A BURROUGHS FAN
The March 7, 1914
issue of All-Story Weekly is a rare and outstanding on, much sought-after
by collectors. There are several reasons for this.
It is the first weekly
number of the magazine. Then, again, it contains the first printing of
Edgar Rice Burroughs' fantasy novel, The Eternal Lover, honored
by a splendid cover illustration in cover.
However, there is
still another reason why the issue has a peculiar value. Tucked away in
the "Letters to the Editor" section is a most unusual missive praising
the imaginative school of fiction. Because of this and because of the probable
identity of the writer, it is reprinted below.
Editor, The All-Story
Having read every
number of your magazine since its beginning in January 1905, I feel in
some measure privileged to write a few words of approbation and criticism
concerning its contents.
In the present age
of vulgar taste and sordid realism it is a relief to peruse a publication
such as The All-Story, which has ever been and still remains under
the influence of the imaginative school of Poe and Verne.
For such materialistic
readers as your North-British corespondent, Mr. G.W.P. of Dundee, there
are only too many periodicals containing "probable" stories; let The All-Story
continue to hold its unique position as purveyor of literature to those
whose minds cannot be confined within the narrow circle of probability,
or dulled into a passive acceptance of the tedious round of things as they
If, in fact, man
is unable to create living beings out of inorganic matter, to hypnotize
the beasts of the forests to do his will, to swing from tree to tree with
apes of the African jungle, to restore to life the mummified corpses of
the Pharaohs and the Incas, or to explore the atmosphere of Venus and the
deserts of Mars, permit us, at least in fancy, to witness these miracles
and to satisfy that craving for the unknown, the weird, and the impossible
which exists in every active human brain.
and sober Scotch men may denounce it as childish the desire for imaginative
fiction; nay, I am not sure but that such a desire is childish, and rightly
so, for are not many of man's noblest attributes but the remnants of his
young nature? He who can retain in his older years the untainted mind,
the lively imagination, and the artless curiosity of his infancy, is rather
blessed than cursed; such men as those are our authors, scientists and
At or near the head
of your list of writers Edgar Rice Burroughs undoubtedly stands. I have
read very few recent novels by others wherein is displayed an equal ingenuity
in plot, and verisimilitude in treatment. His only fault seems to be a
tendency toward scientific inaccuracy and slight inconsistencies.
For example, in that
admirable story, Tarzan of the Apes, we meet Sabor, the tiger, far
from his native India, and we behold the hero, before he has learned the
relation between vocal sounds and written letters, writing out his name,
Tarzan, which he has known only form the lips of his hairy associates,
was well as the names of Kerchak, Tantor, Numa, and Terkoz,
all of which he would not possibly have seen written.
Also, in The Gods
of Mars, Mr. Burroughs refers to the year of the red planet as having
687 Martian days. This is, of course, absurd, for while Mars revolves
about the sun in 687 terrestrial days, its own day or period of
rotation is almost forty minutes longer than ours, thus giving to Mars
a year which contains but 668 2/3 Martian solar days. I not with
regret that this error has been repeated in Warlord of Mars.
White, in writing Sands o' Life, has shown himself to be an author
of the very first order. The very spirit of the old Spanish Main pervades
the pages of this remarkable novel. It is worthy of permanent publication
as a book.
In the domain of
the weird and bizarre, Lee Robinet has furnished us a masterpiece by writing
The Second Man. The atmosphere created and sustained throughout the story
can be the work only of a gifted and polished artist. Very effective is
the author's careful neglect to tell the exact location of his second Eden.
I strongly hope that
you have added Perley Pore Sheehan permanently to your staff, for in him
may be recognized an extremely powerful writer. I have seen Mr. Sheehan's
work elsewhere, and was especially captivated by a grim short story of
his entitled "His Ancestor's Head."
Eldridge set such a standard for himself in The Forest Reaper that
it seems almost a pity for him to be the author of The Tormentor
and Cowards All.
William Loren Curtiss
tells a homely yet exciting sort of tale which exerts upon the reader a
curious fascination. "Shanty House" seems to me the best of the two he
has contributed to The All-Story.
Donald Francis McGrew
is one of the "red-blooded" school of writers; he describes the Philippine
Islands and the army there with an ease indicative of long residence of
military service on the scene of his literary productions.
I hardly need mention
the author of A Columbus of Space further than to say that I have read
every published work by Garrett P. Serviss, own most of them, and await
his future writings with eagerness. When a noted astronomer composes an
astronomical novel, we need not fear such things as years of 687 days upon
the planet Mars.
As for your short
stories, necessarily second in importance to the novels and serials, it
may be said that some of them rise much above the middle level, while few
of them fall beneath it. The merry crew of humorous writers, such as T.
Bell, Jack Brandt, Frank Condon, and Donald A. Kahn, are, though light
and sometimes a trifle silly, nevertheless distinctly amusing. Kahn is
especially clever in drawing the characters of callow college youths.
I hesitate to criticize
adversely such an excellent magazine as this, but since my censure falls
upon so small a part of it, I think I may express myself openly without
I fear that a faint
shadow from t he black cloud of vileness now darkening our literature has
lately fallen upon a few pages of The All-Story.
"The Souls of Men"
by Marthy M. Stanley was distinctly disagreeable tale, but "Pilgrims of
Love" by De Lysle Ferree Cass is contemptibly disgusting, unspeakably nauseating.
Mr. G.W.S. of Chicago has written that Cass "diplomatically handles a very
difficult subject -- Oriental love."
We do not care for
subjects so near allied to vulgarity, however, "diplomatically" they may
be "handled." Of such "Oriental love" we may speak in the words of the
lazy but ingenious schoolboy, who when asked by his tutor to describe the
reign of Caligula, replied, "that the less said about it the better." We
prefer a more idealized Orient to read about; let us have "nature to advantage"
as in the beautiful romance of Prince Imbecile by C. MacLean Savage
or The Invisible Empire by Stephen Chalmers.
Speaking of the last
novel, is not the title somewhat misleading? In the United States the name
"Invisible Empire" is forever associated with that nob le but much maligned
band of Southerners who protected their homes against the diabolical freed
blacks and Northern adventurers in the years of misgovernment just after
the Civil War -- the dreaded Ku-Klux-Klan.
The broad editorial
policy of The All-Story in making the magazine note merely a local American
publication, but a bond of common interest between the United Kingdom,
the United States, and the various British colonies, cannot too heartily
Blood is thicker
than water; we are all Englishmen, and need just such a leveler of political
barriers as this to remind us of our common origin. Let the London reader
reflect, that in Boston, Toronto, Cape Town, Calcutta, Melbourne, Auckland,
and nearly everywhere else, his racial kindred are perusing the same stirring
stories that delight them.
America may have
withdrawn from the British government, but thanks to such magazines as
The All-Story, it must ever remain an integral and important part of the
great universal empire of British thought and literature.
I cannot praise The
All-Story Magazine by comparing it with others, since it stands alone
in its class, but I think I have made it clear that I hold this publication
in the highest esteem, and derive much pleasure from its pages. What I
have said in criticism of some parts of it I have said only with friendly
intent, believing that the humble opinions of one more reader may prove
not unacceptable to you.
But ere I grow more
tedious still, let me close this already protracted epistle, and, with
the best wishes for the future of The All-Story, subscribe myself
Your obedient servant,
It would seem that
we have probably "discovered" a little-known piece of writing by a great
master of the supernatural who is well known to lovers of the weird tale.
It gives us a glimpse of him as a "fan." And it was such letters as his
that encouraged the Munsey chain to continue printing these so-called "different"
stories, and probably let to the eventual founding of Weird Tales magazine
nine years later.
As Howard Phillips
Lovecraft wrote the above letter, I wonder if he ever imagined that one
day his own ability as an author would outrank by far the very men he was
Darrell C. Richardson