On The Road To Success: 1911-1920
The Porges wrote the most comprehensive biography of Ed: Edgar Rice Burroughs: The Man Who Created Tarzan. They were allowed to use the archives and to this date they are the only researchers who have. Although given the freedom of the archives they were apparently denied the freedom to write as they chose. There were others who were selected to write the biography but as they found information that was considered inappropriate to disclose they were dismissed. The Porges were willing to write hagiography.
As Ed’s work reflects his life both before and as the books were written one can compare Porges' biography with the novels to get some idea about the banned material. Some portions of this piece then will be guesswork from the biography and the novels. Bill Hillman at ERBzine has also unearthed details not in Porges on his ERBzine site. ERBzine is one of the great internet sites not only as concerns Burroughs but as a site. It is worthwhile to check out Bill’s work if you’re not familiar with it.
By 1911 then, Ed’s psychology, his memories that he would use in writing his novels, was in place. He already had a multi-faceted personality and he would add facets to that personality. He was quite extraordinary in being able to incorporate, seemingly, the whole of his memory banks. The question is were his references more obvious to his readers at the time than they are today. For instance the Dreyfus Affair in France of the 1890s gets a fairly comprehensive treatment in The Return Of Tarzan although today it would go unnoticed unless one were historically aware and then recognized what he was talking about.
The same goes with the Sky Pilot/Big Bill Haywood episode of The Oakdale Affair. Of course Sky Pilot/ Haywood merger
Big Bill Haywood
into John the Bully. (See my Dynamo Blog or ERBzine 1483a ) With the proper historical background what he’s talking about becomes clear if you read between the lines.
The novels of 1912-1914 directly refer to events and reading, questions and cultural problems, surrounding his pre-1900 reading and his reading of current writers after 1900. So far I have able to trace the contents of the novels back to that reading and those cultural questions. Other references I have picked up from other writers but may not have read the volumes themselves. I’m working at it.
In 1910 Ed was thirty-five years old. He had had a life of, shall we say, limited success so that he was becoming anxious about his possibilities for the future. As he approached the mid-life crisis that every man faces at forty the fear of failing self-realization gripped his soul. His was now a do-or-die situation. His only chance of success that he could see was to succeed as a writer and that was a million to one chance. Ed was an inveterate gambler.
By the time Ed began to write he was dealing with the problems of a world gone by. Since his youth from 1875 to 1900 and young manhood of 1900-1912 worlds had slipped away beneath his feet. There was a great difference between the world of his psychological and intellectual understanding of the world that had just passed away and the emerging world that would affect his future reputation.
Immigration had brought millions of Jews from Eastern Europe and millions of Italians from Southern Europe while the Negro revolt against Jim Crow would quickly gain momentum with the great Negro emigration North during the Great War the resistance to White rule was beginning organization by the Negro chief, Marcus Garvey.
Ed’s activities in those matters were rooted in a pre-1900 milieu. While he himself was no bigot in any way, the mere accurate reporting of existing attitudes would be interpreted after 1950 as endorsement of them. Thus in merely participating in the attitude of his day Ed has been interpreted as a bigot by the various members of the Liberal Coalition. They have caused his books to be excised of any term or passage they deem offensive to their sensibilities. In doing so, of course, they have destroyed any evidence while there is nothing today in his published book that could offend the most Liberal. Hence, it never happened and Liberals can’t prove it did.
In addition as an avowed anti-Communist his successors have to fight the obliteration of his reputation from that quarter. The main threat is the TV and movie reformulation of Tarzan and John Carter into a Communist mold.
While Ed’s problems with accusations of anti-Semitism wouldn’t surface until 1919 after the success of the Bolshevik Revolution, the groundwork was being laid as the second decade opened. But a survey of that situation can wait to Book II and the years from 1920 to his death.
It may be sufficient for the present to note that the texts have been bowlderized to meet the prejudices of the current age. Thus any references that Jews and Negroes might find ‘offensive’ have been excised from the texts with the full compliance of ERB, Inc. since the sixties.
In the year or so before the acceptance of the Princess Of Mars Ed appears to have accepted the inevitable, taking a job with Systems Magazine where he dispensed advice to readers on how to be a successful businessman. Interesting occupation for a guy who failed at selling pencil sharpeners.
During this period Ed pleads extreme poverty even to the extent of pawning Emma’s jewelry. I think the claim can be significantly discounted. As Ed had thrown over a promising career at Sears then such poverty, if it existed, was self chosen. In the second, his income at Systems, which seems to have been a profitable firm, must have been somewhere in the neighborhood of $3000 a year, well above the destitution level. And then he had no sooner sold Tarzan Of The Apes to Munsey’s than he quit Systems to assume a fulltime career as a writer.
One admires his boldness but one is appalled at the huge risk he took. As Emma, his friends and relations were shocked at the leap of faith Ed must have been thought of as foolish. Now, not only did he quit his day job but he immediately made plans to take a nine-month-long vacation to San Diego. This is without any money in the bank and no source of income other than the hope that whatever he wrote would sell. His only source of income being from the relatively low paying pulps as compared to the slicks such as the Saturday Evening Post.
I doubt that there was anyone who didn’t think he was out of his mind. If I’d been there I would have had to agree. The act was at the very least premature. Ed didn’t do anything on the cheap so he bought first class rail tickets including the freight for his second hand car and, I repeat, this is with only current cash in hand. Any expenses in San Diego would have to be met by receipts from the sale of his stories. This blows my mind whenever I think about it.
As it turned out he got along by the skin of his teeth leaving San Diego with about as much pocket money as he had when he arrived nine months earlier. Now, this goes further: his income for 1913 was ten thousand dollars -- a handsome income for the time -- which he blew as fast as it came in. One can only imagine the strain this placed on his marriage. While Ed undoubtedly thought the money would come rolling in forever, in which as it turned out he wasn’t wrong, Emma must have been distracted to the point of her endurance.
Why would Ed do this? He obviously had a compelling psychological need: His desire to reclaim the lost kingdom of his youth, the repressed life since then, found release in the merest glimmer of success. He expressed his self-realization in the most extreme acts of the nouveau riche.
Once back in Chicago in the Spring of 1914 with the first efflorescence of repressed self-expression over Ed now had to settle down into continued production.
A Writer’s Life
He still had no other outlet for his stories than Munsey’s and other pulp magazines. While Tarzan had had a blockbuster effect within the small and despised universe of pulp readers, that smash was a mere ripple in the rest of the literary world. Besides, in realistic terms, Ed's stories were obviously derivative as well as preposterous.
As he himself later acknowledged his career was really jump started when the New York Evening World began the serialization of Tarzan Of The Apes in newspapers. From the World the story was picked up by several other newspapers so that he earned another thousand dollars from that source while having the fame of the Tarzan story broadcast to a much larger audience than the pulps.
However, it was essential that Ed find a book publisher. His writing was so outre that there was no publisher that would touch him regardless of the obvious popularity of Tarzan. He was turned down by all the major houses. Ed was a literary pioneer. To be a success in the pulps at that time was not a respectable achievement. It would take another ten to fifteen years for publishers to recognize the market and that only after the phenomenal success of Bernarr Macfadden’s True Romance pulps that began after the War. Ed had the proverbial million dollar idea with no way to get it to realization.
Ed was forced to attempt to get local publisher McClurg’s to publish his wildly successful novel from the pulps and newspapers. McClurg’s who after all had published Zane Grey’s The Short Stop who now in 1914 after The Riders Of The Purple Sage was wildly successful, would soon go on to publish some astoundingly stupid titles, stoutly rejected Tarzan Of The Apes.
It was only when Ed was making arrangements with a Cincinnati publisher that McClurg’s had a sudden change of mind. Thus a very small press run was published in 1914.
This is where the elation of success ended and the drudgery of management began. I haven’t seen the contract but I’m sure it’s interesting. Apparently Ed gave the publishing rights to McClurg’s for everything for fifteen years. Now, the prevailing opinion was that Ed was writing indescribable trash that for some miraculous reason sold. Even then Tarzan Of The Apes was received by the reprint house, A.L. Burt, with some trepidation. They required McClurg’s to guarantee the run by agreeing to buy all unsold copies. McClurg’s must have forced the book on them.
Contrary to reports of millions of copies having been sold when AL Burt turned the volume over to Grosset and Dunlap they reported somewhat less than seven hundred thousand copies sold. Of course Burt may have fudged selling perhaps twice as many but reporting the lesser figure, but we can’t know.
As the Burt figures covered the first rush and G&D discontinued publication of Tarzan Of The Apes within a few years it is perhaps doubtful that the first of the series even sold a million copies. McClurg’s themselves contracted to print only 15,000 copies of the first edition of which there is doubt that they printed even that many copies.
So, by 1915 Ed had a pretty good backlog of titles available for publication of which McClurg’s published only one Tarzan title a year, although later that decade they began to release the Mars books.
During all the decade Ed was hot in the pulp market. His work was eagerly received by the pulp readership. At the same time it wasn’t unusual for the popular writers at this time to issue two, three or even four books a year. Why then as there was a proven market for Burroughs’ name McClurg’s policy was not to market a hot author aggressively requires some explanation. Unfortunately that isn’t likely to be forthcoming. All the principals are dead while the successor company to McClurg’s advised me that all those files were lost while seeming reluctant to even discuss the issue.
Even though sales were good McClurg’s refused to print much more than ten or fifteen thousand copies of new titles, turning the volumes immediately over to the reprint publisher who put a fifty cent price on the books refusing Ed’s pleas to sell them for at least a dollar. This they steadfastly refused to do until 1948. The appearance is that they even refused to satisfy the market finally allowing their titles to go out of print for a couple years after WWII. When Ed published the titles under his control in 1948 at a dollar apiece G&D followed suit with theirs, finally getting the price above fifty cents. There’s a story there that needs to be investigated.
Late in second decade of the century Ed was pleading with McClurg’s to print at least forty thousand copies of the first edition which they stoutly refused to do. This was important to Ed who received ten percent of the $1.30 retail price on the first edition and only 2 ½ cents on the reprint edition.
There was an ongoing struggle with McClurg’s for the length of the contract. At the same time the movie industry was developing by leaps and bounds. Merely a collection of one reelers at the beginning of the decade what were called seven and eight reel photo plays that actually told a story were being made. Hollywood was about to become the movie making capitol of the country but there were still companies in New York and Chicago. Ed hooked up with a Chicago company where he learned the woes of the fast and loose manner of the flickers. Boy, you really had to read those contracts and even that didn’t help. When I was in the record business in the seventies a major firm told me that a verbal contract was worthless and even if I had a written contract it wouldn’t be honored. If I wanted to sue it would take me decades and big money and then I still wouldn’t win and if I did win they still wouldn’t pay. Of course, by the seventies they had really developed their system.
Ed had an early success when The Oakdale Affair was filmed and a blockbuster when Tarzan Of The Apes was released. Collecting your money from the producers then and now was and is no easy task. I have other stories but this isn’t the place. But, the movies were essentially out of Ed’s hands so they don’t particularly pertain to Ed’s writing.
However, having devoted his time more or less fully to his writing through mid-1914 Ed began to squander his attention into less productive areas than his writing. I think this was a major mistake.
After the first gush was over in 1914 Ed had to search for his stories a little more. Rather than blasting them out one after the other in writings of thirty to sixty days Ed settled down to two or three a year.
When Ed incorporated himself in 1923 many think this was an innovation but in fact writing factories existed that issued titles under the same name although written by various writers, hence all those series like The Motor Boys and Tom Swift. Some writers were so prolific they wrote several stories a year using many different names. Baum himself published under both male and female pseudonyms.
Rather than settling down and attending to his writing Ed began to try to write movie scenarios that weren’t successful thus being a total waste of time. Perhaps antsy about getting his money Ed was a querulous presence on the movie lots making such a nuisance of himself that he was ultimately banned.
This was the beginning of a heady time for writers who could collect from several media: magazines, newspapers, books movies and even radio. As O. Henry explained it to Ed’s editor, Bob Davis:Under the influence O. Henry turned to philosophizing until finally his thoughts led him to the salability of the printed word.The term intellectual property began to have real cash value. Even the writing style began to conform to a scenario format. If one were fortunate to create a stellar character like Tarzan your fortune was made. While Ed’s personality prevented the success he should have enjoyed others profited greatly. With the advent of sound movies the Charlie Chan series released three and four movies a year for a decade or more. The series made the phrase ‘Number One Son’ a household term, but Ed languished at the rate of a movie every two or three years. But, more on that later.
“For example, here is a notebook,” he said, taking the sheaf from his coat pocket. “It contains a dozen sheets of blank, white paper. With a lead pencil on these several sheets I write a tale three or four thousand words in length. You buy the story and print it in one of the magazines you edit. If it is a good story it gets into a book, or perhaps is dramatized and put on the stage. Very well; that’s a beginning that has to do with its earning power. I begin to get royalties on the volume, the serial rights, the drama and maybe some day a motion picture. It goes on and on reaping profit and yet it is never anything but the figment of my imagination converted into words. Is that clear.”
If ever someone’s past rose up to nip them from behind it was Ed’s. In psychological terms Ed was severely emasculated while being hysterical in nature. Just as memory constellates around its fixations so a type of writer constellates readers of the same type as himself. It may not be pleasant to realize it but if you are a Burroughs reader you are hysterical and emasculated to some degree.
Thus in writing his stories Ed constellated around his fixations. Having created his original characters, Tarzan, John Carter, and associated them with his mental fixations Ed then ransacked the literature he had read for incident and plot lines. This was partly done because Ed really admired the books he ‘quoted’ and wanted to write stories like them. If one is familiar with his reading then one can easily find the framework for his novels.
After 1912 when Ed quit his job to rely on his writing for an income he was confronted by new realities and temptations. One key reality was that he had a wife he didn’t want. Quite possibly he had never wanted Emma as a wife merely marrying her to spite Frank Martin. When he told this to his long time friend Bert Weston, Weston scoffed, but I believe it is true.
Ed said that he walked out on Emma three times. While those times are not glaringly obvious one may have been somewhere between 1908-10 when he is reported calling her on the phone from East Bend, Indiana and a second may have been in 1918 before leaving Chicago. Certainly Ed’s success created great turmoil in his mind.
Having been put down most of his life while knowing he had a great talent, the realization of that talent caused a great sense of elation and self-confidence. However, because of his emasculation he still retained, at least for the time, a semi-dependent personality. He was easily influenced. Thus, after the publication of A Princess Of Mars when I believe he had the Carter Trilogy blocked out in his mind, while having formed the Tarzan conception in his head, he allowed his editor, Metcalf, to persuade him to write a medieval Men In Iron type story that was popular at the time in stories such as those of Howard Pyle.
Ed complied writing The Outlaw Of Torn that might have been well received by the readership but would also have presented Ed as a conventional writer rather continuing the sensationalist departure of Princess. In any event Metcalf rejected the story and rather than spend god knows how long tampering with the story for Metcalf’s satisfaction Ed wisely chose to shelve it and move on to Tarzan Of The Apes confirming his innovative status.
Metcalf accepted the story while running the entire novel in one issue. But remember you’re only talking about a potential hundred thousand readers in a despised literature. While Ed’s success was immediate it was like summer lightning, all flash and no thunder. Still he was a flash in the pulp sky that caught the attention of other publishers.
Ed followed Tarzan Of The Apes with The Return Of Tarzan that Metcalf also rejected. Enraged Ed shopped the story around to other pulps where it was accepted. In the pulp world Ed was already a commodity so Metcalf, who let the story and possibly the author, get away was axed as Ed’s editor and replaced by the irascible Bob Davis who remained his editor until 1920 when Davis departed for what he hoped were greener pastures.
Thus, as 1914 closed Ed had a guaranteed income from Munsey’s , a more or less guaranteed income from book publishing and a soon to be realized erratic but potentially long term movie income. As the decade closed he earned peak income of a hundred thousand dollars, equivalent to several million today, while with the addition of post-war global royalties, life for that brief moment might have been viewed with quiet satisfaction. He had seemingly regained his princely status as prognosticated by his three favorite books. In addition John Carter was Warlord Of Mars and Tarzan was King of the Jungle. One big thorn on the rose bush appeared in far off Russia where the communistic Bolshevik Revolution had succeeded. But, that’s for later.
Back in 1912 when Ed’s old problems disappeared new ones arose to replace them. Ever since 1899 Ed had had problems with those excruciating headaches which still plagued him. Back in 1893 at the Columbian Expo Ed had seen the proto-body builder, The Great Sandow. Sandow was a legend in his own time and for some thereafter, at least into my childhood. Even today the top prize in body building is called the Sandow.
If Tarzan had a beginning the seed was surely planted in Ed’s mind by Sandow. Ed was awed by Sandow but objected to the bunchy muscles preferring those, as he put it, that flowed like molten metal beneath the skin. Ed mentions one of Sandow’s feats in Tarzan Of The Apes and in Tarzan and the City Of Gold a few years after Sandow’s death models a character on him. (see my review ). In that story Tarzan defeats the Sandow clone thereby settling the issue of which muscles were best.
Also a nonentity in the Exposition audience was Bernie McFadden. Bernie was not long to remain a non-entity. He was soon to become the Father of American Body Building under the name of Bernarr Macfadden. Within six years he had founded Physical Culture magazine and become active in the American pursuit of the perfect food of the gods.
He originally set up in the center of the health food fadists, Battle Creek, Michigan, home of that perfect food Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. Along about 1908 Bernarr recognized the limited commercial possibilities of Battle Creek, removing to Chicago. Here he began a highly successful chain of health food restaurants while developing his concept of the Juice Bar. You could go in and get a nice big glass of carrot juice for instance. The discovery of vitamins in the 1920s was a ways in the future so while Bernarr didn’t know he was providing essential vitamins such as A and C he knew the juice did something for you. Of course he was thought of as nut cake and was lucky to escape the asylum.
It hadn’t been too many years earlier that that fate had overtaken the discoverer of antisepsis Ignaz Semelweiss. That poor guy after discovering that a simple washing of the hands could save the lives of several thousands of women lost in childbirth, and demonstrated it, was rejected by the medical community who refused to believe the facts before their eyes. Poor old Ignaz campaigned so violently for those lives that he was thrown in the loony bin where he died. When Lister discovered germs giving the doctors a handle for belief Ignaz was of course exonerated but … dead.
A lot of water goes under the bridge in a few decades so that what would get you killed in ancient Athens, committed in nineteenth century Germany was dismissed as mere eccentricity in 1900 as Bernarr went on to a fortune. That’s what’s called social progress.
So Bernie, pardon me, Bernarr like or not was a benefactor of the people. If you followed his program of exercises and diet he would make you big and tough. What he did for Charles Atlas he could do for you and me. If we had the determination. I never did.
Now, Ed had been everywhere trying to find a cure for those headaches. There are indications that he found his way to Bernarr’s door. Whether or not Bernarr’s remedies were helpful by the mid-teens Ed’s headaches lessened or disappeared over the decade while if this picture isn’t a body building pose I don’t know what it is.
Macfadden didn’t limit his activities to physical culture; he was a real game changer. From Physical Culture Magazine he moved into pulps creating the Romance genre. Among his many pulps were True Detective, True Story, True Romances, and moving into the paranormal, Dream World and Ghost Stories. Dealing with the more mundane he founded the great movie magazine, Photo Play, that had a very long run.
Bernarr entered the newspaper field with the sensationalist New York Graphic. It featured the despised journalistic innovation, the Composograph, in which actors enacted crime scenes and whatever. Macfadden was a sensation for over thirty years. Of course like Dr. Semmelweiss, his innovations far exceeded the imaginations of his peers and while escaping the gallows or the asylum his competitors worked very hard to destroy his success in which they ultimately succeeded. Fabulous story though.
Thus while probably not having the influence on the creation of Tarzan that the Great Sandow had, I’m sure that Physical Culture Magazine and the Juice Bars figured in there somewhere. That magic food has yet to be discovered though. Henry Ford thought maybe soybeans…
Along with his improving health in the decade Ed’s financial status, of course, bloomed like the fabled Century plant, it only blooms once in a hundred years but with spectacular result. Unfortunately as Bob Dylan, who should know, says: There’s no success like failure and failure is no success at all. Everyone wants success but success is frequently the greatest challenge of all.
After imagining himself a slighted genius for thirty-five years Ed had his wildest fantasies realized in his fabulous year of 1913. He had pulled the Big Carrot up by the root. One imagines he was delirious with the sense of achievement and power.
If anything he would have been able to show his father that he was a good man, that he had amounted to something. Unfortunately for his ego his father died in March of 1913 before he had plucked the big fruit from the tree. He had sold Princess and Tarzan but an unforgiving father might easily have considered those flukes while being dismayed that Ed would give up his day job in the wild hope of continued literary success.
Ed himself had no misgivings. Having pawned Emma’s jewelry a couple years earlier to buy coal he was in a position to turn those chunks of coal into diamonds as big as the Ritz. He believed he had money to do all those things he’d always wanted to do and he went out and did them even before he had the check in the bank. God almighty, he even bought himself a set of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall Of The Roman Empire and read it as one of his first acts. How long had he been yearning for that wonderful history, I wonder.
Naturally an auto was top priority. Ed was in such a rush for that that he bought a used car, a Vellie, possibly from the proceeds of Tarzan. After he sold that car in 1913 in San Diego he bought a new car every year of the decade. Despising the poor man’s wheels, the Ford, he bought more expensive marques until he ended up with the royal Packard from the twenties till his death.
Ed just bought and bought and bought. Old memories rose up and bit him.
The memory of the trip to NYC in Frank Martin’s private railroad car left the old indelible impression on him quite apart from Toronto. It was the only way to travel, he said. Thus at the first glimmer of future, not present, earnings Ed packed up wife and kids, dog and used Vellie and left for California a couple months after his father died. They traveled first class, that is, Pullman. It would have been possible to book a whole car for himself. It would be interesting to know if he did which then would have been a simulation of a private car thus rectifying that memory. As the private car was related to Emma the question would be was Ed showing Emma he could do anything that Martin could do? The trip would also probably refer back to the guilt fixation Ed incurred when he gambled away their last forty dollars in Idaho. While the couple was essentially traveling on empty pockets yet a substantial sum would be spent thus correcting the forty dollars while rather than taking Emma to the wilderness, to which she must have objected, he showed her the luxury of San Diego.
In his mind this probably wiped the slate clean making up to Emma his previous feelings. The psychodynamic didn’t work quite that way. One can only guess the humiliation and fear Emma felt when Ed announced he’d lost their stake. Emma had put a lot of faith in Ed when she married him electing him over a suitable rich man. To then learn the man she married was an irresponsible fool may have embittered her a great deal.
Now when she could hope for security here Ed is out spending extravagant sums before he earned them. One can only guess at her mental state but I’m sure Ed’s success, that might very well be fleeting, alone could not restore her confidence without some demonstration of stability and responsibility from Ed. Forget that; Ed would never live with both feet on the ground.
Thus Ed wrote his two pleas in the two stories of The Mad King. Barney and the Mad King are twins just as Tarzan and Esteban Miranda will be twins in Ant Men. Barney is the new competent breadwinner Ed while the Mad King is the old ‘inefficient’ Ed. In this story the new Ed switches places with the old Ed with the Princess Emma as the prize. But Emma was still too hurt by the past to forgive and forget. It would take more wooing, more abasement but here Ed through in the sponge.
One can only guess at her mental state in San Diego but I’m sure Ed’s success, not yet confirmed, which might very well be fleeting, alone could not restore her confidence without some stability and responsibility from Ed. Forget that. Ed would live with both feet on the ground.
Thus Ed wrote his pleas to Emma in the two stories of The Mad King. The implication there is that the two lookalike men, Barney and the King were both Ed in the guise of The Prince And The Pauper. Ed felt restored to his lost kingdom but as this would have been while they were living hand to mouth in San Diego, albeit luxuriously, Emma was belieing and rejecting Ed’s fantasy.
Thus in the succeeding The Eternal Lover, Emma the faithless is replaced by Barney’s sister, Victoria. The memory fixation remained unexorcised leaving Ed now greatly embittered as in his eyes he had done his part and made himself a man. Soon as the Happy Hobo of the Return Of The Mucker he would be on the road looking for the perfect lover by the sea. The seeds of divorce had been sown. The path would now lead to Florence.
Back in Chicago in the Spring of '14 Ed had to deal with some problems. He still had to find a book publisher. When a Cincinatti publisher showed interest McClurg’s suddenly buckled and signed Ed to their disastrous contract.
Ed had every reason to expect the books to be a best seller. By 1914 Tarzan was close to a household word, virtually the wonder of the age. I have no doubt Ed built castles in air, yachts on the sea, based on his expectations. These were cruelly dashed when McClurg’s failed to promote the book leaving him with virtual peanuts.
Ed was still at a different transitional point that even if he had realized it he was too inexperienced to take the appropriate actions. One soon reaches a point having achieved success in which one finds oneself the key point in a broader enterprise. As the artist one should concentrate on one’s art and begin to organize a corporate entity to handle the more mundane details.
One needs agents and managers. It is necessary to entrust your earnings to these people to a very large extent. History has shown that with rare exceptions these agents are dishonest men or women who fleece their clients.
H.G. Wells solved this problem by entrusting these details to his wife, Jane. She was both competent and honest serving Wells’ interests ably. Emma might certainly have been able to perform these functions for Ed if she had been willing and he had been so minded. Ed however considered himself or wanted to be a businessman. Repeated failures didn’t convince him he should remain an artist.
The artist and the businessman are two different roles. Mark Twain to his chagrin learned that he should have stuck to his pen and let businessmen run businesses when he managed to bankrupt himself. Ed very nearly bankrupted himself when he tried to run Tarzana as a business. You may be sure Emma would never have done that although she might not have been able to maximize the finances, at least they wouldn’t have been broke.
Thus, Ed dissipated his talent in unfruitful endeavors. His McClurg’s contract was a done deal, however his movie contracts absorbed a great deal of his time and attention that might better have been handled by professionals. It can be said for Ed that the relationship between authors and studios was a new phenomenon. It was not clear to him that movies and novels were two different things with different requirements. The complexities possible in a novel have to be simplified into a few scenes in movies.
Against Ed it may be said that while he hadn’t figured it out other authors had. They were more successful in exploiting the movies.
The coming of the Great War disrupted the world and the country. Ed’s European royalties were non-existent until the post war realities set in. This included the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and the rise of the Jews as a semi-autonomous power in the US in conflict with the mores of the Aryans while they were in control of the movies as a culture forming medium. They could determine what would be filmed and how.
The worlds that Ed had known before 1919 then just slipped away and were seen no more. Just as 1900 had been a transition into a new world of a larger scale so was 1919. The scale of operations increased enormously. But, that’s for the next installment.
Ed had barely settled down on return from the 1913-14 California adventure when he determined on another in 1916. This began as a trip to New England possibly to show his success to the Phillips Academy from which he had been ejected, but having gotten as far of Emma’s mother’s summer home in Coldwater, Michigan the cavalcade turned around heading West for Los Angeles, California.
By this time Ed had achieved a certain level of prosperity so that his road show included his car and a Republic truck, a driver and a couple tons of possessions and a large blue striped tent. While these expeditions shine in one’s imagination before leaving the reality is often too tedious to be endured. This was one of the latter for Ed and Emma. See my ERBzine essay . After a good start on pavement the trip turned into a nightmare on the dirt and mud roads. The marriage did survive the trip though; the kids had a great time.
Upon the return from California within a very short time the US was embroiled in the world war. This too took up Ed’s time as he tried to get a job as a war correspondent. Failing that he secured an appointment as a Major in the Illinois National Guard. He engaged in some embarrassing street antics that I am sure did his reputation no good. By January of 1919 when he fled Chicago for LA I am sure that he was considered a bit more than eccentric. Whether other scandals were concealed I can only speculate. As that involves Ed’s sexual attitudes it is necessary to return to 1912.
An Author Searching For Love
While Ed’s writing is highly autobiographical, still it was necessary for him to keep his eye on the tastes of his pulp readership. As Woodrow Nichols, writing in the ERBzine, has emphasized, that audience appreciated titillating soft porn or at least a significant part of them did. There is also a line where a certain type of reader’s tastes are emphasized by an author so that he expands that audience, creating it so to speak. Nevertheless Ed’s writing is highly sexually charged although in a repressed way. As a young boy reading Ed any sexual innuendo passed over my head although in a vaguely comprehending way it may have struck a response in my subconscious. Nichols’ mother, however, got it and forbade Tarzan to him. Still, Ed rather embarrassingly confessed that he was a ‘dirty’ writer.
At the same time his opinions were of the sexually tolerant sort. He didn’t feel the need of marriage for sex; that was a minority opinion at that time. He adopted a more libertine life style as time went on while after his divorce he seems to have adopted a more carefree sexual attitude. The little book he did for the flapper Colleen Moore was quite a production of coy pornography.
I think it’s fair then to try to understand his sexual life in the times before he really began to spread his wings.
Now, Ed was sexually repressed. That repression began on the street corner on the way to Brown School. When John shamed Ed he emasculated him to a high degree, while actually destroying Ed’s Anima. Ed’s Anima became male in female clothing. It apparently took him several years to assimilate the psychic changes. When he had assumed his new personality at ages 12-14 he immediately began proposing to Emma who symbolically was the clothing John assumed. Thus Emma was essential for Ed’s mental balance.
From that time forward Emma saved herself for Ed not even forsaking him when he had disappeared to Arizona without notice. Indeed, she sent him a forget me not letter in September of ‘96. So Ed needed her but didn’t necessarily want to marry her or anyone. As he was knowledgeable in all the philosophical arguments of his day he probably always tended to the free love, free spirit side.
He was forced to change sides in 1900 in order to prevent Martin from possibly taking Emma. He then destroyed Emma’s confidence in him in 1904 when he gambled away their last forty dollars. The marriage road was rocky from that point on especially given Ed’s employment record.
The key question is what happened to Frank Martin after Ed’s marriage?
I don’t know about your hometown but in my hometown and, indeed, any town I’ve ever lived in if you have competition for a woman that competition doesn’t go away just because you married the woman. We know that Martin watched the couple closely because when they divorced Patchin showed up to question Ed for the details, while on Ed’s death he sent a condolence letter to son John Coleman Burroughs reminding him of the Toronto bashing. If it is to be believed John Coleman said he and his father had been talking about it just before Ed died. If so, it was still green in Ed’s mind.
It seems probable then that Martin would have been interfering in the marriage to the best of his abilities. Ed’s near pathological fixation on cars very likely was the result of not being able to compete with the millionaire Martin who probably tried to impress Emma with his own. Parking out by the curb, whatever. This does show up in Tarzan Of The Apes, the very first of the Tarzan novels begun in 1911 where Robert Canler/Martin, a competitor for Jane/Emma, using his money as a tool, has a large automobile. Significantly Jane rejects Canler. For whatever reason McClurg’s/G&D suppressed the novel after 1920 when it was never printed again until the revival in the sixties.
Lacking further evidence of Martin’s interference I, myself, accept that the man was unrelenting.
That very real external threat was added to Ed’s internal memory conflicts that he was desperate to resolve. Like many another author he attempted to write them out.
The early struggle between he and Emma was worked out in the early burst of stories and completed in the Mucker Trilogy with its supplement of Marcia Of The Doorstep.
Ed intended Billy Byrne, the Mucker, to be a continuing series like Tarzan but centered around the ‘three musketeers’ Bridge, Byrne and Burke but his memories arose to abort that plan.
Byrne was intended as another Tarzan figure that represented the more uncouth, low brow aspect of Ed’s personality. While he had no aspirations to be high brow yet he wished to become more sophisticated. Thus, his alter ego Byrne begins as a hoodlum boxer from the amazing slum of Maxwell Street.
Implicated in a murder Byrne has to get out of town. In a rather amazing series of adventures beginning with his shanghai in San Francisco he ended up on a Pacific Island with a crew of murderers and ‘Lady’ Barbara, reminiscent of Stevenson’s Treasure Island of Long John Silver and the Wooded Island with the Japanese Pavilion of the Chicago Exposition.
The relationship between the low brow Byrne and the high brow Barbara seems to reflect that of Ed and Emma. In the first novel of the trilogy Byrne and Barbara part as Byrne realizes the cultural gap between them is something he can’t surmount. By the way, notice all those Bs. Bridge, Byrne, Burke, Barbara. What does that mean?
Between the 1913 novel and its 1915 sequel, The Return Of The Mucker, Ed seems to have acquired some polish. He no longer thinks of himself as Byrne thus splitting off the character of The Happy Hobo, Bridge as his new alter ego. So by 1915 he is multiplying his personalities at a pretty good rate as he seeks to realize his own ultimate vision of himself. Thus the name Bridge symbolically represents the transition from Byrne to a return to his original identity as the child Prince.
At story’s end Ed surrenders Barbara/Emma to Byrne while going in search of his ideal woman. At that point then Ed rejected Emma seeking solace in other quarters. Of course he does have three children so it is not as easy as walking away although he did say that he had walked out on Emma three times. The first time was circa 1908 and the next might have been 1918 when he began Tarzan the Untamed followed by Tarzan The Terrible and Tarzan And The Golden Lion with Tarzan And The Ant Men for a quartet.
The first novel tells of the separation, the second the effort to reconcile, and the reconciliation while the fourth, the ultimate rejection.
The third novel of The Mucker Trilogy, The Oakdale Affair has Bridge on the road where he hooks up with the boy/girl Gail Prim. That story may signify an actual extra-marital romance that in turn led to the 1916 trip to California and something similar to the exit from Chicago in 1919.
The question here then, is did Ed have an affair or more between 1913 and 1919? Ed did have libertine tendencies. He and Emma appear to have been living a sort of Bohemian existence in the first decade of the century. Ed stated he didn’t feel marriage necessary for sexual relations while when he created his subdivision of Tarzana in the twenties he advertised that he wanted to appeal to Bohemian tastes. Somewhat of a social scandal actually.
As a down and outer before the teens Ed may have had difficulties in attracting women but certainly by 1915 his reputation would have attracted literary groupies and the woman looking for the main chance. The groupie is usually associated with rock and roll but there are sports groupies, literary groupies, and woman attracted to men of any well-paying profession. So one has to assume that sexual conquests were easier for Ed as his reputation grew. Any woman reading the Tarzan books would have had to have seen the sexual longing evident on nearly every page and realized the possibilities.
Let us assume then that long before Florence turned up Ed was searching, a la Bridge, for the woman who wasn’t Emma.
ERBzine contributor Woodrow Nichols who is very sensitive to the sexual implications of the novels, probably because his mother denied them to him because of their sexual implications, has extrapolated advanced conclusions from the stories and Ed’s biography. While I’m not sure Ed, Florence and Ashton Dearholt where as sexually abandoned as Woodrow represents, I’m positive Ed would have liked to have been.
While there is no definite proof that Ed knew Florence before 1927 the literary evidence and the improbability of Florence hoping to catch Ed through Joan lends credibility to the possibility.
Certainly the dismissed biographers before Porges agreed to censor his findings must have come up with something that was thought better to conceal.
Well, no matter, I do think Woodrow Nichols is on to something although he has his own analysis.
With 1919 Ed’s life as well as the course of world civilization takes a turn.
Book II, Part VII then will commence The New Era, as it was known.
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RE Prindles series of ERBzine Articles
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