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
– American Heritage Dictionary of the English
Language, 3d ed.
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,
“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
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 subject matter.
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 Mythos.
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
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 floor.
“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
“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 vista:
“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.” (PM/2.)
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
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,”
“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
“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 greenish powder.
“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 of Mars.
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
“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 ERB.
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
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 trod.
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
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 ERB.
“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
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 death.
“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
“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 . . .