Edgar Rice Burroughs On The Road To Salvation
R. E. Prindle
Part 3b (Continued from Part 3a: ERBzine 1333)
On Auto Pilot In The Ozone II
By the time ERB began "Bridge and the Kid" in California in 1917 he had a great deal of material to give "a definite impression of fictionalizing" to. Besides which the IWW had been organized in his home town and made it, the crossroads of the railroads the hoboes favored, home base. Big Bill and the bums could be seen all over the Windy City shouting their slogan of "One Big Union."
ERB worked his material beautifully.
I am no numerologist or believer in bio-rhythms, but it is a fact that the gestation period for this most important of all Burroughs novels was nine months, with for him, the difficult delivery period of six months. Something was going on in his mind.
The novel begins with a large crime wave in placid small town Oakdale, caused by a band of hoboes. Burroughs identifies two of them as having been members of Coxey's Army in 1894. The character of Sky Pilot, who is always formenting crimes, but always safely absent at their occurrence, seems to be built on Big Bill Haywood of the IWW.
Burroughs' alter-Anima, Gail Prim, disguised as a boy, falls in with a band of six hobo Wobblies who almost kill her and rob her of her feminine treasure, reflecting the scene with Burroughs and John the Bully on the Chicago street corner. She escapes them, running down the highway to team up with Burroughs' alter-ego, Bridge, who then protects her from the dangerous criminal Wobblies.
The character of the detective, Burton, is introduced, who ostensibly clears up the criminal proceedings although not without the aid of the character of the boy detective, Willie Case. Burton may be based on Allan Pinkerton, founder of the Pinkerton Detective Agency, who was prominent in Chicago criminal and union affairs.
Pinkerton as a historical person cut a slightly preposterous figure as Burroughs portrays him.
The lynch mob at the end has its historical antecedents.
Finished in 1917, The Oakdale Affair or "Bridge and the Kid," completed the Mucker Trilogy.
The Affair Jack Johnson was still hanging fire as Burroughs began his next trilogy, The Land That Time Forgot, which occupied nearly a year, so that his period of extreme fecundity had ended as Burroughs struggled through his psychological crisis.
In the short space of five years or so he had gone from pawning his wife's jewelry to extreme riches. He had gone also from psychological degradation to psychological exaltation. For anyone who has gone from rags to riches it is an extremely difficult adjustment without making a complete fool of yourself.
The Land That Time Forgot in one key describes the difficulty Burroughs was having in making this hazardous adjustment. I'm not going to go into key 1 which is the literal story. Sufficient to say that Burroughs' characters rove the open sea where their ship sinks but they are picked up by a German submarine, then enter a hidden island. This corresponds to the transition from degradation to exaltation. He had found the hidden transition point from failure to success. Always interested in Evolution, ERB begins the Journey in in the hidden land in the earliest evolutionary times. The hero then travels up a long valley. At various stages he finds men passing through various evolutionary states, always "improving" or leading upward.
As with his own social progress in Chicago, no one informs you that you have reached the next stage of social evolution; you just know you no longer belong with your former fellows. The difference is so obvious they even drive you away. This is also known as Darwinian natural selection. The problem is to escape from each level without injury. A very clever simile actually.
There may be a possible reference to Jack Johnson in that the dastardly German officer betrays the trust of an English sailor carrying him off. In 1919, Jack Johnson was preparing to return to Chicago where he was betrayed and sent to Leavenworth.
Johnson would never be allowed to box again. In anticipation of his removal, Jack Dempsey relieved Jess Willard of the title on July 4, 1919. Johnson had defeated Jim Jeffries, in the popular mind, for the championship on July 4, 1910. There can be no coincidence that the Irish relieved their caretaker, Willard, of the championship on the same date or in Chicago.
Even though Burroughs was now a substantial, even astounding, success he was not taken seriously, being treated with almost as much disrespect as Jack Johnson himself. Histories of the period and about the period oddly enough mention neither Burroughs nor Tarzan, even though by the end of the decade ERB was making a little noise having had successful books and a very successful movie.
Perhaps he had the same problem Stephen King has in our era. No matter how many copies Mr. King sold, his publishers always viewed him with disdain. No matter how many people bought the books, a considerable number of people refused to accept King's efforts as worthy literature, myself included, I confess. There is a feeling that he tickles the baser aspects of human nature. King is simply too outré.
The same was true of Burroughs; as spectacularly as his imagination comes through his impossible material, the middle period Chessmen of Mars and Mastermind of Mars also, as great as they are there is always a feeling of the too outré.
That the All Story magazine should have encouraged ERB from the précis he sent them of the projected Tarzan of the Apes is nothing short of miraculous. That they should have printed it is a fabulous tour de force.
Only the primeval power of the Tarzan idea answered by a million minds with a dollar to spare propelled Burroughs into the role of a twentieth century literary giant.
I myself have little affection for the first four Tarzan novels; it is only with the fifth, Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar that Burroughs begins to project the psychological potency of the great Ape Man. The later novels tower.
And so Burroughs was belittled even by the editors of the pulp magazines which were his market. They delighted in underpaying and cheating him, bullying him into making inappropriate changes, even in some instances rewriting his stories to please themselves.
After the first magazine appearance of Tarzan of the Apes in 1912, which caused a sensation in pulp magazine circles, which were outside the literary mainstream, Burroughs found it impossible to interest any of the major publishing houses or any of the small ones either. One might be tempted to say that had they known the book would become a multi-million seller they would have changed their minds. But, even after his phenomenal sales success they snubbed him.
Burroughs was even turned down by a Chicago book store doubling as a publisher by the name of McClurg's. Obviously an Irish house. Burroughs was baffled. He had a gold mine worth millions but no one to buy his gold. Then a year after his rejection by McClurg's he was advised to petition them again.
This sort of literary snobbery was and is the prevalent tone. Writing his six volume history of Our Times during the opening years of the '30s from first-hand experience of the earlier decades, Mark Sullivan makes no mention of either Burroughs or Tarzan, while mentioning scores of novelists and novels which have left little or no trace on history. Emmett Dedmon, writing in the fifties about the Chicago literary scene of the decade of the 'teens, also ignores Burroughs. The haut ton of literature has no use for him.
He continued to haunt the local book store cum publisher known as McClurg's. The McClurg's were lace curtain Irish. McClurg's dated back to the earliest days of Chicago. Founded in 1844, the store passed through the hands of different owners accompanied by the appropriate name changes. Alexander C. McClurg joined the firm in 1859, then attached himself to Sherman in the shameful, barbaric march from Atlanta to the sea. Returning home he and a partner bought the firm, changing the name to A. C. McClurg and Co. The partner died, A.C. McClurg didn't.
In Burroughs' time the company was run by the son, Ogden McClurg.
Just as he was a literary snob, General McClurg was also an educational and social snob. Dissatisfied with the public school system, he brought two latin tutors to Chicago from the Roxbury Latin School of Massachusetts.
When Ogden outgrew them, the General set the tutors up in a school they organized called the Chicago Latin School.
A Chicago columnist of the '80s and '90s, Eugene Field, used the retail store as a clubhouse which the General permitted but of which he disapproved. He thought the journalists were an "offense against the dignity of literature" as Dedmon reports.
Burroughs was appealing to such a literary snobbery as this for publication of his popular or pulp fiction. The genre has always been ranked below journalism in literati circles.
Finding more time and energy than I can account for, the guy was writing four hundred thousand words a year, Burroughs visited the office everyday to further his suit receiving a very cold shoulder until one day he inquired whether a Cincinnati book store which showed interest was a reliable firm.
McClurg Storefront ~ Founder ~ Acorn Insignia
Perhaps more to prevent a rival from publishing Burroughs, McClurg's decided to publish Burroughs themselves. While undoubtedly a successful company during the '80s and '90s, one has the feeling that McClurg's was slipping amongst the writers of the new generation. The store was surely returning a decent profit but not one to sustain the social and business aspirations to which Ogden McClurg aspired.
Ogden McClurg was not of the decadent second generation type of nouveau riche; he very actively pursued a career as a Chicago developer. He did it on a grand scale, too. Dedmon calls him a "bold' builder and gives good evidence of it. The Group of real estate developers have a very defined psychology. They are all cash poor and debt rich. All their wealth is in their assets, none in the bank. They always need cash. Bold developers need it even more than timid ones.
As Ogden was to learn, Burroughs ws a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him. Publishers can languish for decades without coming across such a gold mine. Burroughs is undoubtedly the most successful of all Chicago writers. And then to have the dignity of the firm lowered by such a success as a pulp fiction writer. There's no pleasure in that.
Published in 1914, Tarzan of the Apes became one of the top ten best sellers of the decade. Also published in the decade by McClurg were The Return of Tarzan, Beasts of Tarzan, Son of Tarzan, Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar, as well as A Princess of Mars.
If McClurg's agreement to publish Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes was a knee jerk reaction to interest from elsewhere that might explain their inept handling of the publishing which cost them millions and Burroughs a million or so. He had every reason to be angry with them or even accusing them of cheating him.
According to the annotator of the Robert Fenton biography of ERB, Edgar Rice Burroughs and Tarzan, the contract for Tarzan of the Apes called for a royalty of five percent for the first five thousand, ten percent for the second and fifteen percent for the third. There was no provision for anything beyond fifteen thousand copies. After the third five thousand McClurg's immediately leased the book to a reprint house, A. L. Burt, which sold the remaining millions of copies for fifty cents of which Burroughs received less than a nickel a copy.
My god, that's almost criminal negligence or gross stupidity. They didn't even test the depth of the market. By the time of Tarzan the Untamed, Burroughs' contract called for twenty percent over twenty-five thousand copies, while he asked only five and half cents for reprints. This astounding gaffe on the part of McClurg's could only have been caused by the literary arrogance of the editors. They must have projected their contempt for ERB's pulp fiction onto potential sales, expecting the smallest of responses, even then accepting the title as a preemptive act to prevent others form obtaining it. Strange enough.
One can only assume that Ogden McClurg cursed his own stupidity as he saw A.L. Burt's sales shoot into the stratosphere. Imagine Burroughs' chagrin at losing hundreds of thousands of dollars. It's not easy to repeat a success like Tarzan of the Apes. He was never able to do it again either.
Still, the income from Burroughs' pulp fiction shot Ogden McClurg's social and developing status into the stratosphere. His legitimate portion alone was worth millions. But that big lump of royalties belonging to Burroughs was in his possession. Possession is nine tenths of the law, while the other tenth is at the service of the deepest pocket. It wasn't necessary to pay it all out.
It isn't necessary to prove that a publisher has cheated an author of royalties. It is a given fact that publishers cheat all authors. The only thing that it is necessary to prove is how much an author was cheated. Having been cheated, the task of collecting the difference becomes the problem.
The Irish were still in control of the legal and judiciary machinery of Chicago. Even if Burroughs could prove he was being cheated, Ogden McClurg could make the judicial process so costly, frustrating and time consuming as to make it not worthwhile to pursue it. He controlled the purse strings; Burroughs would have to take what he was given.
Once again Burroughs was face to face with an Irish bully. He complained bitterly that he wasn't receiving his due but just as John the Bully had been so much bigger than himself when he was eight or nine, Ogden McClurg was that much bigger than he was as he entered his forties.
By 1918 and 1919 Burroughs must have realized that he was being manhandled no less than Jack Johnson. Impotent in real life, castrated as it were, Burroughs' fictional heroes cut down giants twice their size with no problem. Disgusted at both Jack Johnson's and his own treatment, ERB packed up his old kit bag to flee Chicago for Los Angeles. Far away. Better climate. Sunny.
While in Chicago Burroughs belonged to a literary society called the White Paper Club. He was given a send off. Unless I've lost my sense of discrimination he was treated in a very condescending manner -- much below the merit his success deserved. The stigmata given him by John the Bully must have been much too obvious.
In what seems like a joke, Burroughs said he was going West to raise prize Berkshire hogs. He was leaving the Hog Butcher to The World to raise hogs? Obviously there is a psychological significance here but I'm not prepared as yet to speculate what it might be.
If any one year was the swing year between past and future in America, 1919 was it. The racial balance of Chicago was tipping in favor of the Blacks. Their population is said to have quadrupled as Blacks were brought up from the South during the War to replace Whites in the labor force who had been sent off to fight in Europe.
Dempsey retook the title form its caretaker Anglo, Jess Willard, on July 4th that rightly belonged to Jack Johnson, which every Black in Chicago and the country knew. With their new additions from the South they were now a formidable force in Chicago. In the August of 1919 a race war broke out in Chicago which was answered in other parts of the country. In the most formidable of them all a year of so later known as the East St. Louis Toodle-oo Blacks seized control of that city.
One can attribute the riots to the Whites if one chooses, however, it would be foolish to ignore the fact that the Blacks were spoiling for a fight. In fact, the Black Revolt that became the Civil Rights Movement was on. How much was motivated by the treatment of Jack Johnson may be debatable but I think it was considerable. You can only cheat a people or person so much before they rebel.
If Burroughs may have been disgusted by the Affair Jack Johnson and the Blacks enraged, there was yet another Group watching the outcome silently.
Dempsey in July, the race riot in August and in September, the World Series was fixed. The American League Champions, the White Sox, became the Black Sox. Is it true that 1919 was the only year the World Series was fixed? Probably not. Then why was this fix allowed to be "exposed"?
Let us review the ethos of the Gambling Group for a moment, apropos of Chicago and the United States.
The essence of the professional "gambler" is the need to outwit the odds and his fellow man and "take home the bacon." That's smart. The essence of the amateur gambler is to submit to the odds and lose. That's a "sucker." We are here concerned only with the professional gambler.
The only way to assure success in gambling is to eliminate chance or, in other words, to "fix" the outcome. Thus horse races are always fixed. The outcomes are always known in advance by the fixers. Having fixed the race the Gamblers try to arrange the odds. The odds are to some extent monitored by the free market. If the fix is known, or suspected to be in, even the suckers won't bet.
Moving from the fact that horesraces are and have been fixed throughout American history it is then reasonable to conclude that gamblers will attempt to fix the outcome on whatever they bet. This includes sporting events.
Now, the fixing of the Chicago White Sox in the 1919 World Series was allowed to be "exposed," which goes against gambling methods. People have to believe that chance is involved. The exposure is the significant fact, not the fixing. Rarely is any fix exposed, or agents either. So what's the story on Denny McClain and Pete Rose? The conclusion has been reached that this was the only World Series that was ever fixed. I laugh at this conclusion.
It is much more reasonable to assume that some few or many if not all World Series have been fixed in whole or part. I point to the 1950 Series between the New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians of which I have overheard Mafiosi discussing the fixing. That series wasn't exposed. So why was the Black Sox Scandal allowed to be exposed?
The person who is alleged to have fixed the Series was a New York gambler and criminal by the name of Arnold Rothstein. He was a member of the Jewish Group of which Freud offers a partial psycho-analysis. He was not merely a criminal and gambler but a major figure in Jewish politics. As the Group Psychology of the Jews requires them to be ever on the alert against persecution or discrimination of themselves, they deeply resent it against another Group, fearing that the persecution will spread to themselves. Hence their intense interest in "justice."
Apart from the atrocious meanness practiced against Johnson, Rothstein in conjunction with this Group undoubtedly figured that the Irish/White/Chicagoans had to be taught a lesson. Always masters of the oblique undetectable crime, the Group chose the Series to blacken the eye of Chicago. The eye of Chicago was, I think, blackened forever. For myself, I cannot think of Chicago without thinking of the Black Sox.
If the Irish Group had destroyed the career and besmirched the character of Jack Johnson, a whole raft of White Sox players was sent home forever in disgrace. The great Shoeless Joe Jackson became the scapegoat -- in the saying of a broken hearted little boy: Say it ain't so, Joe.
So the Irish in their misguided attempt to rectify their castrated Animus left the field strewn with innocent victims.
What was the result of the Black Sox scandal? Who paid what price? Charles Comiskey, who was owner of the White Sox, lost a whole dynastic set of ballplayers. Eight out of nine starters were involved. Comiskey was both White and Irish.
The eight White ballplayers lost their careers.
The City of Chicago was given a black eye.
What did the "exposing" of the fix cost the gamblers? Nothing. No gambler was ever indicted but they made fortunes from the fix. Eighty some years after the fix it is impossible to prove that Arnold Rothstein was even involved, although we all know he was.
Yet everyone knows how Chicago and the Irish injured Jack Johnson. Not quite right, everyone knows the "Whites" injured Johnson. What a perfect crime.
At any rate the Irish took back the heavyweight championship on July 4, 1919, the Blacks revolted in August, Edgar Rice Burroughs fled the Windy City and Jack Johnson entrained for Leavenworth.
Bear in mind that during this period from 1915 -- Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar -- to 1924 -- Marcia of the Doorstep -- Burroughs had an on-again-off-again relationship with reality. It as only in 1923 that Tarzan definitely regained his memory for a period of years, indicating that Burroughs had come out from his fugue state. There are two other periods of extreme stress in Burroughs' life when his alter-Animus, Tarzan, loses his memory.
Before closing out this primary Chicago period of his life with 1924's Marcia of the Doorstep which was not published in his lifetime, he refers to Chicago one more time in 1923's Bandit of Hell's Bend. The story is set in contemporary Arizona, quite good of the Western genre, in which the tight-lipped hero modeled after Owen Wister's Virginian is set up as the robber of several gold deliveries. This may refer to Burroughs' complaint that Ogden McClurg was cheating him. The mayor and "city council," who are the real villains in the novel, hold court in the Chicago Saloon. No mistaking that reference. In the end, confronting the municipal gang in the Chicago Saloon, our hero exposes the mayor as the true chief of thieves, while recovering the boodle which is buried under the floorboards.
Arriving in LA, Burroughs bought the five hundred plus acre estate of Harrison Gray Otis of the LA Times, which became the City of Tarzana. A slogan for the city was devised by Burroughs: Tarzana -- Gateway to the Sea. Thus the Happy Hobo roasting a piece of meat over the tiny fire in 1916 with visions of his Penelope in the South where the mists rest on the sea had been realized. He had reached the peak of the Big Rock Candy Mountain. For the moment, anywayI wanted the gold and I got it --Like any other hobo ERB could find no salvation in the gold. His psychological problems had not been resolved.
Came out with a fortune last fall --
Yet somehow life's not what I thought it,
And somehow the gold isn't all.
There's gold, and it's haunting and haunting;
It's luring me on as of old;
Yet it isn't the gold that I'm wanting. . .
In a brilliant penetration of his psychology he had broken new ground unrealized by the great schools of psychology in Vienna and Geneva. Had Jung and Freud known of Burroughs and read him seriously with understanding, psychology might have leapt forward. The Sages might have enabled Burroughs to make the leap form discovery to resolution.
In Marcia of the Doorstep Burroughs had completed his amazing analysis of the Anima and Animus, but he didn't know how to make the transition to the next psychological state. His successor personas were unreal and impossible. He would make several later attempts at resolving his Anima identity which are posterior to this study. His two impossible personas were La, the high priestess of Opar and Tarzan of the Apes. No La existed in real life while it was impossible for Burroughs to fill Tarzan's G-string.
Fate had presented him with a problem back in '83 or '84 on that street corner in Chicago. With the heart of a lion Our Man In Tarzana refused to submit to an unkind and unjust Fate using his psychological ace in the hole to avert a destiny leading to total failure.
Remarkably he did. After a lifetime of total failure, on the very verge of complete psychological disintegration at thirty-five he reached deep to produce one of the most successful literary careers of all time.
Yet somehow life wasn't what he thought it. While he resolved his central childhood fixation and made great progress with his Anima and Animus he couldn't shed the psychological conditioning caused by John the Bully. He couldn't completely free himself from Fate, refusing to submit to the unkind and unjust or not. He continued a failure in all other things except his literary creations. He was an inept hog farmer, losing a great deal of money in the attempt. He couldn't sustain the Big Rock Candy Mountain of Tarzana, both because he was being cheated of royalties and from internal psychological pressures. Had he been paid properly his ineptness at farming might have been glossed over.
At the time of writing Marcia of the Doorstep in 1924, perhaps Edgar Rice Burroughs saw a limitless horizon before him. But the slopes of the Big Rock Candy Mountain are slippery sides. As the period ended ERB was still searching for his Penelope amidst the fogs of the sea. But, then that begins the story of the second half of his life while this book ends with the first half.
See you on the other side of the mountain come the fall.
Web design, illustrations and hypertext links by Bill Hillman
of Hell's Bend
The Beasts of Tarzan
Burroughs Cross-Country Adventure (Joan Burroughs Bio)
Jungle Tales of Tarzan in ERB C.H.A.S.E.R.
Jungle Tales of Tarzan (e-Text Edition)
The Land That Time Forgot: ERB C.H.A.S.E.R
The Land That Time Forgot (e-Text Edition)
Marcia of the Doorstep in ERB C.H.A.S.E.R.
The Mucker: ERB C.H.A.S.E.R
A Princess of Mars: ERB C.H.A.S.E.R.
A Princess of Mars (e-Text Edition)
The Son of Tarzan: ERB C.H.A.S.E.R.
The Son of Tarzan (e-Text Edition)
Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar: ERB C.H.A.S.E.R.
Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar (e-Text Edition)
Tarzan of the Apes: ERB C.H.A.S.E.R
Tarzan of the Apes (e-Text Edition)
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