Note:  I mistakenly placed the review of Beau Geste on another of my blogs: reprindle.wordpress.com.  The review may be found there.

A Contribution To The

Erbzine Library Project

The Beau Ideal Trilogy Of

P.C. Wren

Beau Geste~Beau Sabreur~Beau Ideal

Part III

Review Of Beau Sabreur

by

R.E. Prindle

Part I:  Introduction

Part II:  A Review Of  Beau Geste

Part III:  A Review Of Beau Sabreur

Part IV:  A  Review Of Beau Ideal

Bibliographial Entry:  Welland, James: ‘The Merchandise Was Human’, Horizon Magazine, Vol. VII, No. 1, Winter 1965.  PP. 111-117

     Beau Sabreur shifts from the classic literary style of the mid-nineteenth century to the vernacular of pulp or, perhaps, Wold Newton era.  The pulp writers seem to have all read each other and Wren has certainly done his share of reading.

     This novel begins at a pre-Zinderneuf time when Charles De Beaujolais was a mere cadet entering the service.  If Beau Geste began in c. 1888 Beau Sabreur is set back at the beginning to perhaps 1875.  De Beaujolais’ circumstances quite parallel those of the hero of Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness.  Conrad has maintained a very respectable readership down to the present even though stoutly anti-Communist and a colonial writer.  Both Communists and Africans are working hard to bury his reputation.  It’s amazing how guys like Conrad  manage to hang on, but that may not be for long as Western influence in society declines.

     So it is that De Beaujolais is a sort of lounger applying himself to nothing in particular when his uncle recruits him for the French secret service as an agent to be attached to the African Spahis, an army corps.  His uncle says that he will severely try him and should he fail in any particular  he will be immediately dismissed.  This essentially means that if De Beaujolais lets a woman come between him and his duty it is all over for him.  So we are forewarned that there will a choice between love and duty.

     The book was written after 1917 so Wren introduces a subversive Communist or anarchist character.  In this book he assumes the name of Becque at the beginning.  In Beau Geste he went by Rastignac and late in the novel he will be recognized as Rastignac although he appears to be going by another name.  Wren has a good idea of the type describing him thusly under the name Becque:

     He was clearly a monomaniac whose whole mental content was hate- hate of France; hate of all who had what he had not; hate of control, discipline and government; hate of whatsoever and whomever did not meet his approval.  I put him down as one of those sane lunatics, afflicted with a destructive complex; a diseased egoist, and a treacherous, dangerous mad dog.  Also a very clever man indeed, an eloquent, plausible and forceful personality…The perfect agent-provacteur, in fact.

     Thus Becque in his various incarnations is always subversive, whether of army morale or working the Moslems up against the French.  This will be a major theme of the novel.  the same theme will appear in Tarzan The Invincible developed for his own needs.

     Having been recruited by his uncle, De Beaujolais is sent to a sort of boot camp to learn the hard way.  His ordeal is very convincingly described by Wren.  It seems authentic enough to make one believe that Wren himself actually experienced such an indoctrination but there is no record that he did.  He is just a consummate artist.

     While learning to be a soldier Becque attempts to recruit him as a Communist agent.  This leads to a sword fight in which De Beajuolais injures Becque but does not kill him.

     Having completed his boot camp De Beaujolais takes his station with the secret service and the Spahis in Africa.  Spahis are not FFL but a different corps.

     When the French conquered Algeria in 1830 they disrupted a thousand year old social system.  The North African Moslems had an insatiable need for slaves.  Not only did they raid European shores to abduct Whites but an immense system for deliviering Negro slaves had been in existence since the Moslem conquest.  This system had been run by the Tuaregs.  This people was descended from Whites dating back to at least the Phoenician conquest of North Africa.  Their alphabet probably precedes that of the Phoenicians.  Undoubtedly they were the descendants of the former inhabitants of Mediterranean Valley known as Libyans in Egypt flushed out by the melting of the ice age.

     What they did before the arrival of the Moslems isn’t known but with the African conquest of the Moslems they became the middle men between Africans of the Sahel and the Moslems of the North.  Every year for a thousand years the Tuaregs had collected convoys of Negroes from the South driving them North across the Sahara.  This was necessarily done with great loss of life as the Tuaregs were not that tender toward the Negroes.

     With the advent of the Atlantic Slave Trade in the sixteenth century the Tuaregs also captured Negroes and drove them to St. Louis in Senegal for sale and transshipment to the Americas.  According to James Welland the depredations on the Blacks was so great that the area around Lake Tchad had been cleared of inhabitants.  This age old life style was disrupted in 1830 by the French.  By that time Europeans had discontinued  the slave trade so that the French disrupted the trans-Sahara trade causing a disruption in the Tuareg economy from which there was no recovery.  Welland explains:

     In short, the official abolition of the slave trade, the desert tribes, the desert itself for that matter began to play a diminished part in human affairs, and the Tuareg, who had been the only link for two and a half thousand years between Central Africa and the Mediterranean- in other words, between the Negro and the White world- began to pass from the stage of history.  They were left unemployed and purposeless, with the result that they turned to intertribal war and oasis raiding to keep some semblance of  their nationhood.  Then again, as the supply of black labor dried up, the palmeries were increasingly neglected and often, as the consequence of a razzia, comepletely destroyed.  The size and number of oases decreased, sand filled the wells and cisterns- many of which had been maintained since Roman times- and the age old trails became more hazardous and finally were hardly used at all.

     In the secret service in Africa De Beaujolais becomes involved in the maelstrom of change, racial conflict and bad memories which were now exacerbated by the arrival of the non-Moslem, or Christian, French.  The novel beomes then a sort of proto-thriller.  De Beaujolais is on a mission to a town called Zaguig when he is caught up in a Moslem revolt.  In Zaguig he meets the touring Mary and Otis Vanbrugh.  Otis, you will remember returns from Beau Geste.

     Mary is the love interest in the story and she will conflict De Beaujolais between his love for her and his duty as imposed by his uncle.  Frankie Laine or Tex Ritter and songwriters Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington (I tried to work Trad. in there somewhere but couldn’t do it) expressed the balance well in the song High Noon:

Oh to be torn ‘betwixt’ love and duty

Supposin’ I lose my fair haired beauty…

     De Beaujolais relates the story of another agent who chose his beauty over duty and was drummed out of the service ultimately being killed.  De Beaujolais has a premonition.  Wren cleverly resolves the choice so that De Beaujolais gets his beauty while fulfilling his duty.

     At the same time Otis Vanbrugh meets the apparent Arab dancing girl, who yet retains European features, who will figure largely in the sequel.

     As the revolt erupts these conflicts emerge.  As is usual in thrillers things are not what they seem.  Raoul D’Auray De Redon, a close friend of De Beaujolais’ remains behind disguised as an Arab to confuse their attack on a small French garrison destined to be wiped out.  De Beaujolais has important dispatches which must be delivered.  Thus duty makes him appear to be an ingrate and coward humiliating him before Mary.  His job is to locate the latest Arab Mahdi and suborn him the the French side.

     De Beaujolais thinks little of Otis Vanbrugh and we are meant to accept his opinion.  His true story will appear in the sequel.

     Mary was one of those women who flirt by taunting or ridiculing her guy.  In her case when De Beaujolais was within hearing she mockingly whistled a tune De Beaujolais couldn’t quite place but was called Abdullah Bulbul Amir.  This was a very popular song and poem of the time that can be found at http://wiki.answers.com/Q/lyrics_of_bhulbhuliya.  A couple of verses of its 19 will suffice to give its tenor but the poem is one you should be familiar with.

The sons of the Prophet are hardy and bold,

And quite unaccustomed to fear,

But the most reckless of life or of limb

Was Abdullah Bulbul Amir.

When they wanted a man to encourage the van

Or harass a foe from the rear,

Storm fort or redoubt, they had only to shout

For Abdullah Bulbul Amir.

     Apparently the poem was so well known that Wren felt no need to name it and he doesn’t.

      The time to leave Zaguig comes, so taking his entourage of faithful soldiers, Mary and her maid Maud, he sets out into the desert toward Oran.

     Soon Tuareg or Arab raiders pick his party up and they are forced to fight a pitched battle although from an advantageous position.  Here De Beaujolais has to make a very difficult choice between between loyalty to his men and his duty to get his dispatches through.  Getting his men into position he is compelled to abandon them to their fate and push on.

     This puts a strain on his relationship with Mary who cannot understand the concept of duty or necessity- the necessity to get the dispatches through.  After a long flight the party falls into the hands of a desert tribe.  But this is a strange desert tribe.  Rather than the usual unorganized tactics these fellows seem to have the scientific training of the French.  Another mystery.

     As luck would have it De Beaujolais and the women were captured by the Mahdi’s troops.  By way of explanation the Moslem Mahdi is equivalent to the Jewish Messiah but not the Christian Messiah.  There’s only one Christ but Jewish Messiahs and Moslem Mahdis pop up everywhere.

     So now, going back to the ending of Beau Geste, the two Americans Hank and Buddy were out there somewhere trodding the burning sands.  Hank was discovered and rescued on the point of death by a kind hearted Sheik while Buddy was captured by hard hearted Tuaregs being saved from death when Hank Sheik’s tribe defeated his captors.  Buddy was out there somewhere for a long time because Hank had been rescued years before.

     Having been rescued at the point of death Hank was aware of the necessity to pass as a Moslem so he pretends to be dumb until he has learned the language so well he can pass.  He then cleverly becomes the tribe’s sheik.   The tribe is then threatened by a razzia of Tuaregs.  As this takes place in the North Tuaregs no longer having Negroes to convoy have taken to raiding the oases.  Normally the tribe would have run and hid leaving their goods  and a few token members as slaves for the Tuaregs.  Hank has a better idea  and using his superior scientific French training the tribe rather than waiting to be attacked unexpectedly attack the Tuareg camp handily defeating them.  Buddy is thus rescued.  Coincidences are dime dozen out on the burning sands.

     Teaching Buddy the language while he too plays dumb, Buddy becomes Hank’s vizier.  With Buddy as military commander the tribe is trained in scientific methods in earnest.  They then begin to organize the tribes into a confederation thus earning Hank the title of Mahdi in French eyes.  De Beaujolais was thus on a mission to co-opt the new Mahdi.

     As luck, or coincidence, would have, at the same time De Beaujolais and the girls arrive so does Becque/Rastignac.  Becque is now employed one supposes by the Soviet Union to arouse the Moslems to a jihad.  He comes bearing gifts not realizing that Hank and Buddy are his old Legion comrades.  He doesn’t recognize them but Hank recognizes him.  Becque and De Beaujolais have that old unsettled score to settle.  De Beaujolais now settles his hash removing that source of irritation.

     I’ve pointed out before that Burroughs very likely drew inspiration for his series of political Tarzan novels from 1930 to 1933 after reading this trilogy from 1924 to 1928.  The Sahara had fascinated him long before he read Wren.   David Innes of Pelucidar even surfaces in the Sahara returning from the Inner World.  The great desert and the Sahel is not quite as we Westerners have imagined it.  The thousand year long history of amazing suffering boggles the imagination.  A thousand years of thousand mile treks from South to North, untold millions of Africans were trekked across the burning sands with equally untold millions falling along the way.  This is not all.  This is a horror story.  Welland again, p. 116:

     Even after the slave trade had been suppressed, the old life of the desert survived for a while for one simple reason…the absence of salt in the Sudan.  Nearly all the salt in Central Africa had always come from the north across the Sahara on the backs of camels, donkeys, horses and men.  The salt mines in the middle of the most terrible wastelands of the desert- at Taghaza, at Taodeni, and at Bilma- had always been worked all the year round by Negro slaves, who died within a few years of their arrival at the mines and were immediately replaced by new workers.  The salt they mined was worth its weight in gold in Timbuktu, and its transport across the desert was a considerable enterprise of unbelievable size, involving the assembling  of as many as 40,000 camels to make the quick dash from Bilma to Kano.

     Think of it.  For a thousand years Negroes were dropped down a funnel in a steady stream to live the most miserable of lives for a very few years.  Over a millennium!  Think of it.  I should think those Negroes who travelled the Middle Passage in the Atlantic Slave Trade ending up in the paradise of the Caribbean and the Americas should bless their deliverers from that African hell.

     Africans should bless the French for delivering them from total servitude and degradation.  When one digs for facts beneath the surfice, the things one finds.

     Thus without giving any historical background Wren is telling the story of how Europe saved the Africans from themselves.  Indeed, Hank and Buddy singlehandely rearrange North Africa on livable lines.  The two, in the story, break the power of the Tuaregs while establishing an African paradise in a hundred square mile oasis.  Their people are delivered into prospeirty by a million franc subsidy from France that Hank and Buddy use for the betterment of their people rather than sequestering it in a numbered Swiss bank account.  A new day for Africa indeed courtesy of Western enlightenment.

     Thus De Beaujolais accomplishes his mission to align the new Mahdi, Hank, with France while winning his fair heared beauty and pleasing his uncle.

     Hank marries Maud the maid leaving Buddy hanging out but not for long.  We still have the last of the trilogy, Beau Ideal to go.  Let’s go.

   

 

Edgar Rice Burroughs And The Lost Cause

by

R.E. Prindle

     Edgar Rice Burroughs was a man of his times.  He was a concientious observer and interpreter with a prodigious memory.  He seems to have had the remarkable faculty of being able to compartmentalize nearly everything he learned in his mind.  When he writes his sources are nearly transparent when you know the sources.  Of course the more you’ve read the novels the easier it is to see his influences.

     Underlying, perhaps, its whole intellectual structure is his understanding of the Civil War and Reconstruction.  His father was a veteran of the GAR.  One imagines that his father sometimes talked to him of his experiences although not necessarily so.  How he integrates this understanding into his personal psychology is interesting.  I have attempted to point out in my last few essays that Burroughs felt as though his early expectations in life of what was to be were destroyed at some point in his youth changing the direction of his life from success to failure.  The story of his subsequent life then was the attempt to regain this lost status. 

     In the terms of the Civil War the triumphant North represented his personal defeat while the defeated South with their Lost Cause represented his life after the loss of his expectations.

     He is fairly open about this mentioning his three favorite books The Prince And The Pauper by Mark Twain, Little Lord Fauntleroy by Frances Hodgson Burnett and The Virginian by Owen Wister.

     Prince begins as Burroughs began.  Then in a sort of nightmare the Pauper who is a twin of the Prince shows up and the two identical lads exchange places, the Prince becomes the Pauper and the Pauper become the Prince.  In the end the Prince regains his rightful position.  The attempt to regain that position is the story of Burroughs’ life.  Twinning also become an important part of the plotting of the Tarzan books.

     In Fauntleroy the Prince lives a humble life after his father dies but then come back into his own.

     The Virginian, of course, must have been part of the Slaveocracy dispossessed by the Civil War then trying to find his place in the world

     While slavery enters into the issue it is not part and parcel of the Lost Cause.  The South today stil talks of Southern civilization as opposed to Northern civilization.  Both civilizations thought of the Negro in the same way but in adopting Negro slavery the slave owner thought of the Negro as another form of livestock intermediate between an animal and Homo Sapiens.  To put it bluntly the Planter saw the Negro as an intelligent ape.  Hence there was no more guilt to be associated with working the Negro than there was in working a mule.  They were both livestock.

     Thus while the North was commercially rude and crude the Southerner- The Virginian- was courtly and mannered.  The Negro livestock created a situation for such a civilization to exist.  The Civil War destroyed this situation so very pleasant for the Slaveocracy.

     So what was lost by the emancipation of the slaves was not only so much livestock but a whole conception of life.  This conception of life was the Lost Cause.  Thus Burroughs having also been deprived of his early paradisical expectations was able to identify with the Lost Cause but not necessarily with the freed Negro.

     With emancipation the whole relationship to the Negro changed.  He was no longer something of value that had to be understood and used but a competitor who had to be baffled.  The Southern Planter like John Carter and Tarzan was clearly the superior White man in pre-Civil War times and he retained that status during Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era because of his superior talents- what today would be called White Skin Privilege.

     Tarzan was an alter ego of Burroughs but John Carter was not although he may have had some relationship to ERB.  It is more likely that Carter was based on Burroughs’ ideal of what his father might have been.  It is noteworthy that Carter loses his preeminence in the Martian novels after 1913 and the death of Burroughs’ father.

      Ronnie Faulkner in his recent article in Erbzine Volume 2177 makes the comment:

     When Burrughs’ heroes brought change its purpose was conservative- “to restore a lost order, to put a rightful prince back on the throne.”

     This is a perceptive observation but the purpose wasn’t conservative in the political sense.  The purpose was to right a Lost Cause or in  other words “to restore a lost order”, that order that existed in Burroughs’ childhood, “to put a rightful prince back on the throne’, that is, Burroughs himself.  The whole corpus is saturated with the Prince and the Pauper theme.

     The problem of the Negro remains.

     In the God Of Mars the Holy Therns who are White undoubtedly represent the Planters of the slaveocracy.  In American politics from the early days the South was dominant in politics.  This was aided by the slaves being counted as three-fifths of a voter but with votes being voted by the Planters.  Not the Whites but the Whites who were Planters.  The Planters were but a very small portion of the Southern population with the Blacks and poor Whites or White Trash as we were unkindly spoken of by both the Planters and the Negroes while being equally controlled by the Planters.  We po’ White Trash were forced to fight and die in the Planter’s war.

     In the same way the Therns from their center in the South of Barsoom controlled both the North by religious means and the Black First Born.  As in the popular representation of the Civil War the Blacks were the cause of the destruction of Joel Chandler Harris paradise, the wonder land of Disney’s Song Of The South.

     The First Born of Barsoom or the Southern Negroes successfully took on the Holy Therns and destroyed their hold over them and the people of Northern Helium.

     As in the South where Planters were compelled to accept their defeat and mingle with the Negroes they did the same on Barsoom.

     Emancipation solved one problem but created a few others.  The North sought by Reconstruction to place the Negro over the White.  While slavery was wrong the placing of the White above the Negro was seen as right.  That Burroughs so believed is prove by both John Carter and Tarzan.  John Carter became the Warlord of Barsoom or Supreme Commander while Tarzan was the Lord Of The Jungle, the arbiter of African fates.

     Whatever one thinks of Thomas Dixon Jr. he was the spokesman for the Lost Cause.  He wasn’t the only one who wrote Reconstruction novels.  Equally successful was a writer by the name of A.W. Tourgee.  Tourgee wrote, among others, two very successful novels:  A Fool’s Errand By One Of The Fools and Bricks Without Straw.  He wrote from a carpetbagger and Northern point of view; the Negroes were poor benighted heathen while the Whites were merely benighted but the Negroes were superior in most respects to the Whites.  Tourgee was a successful carpetbagger.  Writing beginning in 1880, three years after Reconstruction ended he preceded Dixon by a few years.  Dixon most likely was writing in reaction to Tourgee.

     Tourgee’s novels enjoyed a longish vogue so that Dixon’s and Tourgee’s would have been competing for the popular favor.  The war was over and different sentiments took precedence favoring the point of view of Dixon.

     While the North rather hypocritically tried to force Negro equality or even supremacy on the South they maintained separateness of the species in the North.  While the Negro was given the franchise in the South he was unable to vote in the North.  So that while there seemed to be sympathy for the Negro species there was little or none for the Black individual.

     This was more or less the reverse of Burroughs’ dilemma.  He honored the manhood of the Black individual but he denied it to the African species.  I don’t believe there can be any denying of this; thus Tarzan is The Lord Of The Jungle, a jungle god, the Big Bwana, the arbiter of African destinies.  It is important that Tarzan was seen as a god compared to the Africans.

     So in real life Burroughs chose Dixon over Tourgee.  I’m sure he knew of both.  While the carpetbagger pushed the superiority of the Negro in a society that no longer cared about Blacks, the war being over, Dixon advanced the interest of the White species against the African species while the Lost Cause resonated in Burroughs’ soul as it does today in any person who feels that they have been deprived of their birthright in life.

     Oddly Burroughs had only the third volume of Dixon’s Reconstruction trilogy – The Traitor- in his library.  Perhaps because John Carter’s tomb seems to be based on the tomb in the The Traitor.  There can be little doubt that the latter was the inspiration for the former.

     In The Traitor the tomb had been sealed from the ouside but there was a secret entrance to the tomb and once inside the tomb an underground passage led from the tomb to the old manse.  Of course, Carter’s tomb was sealed with the latch being on the inside.

     In 1907 William A. Dunning published his Reconstruction: Politcal and Economic which furthered the Lost Cause view and set the tone for scholarship until Du Bois published in 1935. 

     So, in  a way the South had risen again as the Southern view of the struggle gained preeminence.  The high water mark for the attitude was the filming of Dixon’s trilogy as The Birth Of The Nation by D.W. Griffith in 1915.  Political winds then turned in favor of the Blacks again.  A last salvo was fired by Claude Bowers in 1929 in his successful Reconstruction history, The Tragic Era.  Bowers’ book dealt not so much with Reconstruction as with the politics of the era that Mark Twain depicted as The Gilded Age of which Reconstruction was a part.

      Bowers book was answered in 1935 by W.E.B. Du Bois in his Black Reconstruction In America 1860-1880.  This book successfully downed the Dunning hypothesis.  The racial tide now swung in favor of the Blacks with any critics discredited and silenced as bigots.  Just as Dixon and Dunning were successfully attacked during the twenties and thirties suffering total defeat at the end of the latter decade so were any dissident voices.

     The pro-Negro point of view continued to gain strength as the century advanced.  In 1988 Eric Foner published his Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution that has become the standard view.  Today Reconstruction as the unfinished revolution is expected to be completed by the next Presidential election.  Thus it is believed that the Lost Cause will disappear forever while according to Ronnie Faulkner Burroughs will become the apostle racial integration.