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Volume 2832
The 1911 Business Correspondence between
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Thomas Metcalf of All-Story Magazine
Part I

ERB C.H.A.S.E.R Biblio Entry
First Appearnce as Under the Moons of Mars in All-Story Magazine ~ February - July, 1912 ~ Fred W. Small headpiece art
Read the eText Edition
Back in the early 1970s Danton Burroughs and his uncle Hulbert released a string of important business letters documenting the early years of ERB's writing career. The originals were preserved on hard-to-read carbon copies, so they had them re-typed in the style of the the originals and added the stock ERB signature to each document. 

The letters are quite revealing and very interesting. It was obvious that ERB's interest in the stories was mainly monetary, but he soon developed a deep affection for his creations. When he first began to write he lacked confidence in his writings. His confidence in himself grew, however, as the money, stories and letters of encouragement from Metcalf continued to expand. 

His early letters show him to be somewhat subservient to Metcalf as he is learning the ropes in this new game of writing and publishing. This soon changes as he gains confidence in his abilities. He does a good job of explaining his reasons for presenting the story as is, and although Metcalf has many suggestions for revision, ERB still makes the story all his own.

I have transcribed the letters in this series for easier reading. The scans of the original letters may be clicked larger.

~ Bill Hillman
175 Fifth Avenue
New York
Munsey's Magazine
The Argosy
The All-Story Magazine
The Scrap Book
Railroad Man's Magazine
The Cavalier
August 24, 1911
Mr. E.R. Burroughs
222 W. Kinzie St.,
Chicago, Ill.

Dear Sir:-

            It is with considerable interest that I have read "Dejah Thoris, Martian Princess." There are many things about the story which I like, but on the other hand, there are points about which I am not so keen. Undoubtedly the story shows a great deal of imagination and ingenuity; but I am unable to judge of course, the total effect, on account of its unfinished condition. I think it is rather slow in getting under way and it seems to me that you treat too casually and vaguely Carter's leaving the earth and arriving upon Mars. Then you often fall into long-windedness and tell many things which seem to me to be unessential to the story.

            You speak of the taciturnity of the Martians, yet you have one of the ladies tell a story of a couple thousand words and often the Tharks talk to a great extent. Somehow, it seems to me you are hardly consistent. As the story stands now it is not available, and any novel of 120,000 would be twice too long. At the most we should not care to consider a story that was more than 70,000 words in length. If it would be possible for you to compress into that length a story as ingenious as the greater parts of what I have read, I should be very glad to consider it. I hope that you will think it worth your while, and I hope that you will give me a chance to look at the finished manuscript. I am holding the present m.s. at your disposal.

Very truly yours
     Thomas Newell Metcalf (sig)
August 26, 1911
Mr. Thomas Newell Metcalf
Managing Editor
The All-Story Magazine
175 Fifth Ave., New York.

Dear Sir:

I wish to thank you for your letter of the 24th relative to "Dejah Thoris, Martian Princess" manuscript. Shall be very glad to rewrite the story in accordance with your suggestions. It is purely a business proposition with me and I wish to deliver the goods in accordance with your specifications.

The criticisms which you so kindly make will be very helpful, and if you can see your way to making further suggestions I shall gladly profit by them. I realize the inconsistency of having the Tharks talk to any great extent, but I felt, from my own experience as a reader, that a little conversation breaks the monotony of a story, and if the Tharks would not talk at all there could be no conversation in that part of the story.

I brought in the story of Sola, the Thark "lady", because I wanted a reason for using Tars Tarkas, her father, as a means of killing off Tal Hajus, befriending Carter, and, in the grand wind-up, effecting a reconciliation between the green men of Thark and the red men of Helium - sort of love feast you know.

I will outline the story from the close of the manuscript you h ave, and you can then suggest changes, if you will be so good.

Part 2: Dejah Thoris and Sola, after leaving Carter, are picked up in the h ills by "aerial scout cruiser" of a nation of red men at war with Dejah Thoris' people. Taken to capital. Son of ruler falls in love with Dejah Thoris. She repulses him. Helium about to fall before the armies of his people. Dejah Thoris can avert further disaster to her grandfather's realm by marrying him. Hears of death of Carter and concedes to marriage. Wedding ceremony.

Part 3: Carter among the Warhoons. Battle between Warhoons and Tharks. Carter saves life of Tars Tarkas, but is recaptured by Tharks and sentenced to torture by Tal Hajus. Tells Tars Tarkas story of Sola, his daughter. Tars Tarkas fights with and kills Tal Hajus, thus becoming ruler of the Tharks . Carter leans of incarceration of Dejah Thoris among the red men and hastens to their city. Appears with horde of green warriors in time to interrupt wedding ceremony. Escape with Dejah Thoris. Appears before Helium and relieves the city from siege. Accepted by the grandfather and people of Dejah Thoris as their deliverer. Weds Dejah Thoris. Later attempts to explore the mysterious Valley Dor at mouth of River Iss. Is caught in mighty air currents above Valley and borne high aloft into cold and darkness. Loses consciousness and awakens in this Arizona cave.

I had intended making his acceptance by the grandfather of Dejah Thoris a difficult matter involving intrigue, plots and counter plots, but it would require too much matter, I fear.

I will put in enough explanation of the manners, customs, scientific achievements, etc., of the red martians to make the story different from Earth stories, and while I may change the future plan a little it will be about as out lined.

I wrote this story because I needed the money it might bring, and not from motives of sentiment, although I became very much interested in it while writing. I am therefore open to suggestions, and would like to know just what parts you consider unessential to the story and avoid a recurrence in the balance of the manuscript.

Also, please tell me what remuneration I may expect for a story of sixty to seventy thousand words, and when payment would be made if the story was available.

Again thanking you for your courteous interest, I am,

Yours very truly,
Edgar Rice Burroughs (sig)
I enclose ten cents postage for return of ms.
August 28, 1911
Dear Sir:

                In answer to your letter of the 26th, may I say that it will be perfectly easy to correct the inconsistency of which we have talked merely by neglecting to say that the Tharks are a taciturn people?  At the same time, I believe that you can eliminate a good deal of their conversation.

                I understand that the story of Sola is necessary to the story and intrinsically it is entertaining, so you might as well as not leave it in.

                In regard to part two of your story, I do not exactly see how you can tell of it, because you are writing your story in the first person and unless Carter is present there is no way of his describing various incidents except indirectly.

                May I suggest that the conclusion be changed somewhat?  After Carter marries the "lady", why would it not be possible to have the Martian city attacked by some kind of plague, or something of that sort? Then you could have the "lady" die and depict Carter's grief, - after which he, himself, might realize that he is smitten with this illness and is dying; and when he comes to again he might be back in the cave in Arizona.

                I should like to impress upon you my feeling that you ought to have the beginning of the story as rapid as possible. ONe is impatient before Carter gets to Mars.

                As regards remuneration, it is very difficult for me to say exactly what we would be able to give you. It is customary for us to buy serial rights for our all-fiction magazines at rates anywhere from five to ten dollars per thousand words, but I cannot tell you anything definite about this.

                I shall be very interested indeed to see the finished story, and I am returning the manuscript to you today.

                                            Very truly yours,
                                                                    Thomas Newell Metcalf (sig)

September 28, 1911

Thomas Newell Metcalf,
Managing Editor,
175 Fifth Ave., New York.

Dear Sir:

Pursuant to your letter of August 28th I have made the changes and condensations in the manuscript of "Dejah Thoris, Martian Princess," as outlined by you, and am sending you the finished story by mail today.

You will find the first chapter considerably shortened, and many other deletions throughout the first part.

Have carried out the entire tale in the first person, and worked out the ending along the line you suggested, which is much more satisfactory than that I originally had in mind.

Yours very truly,
Edgar Rice Burroughs (sig)
New York, Oct. 6, 1911

Mr. E.R. Burroughs,
    222 W. Kinzie St.,
            Chicago, Ill.

Dear Mr. Burroughs

                The manuscript has reached me and I shall read it at my earliest convenience. I don't understand exactly about the postage, but so far as I can make out , the package got here all right, so I don't think you are indebted to us in any way.

                I hope the manuscript goes through, because I should like very much to have a successful story of that sort.

Very truly yours,

Thomas Newell Metcalf (sig)
New York, Nov. 4, 1911
Mr. E.R. Burroughs
    222 W. Kinzie St.,
        Chicago, Ills.

Dear Mr. Burroughs:

                "The Martian Princess" story is in perfectly good form now and I should like very much to buy it for publication in The All-Story Magazine.  I therefore offer  you for all serial rights, $400.00.

                As we, of course, do not publish books, this will leave all the book rights in your hands. If you do see fit to let us have this story, I should like to stipulate that I might change the title and that I shall very likely do some cutting especially at the very beginning of the story, and also very likely entirely eliminate Solar's story, as the latter does not seem to me to be necessary to the rest of the story.

                I am sorry to have been so long in giving you an answer on this and I hope we will be able to do business together. While speaking of this, considering the fact that we have never done business together before, I should be very glad if you would send us a reference to some publisher or other reasonable person who can assure us that your work is certain to be entirely original. This is a mere matter of form and I am sure you will understand how we feel.

                I was thinking last night, considering with how much vividness you described the various fights, whether you might not be able to do a serial of the regular romantic type, something like, say "Ivanhoe", or at least of the period when everybody wore armor and dashed about rescuing fair ladies. If you have in mind any serials, or anything of that sort, and if you think it worth your while, I should be very glad indeed to hear from you in regard to them.

                                                        Very truly yours,
                                                                Thomas Newell Metcalf
Managing Editor


Part I
August 24, 1911: Metcalf
August 26, 1911: ERB
August 28, 1911: Metcalf
September 28, 1911: ERB
October 6, 1911: Metcalf
November 4, 1911: Metcalf
Part II
November 6, 1911: ERB
November 20, 1911: Metcalf
June 26, 1912: Metcalf
June 28, 1912: ERB


Part III
September 20, 1912: ERB
October 2, 1912: ERB
October 9, 1912: ERB
Oct. 11, 1912: Metcalf
December 22, 1931: ERB
Part IV
October 15, 1912: ERB
December 5, 1912: ERB
December 10, 1912: Metcalf
December 12 1912: ERB


Part V
December 20, 1912: ERB
January 9, 1913: ERB
January 27, 1913: Metcalf
February 22  1913: ERB


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