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Volume 1274
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The ERB / Jack London Connection IV
By Bill Hillman

London's adventures, misadventures, his occasionally scandalous behaviour and his sometimes unorthodox personal life attracted national press coverage, giving the "voice of the common working man" the uncomfortable distinction of being the first American writer-as-celebrity millionaire.

London's Life Adapted to Film

ERB and Olympic champion
and Tarzan actor: Glenn Morris

ERB with Tarzan film stars
Tantor, O'Sullivan and Weissmuller
ERB, who supervised and even produced some of his films, had the distinction of creating one of the most-filmed fictional characters in history -- Tarzan of the Apes. He hobnobbed with the Hollywood crowd and was a regular subject of newspaper and magazine articles. Later in his career he was constantly on the cutting edge when it came to adapting his literary creations to the burgeoning new media technologies and merchandising of the twentieth century. 

Jack London's home was literally wherever he hung his hat. One researcher has identified thirty-three places he lived in as a youth. When he finally built his first permanent home -- a beautiful mansion -- it burned down shortly before he was to move in. Although he faced financial ruin, he was determined to pull his fortunes out of the ashes and he maintained his furious writing pace in spite of his failing health.
The Burroughs cottage on Mecca
ERB was also a wanderer. He lived in many homes until he finally found his dream home -- Tarzana Ranch. Sadly, even this dream home was not to last. He ran into financial difficulties and finally had to tear it down. "I have lived in several houses in several cities. Two of them, in Illinois, I owned, and two in Southern California. But I have never lived long enough in one place to acquire a solid sense of permanency, which has always appeared to me to connote security. And home and security seem almost synonymous, for home is sanctuary. Yet my homes were real homes in every respect other than permanency."

Both these drifting dreamers eventually achieved permanent luxury homes, only to lose them. Such permanency was not to be. Each man moved to a smaller cottage near his lost mansion and the dream house was never regained.


During his relatively short writing career, London produced a phenomenal publishing output but it was still not enough to support his extravagant living, his sailing obsession, the unwise investments, the horde of family, employees and hangers-on, and the expenses of the ranch. He constructed his ship, "The Snark," shortly after the San Francisco earthquake when lumber and labour costs were exorbitant which added to his financial difficulties. His last major expenditure was the construction of the elaborate "Wolf House" mansion on Beauty Ranch. After its tragic loss to fire before occupancy he was never able to gather enough finances to rebuild it.

Jack London's Pride and Joy: The Snark

ERB and his Cord and Aircraft
Much of ERB's "mad money" went to the purchase of big cars and items beyond the means of most people such as land schooners (camping trailers) and an aircraft. He too dreamed of buying a yacht -- possibly influenced by London and Zane Grey -- but never did.

Both men were phenomenally successful in their writing and merchandising, but both suffered periods of massive debt. The lived life to the financial hilt. Too much money was spent on high living, family and friends, divorces, grown-up toys such as cars and ships or planes, financial downturns and disasters, fast horses, ranches, houses, unprofitable farming enterprises -- and both fell into the traps that ensnare so many celebrities who come into sudden fame and fortune. London's only way out was to keep writing furiously -- an approach also taken by Burroughs, but he had the advantage of living in a period of history when he could branch out into self-publishing, merchandising, and multi-media.

London was one of the first celebrities used to endorse commercial products, such as grape juice, whiskey and men's suits.
London endorsing Old Crow
London: Old Crow Whiskey
Tarzan Radio Shows
Tarzan Radio Show
Tarzan Glue
Tarzan Glue
Signal Gasoline Sponsor
Signal Gasoline
Throughout the first half of the 20th century ERB was a leader and ground breaker in integrating his creations in merchandising and multi-media. His works were adapted to film, comic books, daily strips, Sunday comics, radio, commercials, television, etc. and he was one of the first to license character names for mass merchandising of countless products: toys, games, bread, gym equipment, gasoline, etc.

Both men seldom hesitated to use their personal lifestyles and exploits to promote their writing projects and to generate contracts, sales and income.


During his entire writing career London forced himself to write 1000 words a day, usually working in the morning. He wrote thousands of letters and kept diaries of his exploits in the Yukon and elsewhere. He seldom made corrections or changes to his first drafts. His thoughts flowed freely onto the page. Many additional works have been published posthumously.

In his cottage writing den.

The Yukon diary

Ed dictating into his Ediphone
ERB followed a schedule of writing each morning. He kept numerous journals of his Tarzana years, his auto adventures and WWII assignments. Ed, a natural storyteller, wrote quickly. His first stories were written longhand, after which he graduated to a typewriter. Later much of his work was dictated but he seldom did much in way of revision, often leaving this task to Emma or his editors.

Both men did much of the morning output of their letter correspondence on a dictaphone


London once said, "I am the sailor on horseback! Watch my dust!"  He imported the best of thoroughbred riding horses and one of his great joys was to take regular rides over the ever-changing topography of his scenic Beauty Ranch.
Jack London at Beauty RanchCharmian and Jack London
Ed on one of his prize horses
Emma and daughter Joan at Tarzana
Ed making the rounds at Tarzana
ERB, as a military cadet, was a championship rider. His love of horses appears to have been born on his brothers' ranch in Idaho where he tended horses and worked as a cowhand and a mail rider. He later joined the U.S. Cavalry. His love of horses was one of his reasons for purchasing Tarzana Ranch where he rode every morning -- often accompanied by his family.
Both men were avid horsemen and revelled in taking long rides across their ranchlands . . . a past-time shared by their wives.


Much of London's first work appeared in pulps including "The Overland Monthly," the magazine founded by Brett Harte and edited by Netta Wiley Eames Payne, Charmian's aunt and guardian. He soon moved on to best-read and highest-paying periodicals in the country, including Cosmopolitan, Saturday Evening Post. Most of this work was then published in hardcover by Macmillan and Doubleday, Page, and Century Co.
Netta Wiley Eames Payne
All-Story October 1912 - Tarzan of the Apes
Most of ERB's stories were first serialized in pulps such as Argosy and Blue Book, as well as in newspapers. They were then published in hardcover by McClurg, A.L. Burt, and Grosset & Dunlap. Burroughs took an even bolder step in 1931 by publishing his own books as ERB, Inc. publications -- he was also in a league of his own when it came to marketing his product as multimedia and through merchandising.

Both sold much material to pulp magazines and newspapers before publication in book form. Most of Jack London's yarns of the Far North, ERB's fantastic adventure tales, Zane Grey's westerns, and H. Rider Haggard's African adventures, O. Henry's stories, Raymond Chandler's mysteries, and numerous other well-known authors, appeared in magazines before they became best-selling books.  Few pulp writers could work fast enough, however, to make a good living; fewer still ever graduated from the genre: London and Burroughs were among those who moved on to better things.


London imported eucalyptus trees by the hundreds of thousands, which he transplanted on his ranch for planned lumber projects. The enterprise was not successful, however, as the wood proved to be too soft for construction purposes.
Tarzana was populated with many species of beautiful rare imported trees that had been imported by the original owner, the Los Angeles newspaper magnate Harrison Gray Otis. After taking over the estate ERB continued to plant trees. It pained him to cut down, or even prune a tree on his property.

Both loved nature and especially trees in their natural state.


During his lifetime London supported "Aunt Jennie" Prentiss, a black woman, who had been his wet nurse as a child and to whom Jack was devoted. As he travelled more and had more life experiences his descriptions of minorities became much more tolerant and realistic. I've never written a line that I'd be ashamed for my young daughters to read, and I never shall write such a line!"
Snark crewmember and native

ERB's views were much more liberated than those exhibited in London's early work. After the Civil War the Burroughs family took in a wounded negro Confederate soldier, James M. Johnson. During his recuperation, "Uncle Jim" was made practically one of the family. He lived with the family, who eventually helped him acquire a chain of shoe stores and become a successful businessman. ERB chose an even mix of minorities and types as villains in his novels, which he balanced by presenting a corresponding mix of minorities as "good guys."

Both have met accusations of racism, but such accusations are worthy of careful, balanced examination. The majority of their work was far more tolerant toward minorities than that the majority of writers in their time. They generally showed admirable tolerance and support of other cultures and races, especially in light of the fact that they were raised in a time when whites were taught that they were better than the Chinese, the Italians, the Irish, and the other immigrants who were taking away jobs from Americans of good Anglo-Saxon breeding.


In 1914, London went to Mexico as a war correspondent covering the role of U.S. troops and Navy ships in the Villa-Carranza revolt. He also went on assignments to Manchuria during the Russo-Japanese War.

ERB was the oldest accredited WWII correspondent in the Pacific Theatre. He witnessed the Pearl Harbor attack, flew bombing missions, dodged sniper fire on Pacific islands, and sailed thousands of miles in navy ships.

Both men were hard drinking war correspondents who covered the Pacific area on assignments -- albeit thirty years apart.


Jack London died on November 22, 1916. Controversy and mystery surrounds the circumstances of his death.  He was 40 years of age and had been suffering from a variety of ailments, including headaches, stomach disturbances, yaws, malarial fever, pleurisy, bronchitis, ravaging uremia, kidney stones and failing kidneys, and he took morphine to alleviate the pain from these various maladies. In light of these afflictions it is all the more incredible that he created such a huge body of work. It has been suggested that he died of a morphine overdose or a stroke, but his death certificate states that he died of gastrointestinal uremic poisoning. The last book he read Around Cape Horn, Maine to California in 1852: The Voyage of the Passenger Ship James W. Paige by J. Lamson.
ERB was bedridden in his last years, suffering from a heart condition and Parkinson's Disease. He died quietly in bed while reading the Sunday funnies.

Both men had suffered varying degrees of ill health all throughout their lives. London contracted scurvy during his time in the Klondike and picked up various skin diseases during his Pacific voyages. In his later years he suffered from kidney disease. He also had alcohol and morphine dependencies brought about by overwork, depression and the pain from his various maladies. Ed Burroughs was a sickly child for much of his youth, had recurring headaches and nightmares as a result of numerous head injuries, was diagnosed with a heart condition in his early twenties, had numerous operations for bladder infections, experienced bouts of depression in his later years which led to the overuse of alcohol, experienced numerous heart attacks and was stricken with Parkinson's Disease in his twilight years.

London's true life experiences often found their way into his novels such as John Barleycorn but he never completed a formal autobiography.
American Dreamers: Charmian and Jack London by Clarice StaszMaster of Adventure by Richard LupoffERB and Tarzan by Fenton and McWhorterERB: The Man Who Created Tarzan by Irwin Porges 1975 and 1976
ERB started an autobiography but never finished it. He left copious amounts of autobiographical material behind, however, in letters, articles, and journals.

Despite having led such remarkable lives, neither man wrote an actual autobiography although the dreams and events based upon true-life experiences were the inspiration for their amazing output of stories. Many biographers have turned to the task, however, and there is an impressive list of biographical studies of each author.

By his request, London's ashes were placed under a large volcanic stone on his beloved Beauty Ranch.
JL ashes placed under a volcanic rock at Beauty Ranch.
ERB's ashes were buried close to his mother's, under the large tree in front of the ERB, Inc. building in Tarzana.

Both men were cremated and buried on their properties. Neither had much use for religion and religious ceremony.

Both writers have been denied the degree of critical acclaim and recognition from their peers that their lasting works marks upon the literary world and popular culture deserve. This is largely because of their popular and financial success as well as their somewhat unorthodox lifestyles and approaches to their craft. Burroughs, especially, has been ignored by much of academia. Despite having sold countless millions of books in scores of different languages, and being a major cultural influence, Burroughs is either derided or ignored by most university English departments. He once complained: "It must be wonderful to be able to devote one's life to art for art's sake, a luxury which I have never been able to afford." The bodies of work of these two amazing authors are impressive, however, as a study of their bibliographies will attest.

Edgar Rice Burroughs Illustrated Bibliograpy
Jack London Illustrated Bibliography
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

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