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Volume 2836
The 1912 & 1913 Business Correspondence between
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Thomas Metcalf of All-Story Magazine
Part V
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December 20  1912
My dear Metcalf:

Was glad to have your letter of the 18th, because whatever your decision I wanted to know it - I am a bum writer. Feeling as you do about the story I don't see how you could very well have come to any other decision.

The pitiful part of it all is that I am too dense to see what is wrong, or how to remedy it - I certainly tried. I think my mistake lay in attempting to patch it up. I should have forgotten everything except the plot, and then rewritten it from the beginning. I hate patching, it is far from interesting, and this may have accounted for the poor results. I really wish though that I  knew just how and where it is weak. 

I am going to do it over again when I have time - I shall stick to the Outlaw of Torn until it is published - I come of a very long lived family.

Thanks for the Tarzan letters. There is so much reference to the "punk" editing that I am inclined to think that that is the very feature of the story that really clinched their interest. For two cents I'd give them another surprise in the sequel. I have a bully little Arab girl, daughter of a Sheik, who is the only logical mate for a savage like Tarzan. I am just 'thinking', however, and probably shall not do it, though it would be quite artistic.

The story is progressing finely and you should have it shortly. The result is that I am working about 25 hours a day, approximately.

Yours very truly,
Edgar Rice Burroughs (sig)

2008 Park avenue.
January 9  1913
My dear Mr. Metcalf:

THE APE-MAN goes forward to you by express tomorrow. As you will see I have changed the name from what I at first proposed calling it - I never did like the other.

If you take it please do not forget your offer of November 9th relative to rate, and balance coming to me on The Gods of Mars.

By the way, have you had any comments from readers, or its it too early? I hope The Ape-Man is to run all in one issue, as I imagine that adds a lot to the reader's interest, and also results in more readers.

How about those back numbers I wrote about? If you turned the matter over to another department they must have forgotten about it. 

I had another bully letter about Tarzan of the Apes a day or so ago - the best, I think, that I ever have had. Mr. B. says I never will write another such story - cheerful, isn't it, for one who has only just started?

That reminds me of something that I wanted to ask you about a number times - I refer to my English. I imagine it is pretty rotten, and I wish that you would tell me frankly if you agree with me.

I never studied English grammar but a month in my life - while I was cramming for West Point. I was taken out of public school before I got that far, and sent to a private school here - the old Harvard School on Indiana avenue; you may recall it - where they had a theory that a boy should learn Greek and Latin grammar before he took up English grammar. Then before I got to the English grammar I was sent to Andover, where I was supposed to have had English before I came, and started in on Greek and Latin again. So I studied Latin for eight years, and never was taught my mother tongue; which is my notion of a bum way to educate a boy. I have been thinking of getting hold of an English tutor. What do you think about it?

Edgar Rice Burroughs (sig)



New York, Jan. 27, 1913
Mr. E.R. Burroughs
    2008 Park Ave.,
        Chicago, Ills.

My dear Burroughs:

I have given "The Ape Man" very careful consideration and I am very much afraid that as it stands I cannot use it. This makes me feel very bad, because of course I was very keen indeed, both for your sake, for mine and for the sake of all those insistent readers who wanted a sequel to "Tarzan".

I fear, however, that the first 138 pages of the story are really quite unnecessary. The incident in Paris, while good enough by itself, really does not advance the story ot any extent, neither does the incident with dancing girl and the Arabs. I do not see the exact necessity of your villain Rockoff, nor Lord Tennington and Hazel Strong, or of more than one of the various sailing parties of which you write. By this I do not mean the trips on board the private yacht or the various times that various of your characters are on the sea.

After Tarzan goes to Africa again the story picked up although it seems to me that you have not really done yourself justice with Tarzan as king of that tribe of Negroes. As a matter of fact, it strikes me that the attack and pursuit of the marauding Arabs is rather tedious. There is not sufficient variety there. Especially is that so considering that there has been a good deal of fighting with the Arabs in the earlier part of the story.

I liked well enough your City of Riches which comes along later, although I felt that perhaps it was not as highly original as other work of yours and possibly it had a similarity of tone at least to some of  your Martian stuff. But that part of it, however, I am perfectly willing to let stand.

This whole story is not well balanced because you must realize as well as I that you have no right to spend so many thousands of words getting Tarzan to Africa and so few thousands of words keeping him there and getting him out of the place. Also you spend a great many too many words in describing the various ship wrecks and things of that sort and when you finally get the various groups in Africa, you more or less ignore them and hustle them along rather brutally. As a matter of fact, in several of the last chapters the point of view and scene shift so continually that it is rather hard to keep the interest.

I believe that you ought to start the story with a chapter that is somewhat like your chapter 12. Then you have Tarzan, Clayton and Jane separate. I should think it would be perfectly good to have Tarzan hit New York, say for a night. In his lack of sophistication and in his grief, he might really get on a terrific bender. Under the influence of liquor he might muss up the place or something of that sort, but when the authorities looked after him they were only too willing to deport him as an undesirable alien. All this makes civilization extremely hateful to him.

He might be met by D'Arnot, at Havre, who argues with him regarding his renunciation of Jane, and then supplies him with enough cash to find his way back to Africa. D'Arnot might apparently dislike the idea of Tarzan again reverting to savagery and Tarzan might, to ease his mind, agree not to stay long in the jungle, but go seemingly after the treasure which he might say he will bury in some place not very far from the original cabin. A long time might go by and D'Arnot not hearing from Tarzan and believing him very likely dead, might write to Jane or might with Jane and Clayton charter a steamer, or something of that sort, and go after the treasure themselves. In the meantime Tarzan has returned to savagery. Of course, when Clayton, D'Arnot and Jane arrive again at the jungle they may have certain adventures. Tarzan by this time is thoroughly a savage.

That is all I can think of just now. My particular point is, as I think I said in a letter I wrote to you a while ago, that the interest in the former story was in the jungle part of it and in the ingenuity that you displayed. Of course in a story of this sort not so much ingenuity could be shown, but you had a perfectly good motive before in describing Tarzan's gradual rise toward civilization. I think you must have a motive in every story, certainly you have not one here as it stands. It seems to me that as good a motive as any would be Tarzan's attempt to become a savage again after deciding that civilization was no good, and his final failure to become an animal again.

It may be that you will find these suggestions of mine thoroughly unsatisfactory. I don't think they are particularly brilliant myself. At the same time, I believe they are nearer what is necessary than the exploits through which you run your hero in the present novel. There is too much shift of scene, too great a cast of characters and no direct motive, and after you have played very hard with certain people you submerge them and never think of them again.

Also 95,000 words are altogether too many for me. At the most, I really cannot run more than 85,000. If you want to fix this thing up for me, and you know I will only be too delighted if you will, I wish you would make a point of not having it more than 80,000. I know you will appreciate how regretful I am to have to return the manuscript and how hopeful I am that you will fix it up so that I may not be disappointed.

Very truly yours,
Thomas Newell Metcalf (sig)

P.S. The manuscript is being returned to you by express prepaid.
This rejection of THE APE MAN, which later was named THE RETURN OF TARZAN, would have been very upsetting to Ed -- especially since Metcalf had earlier rejected THE OUTLAW OF TORN after numerous re-writes. This rejection turned out for the better, however, since the Tarzan sequel was immediately accepted at a higher rate by ALL-STORY's competitor, NEW STORY MAGAZINE. ERB must have felt vindicated when Metcalf was fired for letting ERB get away.
February 22  1913
Dear Metcalf:

Thanks for release. The letter, or rather excerpt from criticism of Tarzan was very interesting. I think the writer, as well as many others, have overlooked what may quite possibly have been the real charm of the story although he has taken advantage of it to a greater extent than many others.

I mean that the unsatisfactory ending left much to the readers imagination - it forced him to create a story after his own liking - it made him think more about the story than as thought he ending had been satisfactory and commonplace, and so it made the story its own press agent.

I am sorry that I could not have been present at A.M. to take my punishment. It seems to be one of the burdens of writing that every reader thinks he can thrash every author. You had best guard my address with the utmost secrecy.

You ask me what I am working on now. I am having a little fun with higher education. A young man from Boston is cast ashore somewhere. He is all intellect. Falls in with a bunch of cliff dwellers - aboriginal men and women. Accident throws him with a young female. She is strong, husky and intellectual as a she ape. He is a physical weakling filled with the knowledge of an encyclopedia. Yet circumstances, environment and the laws of sex find her the brains and him the brawn of the combination. I am having a lot of fun with it.

If you think you would like it I might send it to you if you will promise not to say that "it is not convincing", or "lacks balance". Just fire it back quick if you don't like it. 

In a way I am awful sorry about the Ape-Man, for I really wanted you to have it; at the same time my grief is tempered by the knowledge that it couldn't have been quite as rotten as you thought it, for I got the best price for it that I have had for any of my stories, nor did I have to alter a line of it.

Edgar Rice Burroughs (sig)

New Story - January 1914 - The Outlaw of Torn 1/5
ERB C.H.A.S.E.R Biblio
J. Allen St. John: Outlaw of Torn - no interiors
Outlaw of Torn eText
New Story - August 1913 - The Return of Tarzan 3/7
ERB C.H.A.S.E.R Biblio
N. C. Wyeth: Return of Tarzan - 26 interior b/w headpieces by St. John (debut)
Return of Tarzan eText


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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