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Volume 1271
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The ERB / Jack London Connection I
By Bill Hillman
"Jack London was a man of adventure, a man of action and only he could have truly conceived such a dynamic and challenging credo as this. And only he, with his great physical strength, his intense intellect, and his turbulent spirit, could have successfully lived up to it. He died when he was only forty, but he accomplished more in this short lifetime than most men could in several lifetimes."
~ Irving Shepard about his Uncle Jack


Edgar Rice Burroughs admired fellow-author Jack London enormously. Following the amazing success of his own early writings, ERB's ambition was to become a rancher-writer, modeling his life on the one that Jack London had pursued and then abruptly lost due to his sudden death in 1916. In fact, Burroughs and his family were wintering in California when they learned of London's death. The two authors had never met or corresponded but Ed was deeply moved by London's passing.

Upon learning of London's death ERB considered writing a biography of the author. According to ERB biographer Irving Porges, in December 1916 Ed contacted Bruce Barton of Every Week and the Associated of New York, expressing an interest in working on London's biography. Barton replied: "I happen to know that Mr. Sterling has already begun work on the life of Jack London, which is being offered in New York at this time. I don't see how we could use the life of Mr. London. Whether one of the other magazines would have a place for it I cannot tell, but I should think there was a sufficiently good chance to justify you in writing to some of the editors."

ERB also wrote to his pulp magazine editor, Bob Davis at this time indicating that he was thinking of doing an article about London rather than a full biography. Davis replied in a December 19, 1916 letter to Ed at 355 South Hoover Street in Los Angeles : "Just between you and me, I don't give a whoop about Jack London's 'rough neck days on San Francisco Bay.' . . . The people who will be interested are those who have been printing his stuff, notably Hearst's, Cosmopolitan and the Saturday Evening Post. I don't think you will have any trouble selling your dope. . . . London is too big a man to be left unsung, no matter who plays the accompaniment; and when it comes to pounding a banjo hard, Edward, you are there with both hands. There can be no doubt about the chorus who will join in. Go to it." Unable to stir up interest for the project among editors, ERB apparently gave up on the idea.

Soon after London's death, two biographies appeared. Life and Jack London by Rose Wilder Lane (daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House of the Prairie books), was serialized in Sunset: The Pacific Monthly in 1917-1918, and in 1921 The Century Company published Charmian Kittredge London's The Book of Jack London.

Considering the influence that each author and their common interests had upon the other, and especially Burroughs' admiration of London, it is appropriate that parallels between the life and works of the two men be made. London often suggested that the "call of the wild" was still echoing in the inner ear of all domesticated animals, including humans. This is very much in accord with the view held by Burroughs, who wrote that Tarzan possessed "the best characteristics of the human family from which he was descended and the best of those which mark the wild beasts."  Much of Burroughs' work displays the influence of his mentor, Jack London. The affinity seemed to grow even stronger after Burroughs arrived in London's beloved California.


"I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The proper function of man is to live, not exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them, I shall use my time."
Jack London's Credo
"Imagination is but another name for super intelligence.  Imagination it is which builds bridges, and cities, and empires."
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Jack Griffith London (Chaney)


Sailor ~ Adventurer ~ Socialist ~ Rancher
War Correspondent ~ Author
Edgar Rice Burroughs


..
Soldier ~ Adventurer ~ Capitalist ~ Rancher
War Correspondent ~ Author

Born 1876: San Francisco, California
Died 1916: Beauty Ranch, Sonoma, CA
ERB Memorial Plaque on Ventura Blvd
Born 1875: Chicago, Illinois
Died 1950: Tarzana, CA

FAMILY

Jack London was the illegitimate son of William H. Chaney: an itinerant astrologer and journalist. Chaney abandoned Jack's pregnant mother, Flora Wellman, a 30-year-old "spinster," spiritualist and music teacher, before their baby was born and before an actual marriage took place. The affair gained some notoriety in the San Francisco papers: "A DISCARDED WIFE ~ WHY MRS. CHANEY TWICE ATTEMPTED SUICIDE ~ Driven from Home for Refusing to Destroy Her Unborn Infant -- A Chapter of Heartlessness and Domestic Misery." Flora eventually married John London, a Civil War veteran, salesman and farmer, when young Johnny was eight months old. Flora was a cold, unloving mother and London turned to his wet nurse, a former slave, and his older step sister, Eliza, for nurturing. It was from them that he learned his deep humanism, compassion and empathy for both humans and animals.
Flora Weilman
Mother Flora Wellman
John London
Step-father John London
Major George T. Burroughs
Major Burroughs
Major George Tyler Burroughs
George T. Burroughs
Mary Evaline Burroughs
Mary Evaline Burroughs
Edgar Rice Burroughs was raised in a stable, well-to-do family. His father, Major George T. Burroughs was a successful businessman and veteran of the US Civil War. His mother Mary Evaline Burroughs, who later wrote a family history, Memoirs of a War Bride, gave birth to four boys: George Tyler, Jr., Henry Studley (Harry), Frank Coleman and Edgar Rice, the youngest.

Although both men went through trying times of poverty, each had descended from a well-to-do family. London's grandfather, Marshall Wellman, was one of the richest men in Ohio. ERB's father was a successful Chicago distillery owner, who later took over a large battery manufacturing company.


EDUCATION

London attended Cole Elementary School in Oakland but had little formal education past grade 8. He was largely self-taught through reading in the public library system -- most notably the Oakland Public Library, under the tutelage of future poet laureate, Ina Coolbrith. He enrolled in Oakland high school at age 19, working as the school janitor to pay his way. Eventually he entered university but withdrew after one semester due to lack of finances.
Cole School, Oakland, 1887 ~ London highlighted second row right, bow tie
Cole School, Oakland, 1887 ~ London highlighted second row right, bow tie
Jack London ~ age 9
Jack London ~ age 9
Ina Coolbrith
Ina Coolbrith
Young Jack London
Young Jack London
Young Eddie Burroughs
Eddie Burroughs

Cadet Edgar Rice Burroughs
ERB went through a relatively normal public school education (Brown and Harvard Schools), although he attended Miss Cooley's Maplehurst School for Girls for a short time during a diphtheria epidemic. Later he was enrolled in private military academies: Phillips Academy at Andover and Michigan Military Academy at Orchard Lake, with uneven results academically, although he excelled in football, riding, drill and the editing the school publications. 
DOGS & HEROES

The first author who left an impression upon young Johnny London was Ouida (Louise de la Ramée 18391908). This gave him a life-long fascination with romantic heroes. . . and dogs (Dog of Flanders).  "I was greatly impressed by Ouida's story Signa, which I devoured regularly for a couple of years." He identified with wolves whom he viewed as romantic noble creatures and even went by the nickname "Wolf".
The Londons with team and dogs at Glen Allen
The Londons with team and dogs at Glen Allen
Possum: London's constant companion
Possum
In Idaho with collie dog, Rajah
In Idaho with collie dog, Rajah
Childhood self-portrait of young Eddie and his dog
Childhood self-portrait of young Eddie and dog

Ed and Rajah out West
A treasured volume in ERB's book collection was A Dog of Flanders, by Louise de la Ramée (Ouida). She was a prolific writer of flamboyant, romantic tales, such as Under Two Flags. For the first half of his life ERB was seldom was without a pet dog. When he and Emma moved to the wilds of Idaho, shortly after their marriage, they were accompanied by "Rajah." Dogs were a common fixture at Tarzana Ranch -- Don, Jack, Lobo, etc. -- and at least two of his dogs (an Airedale and a sheepdog) were called Tarzan.

Both men had a long line of dogs as companions.  Many of London's stories feature dogs and wolves as protagonists (The Son of the Wolf, Call of the Wild, White Fang, etc.). Although ERB seldom wrote about dogs per se, it is easy to see the dog personae in his description of other faithful beasts, such as lions, elephants, Barsoomian calots, etc.


FIRST WRITING

In his short biographical article, "Jack London by Himself," London wrote: "In my nineteenth year I returned to Oakland and started at the High School, which ran the usual school magazine. I wrote stories for it, very little imaginary, just recitals of my sea and tramping experiences."
 

London's early handwriting

Michigan Military Academy Yearbook

Phillips Yearbook
Beyond his childhood sketches, letters and poems, ERB's first attempt at serious writing appears to have been for the school magazines and yearbooks of the various schools he attended (Phillips, MMA).

Both used their various school publications as a proving ground for their first attempts at writing.


INFLUENCES

London's reading interests included Kipling and Conrad, Spencer and Darwin, Marx and Nietzsche and Freud. One of the joys of his last days was London's discovery of Carl Jung's newly-published Psychology of the Unconscious.
LONDON INFLUENCES
Kipling
Kipling
Joseph Conrad
Conrad
Spencer
Spencer
Darwin
Darwin
Marx
Marx
Nietzsche
Nietzsche
Freud
Freud
Jung
Jung
BURROUGHS INFLUENCES
See the ERB Personal Library Collection

King
Caesar
Caesar
Maucaley
Maucaley
Gibbon
Gibbon

McCutcheon
Anthony Hope
Hope
Halliburton
Halliburton
Twain
Twain
Stanley
Stanley
Haggard
Haggard
Service
Service

Grey
ERB's reading interests leaned to material about the military, especially novels by General Charles King and books on Roman history: Caesar's Commentaries, Macauley's Lays of Ancient Rome and the works of Gibbon. He found excitement in the vigorous style, stirring narrations and martial tone of these authors. Other favourite authors included George Barr McCutcheon (Graustark novels), Anthony Hope (Prisoner of Zenda), Richard Haliburton, Mark Twain, H. M. Stanley, Robert Service, and later, Zane Grey and Jack London.Grey
BEFORE ADAM ~ BEFORE TARZAN


The protagonist of Jack London's 1906 novel, Before Adam, dreams the experiences of a prehistoric forefather, an ape like creature named "Big-Tooth." This prehuman swung through trees, fought prehistoric animals, and communicated with his fellows through a primitive vocabulary similar to that of Tarzan's great apes. Another similarity to Tarzan's apes is the "hee-hee" ritual of this primitive tribe, in which they scream while doing a barbaric dance following the rhythmic beat pounded out on a hollow log -- very similar to the "dum-dum" moonlight ritual of Burroughs' anthropoids.

WEB REFS
Edgar Rice Burroughs Online Bio Timeline
Edgar Rice Burroughs Illustrated Bibliography
Jack London at the Huntington Library
The Jack London Society at Berkley
The World of Jack London
Online Literature Library
The Virtual Snark: Jack London Webring
Online Archive of California
Jack London International
Henry Herbert Knibbs: ERB's Favourite Poet
H. H. Knibbs Tribute Page
Charmian Kittredge London 18711955
Literary Traveler: Jack London
Jack London Park

CONTINUED IN ERBzine 1272

The Edgar Rice Burroughs / Jack London Connection
Chapter Guide & Navigation Chart
Connection I
Connection II
Connection III
Connection IV
Bibliography of eTexts
Illustrated Bibliography I
Illustrated Bibliography II
London Photo Mosaic



BILL HILLMAN
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