BEYOND 30 COMMENTS
By Doug Denby
ERB had written this story, for the most part, while staying
in Coldwater at his in-laws farm, which was in reality a summer home for
them. Remember that both ERB and his wife came from well-to-do families.
Beyond Thirty (The Lost Continent) was written
from July 8 to August 10 in 1915 and first published in All Around Magazine
in February of 1916. In the first chapters, the good ship "Coldwater",
a somewhat old and dilapidated ship, in 2131 fails, leading to its captain
and a few crew being stranded on the east side of the 30 degree west longitude
line splitting the Atlantic Ocean. This puts them into an unknown land,
and adventures ensue.
First, the old American Manifest Destiny rears
its head immediately. This is the philosophy that the US has a God-given
right to rule over, not only North America but, all of the Americas. While
it is not called the US, there has arisen a Pan-America against the rest
of the world. This Pan-America has the same constitutional history as the
USA and precepts of the USA, including its founding fathers.
The War of 1812 was the first attempt by the US to militarily
annex the neighbour to the north. It failed. The Mexican-American War (1848-1848)
was more successful gaining for the US lots of land that forms California,
Texas and other states. In 1898, as part of the Spanish-American War, Cuba
was invaded with Teddy Roosevelt as a major player. The end of the Spanish
Empire in 1898 gave the US several dependencies around the globe.
A century and a bit later, 2001, Teddy was posthumously awarded the Medal
of Honor for his actions in that conflict, showing, to some degree, modern
approval for this expansionist act.
Without going into a full history, many other examples
of American intervention in Central and South American Nation’s affairs
abound. While popular in the US, this expansionist and interference policy
is not liked by neighbours. The only way it could have occurred was by
military dominance, and this is assumed by ERB in Beyond Thirty,
after all, he is writing only 17 years after the Spanish American War.
Second, context is always important. Written in
the first person, this story is likely to reveal some of the author’s true
feelings at a given moment. Turck, the hero of the story, is introduced
into a new society with an interesting structure. Because the maternity
of a person is easily recognized, and paternity is a hope, this new society
has a King that is not a King because of heredity, but a Queen. Kings dominate
by capturing and holding a Queen. Once held, the King rules but only so
long as the Queen is his. Should she die, her daughter becomes Queen and
whoever possesses her becomes the new King. Kings become blustering muscle-men
but truly helpless when the Queen derides him. So, the consort of the Queen’s
first born daughter has no standing until the Queen dies, when he ascends
to the throne.
ERB’s wife, Emma Centennial Hubert, was first born daughter
of Emma Theresa Drake. ERB is at the mercy of his mother-in-law right from
the beginning as he and his wife moved in with his in-laws upon the marriage.
Within a few months of the marriage, ERB’s family business is struck by
the stock-market collapse of May 1901. In the next year, ERB contracts
typhoid and nearly dies. For the next few years ERB becomes dependent on
this brothers for work.
In 1904, he and his wife are again living with his in-laws,
having had to sell off furniture to pay for a train back home. The next
few years are more of the same, including a few scams, like selling a cure
for alcoholism and training salesmen. Finally in the fall of 1911, he thinks
he can make money as a writer, but has to still hold down a job working
for his brother. It is not until the fall of 1913 that he thinks he can
truly support his family and they move to California. I wonder what his
mother-in-law thought. In the spring of 1914, he is again back in Chicago
living in his mother-in-law's house. Although he moves his family out in
May of that year, but spend at least 10 days of June in the Coldwater summer
home of his in-laws.
He just can’t seem to get out from under his mother-in-law’s
influence. Even when he writes Beyond Thirty in Coldwater
the following year. How does it feel to be the King of your castle but
it isn’t really yours? Only upon the death of his mother-in-law will he
be able to control his wife’s inherited position. He is a middle-aged man
with a family and still trying to prove himself, while elder Queen Emma
dominates his situation. Later it is his wife, Queen Emma, that he feels
is dominating his life.
Third, the hero’s name, Turck, is truck, with but
a single letter shift. Is the Republic Truck his hero? Does the truck represent
his desire for independence and freedom? It is the following year that
he and his family set out for Maine using a Republic Truck. The trip is
curtailed and instead they return to California, finally freeing himself
of his mother-in-law’s domination.
Fourth, Beyond Thirty, the title
of this story is also the age which ERB was when he wrote the story. Co-incidence?