Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Zenda, Graustark, Lutha, Barsoom, Jasoom

And Other Parallel Universes

Not Found On Any Map

An Analysis Of Edgar Rice Burrough’s Novel

The Mad King


R.E. Prindle

Parrish's Dream

Somewhere my love

There will be songs to sing.

Even though snow now enshrouds

Our hope of Spring.

Somewhere there’s a hill

That blossoms in gold and green,

And there are the dreams

Of all this world can mean.

We’ll meet there someday,


As Spring springs for you and me.

–Maurice Jarre

Adapted by R.E. Prindle

Forever Blowing Bubbles- Maxfield Parrish

Unchained melodies sweep over the rainbow telling dreams that somewhere must come true.  Floating lightly as soap bubbles they pass through air castles caught in an ecstasy captured so achingly by the artist Maxfield Parrish into his visions of gardens of delight. Where can these gardens of delight exist?  What parallel universe?  What phantom vision of contentment?  What utopias straddle the dividing line between this universe and that where all our dreams come true?  Not in real countries but as the fairy tales tell, East of the Sun and West of the Moon.  Only in Ruritarian paradises where lives of high adventure can be lived without fear and we always win and never lose.  We recover from devastating wounds and smashing blows to the head to walk whole again within minutes.  Where?  The Zenda of Anthony Hope, the Graustark of Gearge Barr McCutcheon, The Barsoom and Jasoom of Edgar Rice Burroughs as well as the Lutha of his novel The Mad King.

Maxfield Parrish

As the youngest of the aforementioned writers Burroughs learned much about the creation of utopias and parallel universes.  Graustark was in ERB’s library but the Prisoner of Zenda was not.  Graustark made an indelible impression on the young Burroughs that did not fade during his lifetime.  Just before the advent of the second world war in his lifetime, faced with frustrated hopes for a better world, ERB wrote his friend Bert Weston lamenting the passing of Graustark.

George Barr McCutcheon

ERB had over a dozen novels of McCutcheon in his library but, by my reckoning, only two Graustarks.  McCutcheon wrote several, his locale being as important to his career as the imaginary Africa of Tarzan was to Burroughs.  The two books were the first of the series published in 1901, Graustark- The Story Of A Love Behind A Throne and A Prince  Of Graustark.  The latter was published in 1914 too late to be an influence on Burroughs’ Lutha of  The Mad King written at the end of 1913.

If he read others of the series between 1901 and 1913 we have no sure record. In what year ERB read the original isn’t known but I suspect sometime between 1905 when he returned to Chicago from Idaho and say 1910 before he began to write.  Graustark and Zenda made quite an impression on him but while those who believe that ERB cribbed his sources too closely find evidence of plagiarism I can find only an inspiration or influence.

By the time Burroughs wrote The Mad King the Ruritanian romance had already become a genre.  The very nature of genre writing is to explore the possibilities of the genre which requires the writer to have read at least the major texts as well as current efforts.  The author then tries to write as original a story within the limits of the genre as possible; failing that a good derivative story will do.  Writers like Philip Jose Farmer carry it one step farther by making the characters of genre an intellectual reality parallel with physical reality and then write about the fictional characters as though they were historical figures.  Of course, that was a later development in genre writing.

Life Could Be A Dream, Sweetheart

Graustark develops the genre created by Zenda.  Just as Haggard, Burroughs and others filled Africa with lost cities, the concept of Ruritanias where everything went right in face of apparent misfortunes began to change the face of mythical Europe.  And why not?  Scientific discoveries were changing the shape of the intellect, psychological discoveries were changing ideas of the mind.  Something’s gained and something’s lost.  It’s that lost something that people want to find again.  If it doesn’t exist in reality then it can easily be made to exist in the imagination.

You see the little additional leap taken by the Farmers of literature. Do you imagine that in the face of major shifts of populations into Europe and America that the HSII & III minorities won’t retreat into dreams of a golden age when their culture reigned supreme?  You’re unrealistic if you believe it isn’t true.  It is precisely this era from c. 1820 to 1920 which will be seen as the current version of the Golden Age just as McCutcheon’s and Burroughs’ generation looked to a some what earlier age when things were as they should be.



In that letter to his friend Bert Weston about 1940 looking back to their youths Burroughs lamented that the possibility of Graustark was a thing of the past. In his youth Graustark was East of the Sun and West of the Moon but in his later years Burroughs could no longer even imagine it. It was easy to assimilate Graustark to Maxfield Parrish’s painting of a dreamland resembling these paradises of the imagination.  From there it is equally easy to include L. Frank Baum’s Oz series as yet another such paradise.  These wonderful fantasies revolve around in your mind enhanced by living colors and magnificent sound systems where unchained melodies fill your conscious and subconscious minds.  Indeed the MGM movie of The Wizard Of Oz filmed about the time Burroughs was lamenting the passing of Graustark may have been the tombstone of his era.

Where did it start?  Very difficult to put a precise date on this sort of thing but is it a coincidence that saving Anthony Hope all these artists were influenced by the Great White City of 1893’s Columbian Exposition of Chicago?  I have heard it said that the Emerald City of Baum’s imagination was a virtual replica of the White City in green.  Bill Hillman’s series of articles on the Expo in the ERBzine capture some, a great deal, of the glamour but I fear Bill held himself in too much.

The Fair inspired a massive five volume eulogy by Hubert Howe Bancroft, a major historical writer of the day, in which he described the Fair in detail exhibit by exhibit, it was so mind blowing.  What dreams of perfection did this marvel on the very edge of civilization in Chicago unleash? The Wizard Of Oz and Graustark were issued one after the other in 1900-01.  Both books as well as the Expo had a tremendous effect on Edgar Rice Burroughs entering the first years of his maturity. Baum’s influence is most notably seen in Burroughs’ Minidoka- unpublished in his lifetime. Graustark, most notably in The Mad King, but echoes of both can be detected throughout the corpus. There is no doubt that Zenda, Graustark and Lutha are related but the resemblance stops at the family level.

If Zenda can be said to be the original of the Ruritarian genre, Graustark and Lutha are not mere imitations.  Both later novels can be described as inspired by but not totally derivative of. There is only the slightest resemblance to Zenda in Graustark.  Subtitled The Story Of A Love Behind A Throne McCutcheon tackles the theme of the superiority of American customs and institutions over those of what both McCutcheon and Burroughs considered decadent Europe.

At the time American heiresses were actively seeking titled Englishmen to marry.  Winston Churchill  was the result of one of one such union. McCutcheon reverses the roles by making a young American man pursue a Princess of Graustark.  (Note the title of Burroughs’ first novel, A Princess Of Mars.)  For any seeking a Golden Age of HSII & III Americanism I can heartily recommend both Graustark and McCutcheon.

A Sky Ablaze

A Sky Ablaze

Like two other Burroughs’ favorites, Booth Tarkington and George Ade, McCutcheon was from Indiana, moving to Chicago in 1901.  Just in passing it might be noted that another Chicago centered writer, Theodore Dreiser was also a Hoosier. The hero of Graustark, Grenfall Lorry, immediately puts one in mind of the old Arrow collar and shirt ads.  Richard Harding Davis personified probably the ideal American male in appearance.  One can contrast that ideal with the swarthy, unshaven, sweaty, slovenly type now being offered the public as something to aspire to. Grenfall has an upper economic class tone, not so plebeian as Joe, Jack or Jim.

Throughout the novel he is quick witted impetuous even reckless but because of his audacity, soon to be styled chutzpah, always successful while his European counterparts are vile, slow and cautious and almost certainly would fail but for Grenfall.  The answers just seem to come to him from out of the air.  It is marvelous.  Compare him to Tarzan and John Carter. Slowly his ways win out in the mind of the Princess.  I almost said corrupted her mind for her moral ideals were slowly eroded as integrity became less important than gratifying her desires.  But then, that too is American, isn’t it?  A deal’s a deal only if you’ve got the money to back it up in court in which case a contract is a contract but then again maybe not, depends on the ‘integrity’ of the court.

Graustark itself is a fanciful place in which brash young Americans are deferred to and dreams do come true if one only persists.  Can’t give up.  Plenty of castles and monasteries hanging on cliffs, thick with donjons and the like.  Parrishian bubbles floating in the air, quite charming dream sequences, the feeling that Maxfield Parrish captures so well.  Reproductions of Parrish’s  work were beginning to proliferate.  Howard Pyle was an influence on Burroughs’ illustrator J. Allen St. John as Maxfield Parrish also seemed to be.

Dreaming A Little Dream

Dreaming A Little Dream

While it easy to see the influence of Graustark on Burroughs there is very little resemblance in the two stories to each other.  Burroughs retains the love story behind the throne theme in a barely recognizable form.  While McCutcheon’s Grenfall Lorry is of the American aristocracy of wealth living in Washington, D.C., Burroughs Barney Custer is a gritty hick from Beatrice, Nebraska, pop, 30 or so.

The Mad King was written in two parts separated by nearly a year in real time and an eon in psychological time.  The Great War began between the writing of the two halves so that while the Lutha of the first half more closely resembles Zenda and Graustark the second half jumps ahead a century into a new era in time with motor cars and heavy artillery. The first half may have been written to placate ERB’s wife Emma.  By the end of 1913 she may have bitten her nails to the quick while she berated ERB every day for his spendthrift habits.  While ERB wrote an ode to Poverty in the spirit of Edwin Hawkin’s song WAR, (spit) Who Needs It?, if you remember the…ah…tune, Emma with three children to feed had endured the period of poverty with different feelings.

Now, in 1913, with the money pouring in ERB with breathtaking confidence for the future was spending it before he had it or even written books to get it.  To Emma it must have seemed a replay of Idaho when ERB gambled away their last forty dollars. It may have been clear to ERB that he was over the top where the money would never cease coming in, which indeed, turned out to the be case, but to many others including Emma he seemed to be the same old joker who would be back on street soon. Emma yearned for some security, money in the bank, that ERB was loath to provide.

His is an interesting case.  No sooner did he begin to have a good year in 1913 than he packed up family and kids and used car and headed for the sunshine of San Diego in the most expensive first class manner.  This expenditure wasn’t based on savings but in the hope of a future income.  ‘13 was an anno mirabilis for ERB during which even traveling and vacationing he was able not only to write but to sell a fabulous number of words.  This has been told often but it is so extraordinary, I , who have never received a penny from my writing have difficulty letting it sink in.

ERB would later boast, while Emma undoubtedly stood by shuddering, that he literally had to wait for checks from his writing to pay his expenses from day to day.  He obviously had an urge to live with one foot over the precipice. You can understand why Emma was on edge. Thus in late 1913, while they were anxiously watching the mailbox for a check, I’m sure, ERB sat down to write the first half of this novel, that I believe was meant to placate Emma and let her know that the bozo she thought she married was a bozo no more.  Not totally reformed, perhaps, but reformed.

When Herb Weston wrote at the time of the divorce that no other woman would have put up with ERB’s eccentricities this must have been an example of what he was talking about. Zenda involved a lot of lookalikes as does Mad King so people assume that Burroughs copied Hope.  Maybe, but I don’t think it’s necessarily so.  Burroughs with his split personality didn’t have to copy anybody, he was two different people.  Burroughs didn’t even disguise that he was talking about he and Emma.  He calls the Ruritarian princess Emma.  He introduces his friends Bert and Margaret Weston as characters, Bert and Margaret of Beatrice Nebraska where they really lived.

Barney Oldfield Behind The Wheel

He calls himself Barney Custer.  Custer after the failed general of the Little Big Horn and Barney after the famous race car driver, Barney ‘Mile-a-Minute’ Oldfield.  B. Custer gets his rig up to 90 per beating old ‘Mile-a-Minute’ by half again.  In 1913 that would still be going some.

Burroughs can be quite unintentionally comic. ERB must have known he goofed back in Idaho with the card trick but now that he had found the handle he’d become a new man, a real man, a whole man, a made man, that augured for a bountiful future for Emma so she could now stop treating him like a clown and revert to her pre-card game opinion of him. But it wasn’t that easy;  he’d been a goof for too long.

In the succeeding novel Nu Of The Niocene, when Emma had apparently rejected his offer, Barney Custer shows up at Tarzan’s ranch in Kenya but without Emma, escorting his sister Victoria instead. ERB would give Emma a last chance to take the new him over the old one in Tarzan And The Ant Men when she had a choice between his goofy lookalike Esteban Miranda and the real Tarzan, himself.  Emma chose Esteban Miranda thereby sealing her fate.

The choice of the title Mad King is significant.  The blow to the head ERB received in Toronto had affected his reasoning so that to others he appeared goofy or mad.  His mental state was accentuated by an acute feeling of failure.  His father not only told him he was a loser but apparently told everyone else too.  ERB’s friend Bert Weston who knew both George T. and ERB says that he often defended ERB to his father.

George T. told Weston that ERB was ‘no good.’  Weston defended ERB to George T. by insisting ERB was plenty good but that the goodness hadn’t come out yet.  I didn’t have a father, my mother divorced while I was an infant, so I don’t have this sort of father problem, but I imagine when your father continually tells you you’re a loser it must have some effect on your attitude. So when your father detests you, you get cracked on the head and then you lose your wife’s confidence because of the resultant stupidity is it any wonder that when you find not only success but big success and you find not only money but big money you go off your head a bit?

But then, even that looks goofy.  But she stuck with him; she stood by her man. ERB even celebrated his dead father’s birthday every year of his life which is beyond me. Thus one aspect of The Mad King is Barney Custer, the able, confident American.  Burroughs continues McCutcheon’s theme of the superiority of the American although both author’s belief in hare brained schemes seems astonishing in this day and age.

Idylls Of The King

Idylls Of The King

The other aspect is Leopold the cowardly, ungrateful king of Lutha.  Both writers use terms like ‘king’ in a contemptuous manner.  Kings are hereditary while any self-made American man is a true and better king in his own right while he can someday be President of the United States if he chooses, or so he believes.  Even a hick like Barney.

Emma as ‘Emma’ is confronted with a choice between these two lookalikes.  She quickly prefers the self-confident able American Barney Custer, or in other words, the new ERB, but tradition binds her to the despicable King of Lutha.  By which ERB means to say, I imagine, that she can forget the old him and accept the successful money making author Edgar Rice Burroughs to whom money is as nothing.

Written in late 1914 Burroughs had had another astonishingly successful year.  Two in a row, get that, Emma.  She didn’t. If the couple had only ERB’s income from book royalties that were not in sight in 1913 and early 1914 to look forward to for income, I think Emma’s fears might have been at least partially justified.  ERB didn’t ever really make that much money from his royalties.  Good money but not that good. He could never buy the yacht that other authors had.

ERB might have but Emma probably didn’t see the potential of the movies.  Probably neither realized at the time the value of the intellectual property Burroughs had created in Tarzan.  Had Emma been aware she might have reevaluated her husband.  Probably not though. Mad King breaks off with Barney Custer leaving Lutha to return to Beatrice with his relationship with the Princess unresolved.

We are told that Emma read these stories before they were submitted.  If so then she could hardly have missed the import of the failure.  She either missed the message or disregarded it. The second half of the novel was written largely in October of 1914 nearly a year later.  The World ERB and his fellows had grown up in had now all but disappeared in the smoke of the guns of August.  The second half of the novel is dominated by the opening months of the Great War.  ERB concentrated on the southern Austrian-Serbian front siding with the Serbs in the battleground Lutha has now become.

The novel is taken up with the intrigues of Leopold and Peter of Blentz with the Austrians to turn the country over to them.  Barney and Emma and her father are attempting to keep Lutha on the Serbian side while maintaining Lutha’s independence.   ERB gives the Serbians some much needed advice on how to conduct the war.  He must have been studying the conflict carefully. As Barney and the King are indistinguishable doubles, they were indeed two aspect of ERB’s own personality, Emma was always in a great deal of confusion as to which double she was dealing with, always hoping it was Barney.

Indeed, the Mad King Leopold is killed leaving Barney the last standing.  At this point it would seem that ERB is telling his Emma:  See.  The old me you thought was a goof is dead; this is the real me and I want your love and respect. Perhaps true but it take more than a simple assertion to change a woman’s mind.  You have to have patience and wait.  Emma  Burroughs must not have changed hers quickly enough because in the next story, Nu Of The Niocene,  Barney Custer is traveling without Emma, going to Africa with his sister Victoria instead.

One imagines that ERB’s personal Lutha, Graustark or Zenda disappeared in smoke as had the nineteenth century.  His hope and dream of entering that magic land somewhere over the rainbow in a land of perpetual Spring would have to be sought with someone other than Emma. In a very few years he would meet that other hope of another and better world in Hollywoodland which should have been a warning to him as he would learn the hard way that the answer always lies within, as difficult as that may be to recognize.  The Rainbow Trail begins on your own two feet.

If birds fly over the rainbow,

Why then, oh why, can’t I?


Four Crucial Years

In The Life Of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Pt. I


R.E. Prindle

Every artist writes his own autobiography. 

Even Shakespeare’s works contain a life of himself for those who know how to read it.

–Havelock Ellis as quoted by Robert W. Fenton

The Great One

     Eighteen ninety-six found Edgar Rice Burroughs confronting the first great crisis of his adult life.  The weight of his childhood experiences pressed on his mind as he turned twenty.  His subconscious mind was directing his actions while his conscious intelligence futilely struggled against it.  He had no plans; nor could he form any.  He was in a state of emotional turmoil.  He obviously did not think out his moves nor weigh the effects of his actions on others.  He was to burn many bridges as he flayed about like the proverbial bull in the china shop trying to find his way out.

     Having graduated from the Michigan Military Academy he had been serving in the capacity of instructor for the previous year.  All his heroes were military men.  He fancied a military career as an Army officer even though he had failed the West Point exam the year before.  Still, he was in a fine position to realize his objective.  Men who could help him were nearby friends.  Captain, soon to be General, Charles King, who had befriended him as a cadet, and the Commandant of the MMA, Colonel Rogers.  All he had to do was to be patient and those men of some influence would surely have obtained an appointment for him.

     They had given a mere boy a position of great trust and responsibility in making him an instructor.  They were military men who judged others in the military manner.  Then in the Spring of 1896 Burroughs did one of the most inexplicable things in a career  of the inexplicable; he abandoned his post.  Without notice to those career officers who were depending on him he resigned his post and on May 13th of 1896 he joined the Army as an enlisted man, a common soldier, a grunt.  Within days he was on his way to his asignment.

     As he was to say of so many of his later fictional heroes: ‘for me to think is to act.’  He oughtn’t have been so precipitate.  He should have thought twice.  He shouldn’t have had to think about it at all.

     If he seriously wanted a military career as an officer he should have known that it is virtually impossible for an enlisted man to rise through the ranks.  Even in the rare cases when this occurs, the enlisted man is always an odd duck between the officer caste and the enlisted men.

     In this case he had not only forteited caste but as far as Rogers and King were concerned he had deserted, the worst crime that a military man can commit.  Both men wrote him off at that time.  Strangely he never understood that his precipitate act would be held against him by those he disappointed.

     Apparently joining in a fit of despair- for me to think is to act- as the date of the 13th would indicate he requested the worst duty the Army had ensuring his desire to fail.  On one level it is almost as though he did have his next move worked out.  Not normally too receptive to the desires or needs of its grunts in this case the Army was only too glad to accommodate him.  Burroughs was sent into Apacheria to a place called Fort Grant in what was then the territory of Arizona.  Neither Arizona nor New Mexico became States until after the turn of the century so Burroughs had actually ‘lit out for the territories’ as Huck Finn would have put it.  There was still some Apache resistance going on, thus ERB was a part of the Wild West.

     According to Philip R. Burger, writing in the Winter 1999 issue of the Burroughs Bulletin, the standard term of enlistment at the time was three years but, as there would be no reason to join the Army except to make it a career, the reasonable assumption for those left behind in Chicago without a word of goodbye would have been that Burroughs was out of their lives.  He was a dead man.

     For those of you who have never joined the services, once you leave you’re out of the lives of those left behind.  Your traditions have been broken.  Even when you come back for leave you are only tolerated as a visitor who will leave, the sooner the better, so you don’t disrupt their lives any longer than necessary.

     Burroughs didn’t even have traditions in Chicago except with a few people.  From the sixth grade on he had a record of broken attendance at a number of schools, from the girl’s school to Harvard School and then back East, to Idaho and on to the MMA.  He would have known but few people well, intimate with none except the lovely Emma Hulbert.

     He could have seen her but rarely over the last years which included high school.  He really had no ties in Chicago.  His relationshlip to Emma dated back to Brown grade school.  At sometime before he began his peripatetic education he began to propose to her.  As he was gone from Chicago all this time it is very difficult to believe that Emma sat home pining.  She must have been dating other boys, however, at the same time she must have been waiting for Burroughs since, at 24, when she married him she was only a couple years from spinsterhood.  She must have been giving her parents some cause for alarm.

     Thus when Burroughs appeared to walk out of her life in 1896 without a word about his intentions one wonders what her response was.  Certainly it was about this time that Frank Martin began to pay his court.  We will learn more of Frank Martin a little later.

     For Burroughs, like so many of us once we were inducted, ERB speedily learned his mistake.  For the men who don’t fit in ‘each fresh move is a fresh mistake.’  He regretted his decision immediately.  For him to think was to act, so from his arrival at Fort Grant he began a petition for discharge.

     As he had been under twenty-one when he joined, he had had to ask his father for his consent.  He now asked him to use his influence to get him out.

     Perhaps we do not have enough information on why he now so desperately wanted out.  In later life this short ten month period of his life would be fraught with great significance in his mind.  Just before he divorced his lovely wife Emma in 1933 ERB took a solo vacation to return to this scene of his young manhood.  That would indicate that Emma and Fort Grant were linked in his mind.

     Two of his Martian novels are associated with the Fort Grant experience.  In his first novel, A Princess Of Mars, John Carter serves in the Army in Arizona, is discharged, then returns as a prospector.  Under attack by Apaches he seeks refuge in a mountain cave in which he leaves his body while his astral projection goes to Mars.  Viewed from one point that’s as neat a description of going insane as I’ve ever come across.

      During his 1933 visit to Arizona, Carter returns to visit a trembling fearful Burroughs in his mountain cabin.  One gets the impression that Burroughs felt like a whipped dog.

     The Apaches made a terrific impression on the young man.  So much so that he could see himself joining them as a Brave as is evidenced by his two Apache novels, The War Chief and Apache Devil.  Then too his two cowboy novels are placed in Arizona rather than in Idaho where one would expect them.

     In his Return Of Tarzan the trip to the Sahara is an obvious reference to Apacheria.  The French government sends Tarzan into the desert rather than the US government sending ERB to Arizona.   In the deseart Tarzan develops a strong liking for the Arabs, much as ERB did for the Apaches.  Tarzan considered becoming a Son Of The Desert just as ERB thought he might become Apache.

     A large part of ERB’s fascination for the military life was based on his respect for Capt. Charles King under whom he had served briefly at the MMA.  King was, I would imagine, a boy’s dream of a dashing Calvalry Officer.  In this wildly romantic period of the Indian Wars, not to mention the proximity of the Civil War, a man who had served at the same time and the same place General Custer must have been held in some awe.  King had also served with and knew Buffalo Bill,  a nonpareil hero of the time and one ERB may have met at the 1893 Columbian Expo.

     Burroughs names two of his characters after Custer.

     On top of all this King was a successful writer of military novels.  He wote an excellent analysis of Custer’s defeat, which is available on ERBzine, as well as a first hand account of the resultant campaign to quell the uprising, Campaigning With Crook.  the latter is a superb recreation of a time and place we’ll never see again.  In just a few words King is able to recreate a Deadwood, South Dakota for which the movies have filmed endless miles of photographs with less result.  His single reference to barbaric cowboys wearing their guns on their hips says more than dozens of Hollywood films.  ERB was also able to capture some of this feeling in his two excellent Western novels as well as his two Apache novels.

     King was prolific writing nearly seventy books in his long career.  I have read only a few, which I find of only of journeyman quality.  King has an emascualted precious style which is reflected in his photographs.  Burroughs enthusiastically said he wrote the best Army novels ever, which may be true, I haven’t come across any other novels of Army life.  among his many novels of Army life are three that deal with the Pullman strike when the Seventh was stationed at Fort Sheridan.  One, An Apache Princess written in 1903 might possibly have been an influence on A Princess Of Mars.

     At any rate King glorifies the officer’s life.  He fooled a young green ERB.  In any event ERB failed to notice the haughty distinctions King drew between the relative status of the officers and the enlisted men.  King had all the prejudices of the officer class seeing the enlisted man as a subhuman species.  Knowing this, as Burroughs should have, I am baffled by his enlisting.

     Perhaps as at the MMA he thought that one entered as a buck private working up to officer rapidly as he had at the MMA.  If so he must have had a very rude awakening.  It couldn’t have taken him long to realize that advancing through the ranks was rare while at the same time a long process for such an impatient lad as he.

     While he was cleaning those stalls he must have had plenty of time to think out his dilemma.  As he thought back over his past actions it must have occurred to him that perhaps he erred in walking out on Colonel Rogers the previous May.  Accordingly on December 2 of 1896 he sent a letter back to Rogers of which the reply is extant.  We don’t know what ERB said but I imagine he was feeling Rogers out to see if he couldn’t get him an officer’s appointment.  Rogers reply was, of course, polite but cool and distant firmly placing Burroughs as oneof the rest of Rogers’ students.  Yuh.  ERB should have thought twice about abandoning his post.

     The many, many references to this period of his life point to a great regret later in life that he had left it.  He associated this regret with Emma.  Perhaps the visit of the officer, John Carter, to him in his lonely cabin in the White Mountains of Arizona represents his lost career as an Army officer but was one of the reasons for his wanting to get back to Chicago that he hadn’t dealt with his relationship with Emma?  Did he now learn that in his absence someone else was playing his old love song to Emma?  Someone who Papa Alvin Hulbert much preferred to ERB?

     It would be interesting to  know what Emma thought when her beau just up and removed himself to Arizona.  Perhaps perplexed but still hopeful she sent him her picture on his birthday in September.  Remember me, perhaps?

     Unhappy with his life at ‘the worst post in the Army’, how one’s attitude changes when one’s dreams are realized, he petitioned his father to use his influence to return him to civilian life.

     Surprisingly his father was easily able to do this.  By March of 1897 ERB had his discharge papers in his hand.  He was a free man again.  How many tens of thousands of us would have appreciated such an easy resolution to the problem.


     Our Man still didn’t have a plan.  What we he going to do with his life?  Apparently Colonel Rogers’ reply to his letter didn’t apprise him of the facts of life.  Nor did he seem to realize that once you reject the military the Army has no use for you.  At the time, the US Army was very small, perhaps seventy-five thousand men.  The officer corps was about ten per cent or seventy-five hundred men.  This is virtually a club.  The officers would have known each other personally, by name or by reputation. The same was more or less true of the enlisted men.

     Thus Porges records a letter ERB received in 1936 from one W.L. Burroughs of Charlotte, N.C. who probes:

     This morning an old army sergeant whom I soldiered with back in the nineties dropped in my office and our conversation started at Fort Sheridan, ILl. when the 7th US Cavalry and the 15th U.W. Infantry left that post for Arizona and New Mexico.  He asked me if I remembered Edgar Rice Burroughs of  Troop ‘B’ Seventh Cavalry, said he was discharged during the summer of 1896 at Fort Grant, Arizona account of a ‘Tobacca heart’…will be delighted to know for certain that we soldiered with so distinguished a person back in the nineties.

     Whether true or not these men remembered ERB as a malingerer who obtained a fraudulent discharge.  I interpet ‘Tobacco heart’  to be a feigned ailment which would make ‘so distinguished a person’ a sarcastic and insulting remark.  If W.L. Burroughs is correct then ERB got himself out by reasonable discreditable means rather than through the efforts of his father.   Thus forty years on an Army reputation followed ERB.

     Burroughs replied cooly a few days later ‘…seldom have been in touch with any of the men I soldiered with since I left Fort Grant.’  ERB didn’t say ‘AND GOODBYE.’ but I think that is implied.

     So having committed blunder after blunder it would have been wise for Our Man to reevaluate his position.  Strangely he didn’t do this, hoping against hope, as I imagine to pull that particualr rabbit out of the hat over the next few years.  Good luck, Edgar Rice Burroughs.


     For now he could only think of returning to Chicago.  As we know the Burroughs Boys were ranching up in Idaho.  ERB always wanted to prove that he was a businessman.  Why, I don’t know.  The fact of the matter seems to be that the Burroughs family was particularly inept at business.  Papa George T. had been burned out of his distillery while his battery business was steadily running down, due for extermination about a decade later.

     The Boys would turn to dredging for gold after failing at ranching.  Perhaps one of the reasons they failed at ranching was just this operation coming up.  They had bought a Mexican herd, apparently sight unseen.  They were then in Nogales to receive and transship the herd to KC.  I suspect they lost their shirt.  In less than two years they would be gold dredging.

     The world is full of sharpers.  Out West so many salted gold mines were sold to greenhorns that it doesn’t bear telling.  Frank Harris, the British magazine editor in his autobiography has a great story about how he and his outfit lifted a Mexican herd driving it back across the Rio Grande.  I have no doubt that some Mexican sharpers took advantage of the Burroughs Boys.  They would later buy a salted gold claim.

     The herd ERB put on board the train he describes as no bigger than jackrabbits while probably being less well fed.  The death rate of the cows on the trip back to KC was horrendous, while the survivors became starved and dehydrated.  I don’t think the Burroughs Boys did well on that transaction.  You gotta watch your back or, hopefully, see ’em coming.


     Edgar Rice Burroughs came home.  Perhaps he had now reached childhood’s end.  At twenty-one perhaps he now realized that he had a life to lead.  Perhaps.  If so, it was slow dawning.  But then ERB’s was not an ordinary mind, a normal bean as he would have put it.  No, his was a slow ripening melon.  But then, why should everyone develop at the same pace?  If up to this point I seem to have been overly critical of Our Young Man it’s because there has been much to be critical of;  just as there will be more, but he hasn’t done anything really reprehensible.  Your record may not be much better; mine certainly wasn’t.  He’s a good sort of guy; just a little on the goofy side.  Slow to learn.  He doesn’t seem to catch on.

     However he’s watching.  He’s observing.  He’s ingesting and there out of sight he’s digesting all the information coming in.  Plus, he will give it a brilliant interpretation when he egests it.

     These four years would be of great use to him in his writing career.  Always a subtle psychologist ERB was also a skillful employer of the Freudian concepts of condensation, displacement and sublimation and this before he could have read Freud.  An attentive reading of any of his novels always reveals layers of hidden meaning.  Simply put Edgar Rice Burroughs is the most poetic of novelists.

     His poetic tastes weren’t always elevated.  He did have a copy or two of Eddie Guest in his library.  Edgar A. Guest.  Perhaps forgotten today Guest was a people’s poet.  In the 1950s when I spread out the Detroit Free Press on the floor one of the first things I read was the daily poem of Edgar Guest.  Of course, I thought he had written each one the night before.  I marveled at his facility.  Nice homey thoughts though.

     Burroughs tastes ran to the likes of Rudyard Kipling, H.H. Knibbs, Robert W. Service and others of the jingly-jangly people’s school.  Although he did know enough about a high brow like Robert Browning to consider him a bore.  Rightly from my point of view.  He liked Tennyson, who was considered a high brow, also I suspect Walter Scott, Shelley and Byron.  He frequently hints at Longfellow’s ‘Wreck Of The Hesperus’ while he probably had to read Hiawatha in school

     He knows all the popular stuff of the day like ‘Over The Hill To The Poor House’ too while he had probably read that anthem of doomed labor,  Edward Markham’s Man With The Hoe, too.  If that one didn’t gag him he’s not the man I think he was.

     Song lyrics were big with him too.  On his cross country auto tour he mentions three records by name that his family wore out- of course a battery operated portable played in a field with the plows they called styluses (well, cultured people called them styluses or styli, us near illiterates called them needles) in those days they might have worn out a record in two or three plays.  One song was ‘Are You From Dixie?’, another was ‘Do What Your Mother Did; and the last ‘Hello- Hawaii, How Are Ya?’ I guess he liked songs that asked questions.  I’ll examine the lurics a little farther on down the road but when we’re considering the literary influences don’t forget the poetry.  After all ERB wrote a whole book around the lyrics of H.H. Knibbs ‘Out There Somewhere.’

     Just before he returned to Chicago one of the great newspaper literary lights and poets of Chicago Eugene Field had died- 1895.  Burroughs had a collection of Field’s writings in his library while Field, when alive, hung out at the McClurg’s book store.  Perhaps there were sentimental reasons for Burroughs pursuing McClurg’s so ardently as well as practical ones.

     Another Chicago writer among ERB’s collection of books who was reaching an apex at this time was George Ade.  While these Chicago stalwarts are mostly forgotten now they were considered immortal at the time.  Ade especially is a very clever writer with a real skill at turning a phrase.  His  ‘Fables In Slang’ would have knocked ERB flat.  ERB’s own interest in the colloquial, which is very pronounced, may have been influenced by Ade’s style.

     Another columnist of the period, Peter Finley Dunne, with his Irish dialect stuff written around his character Mr. Dooley doesn’t seem to have made much of an impression on ERB.

     Thus while involved in his attempts to correct his mistake of enlisting he was very attentive and observant of the life going on around him in whatever milieu.

     As I mentioned earlier, when you leave for the military your friends edit you out of their lives.  Returning is not so easy.  Even when I returned on leave, actually almost ten months after I left, people demanded almost belligerently, ‘What are you doing here? I thought you joined the Navy.’  After explaining I was on leave, nearly asking permission to hang around for a couple weeks, I was grudgingly given permission but let it be known that if I wasn’t gone I would have some explaining to do.

     ERB has left a record of his reception by his friends in Chicago.   He had sixteen years to let it run around his mind before he wrote it down.  It came out in Return Of Tarzan which, I imagine might be read as the Return Of Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Actually as Havelock Ellis hints in the opening quote, both Tarzan Of The Apes and The Return Of Tarzan can be read as autobiographical sketches from birth to the marriage with Emma in 1900.

     Burroughs describes his reception in Chapter 23 of the The Return.  The jungle is a Burroughsian symbol for society as in ‘It’s a jungle out there.’  Tarzan in the jungle can be read as ERB in Chicago.  Tarzan is resting in the crotch of a great limb of a jungle giant when he hears a troop of apes approaching the clearing beneath the tree.  The tree is a symbol of security or getting out of or above the tumult.  Trees probably correspond to his imagination.

     Tarzan recognized the troop as his old band of which he is still nominally king.  Having been gone for two years he rightly thinks the dull brutes will have trouble remembering him: 

      ‘From the talk which he overheard he learned that they had come to choose a new king- their late chief (the successor of Terkoz?) had fallen a hundred feet beneath a broken limb to an untimely end.

     Tarzan walked to the end of an overhanging limb in plain view of them.  The quick  eyes of a female (Emma?) caught sight ofhim first.  With a barking guttural she called the attention of the others.  Several fhuge bulls stood erect to get a better view of the intruder.  With bared fangs and bristling necks they advanced slowly toward him, with deep ominous growls.

     ‘Karnath, I am Tarzan Of The Apes,’ said the ape-man in the nernacular of the tribe.  ‘You remember me.  Together we teased Numa when we were still little apes, throwing sticks and nuts at him form the saftey of high branches.’

     ‘And Magor,’ continued Tarzan, addressing another, ‘do you not recall your former king- he who slew the mighty Kerchak?  Look at me! Am I not the same Tarzan- mighty hunter- invincible fighter- that you knew for many seasons?’

     The apes all crowded orward now, but more in curiosity than threatening.  They muttered among themselves for a few moments.

     ‘What do you want among us now?’  Asked Karnath.

     ‘Only peace.’  answered the ape-man.

     Again the apes conferred.  At leangth Karnath spoke again.

     ‘Come in peace, then, Tarzan Of The Apes.’  He said.

     So Tarzan and ERB returned to the fold.  However there were two young bulls who were not ready to receive Tarzan back.  We will find that two young men resented Burroughs’ return.  The resentment of the principal young man would nearly cost Burroughs his life while forcing him to commit to a marriage against his will.

     Thus Burroughs was received back into Chicago.


     He would spend about ten months before he uprooted himself once again to make his second visit to his brothers in Idaho.  I should think that this period in Chicago was perhaps the most idyllic of his life.  He found gainful employment with his father at the Battery Company.  However at fifteen dollars a week it was much less than his allowance had been at the MMA.  However he was living and eating at home so one imagines it was all pocket cash which afforded a certain limited affluence.  He could afford to take Emma out.

     Emma appears to have preferred him but he was no favorite of Papa Alvin and the Mrs.  If Frank Martin had begun to pay his court he was much the preferred suitor.  The son of Col. A.N. Martin who was a millionaire railroad man he was to be much preferred to a penniless Ed Burroughs whose father had apostacized to William Jennings Bryan in the election of 1896.  No, Martin should be given the inside track.  Burroughs was forbidden the house in an attempt to disrupt his relationship with Emma.

     The Hulberts looked askance at Burroughs patchy history.  He was less than promising.  While his father had gotten him released from his enlistment, people are wont to say there’s more to that story than meets the eye.  Plenty of room for rumor, if you know what I mean.  ERB probably had to explain a lot.

     So while he could date Emma he couldn’t go hang around all evening every evening as lovers are wont to do.

     So what did ERB do with his spare time.  He obviously read.  H.Rider Haggard was popping them out two or three a year at the time which is clear from the evidence ERB read.  Jules Verne was alive and producing although much of his production remained untranslated.

     There weren’t any movies or television, however there was the Levee, Chicago’s Sin City.  In later novels ERB would show what appears to be first hand rather detailed knowledge of this area of brothels, saloons and gambling joints.  Burroughs was certainly no stranger to drinking and gambling, whether he frequented brothels may not be known but, if you’re in the area….

      In a city of a million six there were only about forty thousand library cards issued but it is probable that one of them was in the wallet of our investigator of curious and unusual phenomena.  He sure knew a lot of odd details.  One of the big intellectual questions is whether or not he knew of Theosophy.  A volume of William Q. Judge, a leading  Theosophist who died in 1896, is to be found among Burroughs’ books.  His first story Minidoka 937th Earl of One Mile which is concerned with this period while unpublished until just recently makes mention in the descent to Nevaeh of the Seven Worlds which is a reference to either Theosophy, Dante or both.

      Again, hanging around a library one might come across volumes of Dante and Theosophy.  Shoot, Tarzan spent his afternoons in the Paris library becoming discouraged by the surfeit of knowledge to be covered.

     And all around him floods of changes were rolling over him.  The world was moving with breathtaking rapidity.  If a guy wasn’t half crazy already trying to keep up would get him the rest of the way.  Actually these four years were the intellectual bottom, in the musical sense, of the rest of Burroughs; life.  perhaps sensory overload occured culminating with his bashing in Toronto and subsequent marriage to Emma so that he was no longer open to new experiences afater his marriage.  Everything after 1900 was interpreted in the light of this experience.  the interpretations were inventive enough.

     His situation might be compared to that of Zeus and Metis of Greek mythology.  Ordinarily when the Patriarchy took over a Matriarchal cult the event was comemorated in a myth of sexual union.

     In the case of Metis, a Goddess of wisdom, she went down into the belly of the monster like a plate of oysters perhaps meaning the Patriarchy had attempted to stamp the Metis cult flat or eat it up as the Zulus would say.  If so Zeus and the boys had bitten off more than they could chew or digest, as it were.

     Metis lived on in his belly giving him unwanted advice until I would imagine the Patriarchy came up with a compromise solution.  Thus Metis gave birth to Athene who was born fully formed from the forehead of Zeus, which is to say that the cult of Metis was transformed into the cult of Athene.  Athene retained all the attributres of the goddess of Matriarchy but ‘she was all for the Patriarchy.’

     So now with Burroughs; he ingested all this experience which he gave a ‘definite impression of fictionalizing’ to appear full blown from his forehead +- twenty years later.

     Porges reproduces a political cartoon of Young Burroughs on page 68 of the First Edition in which Uncle Sam and John Bull are watching a scene.  One or the other says:  ‘How would you like to be a Russian?’

     In the cartoon Russian soldiers are shooting and bayonetting obvious Jews while the Jews are bombing the Russians.  The villains of the first four Tarzan novels, ‘The Russian Quartet; are two Russians Nikolas Rokoff and Paulevitch.  Thus, if the cartoon was drawn in this period, twenty years later the Russians show up as villains.

     Now, among all the ‘minor’ events like the depression after 1893, the Pullman Strike, Coxey’s Army, Altgeld’s pardoning of the Haymarket bombers, the Sino-Japanese war and such like trivia was the infamous Dreyfus Affair in France.

     This minor event involving a Judaeo-French spy was magnified into an international cause celebre by accusations of anti-Semitism.  Alfred Dreyfus was a Jewish French army officer who was accused of spying for the Germans or of selling information to them.  Originally convicted and sent to Devil’s Island, a few year later after key evidence was tainted or disappeared and key witnesses had died or been discredited the case was reopened and after a terrific media blitz resulting in Zola’s article with the famous title: J’ Accuse, Dreyfus was acquitted.

     The man convicted in his place, strangely enough, was probably also Jewish, one Walsin Esterhazy.  Supposedly of Hungarian descent, at the instance of the chief Rabbi of Paris he was given financial assistance by the Rothschild family.  It would be very unusual in that case if he weren’t Jewish.

     Burroughs must have followed the Affair Dreyfus closely as it unfolded during the lat nineties.  In 1913’s Return Of Tarzan he chose to fictionalize Esterhazy’s end of the Affair in the character of Gernois.  Burroughs must have studied the Affair because Esterhazy actually served in North Africa where he came in contact with German agents.  Of course, Gernois is compromised by our old friend Nilolas Rokoff, the Russian agent.  Thus ERB combines his dislike of the Russians as eveidenced by his cartoon with sympathy for Dreyfus.

     In real life Esterhazy led a dissipated life which, it is said, led him to be a spy.  In ‘Return’ Gernois is led into syping because Rokoff, the hyper-arch villain had something on him.

     In a sort of editorial comment on Dreyfus ERB has Rokoff tell Gernois:  ‘If you are not agreeable I shall send a note to your commandant tonight that will end in the degradation Dreyfus suffered– the only difference being that he did not deserve it.’

     Thus ERB comes down firmly on the side of Dreyfus.

      For those who will misread racial and ethnic attitudes I believe ERB’s attitude in the Jewish-Russian conflict and the Dreyfus Affair should exonerate him, if the need exists, of any charges of anti-Semitism.  Especially in the light of his portrayal of the worthy Jewish gentleman in ‘The Moon Maid’ trilogy.  It would seem that all of ERB’s later attitudes remain consistent with these brought to fruition between 1896 and 1900. 

Continue on to Part II