB – in Tarzan And The Ant Men.

     This undoubtedly began ERB’s search for a Flapper wife which took form in the person of Florence Gilbert beginning in 1927.

b.

     Weston says of ERB in his disappointment and rage over ERB’s divorce of Emma that ‘…the fact that Ed always has been unusual, erratic and perhaps queer, has been his great charm and attraction for me…’ (p.223, Brother Men)   There’s a remote possibility that ‘queer’ may mean homosexual but I suppose he means ‘odd’ or imcomprehensible in his actions.  The evidence for this aspect of ERB’s character is overwhelming while being well evidenced by his strange, spectacular and wonderful antics during the second decade.  When Weston says of him that ‘…there is no woman on earth that would have lived with him, and put up with him, except Emma…’ there is plenty of reason to accept Weston’s opinion.

     Part of ERB’s glacial overburden came from his father, George T. who died on February 13, 1913.  Burroughs always professed great love for his father, celebrating his birthday every year of his life, although one wonders why.

     Apparently George T. broadcast to the world that he thought ERB was ‘no good.’  His opinion could have been no secret to Burroughs.  Weston who says that he always maintained cordial relations with George T., still thought him a difficult man, always dropping  in to visit him on trips through Chicago said that George T. complained to him, ERB’s best friend, that his son was no good. While without disagreeing with George T. up to that point, Weston said that he thought there was plenty of good in ERB but that he just hadn’t shown it yet.  Kind of a back handed compliment, reminds me of Clarence Darrow’s defense of Big Bill Haywood:  Yeah, he did it, but who wouldn’t?’

     Such an opinion held by one’s father is sure to have a scarring effect on one’s character.  How exactly the effect of this scarring worked itself out during this decade isn’t clear to me.  Perhaps Burroughs’ mid year flight to California shortly after his father’s death was ERB’s attempt to escape his father’s influence.  Perhaps his 1916 flight was the same while his move to California in 1919 was the culmination of his distancing himself from his father.  That is mere conjecture at this point.

     Now, what appears erratic from outside follows an inner logic in the subject’s mind unifying his actions.  What’s important to the subject is not what obsevers think should be important.

c.

     The scholars of the Burroughs Bulletin, ERBzine and ERBList have also added much with additional niggardly releases of material by Danton Burroughs at the Tarzana archives.  One of the more valuable additions to our knowledge has been Bill Hillman’s monumental compilation of the books in ERB’s library.

     Let’s take a look at the library.  It was important to ERB; a key to his identity.  Books do furnish a mind, as has been said, so in that light in examining his library we examine the furnishing  of his mind.  The shelves formed an important backdrop to his office with his desk squarely in front of the shelves.  ERB is seated proudly at the desk with his books behind him.

     How much of the library survived and how much was lost isn’t known at this time.  Hillman lists over a thousand titles.  Not that many, really.  The library seems to be a working library.  There are no the long rows of matching sets by standard authors.  The evidence is that Burroughs actually read each and every one of these books.  They found their way into the pages of his books in one fictionalized form or another.  Oddly authors who we know influenced him greatly like London, Wells, Haggard and Doyle are not represented.

     Most of the works of these authors were released before 1911 when Burroughs was short of the ready.  Unless those books were lost he never filled in his favorites of those years.  That strikes me as a little odd.

     It is generally assumed that he picked up his Martian information from Lowell, yet in Skelton Men Of Jupiter he says:  ‘…I believed with Flammarion that Mars was habitable and inhabited; then a newer and more reputable school of scientists convinced me it was neither….’  The statement shows that Camille Flammarion’s nineteenth century book was the basis for Burroughs’ vision of Mars while Lowell was not.  Further having committed himself to Flammarion’s vision he was compelled to stick to it after he had been convinced otherwise.  When that understanding was obtained by him we don’t know but at sometime he realized that the early Martian stories were based on a false premiss.

     Thus, his Mars became a true fiction when his restless, searching mind was compelled by judicious reasoning of new material to alter his opinion.  That he could change his mind so late in life is an important fact.  It means that behind his fantasy was a knowledge of solid current fact.  The results of his pen came from a superior mind.  It was not the maundering of an illiterate but amusing boob.

     Organizing the books of his library into a coherent pattern is difficult.  I haven’t and I Imagine few if any have read all his list.  Based on my preliminary examination certain patterns can be found.  He appeared to follow the Chicago novel by whomever, Edna Ferber’s So Big is a case in point.  Seemingly unrelated titles can be grouped aorund certain Burroughs’ titles as infuences.

     In 1924 when Marcia Of The Doorstep was written ERB had already formed his intention of leaving, or getting rid, of Emma.  He began a fascination with Flappers that would result in his liaison with Florence.

     After the move to Hollywood in 1919 a number of sex and Flapper potboilers find their way into his library.  The tenor of literature changed greatly after the War showing a sexual explicitness that was not there prior to the Big Event.  To be sure the graphic descriptions of the sex act current in contemporary literature was not permissible but the yearning to do so was certainly there.  Language was retrained but ‘damn’ began to replace ‘d–n’ and a daring goddamn became less a rarity.

     Perhaps the vanguard of the change came in 1919 when an event of great literary and cultural import took place.  Bernarr Macfadden whose health and fitness regimes had very likely  influenced Burroughs during the first couple decades decided to publish a magazine called “True Story.”  The magazine was the forerunner of the Romance pulp genre while certainly being in the van of what would become the Romance genre of current literature.

     The advance was definitely low brow, not to say vulgar, indicating the direction of subsequent societal development including the lifting of pornographic censorship.  Pornography followed from “True Store” as night follows day.

     The magazine coincided with the emergence of the Flapper as the feminine ideal of the twenties.  In literature this was abetted by the emergence in literary fiction of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  His Beautiful And Damned is a key volume in Burroughs’ library forming an essential part of Marcia.  To my taste Fitzgerald is little more than a high quality pulp writer like Burroughs.  I can’t see the fuss about him.  He riminds me of Charles Jackson’s The Lost Weekend and vice versa.  In fact, I think Jackson mined the Beautiful And  Damned.  Plagiarize would be too strong a word.

     “True Story” caught on like a flash.  By 1923 the magazine was selling 300,000 copies an issue; by 1926, 2,000,000.  Low brow was on the way in.  Vulgarity wouldn’t be too strong a word.  Macfadden had added titles such as “True Romances” and “Dream World” to his stable.  His magazine sales pushed him far ahead of the previous leader, Hearst Publications, and other publishers.  Pulpdom had arrived in a big way.

     Where Macfadden rushed in others were sure to follow.  The sex thriller, the stories of willful and wayward women, which weren’t possible before, became a staple of the twenties in both books and movies.

     ERB’s own The Girl From Hollywood  published in magazine form in 1922, book form in 1923, might be considered his attempt at entering the genre.  Perhaps if he had thrown in a few Flapper references and changed the appearance and character of his female leads he mgiht have created a seamless transition from the nineteenth century to the twenties.  A few Flapper terms might have boomed his ales much as when Carl Perkins subsititued ‘Go, cat, go’ for go, man, go’ in his Blue Suede Shoes and made sonversts of all us fifties types.

     Certainly ERB’s library shows a decided interest in the genre from 1920 to 1930.  Whether the interest was purely professional, an attempt to keep up with times, or personal in the sense of his unhappiness in his marriage may be open to question.  I would have to reread his production of these years with the New Woman in mind to seek a balance.

     Still, during the period that led up to his affair with Forence ERB seems to have been an avid reader of Flapper and New Woman novels.

     He had a number of novels by Elinor Glyn who was the model of the early sex romance.  He had a copy of E.M. Hull’s The Sheik, that shortly became the movie starring Rudolph Valentine with its passionate sex scenes.  A ‘Sheik’ became the male synonym for Elinor Glyn’s ‘It’ girl.

     Of course, the influence of Warner Fabian’s Flaming youth of 1923, both book and movie, on ERB is quite obvious.

      Just prior to this relationship with Florence he read a number of novels by Beatrice Burton with such sexy titles as The Flapper wife-The Story Of A Jazz Bride, Footloose, Her Man, Love Bound  and Easy published from 1925 to 1930.

     I would like to concentrate on Burton’s novels for a couple reasons; not least because of the number of her novels in ERB’s library but that when Burroughs sought publication for his low brow Tarzan in 1913-14 he was coldly rebuffed even after the success of his newspaper serializations.  The disdain of the entire publishing industry was undoubtedly because Burroughs was the pioneer of a new form of literature.  In its way the publication of Tarzan was the prototype on which Macfadden could base “True Story.”  Not that he might not have done it anyway but the trail was already trampled down for him.  In 1914 Burroughs violated all the canons of ‘polite’ or high brow literature.

     A.L. Burt accepted Tarzan Of The Apes for mass market publication reluctantly and only after guarantees for indemnification against loss.  Now at the time of Beatrice Burton’s low brow Romance genre novels, which were previously serialized in newspapers, Grosset and Dunlap sought out Burton’s stories publishing them in cheap editions without having been first published as full priced books much like Gold Seal in the fifties would publish paperback ‘originals’ which had never been in hard cover.  Writers like Burton benefited from the pioneering efforts of Burroughs.  G& D wasn’t going to be left behind again.  Apparently by the mid-twenties profits were more important than cultural correctness.

     As ERB had several Burton volumes in his library it might not hurt to give a thumbnail of who she was.  needless to say I had never read or even heard of her before getting interested in Burroughs and his Flapper fixation.  One must also believe that Elinor Glyn volumes in ERB’s library dating as early as 1902 were purchased in the twenites as I can’t believe ERB was reading this soft sort of thing as a young man.  Turns out that our Man’s acumen was as usual sharp.  Not that Burton’s novels are literary masterpieces but she has a following amongst those interested in the Romance genre.  The novels have a crude literary vigor which are extremely focused and to the point.  This is no frills story telling.  The woman could pop them out at the rate or two or three a year too.

     Her books are apparently sought after; fine firsts with dust jackets go for a hundred dollars or more.  While that isn’t particularly high it is more than the casual reader wants to pay.  Might be a good investment though.  The copies I bought ran from fifteen to twenty dollars, which is high for what is usually filed in the nostalgia section.  Love Bound was forty dollars.  I bought the last but it was more than I wanted to pay just for research purposes.

     There is little biographical information about Burton available.  I have been able to piece together that she was born in 1894.  No death date has been recorded as of postings to the internet so she must have been alive at the last posting which woud have made her a hundred at least.

     She is also known as Beatrice Burton Morgan.  She was an actress who signed a contract with David Belasco in 1909 which would have made her fifteen or sixteen.  Her stage name may have been Beatrice Morgan.  The New York Public Library has several contracts c. 1919 in her papers.

     One conjectures that her stage and film career was going nowhere.  In The Flapper Wife she disparages Ziegfeld as Ginfeld the producer of the famous follies.

     Casting about for alternatives in the arts she very likely noticed the opening in sex novels created by Macfadden and the Roaring Twenties.  The Flapper Wife seems to have been her first novel in 1925.  The book may possibly have been in response to Warner Fabian/Samuel Hopkins Adams’ Flaming Youth.

     As the motto for his book he had “those who know, don’t tell, those who tell, don’t know.’  The motto refers to the true state of mind of women.  Burton seems to have taken up the challenge- knows all and tells all.  Flapper Wife was an immediate popular success when taken from the newspapers by G&D.  Critics don’t sign checks so while their opinion is noted it is irrelevant.

     Burton apparently hit it big as the movies came afer her, Flapper Wife was made into a movie in 1925 entitled His Jazz Bride.  Burton now had a place in Hollywood.  Burroughs undoubtedly also saw the movie.  What success Burton’s later life held awaits further research.  As there is no record of her death on the internet it is safe to assume that when her copyrights were renewed in the fifties it was by herself.

     There are a number of titles in the library having to do with the Flapper.  The library, then gives a sense of direction to ERB’s mental changes.  There are, of course, the Indian and Western volumes that prepared his way for novels in those genres.  As always his off the top of his head style is backed by sound scholarship.

     The uses of the various travel volumes, African and Southeast Asian titles are self-evident.  I have already reviewed certain titles as they applied to Burroughs’ work; this essay involves more titles and I hope to relate other titles in the future.  So the library can be a guide to Burroughs’ inner changes as he develops and matures over the years.

     The amont of material available to interpret ERB’s life has expanded greatly since Porges’ groundbreaking biography.  Much more work remains to be done.

     The second decade is especially important for ERB’s mental changes as his first couple dozen stories were written beginnng in 1911.  Moreso than most writers, and perhaps more obviously Burroughs work was autobiographical in method.  As he put it in 1931’s Tarzan, The Invincible, he ‘highly fictionalized’ his details.  For instance, the Great War exercised him greatly.  From 1914 to the end of the War five published novels incorporate war details into the narrative:  Mad King II, Beyond Thirty, Land That Time Forgot, Tarzan The Untamed, and Tarzan The Terrible as well as unpublished works like The Little Door.  Yet I don’t think the extent that the War troubled him is recognized.  The man was a serious political writer.

     Thus between the known facts and his stories a fairly coherent life of Burroughs can be written.  My essays here on the ERBzine can be arranged in chronological order to give a rough idea of what my finished biography will be like.

     Burroughs was a complex man with a couple fixed ideas.  One was his desire to be a successful businessman.  This fixed obsession almost ruined him.  He was essentially a self-obsessed artist and as such had no business skills although he squandered untold amounts of time and energy which might better have been applied to his art than in attempts to be a business success.

     In many ways he was trying to justify his failure to be a business success by the time he was thirty rather than making the change to his new status as an artist.

     As a successful artist he was presented with challenges that had nothing to do with his former life.  These were all new challenges for which he had no experience to guide him while he was too impetuous to nsit down and thnk them out properly.  Not all that many in his situation do.  Between magazine sales, book publishing and the movies he really should have had a business manager as an intermdiary.  Perhaps Emma might have been able to function in that capacity much as H.G. Well’s wife jane did for him.  At any rate book and movie negotiations diverted time and energy from his true purpose of writing.

     His attempt to single handedly  run a five hundred plus acre farm and ranch while writing after leaving Chicago ended in a dismal failure.  Even his later investments in an airplane engine and airport ended in a complete disaster.  Thank god he didn’t get caught up in stock speculations of the twenties.  As a businessman he was doomed to failure; he never became successful.  It if hadn’t been for the movie adaptations of Tarzan he would have died flat broke.

     Still his need was such that he apparently thought of his writing as a business even going so far as to rent office space and, at least in 1918, according to a letter to Weston, keeping hours from 9:00 to 5:30.  Strikes me as strange.  Damned if I would.

     At the end of the decade he informed Weston that he intended to move to Los Angeles, abandon writing and, if he was serious, go into the commercial raising of swine.  The incredulousness of Weston’s reply as he answered ERB’s questions on hog feed comes through the correspondence.

     Think about it.  Can one take such flakiness on ERB’s part seriously?  Did he really think his income as a novice pig raiser would equal his success as a writer with an intellectual property like Tarzan?  Weston certainly took him seriously and I think we must also.  There was the element of the airhead about him.

     A second major problem was his attitude toward his marriage and his relationship with Emma.

     He appears to have been dissatisfied with both at the beginning and decade and ready to leave both at the end.  According to the key letter of Weston ERB was an extremely difficult husbnad with whom Emma had to be patient.  As Weston put it, no other woman would have put up with his antics.  Unfortunately he doesn’t give details of those antics but the indications are that Emma was a long suffering wife.

     ERB’s resentment of her apparently became an abiding hatred.  Danton Burroughs released information about ERB’s third great romance with a woman named Dorothy Dahlberg during the war years of WWII through Robert Barrett the BB staff writer in issue #64.

     After having been estranged from her husband for about a decade Emma died on 11-05-44, probably of a broken heart.  ERB returned to Los Angeles from Hawaii to dispose of her effects.  Arriving on 11/19/44 after visiting his daughter he met with Ralph Rothmund in Tarzana where he proceeded to get soused, apparently in celebration of Emma’s death.

     To quote Barrett, p. 25, Burroughs Bulletin #64.

     After Ed met with Ralph Rothmund, he opened a case of Scotch and took out a bottle after which he drove to Emma’s home in Bel-Air- where he and Jack “sampled” the Scotch a couple times.”  From Bel-Air Jack drove Ed to the Oldknows, some friends also in Bel-Air, where they continued to sample the Scotch.  After this visit Ed and Jack returned to Emma’s home at 10452 Bellagio Road, where Jack brought out a nearly full bottle of bourbon.  Jack asked the maids to postpone dinner for 30 minutes, while they waited for Joan and Joan II.  This evidently irritated the two maids as they both quit  and walked out on them!  Ed reported in his diary that after the two maids walked out, ‘we had a lovely dinner and a grand time.”

     That sort of strikes me as dancing on the grave of Emma which indicates a deep hatred for her on the part of ERB.  We are all familiar with the storyof ERB’s pouring the liquor in the swimming pool humiliating Emma in front of guests which she stood so Weston must have known what he was talking about.

     There is a certain hypocrisy in Burroughs now getting blotto in celebration of Emma’s death.  Between the two of them in the space of a couple hours ERB and his son, John Coleman, finished a fifth of Scotch and went ripping through a bottle of bourbon.  I don’t know how rough and tough you are but that would put me under the pool table.

     In this inebriated and hostile state they apparently had words with what I assume to have been Emma’s long time maids.  Maids don’t walk out because you ask them to hold dinner for a few minutes.  Being a maid is a job; they don’t respond that way to reasonable requests.  So in his drunken state ERB must have been offensive about Emma or the maids causing their reaction.

     Thus sitting totally soused  in the ‘alcoholic’ Emma’s home they ‘had a lovely dinner and a grand time.’  The woman was both good to him and good for him but it isn’t incumbent on any man to see his best interests.  There was a crtain dignity lacking in ERB’s behavior at this good woman’s death, not to mention the hypocrisy of getting thoroughly jazzed.

d.

      The decade also witnesses the unfolding of ERB’s psyche from the repressed state of 1910 to an expanded and partially liberated state at the end of the decade when he fled Chicago.  Pyschologically ERB was always a dependent personality.  He let his editors both magazine and book bully him and take advantage of his good will.  He also needed a strong role model which is one reason his literary role models are so obvious.

     From 1911 to 1916 he seemed to lean on Jack London as his role model.  The problem with London is that we can’t be sure which of his books ERB read as he had none of his books in his library.  It seems certain that he read London’s early Gold Rush books.  ERB’s hobo information is probably based on London’s The Road and then he may possibly have read The Abyssmal Brute which is concerned with the results of the Jack Johnson-Jim Jeffries fight and a preliminary to The Valley Of The Moon. 

     It is difficult to understand how Burroughs could have read much during this decade what with his writing schedule and hectic  life style.  Yet we know for a fact that between 1913-15 he found time to read Edward Gibbon’s massive The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire.

     At the same time additions to his library from this decade are rather sparse, the bulk of the library seems to have been purchased from 1920 on.  Still, if one assumes that he read all the books of London including 1913’s Valley Of The Moon, then it is possible that his cross=country drive of 1916 may have been partially inspired by Billy and Saxon Roberts’ walking tour of Northern California and Southern Oregon in that book as well as on ERB’s hobo fixation.  Certainly London must have been his main influence along with H.H. Knibbs and Robert W. Service.  He may have wished to emulate London by owning a large ranch.

     I suspect he meant to call on London in Sonoma during his 1916 stay in California but London died in the fall of that year which prevented the possible meeting.  With the loss of London Burroughs had to find another role model which he did in Booth Tarkington.  He does have a large number of Tarkington’s novels in his library, most of which were purchased in this decade.  Tarkington was also closely associated with Harry Leon Wilson who also influenced ERB with a couple two or three novels in his library, not least of which is Wison’s Hollywood novel, Merton Of The Movies.  Just as a point of interest Harry Leon Wilson was also a friend of Jack London.

     ERB’s writing in the last years of the decade seems to be heavily influenced by Tarkington as in Bridge And The Oskaloosa Kid, The Efficiency Expert and The Girl From Hollywood.

     Burroughs was an avid reader and exceptionally well informed with a penetrating mind so that his ‘highly fictionalized’ writing which seems so casual and off hand is actually accurate beneath his fantastic use of his material.  While he used speculations of Camille Flammarion and possibly Lowell on the nature of Mars he was so mentally agile that when better information appeared which made his previous speculations untenable he had no difficulty in adjusting to the new reality.  Not everyone can do that.

     I have already mentioned his attention to the ongoing friction between the US and Japan that appeared in the Samurai of Byrne’s Pacific island.  In this connection Abner Perry of the Pellucidar series is probably named after Commodore Matthew Perry who opened Japan in 1853.  After all Abner Perry does build the fleet that opened the Lural Az.  Admiral Peary who reached the North Pole about this time is another possible influence.  The identical pronunciation of both names would have serendipitous for Burroughs.

     As no man writes in a vacuum, the political and social developments of his time had a profound influence on both himself and his writing.

     The effects of unlimited and unrestricted immigration which had been decried by a small but vocal minority for some time came to fruition in the Second Decade as the Great War showed how fragile the assumed Americanization and loyalty of the immigrants was.  The restriction of immigration from 1920 to 1924 must have been gratifying to Burroughs.

     I have already indicated the profound reaction that Burroughs, London and White America in general had to the success of the Black Jack Johnson in the pursuit of the heavyweight crown.  The clouded restoration of the crown through Jess Willard did little to alleviate the gloom.  Combined with the sinking of the Ttitanic and the course of the suicidal Great War White confidence was irrevocably shaken.

     Burroughs shared with London the apprehension that the old stock was losiing its place of preeminence to the immigrants.  This fear woud find its place in Burroughs writing where he could from time to time make a nasty comment.  His characterization of the Irish is consistently negative while his dislike of the Germans first conceived when he saw them as a young man marching through the streets of Chicago under the Red flag was intense.  Their participation in the Haymarket Riot combined with the horrendous reports of German atrocities during the War reinforced his dislike almost to the point of fanaticism.  While the post-war German reaction in his writing was too belated he had been given cause for misinterpretation.

     Always politically conservative he was a devoted admirer of Teddy Roosevelt while equally detesting Woodrow Wilson who was President eight of the ten years of the Second Decade.  When the Bolsheviks took over Russia in 1917 polarizing public opinion into the Right and Left ERB was definitely on the Right.

     By the end of the decade the world he had known from 1875 to 1920 had completely disappeared buried by a world of scientific and technological advances as well and social and political changes that would have been unimaginable in his earlier life.  The changes in sexual attitudes caused by among others Krafft-Ebbing, Havelock Ellis and Margaret Sanger would have been astounding.

     The horse had been displaced by the auto.  Planes were overhead.  The movies already ruled over the stage, vaudeville and burlesque.  Cities had displaced the country.  The Jazz Age which was the antithesis of the manners and customs of 1875-1920 realized the new sexual mores so that the Flapper and Red Hot Mama displaced the demure Gibson Girl as the model of the New Woman.

     When ERB moved from Chicago to LA in 1919 he, like Alice, virtually stepped through the looking glass into a world he never made and never imagined.  A Stranger In A Strange Land not different in many ways from the Mars of his imagination.

Go to Part III- Background Of The Second Decade Social And Political

 

 

Edgar Rice Burroughs As An Outsider

By

 

R.E. Prindle

 

…the great cats roamed this strange valley of the gorillas.

=Edgar Rice Burroughs

 

 

And the Great White Ape stood before the wall that surrounded London of Africa. Cats, gorillas, walls, doors, London England deep in the Heart of Darkness…he was the Lord of the Jungle, Tarzan Of The Apes.

Tarzan is alone as usual as was, one suspects, his creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. The year is 1933 both in Burroughs’ imaginary Africa and temporal Los Angeles where the writer plied his trade.

After a lifetime of trying to break into society Burroughs has Tarzan standing outside the wall of London into which he must break like a burglar or thief in the night.

Within the walls is the citadel of ERB’s desires, the great city on the hill, the castle of redemption. Now fifty-eight years old Burroughs had achieved all the material attributes of success only to have the prize dashed from his hands.

Symbolically he enters the castle of his dreams to find instead only a prison. The long climb up the stairway to heaven leads only to jail.

Nineteen thirty-three was the one hundredth anniversary of his father’s birth. The old ghoul who had imprinted him so evilly had come back from the grave to haunt him, to deny him what he had worked so hard to attain.

As in real life where MGM had stripped him of his life’s work in one deft move so now in his imagination his castle was destroyed by a raging fire storm. Symbolically he portrays his relationship with his father as an old coot who had led him around with a halter round his neck. In his great apocalyptic dream ERB reverses the roles and puts the halter about his father’s neck.

Too late ERB realized he had signed away his great creation to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In a desperate attempt to reclaim him ERB formed a movie company in which for a logo he adopted the MGM symbol but replaced the roaring lion, Leo, with an image of Tarzan shouting Tar-man-gan-eeee. ERB failed to detourne the image and MGM added insult to injury by forcing ERB into exile in Hawaii. Now seventy years old our big cat was exactly where he had been in Chicago when he entered manhood- on the other side of the wall. Still outside. It wasn’t supposed to be that way as Burroughs lamented.

How did it come to pass? How could he succeed so magnificently and yet fail so egregiously? How could life treat him so bad. ERB was just born under a bad sign.

His life began propitiously. He was in effect a little prince in his family for his first seven or eight years but then things began to mysteriously unravel and the little prince became a pauper. And that was more or less how ERB explained his life to himself. The three most influential books in his life were Mark Twain’s The Prince And The Pauper, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy and Owen Wister’s The Virginian.

Burroughs apparently understood his life at least until 1930 in terms of these three books. The Prince became a Pauper then a Prince again. Little Lord Fauntleroy, a disinherited prince lived his young life as a pauper realizing his destiny as a prince at last. These two books were published in Burroughs’ childhood. One assumes he first read them as a boy.

The Virginian was published in 1902. Burroughs said that he had read all three books six or seven times by the early twenties. It is impossible to know when he read The Virginian the first time but as his life was in a turmoil during 1902-03 and ‘04 I wouldn’t think that his first reading was before ‘05 but one can’t be certain.

It would appear that ERB modeled his adult life on Lin McLean, the Virginian.

McLean was essentially a loner who went West to Wyoming much as ERB had repeatedly gone to Idaho. Wister tells the story of the famous Johnson County War through the eyes of his hero, McLean. ERB was in Idaho when the Johnson County War was in progress so Burroughs would have understood the novel with an intimacy denied the rest of us. McLean was a Tarzanic figure who wooed and won a school marm who was culturally far above him. This was perhaps not unlike ERB and Emma. Emma always referred to ERB as a lowbrow.

The most memorable episode in The Virginian is McLean’s marriage. He and his bride honeymoon in the wilds, in romantic scenery quite reminiscent of Burroughs’ dream Africa. Perhaps his taking Emma to Idaho in 1903 was an attempt to recreate this romantic honeymoon. A basis of Tarzan then can be found in Lin McLean the silent Virginian. Also ERB’s apparent vision of himself.

As Burroughs complained that ‘it wasn’t supposed to be like this’ his condition changed began to go wrong about the fifth grade. Here his father began his role as the monstrous ‘God’ of Tarzan And The Lion Man. ERB had attended Brown School up to this point. At this age his father moved him from Brown and sent the young boy to, of all places, a girl’s school. One can only imagine the young boy’s anguish at attending a girl’s school. ERB’s connections with his early schoolmates was disrupted. He had barely begun his tenure at the girl’s school when his father transferred him to a Latin school named Harvard for two and a half years. There is no indication ERB formed any abiding friendships at Harvard School.

While the kids in his neighborhood were walking to Brown everyday ERB was riding his pony alone to Harvard. Undoubtedly the students of Harvard were drawn from all over Chicago so that apart from seeing his fellows in class ERB had little else to do with them.

His father then pulled him from Harvard School sending him off to his brothers’ ranch in Idaho. At this point then he had no contact with his fellow Chicagoans while he was thrown into a delightful situation but one in which he associated with rough cowboys with little education while he attended no school himself.

Why his father was doing this is open to interpretation. Certainly he must have known what the effects would be on his son. His father’s next move was to transfer young ERB to the snobbery of the East at Phillips Academy where he essentially flunked out within a year.

One can only imagine the turmoil in the young man’s mind as he returned to a Chicago he no longer knew and more importantly where no one knew him. It doesn’t seem possible that he could have any but a few acquaintances in Chicago to whom he would still have been a near stranger. So already at sixteen young Burroughs had been placed beyond the pale of society. He was already an outsider. The most he could hope for was to be allowed to return to Brown to finish high school. There at least he had a viable connection with Emma however he would be a rough cut diamond lacking the polish and sophistication that would have appealed to Emma’s father.

Such an opportunity was not to be. At this point ERB’s father placed him in the Michigan Military Academy. ERB described the Academy as a place where parents warehoused their young juvenile delinquents. The resentment is clear in ERB’s attitude. Indeed he rebelled at this latest insult from his, by this time, inscrutable father.

The boy ran away from the MMA returning to his father’s house in Chicago. One wonders if he hopped freights to get there. One can only imagine the anguished pleading of Burroughs as he begged, perhaps on his knees, to be allowed to stay home and attend Brown. His old martinet of a father would have none of it. He packed the boy off again to the Military Academy.

Military Academy! How distasteful the very sound is. To be packed off again to a place where you knew no one and they as ERB believed, were juvenile delinquents. One can only imagine how crushed the boy’s spirit was. He became a class clown. What his fate might have been if his Commandant hadn’t been one who commanded his respect by the name of Charles King one can only guess. King who was not as well remembered by his classmates as he was by Burroughs nevertheless he bucked the boy up perhaps saving his life. At any rate Burroughs developed a dual personality as a class clown while at the same time being responsible enough to lead the football team to undreamed of heights while becoming an outstanding horseman and trick rider.

It was at the MMA that Burroughs formed the only long term friendship of which we are aware; this was a young man from Beatrice, Nebraska by the name of Herb Weston. Weston’s correspondence with Burroughs over the next forty years or so has been preserved for us by Matt Cohen in his book Brother Men.

Burroughs knew Weston only from September to May of the year before he left to join the Army. They saw each other but seldom after that apparently neither corresponding or meeting from 1896 to 1905 or so, but still the friendship flourished in later years.

In 1896 ERB joined the Army requesting the worst post they had and that was willingly given to him. So at this point ERB severed whatever and all ties that he had with anybody. He was the quintessential outsider. He was flying solo.

He apparently took a train to the end of the line wherever that may have been taking a stage coach into his post, Fort Grant, Arizona.

Whatever his fantasy of the Army was he was immediately disabused. He and four other fellows formed an informal club romantically named The Might Have Seen Better Days Club. There’s an element of self pity in the name. It deserves further comment.

The name implies a certain amount of depression. That is implied in Burroughs’ asking for the worst post in the Army. Only one fairly deeply depressed would ask for such a post. It’s the same as the fit of depression in which men used to join the French Foreign Legion.

Burroughs says he joined the Army with the intent of working his way up through the ranks to become an officer. I’m sure it didn’t take long to disabuse himself of that notion. Thus he began to petition his father to get him out of his commitment. His father had enough pull to do so.

So in 1897 he was back on the outside without a plan, presumably just as depressed. At that point in his life he was free to go anywhere, California, New York, the Bay Area, within a year the Yukon Gold Rush would be on. Heck he might even have traveled North with his future hero, Jack London. But ERB took his depression back home to Chicago.

Chicago was his home town but he knew no one there except Emma. ERB went to work for his father. Probably difficult enough but more importantly the office was located on Madison Avenue. That street was the main stem of Chicago’s huge hobo population. These were really outsiders, the men who didn’t fit in to use Robert Service’s memorable phrase.

ERB saw them everyday and must have spoken to many of them, had conversations so that he probably recognized some affinity with them. Hobos would certainly figure large in his writing from time to time.

He undoubtedly fantasized embracing the life of the road and may have on an experimental basis. He was to form a relationship with one of the foremost Hobo poets, H.H. Knibbs later in life. So the pull of the road was there.

He still had no idea what to do with his life. He had joined the Army without telling anyone including his future wife Emma Hulbert. She had sent a letter to him at Fort Grant in September of 1896. When he returned he discovered that he may have been away too long. As improbable as it may sound she was then being courted by a millionaire’s son, Frank Martin. As ERB had no real wish to be married he probably should have let Martin marry Emma.

It seems quite obvious Emma preferred the impoverished ERB to the wealth of Martin. These things obviously do happen. In the denouement thirty-five years later it would have been better for Emma if she had gone with Martin..

At this time ERB chose to return to Idaho. That didn’t work out well so he bounced back to Chicago. Now comes a very critical moment in his life. Perhaps Martin had been on the verge of success with Emma who may have been hurt and confused at the latest abandonment by the man she truly, truly loved.

When Burroughs returned heartening Emma once again Martin very obviously became exasperated at what he considered a bad penny who kept turning up at disadvantageous times.. It appears that he decided to settle ERB’s hash. Martin’s father was a railroad magnate possessing his own private rail car. Martin invited this nemesis of his to take a round trip to New York City with the return trip through Canada and Toronto.

It would appear that he set up a murder attempt to remove his rival in Toronto. On a night on the town in Toronto ERB was either lured into a fight with a couple thugs or accosted by them. The thug delivered a vicious blow to ERB’s forehead with a sap or leaded pipe that ripped his scalp open and laid ERB low.

While the injury was not obvious ERB was seriously hurt. Apparently internal bleeding formed a clot between his forebrain and skull hat had a profound effect on his personality as well as giving him excruciating headaches half the day for every day of his life at least through 1913-14.

Judging from his writing the pressure caused memory lapses during which he was unable to recall people he was familiar with. As this trait would not have been understood ERB was misinterpreted and become even more of an outsider. After his injury in Toronto ERB married Emma probably to spite Martin as he later said he regretted getting married. Nevertheless he now had a wife along with what must have seemed a very peculiar personality.

It is difficult to imagine what options ERB had open to him now that he had to abandon his rough and rowdy ways to take care of his young wife. Working for his father must have been a difficult experiences as it most often is for a son. In addition to that problem ERB came down with typhoid fever. The convalescence completely disrupted his finances. Now having excruciating headaches, a mind that just came and went and no money, no prospects, no future and little hope the man must have been plunged into the depths of despair.

Perhaps in all those Tarzan stories when Tarzan loses his memory they may reflect ERB’s actual experience at this time being periodically bereft of his memory for more or less short periods of time.

Obviously not thinking very clearly he decided to return to Idaho with his new wife and absolutely no prospects of making a living. Well, it worked for the Virginian.

Now, the Yukon Gold Rush had occurred in 1898. Out of that gold rush came a young writer by the name of Jack London. Burroughs was an inveterate reader in those days before movies, TV and radio so that his imagination was fired by London’s stories. London had also been a hobo as a boy.

On the way out to Idaho ERB had Emma riding in an open boxcar so as to comfort their dog. So in his strange way ERB was actually hoboing and doing it with his wife.

Two years later they returned once again to Chicago. Already an outsider ERB now embarked on a career that pushed him further out. Already declassed by his father’s treatment he now declassed himself further by taking an odd assortment of jobs. This period has not been inadequately covered in existing biographies. Perhaps the job that pushed him beyond the pale of social acceptability was his association with a patent medicine man by the name of Stace. Patent medicines were among the most disreputable vocations a man could have. ‘Snake oil’ pitchmen have been parodied in so many movies one has visions of their being run out of town one step ahead of the sheriff.

Burroughs association with Stace occurred just after the publication of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and an expose of the business by Samuel Hopkins Adams. A most unpropitious time to be in the patent medicine business. Stace was run out of business by the authorities. It was probably at this time that Burroughs picked up his experiences with grand juries and the police that he displays in The Girl From Farriss’s

Rather than dissociate himself from Stace as he should have done ERB joined with him in a successor venture named Burroughs-Stace. This could not have helped his reputation but would have implicated him as a principal in the snake oil outfit. One can only believe that it wasn’t very desirable to know Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Thus as his mind began to jell around the fiction that would make him famous his prospects were getting slim and slimmer. Perhaps he was grooming himself for the solitary profession of writer.

His experiences and reading all came together in 1911 when he wrote and sold his first effort, A Princess Of Mars. Unusually for a new writer he had more than one good story in him so that within two years he had achieved literary success being able to quit his day job to take up writing full time.

 

2.

 

By this time ERB had been outside the loop for so long, from the fifth grade on that his behavior was gauche. He didn’t know how to behave or discourse in polite society. So at this point it didn’t matter how much money he made or how famous he became he was truly a man who couldn’t fit in. Nowhere is this more obvious than in his writing.

One is astonished that between 1912 and 1918, a mere six years, Tarzan became a household word. It was that by the time the first movie was released there was virtually no one in America who hadn’t heard the name Tarzan. This is a level of success rarely attained.

And yet one is mystified as to how this came about. Certainly the penetration wasn’t achieved by a pulp magazine like All Story. The fiction magazines while popular had limited distribution. If we are to believe the sales figures Tarzan Of The Apes had substantial success but nothing like the novels of Zane Grey for instance.

His publisher, McClurg’s made no effort to capitalize on the phenomenon. Their hard cover first issue was very limited in numbers going into reprint status almost immediately. At the end of the decade ERB was reduced to urging them to print at least 40,000 copies before they turned a book over for republication. McClurg’s was loath to do so and I have seen no evidence they did. So one has the phenomenon of Tarzan being a household word with no clear evidence of how it came to be.

Today such success would make an author a celebrity yet the evidence is Burroughs was scorned in his own home town of Chicago. The city had a vibrant publishing scene in those days. There were plenty of famous authors in town with clubs and gathering places yet Burroughs apparently was welcome in none of them.

It is true that he was a pulp writer which was the lowest rung on the literary ladder. It is possibly true that he was the first truly imaginative writer in the sense of today’s sci fi, horror and fantasy genres. One may argue that Wells was first and while his stories are highly imaginative they are still extensions of reality.

Burroughs severed the connection with reality; he deals in impossibilities as if they were possible. One can’t stretch reality far enough to possibly cover Mars, Tarzan’s Africa and Pellucidar. They are clearly impossible. The Land That Time Forgot? Get out of here. So, as an originator of something new, a term I hate to use, Burroughs was a pioneer way out in front of the van. Hence he would have been incomprehensible to the average mind. In the language of the fifties he would have been a phenom. Weird, strange and that’s the way he seemed to have been treated.

In today’s terms his personality would have been vulnerable. Already an outsider the doors were politely shut in his face. Indeed, if one reads his stories they are full of closed doors that won’t open or can’t be opened. In Tarzan And The Lion Man, and this is a great scene, one of an array of doors is standing ajar while all the others are shut tight. The one open door is a trap that puts Tarzan in prison.

So we may assume that all doors were closed to him in Chicago. Whether his reputation followed him or his subject matter put people off or a combination of the two ERB was firmly kept outside. Chicago had that unwanted sign upon its heart.

There was one club that was open to Burroughs. That club was a catch all called The White Paper Club that was open to anyone who made marks on white paper. I suppose that could include anyone who intended to write that novel but had yet to put pen to paper.

Thus the man who had created a household word was forced to mingle with anyone who had soiled a piece of paper. Is it any wonder that ERB wanted to move.

Porges records ERB’s farewell dinner as though it were some sort of complimentary send off but Mr. Prindle dissents.

Among a number of unusual things ERB did that I don’t want to go into here was to circulate the story that he was going West to raise prize hogs. Now, Carl Sandburg called Chicago the Hog Butcher to the World. So one wonders what ERB was thinking. He actually did raise hogs at Tarzana but pig farming darn near broke him.

I can only guess what his fellow White Paperers thought but drawn on the menu was a picture of a pig with wings flying West. If I were ERB I might laugh with the fellows but I wouldn’t think it was a very funny joke. After all the phrase ‘when pigs have wings’ means something impossible while if I were ERB I might think that pig meant me and I might think the message was ‘good riddance and keep going.’ But, maybe I’m hypersensitive.

At any rate Burroughs went and he didn’t come back. He never seemed to miss Chicago a lot although there are many references to the city in his later work so he kept a watchful eye on the town.

So, at the age of forty-three ERB began a new life in sunny SoCal. The world had changed: without possibly understanding why there was no place in the new world for people like Edgar Rice Burroughs. Part of his problem was caused by himself. As a newcomer in town ERB took it upon himself to be morally outraged by Hollywood. Hollywood had itself outraged the morals of the nation so the town was tender and sensitive on the subject. By the time ERB published his book in 1923 Hollywood was mired in some serious scandals not least of which was the Fatty Arbuckle murder trials. ERB’s novel discussing the seedier side of Hollywood life offended some sensibilities. As a newcomer to Hollywood the novel, The Girl From Hollywood, was ill considered. While an excellent novel, in the circumstances it had been better left unwritten.

In combination with his novel the political situation of the world had changed. The World Revolution had succeeded in Russia in 1917. Everyone not in sympathy was anathema and ERB was not in sympathy. He was not loath to advertise this fact. Hence the Communists reacted: in the years 1920-24 his novels were neglected in Britain; they were under assault in Germany; his movie revenues dried up in Hollywood while one wonders if his books received the circulation their popularity demanded.

Another social issue forcing him to the outside was his response to a questionnaire forwarded to him from Chicago sent by the American Jewish Committee. The questionnaire apparently wanted to know his opinions on Jews- was he unequivocally a supporter or did he have reservations. ERB had a reservation that was reasonable but not reasonable enough for the American Jewish Committee. ERB was apparently black listed as all income from the movies ceased from 1921 to 1928. Tarzan was persona non gratis in Hollywood.

When his income dried up ERB was no longer able to support his magnificent estate of Tarzana. Thus began years of economic problems. Hollywood does not tolerate economic problems so there is no record of ERB having a social history in Tinseltown.

ERB began having problems with his publishers most likely because of his anti-Red politics. This resulted in his forming his own publishing company in 1930. So, really by 1930 ERB was virtually outside society. Like his creation Tarzan he was backing down a limb followed by a panther. Undoubtedly it was thought that he would fail as a publisher but he didn’t.

His movie fortunes had changed in 1928 when the ‘anti-Semite’ Joseph P. Kennedy, Jack Kennedy’s father, broke the black list and released a Tarzan movie.

This caused a reaction in the Jewish community that apparently sought to undermine the FBO film Tarzan And The Golden Lion that is available today and a very good silent film starring ERB’s son-in-law, James Pierce who draws a mean bow on the cover.

Two quick films were released by a Jewish film company that held the rights to two novels purchased in 1922 but never filmed. One of these is currently available Tarzan The Tiger while the other isn’t. Frank Merrill of Tarzan The Tiger isn’t a bad Tarzan either.

Apparently heads were put together for a long term solution to Burroughs. A plan was put in effect by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM. In 1931 ERB signed a contract with them that virtually stripped him of control of his creation. Although MGM’s 1932 Tarzan Of The Apes was a hit there is good reason to believe it was a clownish attempt to finish the career of Tarzan. No one was more surprised than MGM when the movie became a box office smash. This was the first sound movie and maybe the famous Tarzan yell, that also might have been meant as a joke, put the movie over. But the career of Tarzan was effectively out of Burroughs’ hands. He fought back with a couple really good Tarzan novels. The last of that batch, Tarzan And The Lion Man, ridiculed MGM’s fabled African epic Trader Horn in revenge for MGM’s treatment of Tarzan.

That Burroughs realized he had been frozen out is evident by the scene with which I started this essay where Tarzan is standing outside the walls of London wanting in. This is some of the most masterful writing of a dream sequence imaginable. The room for interpretation is almost unlimited. For this essay I choose to see the scene as representing Burroughs/Tarzan in 1911 when he was standing out in the cold wondering how to be become a success.

Symbolically Tarzan leaps up grasping the down pointed sharpened stakes impossibly lifting himself straight up then rolling forward past the stakes. Burroughs success as a writer was about that impossible and sensational.

Once inside the symbolic London that is populated by a colony of apes who are literal descendants of Henry the Eighth and his court Tarzan skirts the partying crowd to begin a solo attempt to ‘heaven.’ So in real life as Burroughs was shunned by society Tarzan avoids it here. The apes as descendants of Henry the Eighth have been created by a renegade Englishmen known as God to the apes who created them by a process similar to DNA

God’s castle then is known as Heaven and it is that to which Tarzan ascends. As noted earlier he enters a door and is trapped in prison. There is no viable way out so that Heaven is torched going up in flames just as Burroughs career had with the loss of Tarzan. Thus everything Burroughs had worked for for twenty years went up in smoke. This is a very simple interpretation. A more complete one would take fifty or more pages.

Now in control the Judaeo-Communists set about ridding themselves of Burroughs in much the same way, perhaps, that Chicago did.

Burroughs rashly undertook to make his own Tarzan movies. He was led into this disastrous effort by Ashton Dearholt. This man was the husband of Florence Gilbert Dearholt who left Dearholt to marry Burroughs at just this time. Linking up with Dearholt was a recipe for disaster it seems to me.

Burroughs’ venture into film making was disastrous. He had antagonized the radio people so the successful and lucrative Tarzan series were off the air until after his death. His productive years as a writer were behind him so he was almost entirely dependent on MGM for his income. While MGM could have successfully made two or three Tarzan films a year profitably they chose to make a movie only every two or three years keeping Burroughs on a short financial lease.

Unable to sustain a high profile Hollywood life style ERB was forced into exile in 1940 leaving the film capitol for Hawaii.

Thus the process of placing him outside begun in the fifth grade in Chicago was completed in 1940 when he was run out of Los Angeles virtually stripped of his great creation Tarzan.

With their nemesis gone MGM tired of the game giving up the lucrative character a couple years later to Sol Lesser.

Lesser’s Tarzan movies redeemed ERB’s declining years allowing him to return to Los Angeles to quietly live out his life without worries.

I have presented here only as aspect of ERB’s life but in many ways what a life it was. One wonders if ERB was joking when he told a reporter he lived an uneventful life.

The Old Tiger capped his astonishing career in 1950 when he passed to the outside one last time. He passed through an open door that softly closed behind him allowing no return.

Edgar Rice Burroughs As An Outsider

By

 

R.E. Prindle

 

…the great cats roamed this strange valley of the gorillas.

=Edgar Rice Burroughs

 

 

And the Great White Ape stood before the wall that surrounded London of Africa. Cats, gorillas, walls, doors, London England deep in the Heart of Darkness…he was the Lord of the Jungle, Tarzan Of The Apes.

Tarzan is alone as usual as was, one suspects, his creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. The year is 1933 both in Burroughs’ imaginary Africa and temporal Los Angeles where the writer plied his trade.

After a lifetime of trying to break into society Burroughs has Tarzan standing outside the wall of London into which he must break like a burglar or thief in the night.

Within the walls is the citadel of ERB’s desires, the great city on the hill, the castle of redemption. Now fifty-eight years old Burroughs had achieved all the material attributes of success only to have the prize dashed from his hands.

Symbolically he enters the castle of his dreams to find instead only a prison. The long climb up the stairway to heaven leads only to jail.

Nineteen thirty-three was the one hundredth anniversary of his father’s birth. The old ghoul who had imprinted him so evilly had come back from the grave to haunt him, to deny him what he had worked so hard to attain.

As in real life where MGM had stripped him of his life’s work in one deft move so now in his imagination his castle was destroyed by a raging fire storm. Symbolically he portrays his relationship with his father as an old coot who had led him around with a halter round his neck. In his great apocalyptic dream ERB reverses the roles and puts the halter about his father’s neck.

Too late ERB realized he had signed away his great creation to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In a desperate attempt to reclaim him ERB formed a movie company in which for a logo he adopted the MGM symbol but replaced the roaring lion, Leo, with an image of Tarzan shouting Tar-man-gan-eeee. ERB failed to detourne the image and MGM added insult to injury by forcing ERB into exile in Hawaii. Now seventy years old our big cat was exactly where he had been in Chicago when he entered manhood- on the other side of the wall. Still outside. It wasn’t supposed to be that way as Burroughs lamented.

How did it come to pass? How could he succeed so magnificently and yet fail so egregiously? How could life treat him so bad. ERB was just born under a bad sign.

His life began propitiously. He was in effect a little prince in his family for his first seven or eight years but then things began to mysteriously unravel and the little prince became a pauper. And that was more or less how ERB explained his life to himself. The three most influential books in his life were Mark Twain’s The Prince And The Pauper, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Little Lord Fauntleroy and Owen Wister’s The Virginian.

Burroughs apparently understood his life at least until 1930 in terms of these three books. The Prince became a Pauper then a Prince again. Little Lord Fauntleroy, a disinherited prince lived his young life as a pauper realizing his destiny as a prince at last. These two books were published in Burroughs’ childhood. One assumes he first read them as a boy.

The Virginian was published in 1902. Burroughs said that he had read all three books six or seven times by the early twenties. It is impossible to know when he read The Virginian the first time but as his life was in a turmoil during 1902-03 and ‘04 I wouldn’t think that his first reading was before ‘05 but one can’t be certain.

It would appear that ERB modeled his adult life on Lin McLean, the Virginian.

McLean was essentially a loner who went West to Wyoming much as ERB had repeatedly gone to Idaho. Wister tells the story of the famous Johnson County War through the eyes of his hero, McLean. ERB was in Idaho when the Johnson County War was in progress so Burroughs would have understood the novel with an intimacy denied the rest of us. McLean was a Tarzanic figure who wooed and won a school marm who was culturally far above him. This was perhaps not unlike ERB and Emma. Emma always referred to ERB as a lowbrow.

The most memorable episode in The Virginian is McLean’s marriage. He and his bride honeymoon in the wilds, in romantic scenery quite reminiscent of Burroughs’ dream Africa. Perhaps his taking Emma to Idaho in 1903 was an attempt to recreate this romantic honeymoon. A basis of Tarzan then can be found in Lin McLean the silent Virginian. Also ERB’s apparent vision of himself.

As Burroughs complained that ‘it wasn’t supposed to be like this’ his condition changed began to go wrong about the fifth grade. Here his father began his role as the monstrous ‘God’ of Tarzan And The Lion Man. ERB had attended Brown School up to this point. At this age his father moved him from Brown and sent the young boy to, of all places, a girl’s school. One can only imagine the young boy’s anguish at attending a girl’s school. ERB’s connections with his early schoolmates was disrupted. He had barely begun his tenure at the girl’s school when his father transferred him to a Latin school named Harvard for two and a half years. There is no indication ERB formed any abiding friendships at Harvard School.

While the kids in his neighborhood were walking to Brown everyday ERB was riding his pony alone to Harvard. Undoubtedly the students of Harvard were drawn from all over Chicago so that apart from seeing his fellows in class ERB had little else to do with them.

His father then pulled him from Harvard School sending him off to his brothers’ ranch in Idaho. At this point then he had no contact with his fellow Chicagoans while he was thrown into a delightful situation but one in which he associated with rough cowboys with little education while he attended no school himself.

Why his father was doing this is open to interpretation. Certainly he must have known what the effects would be on his son. His father’s next move was to transfer young ERB to the snobbery of the East at Phillips Academy where he essentially flunked out within a year.

One can only imagine the turmoil in the young man’s mind as he returned to a Chicago he no longer knew and more importantly where no one knew him. It doesn’t seem possible that he could have any but a few acquaintances in Chicago to whom he would still have been a near stranger. So already at sixteen young Burroughs had been placed beyond the pale of society. He was already an outsider. The most he could hope for was to be allowed to return to Brown to finish high school. There at least he had a viable connection with Emma however he would be a rough cut diamond lacking the polish and sophistication that would have appealed to Emma’s father.

Such an opportunity was not to be. At this point ERB’s father placed him in the Michigan Military Academy. ERB described the Academy as a place where parents warehoused their young juvenile delinquents. The resentment is clear in ERB’s attitude. Indeed he rebelled at this latest insult from his, by this time, inscrutable father.

The boy ran away from the MMA returning to his father’s house in Chicago. One wonders if he hopped freights to get there. One can only imagine the anguished pleading of Burroughs as he begged, perhaps on his knees, to be allowed to stay home and attend Brown. His old martinet of a father would have none of it. He packed the boy off again to the Military Academy.

Military Academy! How distasteful the very sound is. To be packed off again to a place where you knew no one and they as ERB believed, were juvenile delinquents. One can only imagine how crushed the boy’s spirit was. He became a class clown. What his fate might have been if his Commandant hadn’t been one who commanded his respect by the name of Charles King one can only guess. King who was not as well remembered by his classmates as he was by Burroughs nevertheless he bucked the boy up perhaps saving his life. At any rate Burroughs developed a dual personality as a class clown while at the same time being responsible enough to lead the football team to undreamed of heights while becoming an outstanding horseman and trick rider.

It was at the MMA that Burroughs formed the only long term friendship of which we are aware; this was a young man from Beatrice, Nebraska by the name of Herb Weston. Weston’s correspondence with Burroughs over the next forty years or so has been preserved for us by Matt Cohen in his book Brother Men.

Burroughs knew Weston only from September to May of the year before he left to join the Army. They saw each other but seldom after that apparently neither corresponding or meeting from 1896 to 1905 or so, but still the friendship flourished in later years.

In 1896 ERB joined the Army requesting the worst post they had and that was willingly given to him. So at this point ERB severed whatever and all ties that he had with anybody. He was the quintessential outsider. He was flying solo.

He apparently took a train to the end of the line wherever that may have been taking a stage coach into his post, Fort Grant, Arizona.

Whatever his fantasy of the Army was he was immediately disabused. He and four other fellows formed an informal club romantically named The Might Have Seen Better Days Club. There’s an element of self pity in the name. It deserves further comment.

The name implies a certain amount of depression. That is implied in Burroughs’ asking for the worst post in the Army. Only one fairly deeply depressed would ask for such a post. It’s the same as the fit of depression in which men used to join the French Foreign Legion.

Burroughs says he joined the Army with the intent of working his way up through the ranks to become an officer. I’m sure it didn’t take long to disabuse himself of that notion. Thus he began to petition his father to get him out of his commitment. His father had enough pull to do so.

So in 1897 he was back on the outside without a plan, presumably just as depressed. At that point in his life he was free to go anywhere, California, New York, the Bay Area, within a year the Yukon Gold Rush would be on. Heck he might even have traveled North with his future hero, Jack London. But ERB took his depression back home to Chicago.

Chicago was his home town but he knew no one there except Emma. ERB went to work for his father. Probably difficult enough but more importantly the office was located on Madison Avenue. That street was the main stem of Chicago’s huge hobo population. These were really outsiders, the men who didn’t fit in to use Robert Service’s memorable phrase.

ERB saw them everyday and must have spoken to many of them, had conversations so that he probably recognized some affinity with them. Hobos would certainly figure large in his writing from time to time.

He undoubtedly fantasized embracing the life of the road and may have on an experimental basis. He was to form a relationship with one of the foremost Hobo poets, H.H. Knibbs later in life. So the pull of the road was there.

He still had no idea what to do with his life. He had joined the Army without telling anyone including his future wife Emma Hulbert. She had sent a letter to him at Fort Grant in September of 1896. When he returned he discovered that he may have been away too long. As improbable as it may sound she was then being courted by a millionaire’s son, Frank Martin. As ERB had no real wish to be married he probably should have let Martin marry Emma.

It seems quite obvious Emma preferred the impoverished ERB to the wealth of Martin. These things obviously do happen. In the denouement thirty-five years later it would have been better for Emma if she had gone with Martin..

At this time ERB chose to return to Idaho. That didn’t work out well so he bounced back to Chicago. Now comes a very critical moment in his life. Perhaps Martin had been on the verge of success with Emma who may have been hurt and confused at the latest abandonment by the man she truly, truly loved.

When Burroughs returned heartening Emma once again Martin very obviously became exasperated at what he considered a bad penny who kept turning up at disadvantageous times.. It appears that he decided to settle ERB’s hash. Martin’s father was a railroad magnate possessing his own private rail car. Martin invited this nemesis of his to take a round trip to New York City with the return trip through Canada and Toronto.

It would appear that he set up a murder attempt to remove his rival in Toronto. On a night on the town in Toronto ERB was either lured into a fight with a couple thugs or accosted by them. The thug delivered a vicious blow to ERB’s forehead with a sap or leaded pipe that ripped his scalp open and laid ERB low.

While the injury was not obvious ERB was seriously hurt. Apparently internal bleeding formed a clot between his forebrain and skull hat had a profound effect on his personality as well as giving him excruciating headaches half the day for every day of his life at least through 1913-14.

Judging from his writing the pressure caused memory lapses during which he was unable to recall people he was familiar with. As this trait would not have been understood ERB was misinterpreted and become even more of an outsider. After his injury in Toronto ERB married Emma probably to spite Martin as he later said he regretted getting married. Nevertheless he now had a wife along with what must have seemed a very peculiar personality.

It is difficult to imagine what options ERB had open to him now that he had to abandon his rough and rowdy ways to take care of his young wife. Working for his father must have been a difficult experiences as it most often is for a son. In addition to that problem ERB came down with typhoid fever. The convalescence completely disrupted his finances. Now having excruciating headaches, a mind that just came and went and no money, no prospects, no future and little hope the man must have been plunged into the depths of despair.

Perhaps in all those Tarzan stories when Tarzan loses his memory they may reflect ERB’s actual experience at this time being periodically bereft of his memory for more or less short periods of time.

Obviously not thinking very clearly he decided to return to Idaho with his new wife and absolutely no prospects of making a living. Well, it worked for the Virginian.

Now, the Yukon Gold Rush had occurred in 1898. Out of that gold rush came a young writer by the name of Jack London. Burroughs was an inveterate reader in those days before movies, TV and radio so that his imagination was fired by London’s stories. London had also been a hobo as a boy.

On the way out to Idaho ERB had Emma riding in an open boxcar so as to comfort their dog. So in his strange way ERB was actually hoboing and doing it with his wife.

Two years later they returned once again to Chicago. Already an outsider ERB now embarked on a career that pushed him further out. Already declassed by his father’s treatment he now declassed himself further by taking an odd assortment of jobs. This period has not been inadequately covered in existing biographies. Perhaps the job that pushed him beyond the pale of social acceptability was his association with a patent medicine man by the name of Stace. Patent medicines were among the most disreputable vocations a man could have. ‘Snake oil’ pitchmen have been parodied in so many movies one has visions of their being run out of town one step ahead of the sheriff.

Burroughs association with Stace occurred just after the publication of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle and an expose of the business by Samuel Hopkins Adams. A most unpropitious time to be in the patent medicine business. Stace was run out of business by the authorities. It was probably at this time that Burroughs picked up his experiences with grand juries and the police that he displays in The Girl From Farriss’s

Rather than dissociate himself from Stace as he should have done ERB joined with him in a successor venture named Burroughs-Stace. This could not have helped his reputation but would have implicated him as a principal in the snake oil outfit. One can only believe that it wasn’t very desirable to know Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Thus as his mind began to jell around the fiction that would make him famous his prospects were getting slim and slimmer. Perhaps he was grooming himself for the solitary profession of writer.

His experiences and reading all came together in 1911 when he wrote and sold his first effort, A Princess Of Mars. Unusually for a new writer he had more than one good story in him so that within two years he had achieved literary success being able to quit his day job to take up writing full time.

 

2.

 

By this time ERB had been outside the loop for so long, from the fifth grade on that his behavior was gauche. He didn’t know how to behave or discourse in polite society. So at this point it didn’t matter how much money he made or how famous he became he was truly a man who couldn’t fit in. Nowhere is this more obvious than in his writing.

One is astonished that between 1912 and 1918, a mere six years, Tarzan became a household word. It was that by the time the first movie was released there was virtually no one in America who hadn’t heard the name Tarzan. This is a level of success rarely attained.

And yet one is mystified as to how this came about. Certainly the penetration wasn’t achieved by a pulp magazine like All Story. The fiction magazines while popular had limited distribution. If we are to believe the sales figures Tarzan Of The Apes had substantial success but nothing like the novels of Zane Grey for instance.

His publisher, McClurg’s made no effort to capitalize on the phenomenon. Their hard cover first issue was very limited in numbers going into reprint status almost immediately. At the end of the decade ERB was reduced to urging them to print at least 40,000 copies before they turned a book over for republication. McClurg’s was loath to do so and I have seen no evidence they did. So one has the phenomenon of Tarzan being a household word with no clear evidence of how it came to be.

Today such success would make an author a celebrity yet the evidence is Burroughs was scorned in his own home town of Chicago. The city had a vibrant publishing scene in those days. There were plenty of famous authors in town with clubs and gathering places yet Burroughs apparently was welcome in none of them.

It is true that he was a pulp writer which was the lowest rung on the literary ladder. It is possibly true that he was the first truly imaginative writer in the sense of today’s sci fi, horror and fantasy genres. One may argue that Wells was first and while his stories are highly imaginative they are still extensions of reality.

Burroughs severed the connection with reality; he deals in impossibilities as if they were possible. One can’t stretch reality far enough to possibly cover Mars, Tarzan’s Africa and Pellucidar. They are clearly impossible. The Land That Time Forgot? Get out of here. So, as an originator of something new, a term I hate to use, Burroughs was a pioneer way out in front of the van. Hence he would have been incomprehensible to the average mind. In the language of the fifties he would have been a phenom. Weird, strange and that’s the way he seemed to have been treated.

In today’s terms his personality would have been vulnerable. Already an outsider the doors were politely shut in his face. Indeed, if one reads his stories they are full of closed doors that won’t open or can’t be opened. In Tarzan And The Lion Man, and this is a great scene, one of an array of doors is standing ajar while all the others are shut tight. The one open door is a trap that puts Tarzan in prison.

So we may assume that all doors were closed to him in Chicago. Whether his reputation followed him or his subject matter put people off or a combination of the two ERB was firmly kept outside. Chicago had that unwanted sign upon its heart.

There was one club that was open to Burroughs. That club was a catch all called The White Paper Club that was open to anyone who made marks on white paper. I suppose that could include anyone who intended to write that novel but had yet to put pen to paper.

Thus the man who had created a household word was forced to mingle with anyone who had soiled a piece of paper. Is it any wonder that ERB wanted to move.

Porges records ERB’s farewell dinner as though it were some sort of complimentary send off but Mr. Prindle dissents.

Among a number of unusual things ERB did that I don’t want to go into here was to circulate the story that he was going West to raise prize hogs. Now, Carl Sandburg called Chicago the Hog Butcher to the World. So one wonders what ERB was thinking. He actually did raise hogs at Tarzana but pig farming darn near broke him.

I can only guess what his fellow White Paperers thought but drawn on the menu was a picture of a pig with wings flying West. If I were ERB I might laugh with the fellows but I wouldn’t think it was a very funny joke. After all the phrase ‘when pigs have wings’ means something impossible while if I were ERB I might think that pig meant me and I might think the message was ‘good riddance and keep going.’ But, maybe I’m hypersensitive.

At any rate Burroughs went and he didn’t come back. He never seemed to miss Chicago a lot although there are many references to the city in his later work so he kept a watchful eye on the town.

So, at the age of forty-three ERB began a new life in sunny SoCal. The world had changed: without possibly understanding why there was no place in the new world for people like Edgar Rice Burroughs. Part of his problem was caused by himself. As a newcomer in town ERB took it upon himself to be morally outraged by Hollywood. Hollywood had itself outraged the morals of the nation so the town was tender and sensitive on the subject. By the time ERB published his book in 1923 Hollywood was mired in some serious scandals not least of which was the Fatty Arbuckle murder trials. ERB’s novel discussing the seedier side of Hollywood life offended some sensibilities. As a newcomer to Hollywood the novel, The Girl From Hollywood, was ill considered. While an excellent novel, in the circumstances it had been better left unwritten.

In combination with his novel the political situation of the world had changed. The World Revolution had succeeded in Russia in 1917. Everyone not in sympathy was anathema and ERB was not in sympathy. He was not loath to advertise this fact. Hence the Communists reacted: in the years 1920-24 his novels were neglected in Britain; they were under assault in Germany; his movie revenues dried up in Hollywood while one wonders if his books received the circulation their popularity demanded.

Another social issue forcing him to the outside was his response to a questionnaire forwarded to him from Chicago sent by the American Jewish Committee. The questionnaire apparently wanted to know his opinions on Jews- was he unequivocally a supporter or did he have reservations. ERB had a reservation that was reasonable but not reasonable enough for the American Jewish Committee. ERB was apparently black listed as all income from the movies ceased from 1921 to 1928. Tarzan was persona non gratis in Hollywood.

When his income dried up ERB was no longer able to support his magnificent estate of Tarzana. Thus began years of economic problems. Hollywood does not tolerate economic problems so there is no record of ERB having a social history in Tinseltown.

ERB began having problems with his publishers most likely because of his anti-Red politics. This resulted in his forming his own publishing company in 1930. So, really by 1930 ERB was virtually outside society. Like his creation Tarzan he was backing down a limb followed by a panther. Undoubtedly it was thought that he would fail as a publisher but he didn’t.

His movie fortunes had changed in 1928 when the ‘anti-Semite’ Joseph P. Kennedy, Jack Kennedy’s father, broke the black list and released a Tarzan movie.

This caused a reaction in the Jewish community that apparently sought to undermine the FBO film Tarzan And The Golden Lion that is available today and a very good silent film starring ERB’s son-in-law, James Pierce who draws a mean bow on the cover.

Two quick films were released by a Jewish film company that held the rights to two novels purchased in 1922 but never filmed. One of these is currently available Tarzan The Tiger while the other isn’t. Frank Merrill of Tarzan The Tiger isn’t a bad Tarzan either.

Apparently heads were put together for a long term solution to Burroughs. A plan was put in effect by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, MGM. In 1931 ERB signed a contract with them that virtually stripped him of control of his creation. Although MGM’s 1932 Tarzan Of The Apes was a hit there is good reason to believe it was a clownish attempt to finish the career of Tarzan. No one was more surprised than MGM when the movie became a box office smash. This was the first sound movie and maybe the famous Tarzan yell, that also might have been meant as a joke, put the movie over. But the career of Tarzan was effectively out of Burroughs’ hands. He fought back with a couple really good Tarzan novels. The last of that batch, Tarzan And The Lion Man, ridiculed MGM’s fabled African epic Trader Horn in revenge for MGM’s treatment of Tarzan.

That Burroughs realized he had been frozen out is evident by the scene with which I started this essay where Tarzan is standing outside the walls of London wanting in. This is some of the most masterful writing of a dream sequence imaginable. The room for interpretation is almost unlimited. For this essay I choose to see the scene as representing Burroughs/Tarzan in 1911 when he was standing out in the cold wondering how to be become a success.

Symbolically Tarzan leaps up grasping the down pointed sharpened stakes impossibly lifting himself straight up then rolling forward past the stakes. Burroughs success as a writer was about that impossible and sensational.

Once inside the symbolic London that is populated by a colony of apes who are literal descendants of Henry the Eighth and his court Tarzan skirts the partying crowd to begin a solo attempt to ‘heaven.’ So in real life as Burroughs was shunned by society Tarzan avoids it here. The apes as descendants of Henry the Eighth have been created by a renegade Englishmen known as God to the apes who created them by a process similar to DNA

God’s castle then is known as Heaven and it is that to which Tarzan ascends. As noted earlier he enters a door and is trapped in prison. There is no viable way out so that Heaven is torched going up in flames just as Burroughs career had with the loss of Tarzan. Thus everything Burroughs had worked for for twenty years went up in smoke. This is a very simple interpretation. A more complete one would take fifty or more pages.

Now in control the Judaeo-Communists set about ridding themselves of Burroughs in much the same way, perhaps, that Chicago did.

Burroughs rashly undertook to make his own Tarzan movies. He was led into this disastrous effort by Ashton Dearholt. This man was the husband of Florence Gilbert Dearholt who left Dearholt to marry Burroughs at just this time. Linking up with Dearholt was a recipe for disaster it seems to me.

Burroughs’ venture into film making was disastrous. He had antagonized the radio people so the successful and lucrative Tarzan series were off the air until after his death. His productive years as a writer were behind him so he was almost entirely dependent on MGM for his income. While MGM could have successfully made two or three Tarzan films a year profitably they chose to make a movie only every two or three years keeping Burroughs on a short financial lease.

Unable to sustain a high profile Hollywood life style ERB was forced into exile in 1940 leaving the film capitol for Hawaii.

Thus the process of placing him outside begun in the fifth grade in Chicago was completed in 1940 when he was run out of Los Angeles virtually stripped of his great creation Tarzan.

With their nemesis gone MGM tired of the game giving up the lucrative character a couple years later to Sol Lesser.

Lesser’s Tarzan movies redeemed ERB’s declining years allowing him to return to Los Angeles to quietly live out his life without worries.

I have presented here only as aspect of ERB’s life but in many ways what a life it was. One wonders if ERB was joking when he told a reporter he lived an uneventful life.

The Old Tiger capped his astonishing career in 1950 when he passed to the outside one last time. He passed through an open door that softly closed behind him allowing no return.

Springtime For Edgar Rice Burroughs

by

R.E. Prindle

4c

How Waldo Became A Man

 

     In the complex of meanings of Waldo the question is how much Burroughs bases the character on himself.  In the question of health there is no question that Burroughs had issues after his bashing in Toronto in 1899.

     Judging from the Girl From Farris’s his health was a serious problem for him at least until early 1914 when he finished Farris’s.  During those years he suffered from debilitating excruciatingly painful headaches for at least half the day.  He either awakened with them or they developed mid-day.  There is evidence that he became interested in Bernarr Macfadden’s  body building and health techniques when Macfadden opened his Chicago facilities in 1908.  If he were involved then perhaps the benefits of such a regimen were becoming apparent in1913-14.  In 1916 in the photograph in puttees taken at Coldwater he looks like a healthy specimen and proud of it.

     ERB gives Waldo the wasting disease Tuberculosis putting him on a regimen of exercise in the healthy dry air of his island thus curing him within a few months.  This process is reminiscent of Grey’s hero John Hare of Heritage Of The Desert or the development of the Virginian in Owen Wister’s novel.

     Burroughs claimed that his writing was heavily influenced by his dreamworld.  If so then in this story as well as his others each character must represent a real person who figures in his life; the story must represent a real situation in symbolical form.

     As authors so often claim their characters are composites it is likely that Burroughs also combines memories of other people with his own dreams.  As Burroughs consciously manipulates his dream material he tweaks it into shape to make an entertaining novel then overlaying his conscious desires on his subconscious hopes and fears.

page 1.

     In addition Burroughs retains his literary influences using them to give form to his dreamscapes.  Indeed, his influences fill his mind so full they become part of his dreamscapes.  The island he creates is similar to but not identical with Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island.  This becomes very apparent in the sequel, The Cave Man, when Waldo sets about to improve his little society.  He isn’t as obsessive-compulsive as Verne but along those lines.

     Verne’s island figures prominently in many of Burroughs narratives.  Oddly the book isn’t in his library.

     ERB began telling his life’s story the moment he took up his pen.  While John Carter seems to be dissociated from his own personality Tarzan is a true alter ego, a psychic doppelganger.  Tarzan Of The Apes is a symbolical telling of his life’s story from birth to 1896 while the Return of Tarzan covers the four years from 1896 to 1900 and his marriage.  (See my Four Crucial Years In The Life Of Edgar Rice Burroughs here on ERBzine.)

     The Girl From Farris’s deals with the troubled years from 1899 to, it appears, March of 1914.  Thus Cave Girl addresses his difficulties in making the transition to writer and then full time writer with the attendant marital or sexual problems.  These marital or sexual problems occupy him through many novels in this first burst of creativity from 1913 to 1915.

     Porges in working from Burroughs’ own papers in his biography has very little input from outside sources but some.  The first material we have to work with from an outsider’s point of view is Matt Cohen’s  fine edition of Brother Men, the collection of the Burroughs-Weston correspondence.  Weston being ERB’s friend from MMA days.  At the time of the divorce they had been in touch for forty years.

     However I think that figure may be a little misleading as the two men had very little contact during that period.  ERB met Weston in 1895 at the MMA at the beginning of the school year.  He was one year younger than ERB.  As Burroughs left the MMA in May of ’96 the two must have become fast friends in just eight or nine months.  It isn’t probable that they met again before 1905 when Weston was passing through Chicago with his wife Margaret.  At that time both Westons would have met Emma.  From that time to the end of ERB’s Chicago period except for the occasional brief layover in Chicago the relationship was carried on by correspondence although as Burroughs seems to have some knowledge of Weston’s home town, Beatrice, Nebraska as evidenced in the second half of The Mad King it is possible he and Emma visited Weston but that would have had to have been between March ’14 and August ’14.  Narrow window.

     Thus when Weston talks so knowingly of Burroughs’ character in the letter of 1934 I will refer to I would have to question the depth of his knowledge.  At any rate he claims to have knowledge of the difficulties of the marriage.

     Weston was completely devastated by the announcement of the divorce.  He immediatly sided with Emma breaking off relations with ERB for several years.

     It appears from the letter of 1934 reproduced on page 233 of Brother Men that he contacted Burroughs’ LA friend Charles Rosenberger for information on the divorce.  We have only Weston’s reply but not Rosenberger’s letter.

     In reply to Rosenberger Weston says:

     Quote:

     I have known Ed since the fall of ’95.  He has always been unusual and erratic.  I have told Margaret many times, when Ed has done or said anything which seemed sort of queer that as long as I had known him he had always done or said such things. 

 (One of the most significant odd things would have been Burroughs leaving the MMA in mid-term in May to join the Army.  One imagines that when he didn’t show up for classes next day the faculty asked: Where’s Burroughs.  Perhaps Weston was the only one who knew and had to say:  Uh, he joined the Army.)

      I suppose looking back, that the fact that Ed has always been unusual, erratic and perhaps queer, has been his great charm and attraction for me.

     Unquote.

     I don’t know about you but if my best friend talked about me like that I would be less than flattered.  There is another back handed compliment that Weston made to Burroughs’ father in his defense.

     Burroughs’ father had made the comment to Weston that his son was no damn good.  Good to have your dad on your side too.  Weston defended ERB vigorously saying that he thought there was plenty of good in ERB, he just hadn’t shown it yet.  Thank you, Herb Weston.

     If one judges from the actions of Ogden Secor in Girl From Farris’s after he was hit on the head and if his actions approximated those of Burroughs from 1899 on then there was probably a very good reason for ERB’s unusual, erratic perhaps queer behavior apart from the fact that ERB had developed the typical character of his difficult childhood.

     In reading the correspondence Weston comes across as a very conventional and highly respectable person; in other words, stodgy.  It must have been that settled bourgeois quality in him that ERB appreciated.  Weston did many of the things that Burroughs would have liked to have done.  Weston did go on to Yale from the MMA which is what Burroughs would have liked to have done.  Weston did become an officer in the Army.

     On page 157 of Brother Men is a discussion of the Spanish American War.  If I read it correctly Weston actually served in Cuba with a Tennessee regiment.  So Burroughs had reason to be envious of him as he failed in his own attempts to get into Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders.

      Nevertheless Weston’s evaluation of Burroughs uses some strong language who after all didn’t have that intimate a relationship with him:  unusual, erratic perhaps queer.  Honestly, I don’t think I would have a friend very long who thought of me that way.

     Weston is bitterly disappointed but later in the letter he refers to Burroughs as a crazy old man so, at the least, we can assume that to the average mentality Burroughs appeared eccentric.  As one in the same boat I can’t help but root for the author of Tarzan.  What but an unconventional mind could have conceived such a story.

     Burroughs antecedents had created his persona by 1895 so the crack on the head in Toronto merely added to his unusual persona.

     Apart from any inferences about Ralph Waldo Emerson and the Transcendentalists the sickly character of Waldo may represent Burroughs’ own health problems from 1899 to the time of The Cave Girl.

     I feel certain that Burroughs followed some sort of health or body building regimen from perhaps 1908-09 when the American body building king Bernarr Macfadden opened his Chicago facilities to 1913.  Although Ogden Secor of Girl From Farris’s was still sickly in 1914 perhaps Burroughs health was improving as Waldo evolves from a skinny sickly person to a ‘blond giant’ before our eyes.  ‘Blond Giant’ also brings to mind Nietzsche’s ‘Great Blond Beast.’  I think it would be pushing it to say Burroughs read Nietzsche, nevertheless Burroughs always seems to be well informed when you look closely. He might easily have picked up references to the ‘Blond Beast’ from newspapers, magazines and conversation.

     Weston is especially incensed at Burroughs leaving Emma who both he and his wife Margaret seem to have preferred.  They did travel to California to visit Emma while ignoring ERB.

     Weston quotes Rosenberger to the effect that ERB told Rosenberger that he had always wanted to rid himself of Emma.  To which Weston replies:

     Quote:

     Charming, unusual, erratic personality that Ed is, there is no woman on earth that would have lived with him, and put up with him except Emma, and do not be fooled!  Emma suited Ed plenty, until this insane streak hit him.

     Unquote.

     So we have an outsider’s view of the situation.  He considers Burroughs over the line in his personality to be redeemed by his charm.  Weston had asked Rosenberger his opinion of the situation between ERB and Emma.  ERB had apparently told Rosenberger after the split that he had always wanted to rid himself of Emma.

     As far as Burroughs’ persdonality goes it would be in keeping with a person of his background who had been bounced from school to school.  Waldo may in part be a nasty caricature of the East Coasters Burroughs associated with at the Phillips Academy.  As is well known Easterners at the time and still today disdain those from the West.  One has the feeling that Burroughs valued his Idaho experiences highly thus the transformation from the wimpy Easterner of Waldo to the Blond Giant of the great outdoors may be Burroughs snub of his Eastern classmates.

     At any rate when Weston met Burroughs at the beginning of classes in ’95 ERB’s personality seems set.

     By ‘saying things’ one presumes that Weston means Burroughs had an outsider’s ‘eccentric’ sense of humor.  I have a feeling that a few of we Bibliophiles know where that’s at.  Certainly Burroughs’ stories reflect this trait.  So, between Burroughs and Weston we have a clash of two different backgrounds.

     As to Emma I believe that Burroughs was always dissatisfied with the fact that he had married when he did whoever he might have married.  He has been quoted as saying that Tarzan never should have married so that idea can probably be applied to him.

     If circumstances hadn’t forced his hand he very likely would have remained single.  According to his psychology the right time for him to find a woman and marry would have been after 1913 and his success when he was in effect born again and a new man.

     So when he says he never really wanted Emma as a wife I’m sure that is true.  However he did marry the woman.  So from 1913 to 1920 we have Burroughs struggling with his desire to honor his life long committment to Emma and his contrary desire to find his ideal ‘mate’ a la Dejah Thoris, La, Nadara and a number of others.  Not so easily done in real life and after great success but still possible.

     Added to his problem was his embarrassing behavior in Idaho when he gambled away the couple’s last forty dollars.  Emma reacted badly to the Western interlude in their marriage.  Burroughs’ rather feckless attitude toward earning a living between the return from Idaho and his early success in 1913 undoubtedly caused emotional problems for Emma but as Weston says she stuck by him during those lean years and as he says, there were a lot of them.

     Even in 1913 when the couple earned the first real money they had ever seen Burroughs was recklessly spending it before he got it based only on his confidence that he would always be a successful writer something which by no means necessarily follows.

     Emma was very proud of Burroughs as the photo ERBzine published of the couple in San Diego shows however her pride obviusly conflicted with her fears so that she may have nagged ERB in what he considered an unjustified way.

     On one level Cave Girl can be construed to be a record of their relationship up to the moment with Burroughs trying to reconcile the relationship according to his confident understanding of the situation.

     Writing in February-March in Chicago we have this view.  In September of 1913 the family left for San Diego.  Writing in San Diego during October-November in the Mad King things seem to be deteriorating as Burroughs seems to be pleading with Emma to be reasonable.  Thus the Mad King concerns Prince and Pauper doppelgangers who are appealing to the same woman.

     This situation may have been caused by a situation that would be very reminiscent to Emma of her situation in Idaho of ten years earlier.  On this trip in which ERB and Emma were as alone and isolated as in Idaho ERB was taking another very large gamble with Emma’s and her three little children’s wellbeing at stake.   As ERB proudly tells it the family, no longer just a wife, but a family of five were within an ace of being flat broke if any one of the stories Burroughs wrote in 1913 failed to sell.  Unlike Idaho this was a gamble the Roving Gambler won.  Now, perhaps Burroughs thought this redeemed his earlier faux pas, probably to himself it did.  But what about Emma?  What terrific anxieties  assailed her as she wondered whether they would have a roof over their heads from day to day.

     We need more facts.  Perhaps the move from Coronado to San Diego was forced by necessity to reduce costs.  Perhaps selling the Vellie was necessary to raise cash.  Thus Emma in the midst of this actual plenty of a $10,000 income was a virtual pauper in silks and diamonds.  Would there be any wonder if she were cross and nagging?  As Weston said there were difficulties in living with Burroughs.

     Burroughs then rather than attempting to make reasonable adjustments in his behavior yearned for the perfect mate who would ‘understand’ him.

    Nevertheless he had to bear the burden assigned him.  Let us assume that as Weston said, at one time Emma suited Ed plenty.  That’s an outsider’s opinion but the evidence of this group of novels is that ERB was doing his best to rectify his past for Emma.  If Waldo is portrayed as clownish I’m sure that ERB had played the clown in real life for some time.  As Weston said ERB had always said and done unusual things.  He doesn’t say what they were but in all likelihood the things he said and did were meant to be jokes, to be funny.  After all he describes Tarzan as a jungle joker.  The jokes that Tarzan perpetrated originated in ERB’s mind so he had to think those jokes were funny.  They were usually practical jokes.  No one really like a practical joker.  The psychological needs that go into a practical joke are compensatory.

     Where he failed Emma in the past he seems to be trying to make up for it.  Perhaps his financial gamble in 1913 in some way compensates for his gambling failure in 1903 reversing the outcome of 1903 and making it alright.  His actions in 1913 are so zany one has to ask what he thinks he is doing.

e.

 

     Leaving their little Eden Waldo and Nadara set out for her village where Korth and Flatfoot await him with Nagoola in the background.

     Thus Waldo’s tasks as set for him by Nadara are to kill Korth and Flatfoot.  Waldo quite correctly realizes that these two tasks are beyond his present powers.  So, within sight of the village he makes excuses to Nadara then abandons her running away.  He heads out to the Wasteland.  He appears to be living in a near desert.

     Over the next several months he transforms himself from a tubercular wimp into a ‘Blond Giant.’  Tarzan has black hair so perhaps Waldo has to be blond.

     One can’t be sure but this period may represent the years from John The Bully to ERB’s proposal to Emma.  At any rate Waldo can’t forget Nadara having a longing for her.  During his period in the Wasteland he fashions weapons for himself that make him superior in prowess to the cave men.  He fashions a spear, a shield and what Burroughs jokingly, I hope, refers to as a sword, that is a sharp pointed short stick with a handle.  No bow and arrow.  So rather than a primitive Tarzan we have a primitive Lancelot.  Waldo is actually outfitted as a knight, a la Pyle, while when he acquires the pelt of Nagoola he will be, as it were, encased in armor.  So Pyle, or at least Arthur, is an influence.

     In a comedy of errors Nagoola manages to kill himself by falling on Waldo’s spear.  In one sense this means that Waldo has invested his sexual desires in Nadara while perhaps it is symbolic of Burroughs’ desire to do the same with Emma.  At the same time the panther skin makes Nadara the best dressed girl around.  It is perhaps significant that he kills Nagoola first before Korth and Flatfoot.

     If one looks again at that ERBzine photo of ERB and Emma in San Diego one will notice that Emma is wearing some spiffy new togs.  In her father’s house Emma was a clothes horse.  In another ERBzine photo showing ERB and Emma walking in the wilds of Idaho Emma is still dressed to the nines while ERB shambles along beside her in a cheap baggy suit.

     From that point in 1903 to the efflorescence  of wealth in 1913 Emma had to make do with whatever garb she could afford which must have been depressing for her.  As Weston says that was a sacrifice she was willing to make for her man.

     Not in 1913 in Cave Girl but in 1914 in Cave Man Waldo invests Nadara with Nagoola’s pelt.  Now, Waldo suffered grievously to acquire this skin.  That was a major battle out there in the Wasteland.  Let us assume that the skin represents Waldo’s sexual desires and that in clothing Nadara in the skin he is making her his queen or princess.

     Thus in 1913-14 for the first time in his life ERB is able to reestablish Emma as a clothes horse.  He has finally been able to do his duty as a man and husband.  She can now buy as many clothes of whatever quality she likes and ERB is happy to have her do it.  So, in a symbolic way ERB had a terrific struggle that scarred him psychologically as Waldo was physically scarred by the talons of Nagoola.  Now, Burroughs was proud to be able to dress Emma to her desires.  In the same way that the panther represents Waldo’s investing Nadara with his sexual desires so Emma’s clothes represent the same to ERB.

     It was now up to Emma to forgive ERB for his failings and treat him as her hero.  Perhaps ERB was a little premature.  I think that he would have had to woo her all over again.  While he had conficence he would be able to go on writing indefinitely the surety of such was problematic to others like Emma and actually ERB’s editor at Munsey, Bob Davis.  Davis told him point blank that guys like Burroughs start strong, shoot their wad and fall out after two or three years.  As far as others were concerned Burrroughs future remained to be seen.  The evidence is that Davis and other editors thought that Burroughs had Tarzan and that was it.  Apart from the Mars series how much of this other stuff was pubished to humor Burroughs to cajole more Tarzan novels  is a question.  Still, the fans seemed to receive it well.  Cave Girl was even serialized in the New York papers.

     Nadara has set Waldo three tasks all of them murderous.  He is to kill Nagoola, Korth and Flatfoot.  Having fulfilled the killing of Nagoola Waldo after several months sets out to return to Nadara to fulfill his last two committments. 

     Before he invests Nadara with Nagoola’s pelt he first kills Korth and Flatfoot.  These are monster battles where like the knights of old, Lancelot, Waldo is hurt near to death. 

     Now, what would Emma nag ERB about during those lean years?  The clothes have already been discussed so that leaves the monetary success to acquire them.  So the slaying of the pair of cave men may represent financial success.  Financial success came with the creation of John Carter and Tarzan.  So let’s assume that Korth represents John Carter and Flatfoot Tarzan.  The creation of the two or the slaying of those dragons opens the way for the hero Waldo/ERB to present Nadara/Emma with the first task, clothing.

     Having killed Korth and Flatfoot Waldo still has to make up with Nadara for abandoning her at the threshhold to her village.  Not an easy task.  Waldo pleads that he has done everything she asked but she remains obdurate.  This probably relflects ERB and Emma’s situation.  A situation that apparently was never satisfactorily resolved.

     But then it seems as though there is a change in the characterization and Nadara reverts back to Nadara of the beginning of the book while Waldo, believe it or not, becomes a god, if Nadara had known what gods were.  Waldo scrambles up some fruit trees to toss down some food that seems to bring them together.  In the last pages Burroughs gets schmaltzy writing close to purple passages.

     At this time Nadara spots a yacht out over the waves.  The yacht is a major theme during the teens and especially in this 1913-14 period.  The significance seems to be that Burroughs envisioned his early life as The Little Prince as life on a yacht.  Then the big storm comes changing his life as it sinks.  Then begins the struggle for existence capped by the eventual triumph.

     The yacht first appeared in Return Of Tarzan.  This is its second appearance.  Tarzan wasn’t on the yacht in Return and Waldo doesn’t get on the yacht in Cave Girl although he does in the sequel The Cave Man but that was a year later in 1914.  So things are evolving rapidly in ERB’s psychology.

     In this case he plans to join the yacht that he recognizes as his father’s.  Having abandoned Nadara once she imagines he is about to do so again so she runs off.

     Thoughts run through Waldo’s mind as he envisions a return to civilization with Nadara.

     Quote:

     For a time the man stood staring at the dainty yacht and far beyond it the civilization which it represented, and he saw there suave men and sneering women, and among them was a slender brown beauty who shrank from the cruel glances of the women- and Waldo writhed at this and at the greedy eyes of the suave men as they appraised the girl and he, too, was afraid.

—-

     “Come,” he said, taking Nadara by the hand, “let us hurry back into the hills before they discover us.”

     Unquote.

     And so Waldo decides to remain in the stone age.

     He and Nadara had left the little bag containing the relics of her mother behind.  The crew of the yacht discover the bag just on the inland side of the forest.

     Then we discover that Nadara is in fact the daughter of French nobles.  Burroughs seems to have some love affair going on with the French.  Many of his most attractive characters such as Paul D’Arnot, Nadara here, Miriam of Son of Tarzan are Gallic.  So Burroughs admires most the English, the French and the Virginians it would seem.

     Nadara is the daughter of Eugenie Marie Celeste de la Valois so she is a legitimate princess.

     Thus ends the Cave girl with seeming finality.  The way is open to the sequel but the closing seems final.

     I haven’t read a book that replicates the final scene but I suspect that ERB borrowed it.  I wouldn’t be surprised to learn of an earlier duplicate.

End Of Part 4c.

 

Springtime For Edgar Rice Burroughs

3.

In The Beginning:

The Renascent Burroughs

a.

         The psychological release Burroughs experienced when he began to realize the potential he had always felt must have been especially gratifying.  In all likelihood he believed he was beginning a new life, born again, as it were.  It wouldn’t have been unusual in this circumstance that he wished to dissociate himself from his entire past of failure.

     For this reason it is possible that California loomed as the destination in which his new life would unfold.  Making the change was difficult and would take him six years to consummate.  One asks, why California?  Why not Florida, for instance.  I think the answer may be in his three most favorite novels:  Mark Twain’s Prince And The Pauper, Little Lord Fauntleroy and Owen Wister’s The Virginian.  Wister posits the West as a place of redemption and fulfillment while Burroughs youthful visit to Idaho may have had that effect on him.  Hence Waldo the consumptive lands on an island as primitive as Idaho was to Chicago and becomes a man.  So Burroughs may have viewed his visits in the West.

     In the Prince And The Pauper a Prince becomes a Pauper and a Pauper becomes a Prince.  In Fauntleroy the unknown princeling discovered his true identity thus exchanging the role of Pauper for a Prince while his alter ego the pauper Dick The Shoeshine Boy is transformed as well  and through luck and pluck assumes a role of success in California as a rancher at the end of the story.

     The Burroughs born a princeling then disinherited to a Pauper reassumed his role as a Prince but he had been inefaceably declassed hence though now a Prince as Fauntleroy he retains the psychology of the declasse as in the character of Dick The Shoeshine Boy.  Dick at the end of Fautleroy moves to California where he finds work on a rach eventually becoming a success as a rancher himself.

     It seem obvious that burroughs considered Little Lord Fauntleroy a book of destiny.  Thus California would appear as his destiny.  I believe that the reason for the six year delay in the actual move was necessitated by a need to combine the Fauntleroy and Dick the Shoe Shine Boy or The Prince and the Pauper into one identity.  He had to have enough money to support the appearance of the Prince.  I haven’t figured out why he wanted to raise hogs as yet but when he moved he anticipated only buying 20-40 acres which was well within his means, but when he arrived there Colonel Otis’ magnificent estate presented an opportunity to realize both identities in a property he couldn’t resist although he may have known he was acting in an unwise manner.

     Even then it may have been possible to sustain the property if his economic situation hadn’t come under attack by the Judaeo/Red/Liberal Coalition in the early twenties.

     A second very major p;roblem for him was Emma who now definitely became unwanted baggage.  But, he also had the three children who were also as definitely wanted baggage.  It is possible that for their sake he didn’t abandon Emma until they were grown.

     His Anima ideal was foreshadowed in Dejah Thoris while in Tarzan Of The Apes he creates the stodgy but beautiful Jane Porter as a flesh and blood woman but not an Anima ideal.

     The actual split begins to occur in The Return Of Tarzan when Burroughs bursting with confidence realizes that he is about to realize his visions of self-worth.  At that point the past and all related to it becomes hateful to him.  As might be expected he wanted to put all that behind him.  Thus in creating a land of his fossilized past in Opar he also creates a vision of the ideal woman he would like to have in La of Opar.  In Return the conflict between Jane and La becomes apparent when La is about to sacrifice Jane on the altar of the Flaming God.  That she doesn’t means that Burroughs has elected to stay with Emma undoubtedly for the children’s sake.

     But he begins to toy with ideal images in resolution of his sexual dilemma.  Another woman becomes a possiblity that didn’t exist before.  It would seem apparent that as Burroughs fame grew and he became a desirable sex object to women that opportunities for philandering would present themselves.  At one time I believed for certain that he didn’t.  Now I am less certain but there is nothing to indicate he did.

     Nevertheless he does begin to explore other ideal possibilities.  Nadara of Cave Girl can be seen as one of those explorations.  Having created other possibilities in La of Opar Burroughs begins to develop the idea with the cave girl, Nadara.  She is perhaps the most human of all of Burroughs’ Anima ideals.  She is the daughter of civilized French aristocrats raised by a caveman to be a primitive woman.  Thus she has none of the civilized inhibitions especially toward sex.  Burroughs will now begin a series of novels concerning the sexual relationship well in advance of what he may have heard about Freud.

     Once Nadara has accepted Waldo as her mate she is ready to cohabit.  Burroughs seems to be advocating this as a sociological ideal; a revolt against the strict limits of  civilization.  However in a clash of cultures Waldo who is subject to the strict limits of civilization finds it impossible to establish sexual relations unless they have married according to civilized rites and customs.  As  there is no one in this stone age society to perform these rites Waldo keeps putting consummation off until such an opportunity arises, if it ever shall.

     Bearing the psycho-sexual situation in mind an interpretation of The Cave Girl is possible on a number of levels.  The story is set in motion with a variation of what will become the familiar ship wreck motif.  In this case the Prince, Waldo, is washed off the deck of the ship by a huge wave that deposits him  on the strand of a large stone age island in the South Seas.  Thus Waldo has to begin life without any survival skills, born again as it were as a new born babe.  He has become the Pauper.

     At this point it might be best to introduce the major sources for the story that I have found.  As usual there are several.

     And then I received an email a day or so before this writing from Mr. Caz Cazedessus of Pulpdom Magazine.  Having read the first couple sections he pointed out that Mr. J.G. Huckenpohler had written an article in the first Pulpdom issue relating Cave Girl to Zane Grey’s Heritage Of The Desert.  I haven’t read Huck’s essay but I have read The Heritage Of The Desert which I have just reviewed.  I can see a possible line of argument that shows a number of similarities in the plotting of the two novels.

     Heritage was published at some point in 1910 while Cave Girl was written in February-March of 1913.  That does leave a sufficient window for Burroughs to have read Grey’s book but it seems a little light especially as Grey was a newish author at the time without a definite reputation.  However whether or not he may have read the book earlier it is possible that he read the book shortly before writing Cave Girl having elements of his plot suggested to him.

     Thus both Waldo and John Hale, the hero of Heritage, are consumptives or ‘lungers’ as they say Out West.  Waldo is from Boston, Hare from Connecticut.  Hare goes West to Mormon Country to begin his regeneration while Waldo lands on his island.  In both cases a woman is involved and two enemies are overcome by their respective heroes.  So, as I say, I don’t know Huck’s argument but I’m sure it’s a good one.  There are good reasons to believe that the plot line was an influence, an additional influence, on Cave Girl.  Thus Heritage would be another influence on Cave Girl.  OK, Caz?

     As Burroughs was beginning life over there is also a definite influence from the first eleven chapters of Genesis from the Bible which I will make apparent in my essay.

     Another very major influence seems to be the King Arthur mythology.  I will make this apparent as I go along.  While there is no doubt that Burroughs would have been familiar with Genesis it might do to try the root out his possible Arthurian influences.

     While we have at least a portion of Burroughs’ library listed here on ERBzine we should never gorget that while growing up ERB would have had access to the libraries of his brothers as well as that of his father.  George T.’s library would have gone back to the 1840s and probably earlier not including the then English classics such as Milton’s Paradise Lost, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress et al.

     One imagines that there were Arthurian titles in the collections, at least Mallory’s Arthur.  If the young Burroughs didn’t read the volumes through he would at least have handled them, browsed them and looked at the pictures, if any.  We know his brothers recommended the related Greek mythology to him.

     Certainly the medieval world was more often discussed in papers and magazines then than in our day.  And then Burroughs did like Tennyson having his collected poems in his library.  Thus ERB was likely familiar with the poet’s Idyls Of The King dealing with Arthurian stories.  And those not following Mallory.  Perhaps the most important Arthurian influence was Howard Pyle’s four volume retelling that while similar to Mallory’s differs significantly while Pyle adjusts the story to his own perceptions and moral concepts.

     The reputation of Pyle would have loomed large to ERB.  There is one Pyle title in his library, Stolen Treasure, but Pyle’s reputation as an illustrator would have drawn ERB’s attention to him.  Pyle was the most influential illustrator of his time and perhaps in US history.  His disciples were legion including Burroughs’ own illustrator, St. John.  Pyle founded what is known as the Brandywine school of illustration.

     It should be borne in mind that Burroughs had an aborted career as an illustrator before he began his successful career as writer.  Burroughs was very proud of the time he spent at the Chicago Art Institute.  So it would seem that ERB would have kept up on Pyle, Maxfield Parrish and others.

     Pyle began rewriting the Arthurian story in 1903 completing the last volume in 1910 so Burroughs had plenty of time to ingest and digest the work before he began to egest it.  Nor would Pyle and Tennyson be his only Arthurian influences.

     I didn’t catch this in time to include the idea in my review of The Lad And The Lion but that story seems to be highly influenced by Pyle’s telling of the story of Percival from Pyle’s second volume, The Champions Of The Round Table.  Naturally Burroughs borrows elements rather than the complete story.

     Percival, I follow Pyle, was an orphan living in the forest with his mother far from the haunts of men.  P. 263, prologue to Percival.

     Quote:

     Nor did he ever see anyone from the outside world, saving only an old man who was a deaf mute.

     Unquote.

     So Burroughs took the hint of the deaf mute and elaborated the idea.

     The Lad’s entry into the world follows that of Percival.  So also the Lad’s first sight of the desert horsemen replicates Percival’s first view of the ‘angelic’ knights.

     As I did mention in my review there is a similarity between lad’s being named Aziz, translated as Beloved, by Nakhla and Percival’s thinking his name was ‘Darling Boy’ as his mother referred to him.  If this last connection is valid then Burroughs also read some other Arthurian story as Pyle doesn’t tell his version in that way.

     So, as usual, Burroughs mines the literature of the world to tell his story.  Just as I was not aware of the influence of Grey’s Heritage Of The Desert I’m sure there are more I haven’t noticed.  I may even find more as my essay unfolds.

     Across the strand at no great distance is a forest representing the search for self-discovery and realization.  On the mragin of the forest at dusk a figure appears.  As we will learn this is the beautiful Nadara but Waldo in his hyper-fear and cowardice imagines the form to be some kind of monster of which he is terrified.  The monster stands between him and the food and water he needs.  In a metaphoric way then he is between the devil and the deep blue sea.  He cannot go back and he is afraid to go forward. 

     In Burroughs own situation as he is making the fateful decision to quit his day job to devote his life to full time writing the meaning of the metaphor is quite clear.

     There is also a way of looking at the tale as retelling of the Biblical Genesis.  This opening scene may be represented as the Biblical chaos in which nothing is differentiated  with the upper and lower firmaments resting on each other.  Then a divine wind arose which separated the upper and lower firmaments.

     Waldo is a comic figure while the novel itself is intended to be a comic or satiric novel.  Thus Waldo who can stand the tension between the devil and the deep blue sea no more runs howling and screaming into the forest to do or die against the monster.

     The shrieking may be seen as a humorous representation of the divine wind.  Man having been created first as it seems pursues the phantom who turns out to be a woman.  Thus Waldo and Nadara represent Adam and Eve.

      Waldo’s charge into the wood can also be seen as a representation of Burroughs’ decision to become a full time writer.  This must have been as stressful a decision for him as was Waldo’s charge against the demon.  Once through the wood Waldo is presented with a sheer cliff that appears to be inpenetrable.  So, another barrier presents itself. 

     Having traversed the forest that was after all fairly narrow Waldo had seen a woman scrambling up the barrier.  Rather than pursue her directly Waldo reenters the wood to pick fruit and refresh himself.

     This can be seen as Burroughs’ desperate attempt to become a writer.  Another view of the strand and the demon of the forest- between the devil and the deep blue sea- is that Burroughs had to make the desperate attempt to redeem his life by writing.  Thus that original difficult decision  that might possibly be compared to Waldo’s being washed off deck by the wave while now Burroughs is faced with the even more difficult decision of working at it full time.  Thus the charge through the woods might represent his giving up his day job.

     It would be interesting to know at what point in the story’s composition his father died.  What is even more interesting is that his father’s death did not interrupt his writing schedule.   In fact in a year packed with traumatic occurrences nothing did; Burroughs continued to turn out his stories at two month intervals no matter what.  It is true that he had several incomplete stories in this year which means he hadn’t thought the stories through so that it is possible that while he averted severe writer’s block when he reached the end of his chain of thought he just stopped, resuming the story when he had thought it out.

     A prime example would be The Girl From Farris’s that he began about this time finishing it nearly a year later.  The Cave Girl was completed at this point while The Cave Man its other half and sequel was completed the following July and August of 1914.  It is possible Burroughs was trying to double his monetary return but I think it more probable that he was writing so fast with such a tight schedule that he didn’t have time to worry over completion so he just terminated his story at a convenient point and moved on to the next one that was also only half thought out.

     As all this stuff is based on autobiography I am truly astonished that Burroughs was so undisturbed by the happenings in his life that he had so little reaction.  I have read of authors who found writing personal stuff so difficult that they were driven to bed for a week or two at a stretch.  I have never faced a long stretch like that but I have sought refuge in bed for a day or two a couple times.  So Burroughs writing achievement here over 1913, ’14 and ’15 is fairly remarkable.

     At any rate having made the decision to become a full time writer as symbolized by the charge through the wood.  Burroughs if faced with an unforeseen barrier so he goes back to pick fruit.  This could possibly be seen as having written his intial ideas out, that is John Carter and Tarzan, he had to organize his second crop of stories none of which had the impact of Carter or the Jungle God.  Grey’s Heritage may fit in here as Burroughs searching for ideas and plot lines may have the read Grey’s stories at this time or just previously. 

     Led on by the woman Waldo had mistaken for a demon he now faces the new barrier seeking a way through.  He has difficulty finding the path but once on  it he discovers the opening through the wall.  This is a motif Burroughs will use a number of times most notably in The Land That Time Forgot and Tarzan Triumphant, not to mention the entrance to Opar.

     Now, all these openings resemble the birth canal or being born again.  In the instance of The Cave Girl the result of the rebirth is self-evident as well as perhaps Tarzan Triumphant when he is about to leave Emma for Florence.  The Oparian episodes would have to be examined more closely from that point of view especially as the four episodes occur at critical points in Burroughs’ life while involving sexual conflict between himself and Jane/Emma and another woman represented by his Anima ideal La. Thus, in Golden Lion when Tarzan leaves Opar with La to enter the Valley of Diamonds is it possible that he had a dalliance with another woman?    One wonders.

     At any rate Waldo squeezed through the opening to come out on a wonderland on the other side.  There is never a thought of going back.  In fact a cave man places himself between Waldo and the opening driving him forward.  This could correspond to the flaming sword protecting the entrance to the Garden of Eden which would continue the biblical motif.

     At the same time we have a clear reference to Alice In Wonderland or down the rabbit hole.  We know Burroughs was familiar with the two Lewis Carroll stories.

     Yet another barrier presents itself.  Another cliff is before Waldo this one of cave dwellers another favorite motif of Burroughs especially during this period.   Burroughs would have been familiar with actual cliff houses from his sojourn in Arizona with the Army while he would have been fascinated with the replica built for the Columbian Expo of ’93.  At this point God created Woman as Waldo pairs up with nadara.  Thus Waldo’s fears on the strand when he projected the character of a demon on this beautiful and compliant female were totally unjustified.  But if Nadara represents the success that had eluded him for so long then his fears born of hysteria were warranted by his past.  This is a comic novel at least at the beginning when Waldo begins his transition from the skinny, consumptive academic bookworm  to that of a man of Tarzanic proportions.  Thus at this stage of the book Waldo is a bumbling buffoon.

     Burroughs is obviously ridiculing the Boston Transcendalist school of Ralph Waldo Emerson as Waldo’s name merely leaves off the Ralph and adds the ridiculous hyphenated Smith-Jones.  The latter of course has pretensions to nobility but is compounded of the two most plebeian and common English names.  Waldo’s name is as comic as Burroughs could make it.  Worth a laugh or two on its own. 

     He may also be making a snub at his fellow students of Phillips Academy when he went East.  It is well known that Easterners of the time, if not still, deprecated Westerners.  Burroughs would have had to put up with much jesting and ridicule while there so perhaps he is now ridiculing those who ridiculed him.

Also he may be ridiculing his own former self.

     Burroughs is fairly hostile to New England throughout his writing.  He is positive on the South having more than one hero from Virginia while he is considerate of the middle states.  Thus Waldo beginning as an effete New Englander will turn into something resembling John Carter/Tarzan or the Virginian of Owen Wister’s strange novel.  Thus if one views Waldo in light of Burroughs three most favorite novels, The Prince And The Pauper, Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Virginian the basic tenor of all the stories is made apparent.

     Waldo being pursued toward the cliff dwellings by the cave men with his legs pumping up to his chin and the stick twirling in his hand resembles a scene from a newspaper comic strip.  It would seem that Burroughs was an ardent reader of the newspaper Funnies.  David Innes Earth Borer was undoubtedly taken from a newspaper comic strip also.  This incessant modeling or borrowing may explain a bit of the contempt for his work by contemporaries.  ERB comes real close from time to time.

     Having paired up with Nadara she and Waldo hold off the cave men slipping away in the night to Chapter 3, The Little Eden, which is a key chapter.

4b.

It’s A Lover’s Question

      This chapter is so compacted I find it difficult to find a starting point.  If Burroughs’ marriage with Emma had not run smoothly from 1900 to 1913 their relationship would become even more stressed from 1913 to 1920.  The marriage apparently barely survived a major crisis c. 1918-20 finally being terminated in 1934.

     The relationship of ERB and Emma is very difficult to comprehend.  It seems clear that ERB had no intention of actually marrying her but wished to keep her on a string.  This arrangement was doing well until Frank Martin entered the scene in 1897 or ’98.  Martin forced Burroughs’ hand who was then compelled to marry Emma in 1900.

     Over the years from 1900 on Burroughs developed an intense antipathy to Emma which expressed itself in its most naked form at the time of her death when ERB did everything but desecrate her grave.  There must have been some deep psychological cause for this that isn’t apparent from what we know for sure of the relationship.

     Perhaps the most critical event in their lives occurred on that streetcorner on the way to Brown School in the fifth grade when ERB was emasculated by John the Bully.  Burroughs was then removed to the girl’s school a few months later.  I have no evidence that ERB and Emma were walking to school together on that the fateful day but subsequent literary evidence points in that direction.

     As a result of his emasculation it would appear that ERB was fixated in such a manner that he was unable to form relationships with women after that date and that Emma was the only female with whom he retained one.  But as she reminded him of that fateful day he both rejected her and couldn’t do without her.  Thus he refused to marry her yet didn’t want her to marry anyone else.  When circumstances forced him to marry her this may have begun his irrational resentment toward her.  As there was no other woman possible for him until the beginning of his psychological liberation in 1913 he may have tolerated her, but just.

     Success seemed to liberate repressed areas of his personality and we find him dreaming of an ideal mate quite different from Jane/Emma.  If one assumes that John Carter is an idealized Edgar Rice Burroughs although Burroughs projects the role of uncle on him while maintaining a dissociation from him until the end then Carter’s affiliation with Dejah Thoris on Mars would be ERB’s first Anima projection.  However Dejah Thoris is more closely related to Jane.  In La of Opar and Nadara Burroughs’ Anima ideal shifts more toward a wild or nature woman.  This aspect of the ideal is realized in Balza, The Golden Girl of 1933 who is also represented by Florence.

     So, in Cave Girl an emaciated, consumptive, over intellectualized Waldo Emerson Smith-Jones mates with the primitive Nadara who still retains the imprint of her civilized parents down by the river in the Little Eden.  Thus we have Adam and Eve in the Garden before they leave never to return.

     The problem of male-female relations is a dominant theme in Burroughs’ writing.  Indeed the theme is one that preoccupies all writers of fiction in one degree or another.  In this aspect Freud is merely a prominent writer on the sexual condition of men and women.  He is perhaps more systematic but not necessarily more profound.

     For instance Freud asked in a title to one of his essays What Does Woman Want and gives neither a profound nor very thoughtful answer.  If he had read E.M. Hull’s 1921 novel, The Sheik, he would have have had somthing of an answer written by a woman.  Burroughs did read the Sheik.  He understood what Hull was saying.  His answer was the major burlesque of the Alalus people of the Tarzan And The Ant Men of 1922.  In this charming story of the The Cave Girl he give his 1913 answer to the question of what woman wants in a credible manner.

     The answer in this case is age old.  The answer was clear from ancient times to E.M. Hull’s clear story.  Mostly it would appear what woman wants is a powerful protector willing to perform her will when a problem  exceeds her own powers thus recompensing her for the missing X and more especially the missing y chromosome.  The latter what Freud called Penis Envy.  One can only conclude that woman wants to be whole, to be chomosomally undivided.  Thus as a famed LA procuress once said:  A woman is only as powerful as the man beside her.

     Now, Nadara projects a character on Waldo as her fierce and powerful protector.  As love begins in Waldo’s heart the spectre of sex arises in their little Eden in the form of the Black Panther Nagoola.  Is it a coincidence that the first syllable of both names is the smae while both end in a long A?  Nadara the sexual temptress.

     Prompting Waldo she demands whether he could kill Nagoola.  That may have a couple meanings.  It may mean could he despatch the animal and it may mean can he conquer or control the sexual urge.  In Waldo’s case the anwer will be yes to both questions.

     He does kill Nagoola in a comedy of errors in this comic novel.  In its sequel The Cave Man he will adorn Nadara with the pelt of Nagoola thus making her the physical incarnation of sexual desire.  Who says Burroughs wasn’t subtle.

     Too desirous of impressing Nadara as a man of prowess he allows her to think he has already killed several Nagoolas.

     Very pleased to hear this she says:  ‘Good.  When we get to my village I want you to kill Korth and Flatfoot.’  Well now, there was a committment that Waldo had no intention of honoring, at least in his present condition.

     Thus, we have a demonstration of the thesis that women are responsible for conflict.  Woman proposes, man imposes.

     As they can’t stay in their little Eden forever they make the trek to Nadara’s people.  Waldo is committed to killing the fearsome Korth and Flatfoot.  He is terrified to confront them as well he might be.  As they approach the village Waldo sends Nadara ahead then legs it out of there.

     Thus we have the flight or fight dilemma that is another major theme of Burroughs.  At this point in his career he isn’t ready to articulate his feelings as he will later.  The dilemma relates to his confrontation with John the Bully in the fifth grade.  At that time as Waldo in this story Burroughs elected to run.  Now, you will notice that Waldo is with Nadara which is a pretty sure indication that ERB was with Emma that fateful morning on the way to school.

     In point of fact either Korth or Flatfoot would easily have killed Waldo at this stage in his career as John would have cremated the much younger Burroughs.  When he would later rationalize it there is no dishonor if fleeing overwhelming force which is surely true but has its consequences.

     Thus Waldo like Burroughs was sent into the Wasteland.  His problem now will be to figure out how to return to kill Korth and Flatfoot to reclaim Nadara.

4c.

How Waldo Became A Man