A READERS' COMPANION TO THE BARSOOMIAN
The Seventeenth Runner-Up in the Seven
Wonders of Barsoom
THE EPIPHANIES OF JOHN CARTER
THE FAKE AUTOBIOGRAPHIES OF
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
epiphany: 2. a revelatory manifestation of a divine being.
– American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language,
Is John Carter a divine being? This is a big mystery, never quite answered.
It has made some science fiction historians doubt whether the Barsoomian
Mythos qualifies as genuine science fiction. Add to that the other factor
of ERB’s Barsoomian Mythos that drives many highstrung science fiction
historians crazy, and that is the fact that John Carter is transported
to Mars by means of Native American sorcery. They appear to be more comfortable
categorizing the Mythos as early interplanetary sword and sorcery. They
have a point. But barely.
Anyhow, there was a Native American witch in the Arizona cave that used
sorcery to cause Carter to “die, ” where, in such a state, he was then
transported to Mars. In fact, Carter left his real body behind on Earth
and found himself on Mars in another body, totally naked, yet identical
to the body that he left behind. His new Martian body, however, is not
a phantom or astral body, but a body of flesh and blood, a solid, material
body that can die. What a paradox!
How can this be? Hey, it’s not called sorcery for nothing [sic]. Anyone
who has read Tales of Power by Carlos Castaneda knows about one
form of Native American sorcery: that of the Yaqui Indian. The astute reader
will note that although Castaneda receives many hours of hands-on teaching
from Don Juan’s sorcerer friend, Don Genaro, the fact is that Don Genaro
is never really physically present, his body only a manifestation of Don
Genaro’s dream state. In The Second Ring of Power, Castaneda is confronted
by a scary Yaqui witch who seeks his death, and it is this kind of witch
I imagine inhabiting the cave where Carter succumbs to her vapor cauldron
magic. But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
In Chapter One of A Princess of Mars – first published as “Under
the Moons of Mars,” by All-Story in the February - July 1912 editions –
the title changed to A Princess of Mars when published by A.C. McClurg
in hardcover on October 10, 1917 (ERBzine # 0421), with an added “Foreword”
– the author, writing in the first person as John Carter, states:
“I am a very old man; how old I do not
know. Possibly I am a hundred, possibly more; but I cannot tell because
I have never aged as other men, nor do I remember any childhood. So far
as I can recollect I have always been a man, a man of about thirty. I appear
today as I did forty years and more ago, and yet I feel that I cannot go
on living forever; that some day I shall die the real death from which
there is no resurrection. I do not know why I should fear death, I who
have died twice and am still alive; but yet I have the same horror of it
as you who have never died, and it is because of this terror of death,
I believe, that I am so convinced of my own mortality.
“And because of this conviction I have determined
to write down the story of the interesting periods of my life and of my
death. I cannot explain the phenomena; I can only set down here in the
words of an ordinary soldier of fortune a chronicle of the strange events
that befell me during the ten years that my dead body lay undiscovered
in an Arizona cave.
“I have never told this story, nor shall mortal
man see this manuscript until after I have passed over for eternity. I
know that the average human mind will not believe what it cannot grasp,
and so I do not purpose being pilloried by the public, the pulpit, and
the press, and held up as a colossal liar when I am but telling the simple
truths which someday science will substantiate. Possibly the suggestions
which I gained upon Mars, and the knowledge I
can set down in this chronicle, will aid in an earlier understanding of
the mysteries of our sister planet; mysteries to you, but no longer mysteries
to me.” (PM/1.)
That’s all the All-Story readers of 1912 had to go on. There was
no “Foreword” to this story until ERB added one in 1917, when he was wrapped
up in WWI propaganda after joining the Illinois Reserves as a Captain while
living in Oak Park. I have no idea why ERB felt he needed to add a Foreword
– other than making the book have something the pulp magazine did not,
increasing its saleability among readers who had already read the pulp
magazine – but in doing so, he created a fake autobiography for himself
that would have made his father, the Old Major – the Civil War hero from
First Bull Run to Appomattox Court House – roll over in his grave. In his
fake autobiography, ERB was born in Virginia and owns several slaves. He
is also twenty or so years older than his true self.
Nothing else he wrote during this period – which appears to consist
of hardly anything but ERB’s “Embryonic Journey,” aka, the Caspak trilogy,
and propaganda pamphlets – indicates any motive for ERB to write a fake
autobiography, other than for the sheer pleasure of mischief.
I am sure there were many fans of ERB who till their dying days believed
that ERB was a southern gentleman from Virginia, rather than a pureblood
Yankee born in Chicago. Perhaps he believed that giving the story the personal
touch of his own involvement in the history would take away from its strange
When I was a boy growing up in the Fifties, only a small percentage
of Americans were willing to admit in a belief in the possibility of life
on other planets. Usually such views were dismissed as an unhealthy belief
in little green men. No one wanted to be stigmatized by such beliefs. There
was almost as much paranoia about belief in aliens as in the communist
menace. I once was rebuked by another boy’s mother for talking about communists
in her home. She warned me that my name could end up on the FBI’s suspect
list if I didn’t watch what I said. Of course, this came from a woman who
had covered all her living room furniture in white plastic sheets so that
her kids couldn’t ruin it, making her house look like it wasn’t even lived
in. Strange days.
Oh well, perhaps it is up to the shrinks of the future to figure out
why ERB told lies about his history to his readers. But one thing that
the fake autobiography does do is add another level of depth to the Barsoomian
Anyway, back to the cave. After the war Captain Carter and his friend,
Captain James K. Powell of Richmond, while prospecting in Arizona, come
across a gold mine worth millions in the winter of 1865. They work it for
a few months, and on March 3, 1866, they decide that Powell will go back
to civilization and buy equipment to properly mine their find. Carter remains
behind to insure no one will jump their claim. Carter watches his friend
until he is out of sight, but he sees other figures in the distance that
disturb his mind.
Unable to shake off the feeling of dread, he later takes off on his
horse to discover if anything has gone wrong. Of course it has. He finds
his friend strung up in an Apache village, pin-cushioned with arrows. He
trots in, scoops up the body, and gallops off for a hill. The Indians pursue
him. He finds a trail that deadends in a large cave.
“The opening was about four feet in height
and three to four feet wide, and at this opening the trail ended.
Carter doesn’t know it yet, but he is in the witch’s power. He is in a
living nightmare. Only able to watch the Indians approach, Carter feels
doomed. A war-bonneted, painted warrior comes to the opening of the cave
and peers inside.
“It was now morning, and, with the customary
lack of dawn which is a startling characteristic of Arizona, it had become
daylight almost without warning.
“Dismounting, I laid Powell upon the ground,
but the most painstaking examination failed to reveal the faintest spark
of life. I forced water from my canteen between his dead lips, bathed his
face and rubbed his hands, working over him continuously for the better
part of an hour in the face of the fact that I knew him to be dead.
“I was very fond of Powell; he was thoroughly
a man in every respect; a polished southern gentleman; a staunch and true
friend; and it was with a feeling of the deepest grief that I finally gave
up my crude endeavors at resuscitation.
“Leaving Powell’s body where it lay on the edge
I crept into the cave to reconnoiter. I found a large chamber, possibly
a hundred feet in diameter and thirty or forty feet in height; a smooth
and well-worn floor, and many other evidences that the cave had, at some
remote period, been inhabited. The back of the cave was so lost in dense
shadow that I could not distinguish whether there were openings into other
apartments or not.
“As I was continuing my examination I commenced
to feel a pleasant drowsiness creeping over me which I attributed to the
fatigue of my long and strenuous ride, and the reaction from the excitement
of the fight and the pursuit. I felt comparatively safe in my present location
as I knew that one man could defend the trail to the cave against an army.
“I soon became so drowsy that I could scarcely
resist the strong desire to throw myself on the floor of the cave for a
few moment’s rest, but I knew that this would never do, as it would mean
certain death at the hands of my red friends, who might be upon me at any
moment. With an effort I started toward the opening of the cave only to
reel drunkenly against a side wall, and from there slip prone upon the
“A sense of delicious dreaminess overcame me,
my muscles relaxed, and I was on the point of giving way to my desire to
sleep when the sound of approaching horses reached my ears. I attempted
to spring to my feet but was horrified to discover that my muscles refused
to respond to my will. I was now thoroughly awake, but as unable to move
a muscle as though turned to stone. It was then, for the first time, that
I noticed a slight vapor filling the cave. It was extremely tenuous and
only noticeable against the opening which led to daylight. There also came
to my nostrils a faintly pungent odor, and I could only assume that I had
been overcome by some poisonous gas, but why I should retain my mental
faculties and yet be unable to move I could not fathom.” (PM/1-2.)
“The fellow, instead of approaching,
merely stood and stared; his eyes bulging and his jaw dropped. And then
another savage face appeared, and a third and a fourth and a fifth, craning
their necks over the shoulders of their fellows whom they could not pass
upon the narrow ledge. Each face was the picture of awe and fear, but for
what reason I did not know, nor did I learn until ten years later. That
there were still other braves behind those who regarded me was apparent
from the fact that the leaders passed back whispered word to those behind
Sorcery has been used on Carter to incapacitate him while keeping him consious;
it has also been used, although more psychologically, on the Apache warriors
to scare the hell out of them. Then, Carter hears occasional creepy sounds
behind him, but the day stretches on. He watches his horse amble down the
hill. It grows dark, into the midnight hour.
“Suddenly a low but distinct moaning sound issued
from the recesses of the cave behind me, and, as it reached the ears of
the Indians, they turned and fled in terror, panic-stricken. So frantic
were their efforts to escape from the unseen thing behind me that one of
the braves was hurled headlong from the cliff to the rocks below. Their
wild cries echoed in the canyon for a short time.
“The sound which had frightened them was not
repeated, but it had been sufficient as it was to start me speculating
on the possible horror which lurked in the shadows at my back. Fear is
a relative term and so I can only measure my feelings at that time by what
I had experienced in previous positions of danger and by those I have passed
through since; but I can say without any shame that if the sensations I
endured during the next few minutes were fear, then may God help the coward,
for cowardice is of a surety its own punishment.
“To be held paralyzed, with ones back toward
horrible and unknown danger from the very sound of which the ferocious
Apache warriors turn in wild stampede, as a flock of sheep would madly
flee from a pack wolves, seems to me the last word in fearsome predicaments
for a man who had ever been used to fighting for his life with all the
energy of a powerful physique.” (PM/2.)
“From then until possibly midnight all
was silence, the silence of the dead; then, suddenly, the awful moan of
the morning broke upon my startled ears, and there came again from the
black shadows the sound of a moving thing, and of a faint rustling as of
dead leaves. The shock to my already overstrained nervous system was terrrible
in the extreme, and with a superhuman effort I strove to break my awful
bonds. It was an effort of the mind, of the will, of the nerves; not muscular,
for I could not move even so much as my little finger, but none the less
mighty for all that. And then something gave, there was a momentarily feeling
of nausea, a sharp click as of the snapping of a steel wire, and I stood
with my back against the wall of the cave facing my unknown foe.
He hears the strange moaning again from the depths of the cave. Since he
is naked and unarmed, he has no desire the face the menace of the unknown.
He hears the rustling noise again and decides to get out while he can.
He jumps outside and the crisp mountain air invigorates him; he begins
to wonder if was imagining the whole thing. He stares into the vast Arizona
“And then the moonlight flooded the cave, and
there before me lay my own body as it had been lying all these hours, with
the eyes staring toward the open ledge and the hands resting limply upon
the ground. I looked first at my lifeless clay there upon the floor of
the cave and then down at myself in utter bewilderment; for there I lay
clothed, and yet here I stood but naked as at the minute of my birth.
“The transition had been so sudden and so unexpected
that it left me for a moment forgetful of aught else than my strange metamorphosis.
My first thought was, is this then death! Have I indeed passed over forever
into that other life! But I could not well believe this, as I could feel
my heart pounding against my ribs from the exertion of my efforts to release
myself from the anaesthesis which had held me. My breath was coming in
quick, short gasps, cold sweat stood from every pore of my body, and the
ancient experiment of pinching revealed the fact that I was anything other
than a wraith.” (PM/2.)
“As I stood thus meditating, I turned
my gaze from the landscape to the heavens where the myriad stars formed
a gorgeous and fitting canopy for the wonders of the earthly scene. My
attention was quickly riveted by a large red star close to the distant
horizon. As I gazed upon it I felt a spell of overpowering fascination
– it was Mars, the god of war, and for me, the fighting man, it had always
held the power of irresistible enchantment. As I gazed at it on that fargone
night it seemed to call across the unthinkable void, to lure me to it,
to draw me as the lodestone attracts a particle of iron.
And of course Carter wakes up naked in his advent on Mars. Space travel
via Native American sorcery, a kind of solidified astral travel. You know,
I easily accepted the idea that the wizards in Harry Potter could disappear
and reappear at will. Thus, this concept seems perfectly feasible to me.
After all, in one of the most celebrated science fiction novels of the
20th Century, Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination, the hero
teaches everyone who can how to “jaunte,” where one can will oneself to
be immediately somewhere else.
“My longing was beyond the power of opposition;
I closed my eyes, stretched out my arms toward the god of my vocation and
felt myself drawn with the suddenness of thought through the trackless
immensity of space. There was an instance of extreme cold and utter darkness.”
ERB had Carter travel between the planets in this method, and before
criticizing it as being unscientific, one must always remember Arthur C.
Clarke’s Third Law: any technology from an advanced civilization will seem
like magic to the less advanced one. This is why ERB fans have every right
to claim ERB as America’s first science fiction novelist, of equal importance
to the early genre as the French Jules Verne or the British H.G. Wells.
We get more insight into what transpired in the Arizona cave before
Carter’s advent on Mars by hindsight in the last chapter. At the end of
his ten years on Mars, Carter loses consciousness while saving Barsoom
by restarting the atmosphere factory in the nick of time.
And then a strange thing happens. As his Martian body “dies”, it disappears
and he wakes up in his Earthly body ten Earthly years later, still in the
Arizona cave. I am assuming that the ten years is measured by Earth standards.
(However, for an excellent article looking at the time from both Earthly
and Martian standards, let me recommend Fredrik Ekman’s “Chronology for
the Princess of Mars Trilogy and the Master Mind of Mars,” ERBzine
“It was dark when I opened my eyes again.
Strange, stiff garments were upon my body; garments that cracked and powdered
away from me as I rose to a sitting position.
He discovers that he has returned to Earth, having witnessed both the means
the witch used on him and the tactics used to scare the Apache warriors.
For some unknown reason the witch has died and has become mummified. He
later finds his mine still there, untouched, makes a fortune, buys a cottage
looking over the Hudson River, and waits until that time again when the
god of war will allow him to transport himself to the angry red planet.
“I felt myself over from head to foot and from
head to foot I was clothed, though when I fell unconscious at the little
doorway I had been naked. Before me was a small patch of moonlit sky which
showed through a ragged aperture.
“As my hands passed over my body they came in
contact with pockets and in one of these a small parcel of matches wrapped
in oiled paper. One of these matches I struck, and its dim flame lighted
up what appeared to be a huge cave, toward the back of which I discovered
a strange, still figure huddled over a tiny bench. As I approached it I
saw that it was the dead and mummified remains of a little old woman with
long, black hair, and the thing it leaned over was a small charcoal burner
upon which rested a round copper vessel containing a small quantity of
“Behind her, depending from the roof upon rawhide
thongs, and stretching entirely across the cave, was a row of human skeletons.
From the thong which held them stretched another to the dead hand of the
little old woman; as I touched the cord the skeletons swung to the motion
with a noise as of the rustling of dry leaves.
“It was the most grotesque and horrid tableau
and I hastened out into the fresh air; glad to escape from so gruesome
a place.” (PM/28.)
“As I sit here tonight in my little study
overlooking the Hudson, just twenty years have elapsed since I first opened
my eyes upon Mars.
So, that’s all of the information the original readers of All-Story had
to go on. However, with the release of the hardback, ERB’s readers were
enriched with a bogus story of how ERB came into possession of Carter’s
manuscript. We turn now to the newly added “Foreword” to A Princess
ERB begins his foreword by addressing it, “To the Readers of this Work.”
Remember now, there was no television or internet, or Twitter, or Facebook,
no real social media to spread the word of the true history of ERB. He
had only become famous a few years earlier. If you came across this book
at a friend’s house with no prior knowledge of ERB, you would naturally
assume that what you were reading was real, as far as the autobiographical
“I can see her shining in the sky through the
little window by my desk, and tonight she seems calling to me again as
she has not called before since that long dead night, and I think I can
see, across that awful abyss of space, a beautiful black-haired woman standing
in the garden of a palace, and at her side is a little boy who puts his
arms around her as she points into the sky toward the planet Earth, while
at their feet is a huge and hideous creature with a heart of gold.
“I believe that they are waiting there for me,
and something tells me that I shall soon know.” (PM/28.)
Knowing that John Carter is a fictional hero would naturally cause an
intelligent reader to separate the real from the false at this stage, but
everyone else is going to be fooled. Who knows, this foreword is set up
in such a way that a fairly ignorant reader may suppose the whole account
to be true – while Mars was still largely unknown – thus becoming a devout
believer in the Mythos, a goal one wonders if ERB was tempted to promulgate.
As we shall see, this fake biography helped ERB reinforce John Carter,
“JC,” as a divine being, manifesting himself at key times in the life of
It is my opinion that ERB only wrote John Carter stories when he was
happy and turned on by life, not because, like Tarzan, he had to in order
to keep the money rolling in. Thus, key insights into the personality of
the author can be gleaned by a careful examination of the Barsoomian texts.
But enough! Let us get to the First Epiphany of John Carter:
“In submitting Captain Carter’s strange
manuscript to you in book form, I believe a few words relative to this
remarkable personality will be of interest.
This is where we start. The first thing that stands out is, of course,
ERB’s horrid Yankee mistake of calling the War Between the States, “the
civil war,’ which is a Yankee term. (Being from California, I’m neither
Yankee nor Southerner, though my Southern friends still call me a Yankee.)
The Civil War officially started on April 12, 1861, with the shelling of
Fort Sumter. This gives us a working date.
“My first recollection of Captain Carter is of
the few months he spent at my father’s home in Virginia, just prior to
the opening of the civil war. I was then a child of but five years, yet
I well remember the tall, dark, smooth-faced, athletic man whom I called
Uncle Jack.” (PM/Foreword.)
ERB allegedly is five years old at this time, putting his birth at either
1855 or 1856, somewhere in Virginia. The real ERB was born on September
1, 1875, in Chicago, Illinois, making him approximately 20 years younger
than the fake ERB. When the fake ERB first met John Carter, Carter had
not yet been to Mars. We also learn – to be filled in later – ERB is somehow
related to John Carter by blood: he calls him Uncle Jack, a name close
to ERB’s heart. In fact, he dedicates A Princess of Mars to his
son, Jack (John Coleman Burroughs).
Depending on how you define the word “few,” you can guess the month
and year ERB first remembered John Carter: “a few months before the opening
of the civil war.” A good guess would be either December 1860 or January
1861; in my opinion, likely December 1860 because of the Christmas holidays.
We are not sure whether ERB’s fake father owned a slave plantation.
After the war he is said to have owned a string of general stores in Virginia,
but from his activities with John Carter before the war, it is a distinct
possibility that he originally owned a slave plantation. Perhaps because
slavery was an acceptable part of Barsoomian life, ERB wanted to be compatible
with his hero’s mores. Read the text carefully and decide for yourself:
“He seemed always to be laughing; and
he entered into the sports of the children with the same hearty good fellowship
he displayed toward those pastimes in which the men and women of his own
age indulged; or he would sit for an hour at a time entertaining my old
grandmother with stories of his strange, wild life in all parts of the
world. We all loved him, and our slaves fairly worshipped the ground he
It is the part about the horses and the hounds and the fact that ERB’s
father rode with John Carter on these hunts, that make me suspect he was
a plantation owner. That and the fact that ERB’s slaves fairly worshipped
the ground John Carter trod. After the war many slave plantation owners
went out of business, no longer able to afford the wages of the now freed
workers. Some went into other businesses, and such a model would certainly
fit ERB’s father’s situation with this set of facts.
“He was a splendid specimen of manhood, standing
a good two inches over six feet, broad of shoulder and narrow of hip, with
the carriage of the trained fighting man. His features were regular and
clear cut, his hair black and closely cropped, while his eyes were of a
steel gray, reflecting a strong and loyal character, filled with fire and
initiative. His manners were perfect, and his courtliness was that of a
typical southern gentleman of the highest type.
“His horsemanship, especially after hounds, was
a marvel and delight even in that country of magnificent horsemen. I have
often heard my father caution him against his wild recklessness, but he
would only laugh, and say that the tumble that killed him would be from
the back of a horse yet unfoaled.” (PM/Foreword.)
“When the war broke out he left us, nor
did I see him again for some fifteen or sixteen years. When he returned
it was without warning, and I was much surprised to note that he had not
aged apparently a moment, nor had he changed in any other outward way.
He was, when others were with him, the same genial, happy fellow we had
known of old, but when he thought himself alone I have seen him sit for
hours gazing off into space, his face set in a look of wistful longing
and hopeless misery; and at night he would sit thus looking up into the
heavens, at what I did not know until I read this manuscript years afterwards.”
Before the narrative continues, it is best to remind the reader that when
ERB sees Carter after the war, Carter has already “died” twice: once in
an Arizona cave on Earth, and once at the little doorway to the Atmosphere
Factory on Mars. In other words, this is John Carter’s First Epiphany to
“He told us that he had been prospecting
and mining in Arizona part of the time since the war; and that he had been
very successful was evidenced by the unlimited amount of money with which
he was supplied. As to the details of his life during these years he was
very reticent, in fact he would not talk of them at all.
Since ERB gives us a concrete date, the winter of 1885, we don’t have to
worry about extrapolating the fifteen or sixteen years it took for ERB
to see John Carter after the war broke out. Now, it will become important
to keep track of the dates in order to satisfy ourselves that ERB carried
out Carter’s instructions with absolute fidelity.
“He remained with us for about a year and then
went to New York, where he purchased a little place on the Hudson, where
I visited him once a year on the occasions of my trips to the New York
market – my father and I owning a string of general stores throughout Virginia
at that time. Captain Carter had a small but beautiful cottage, situated
on a bluff overlooking the river, and during one of my last visits, in
the winter of 1885, I observed he was much occupied in writing, I presume
now, upon this manuscript.
“He told me at this time that if anything should
happen to him he wished me to take charge of his estate, and he gave me
a key to a compartment in the safe which stood in his study, telling me
I would find his will there and some personal instructions which he had
me pledge myself to carry out with absolute fidelity.
“After I had retired for the night I have seen
him from my window standing in the moonlight on the brink of the bluff
overlooking the Hudson with his arms stretched out to the heavens as though
in appeal. I thought at the time that he was praying, although I never
had understood that he was in the strict sense of the term a religious
“Several months after I had returned
home from my last visit, the first of March, 1866, I think, I received
a telegram from him asking me to come to him at once. I had always been
his favorite among the younger generation of Carter’s and so I hastened
to comply with his demand.
This became a favorite opening technique of H.P. Lovecraft’s: linking the
reception of a mysterious manuscript to the author’s own life. And to the
astute, there is an element of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Premature Burial” in
this scenario. But first, let’s put those dates in the instructions to
good use. The beginning date is the date of John Carter’s alleged death,
to wit, March 4, 1866.
“I arrived at the little station, about a mile
from his grounds, on the morning of March 4, 1886, and when I asked the
livery man to drive me out to Captain Carter’s he replied that if I was
a friend of the Captain’s he had some very bad news for me; the Captain
had been found dead shortly after daylight that very morning by the watchman
attached to an adjoining property.
“For some reason this news did not surprise me,
but I hurried out to his place as quickly as possible, so that I could
take charge of the body and of his affairs.
“I found the watchman who had discovered him,
together with the local police chief and several townspeople, assembled
in his little study. The watchman related the few details connected with
the finding of the body, which he said had been still warm when he came
upon it. It lay, he said, stretched full length in the snow with the arms
outstretched above the head toward the edge of the bluff, and when he showed
me the spot it flashed upon me that it was the identical one where I had
seen him on those other nights, with his arms raised in supplication to
“There were no marks of violence on the body,
and with the aid of a local physician the coroner’s jury quickly reached
a decision of death from heart failure. Left alone in the study, I opened
the safe and withdrew the contents of the drawer in which he had told me
I would find my instructions. They were in part peculiar indeed, but I
have followed them to each last detail as faithfully as I was able.
“He directed that I remove his body to Virginia
without embalming, and that he be laid in an open coffin within a tomb
which he had previously had had constructed and which, as I later learned,
was well ventilated. The instructions impressed upon me that I must personally
see that this was carried out just as he directed, even in secrecy if necessary.
“His property was left in such a way that I was
to receive the entire income for twenty-five years, when the principal
was to become mine. His further instructions related to this manuscript
which I was to retain sealed and unread, just as I found it, for eleven
years; nor was I to divulge its contents until twenty-one years after his
“A strange feature about this tomb, where his
body still lies, is that the massive door is equipped with a single, huge
gold-plated spring lock which can be opened only from the inside.
“Yours very sincerely,
“EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS.”
The principal of Carter’s estate becomes ERB’s twenty-five years after
Carter’s death. March 4, 1886 plus 25 years, equals March 4, 1911. And
wouldn’t you know it, that is around the very date ERB began writing “Under
the Moons of Mars.”
Anyway, the other dates don’t add up like they should. For example,
the manuscript was to be left sealed and unread, just as ERB found it,
for eleven years after Carter’s death. March 4, 1886 plus 11 years, equals
March 4, 1897. This raises the question: left unread by who?
Moreover, ERB was not to divulge the contents to anyone for 21 years
after Carter’s death. March 4, 1886 plus 21 years, equals March 4, 1907.
Check the math, I can make mistakes.
As we shall see in Part Two, these dates don’t jive with the information
ERB gives us in his next “Foreword.” to the hardback edition of The
Gods of Mars in 1919.
. . . Continued in Part Two . . .