a. From Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. In 1923, Burroughs was one of the first writers to incorporate, having control over his writing as well as film and radio adaptations. Today, the company holds rights to all Burroughs materials that did not slip into the Public Domain.
From the day he was born, in Chicago, on September 1, 1875, until he submitted one-half a novel to All-Story Magazine in 1911, Edgar Rice Burroughs™ failed in nearly every enterprise he tried.
He attended half a dozen public and private schools before he finally graduated in 1895 from Michigan Military Academy, an institution Burroughs himself described as “a polite reform school.”
Having failed the entrance examination to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, he enlisted as a private in the Seventh U.S. Cavalry, for he had the notion that he might still obtain a commission as an officer if he distinguished himself in a difficult assignment. Thus, he asked to be sent to the worst post in America–a request the authorities speedily granted.
The post was Fort Grant in the Arizona desert, and his mission, as he put it, was to “chase the Apaches”. “I chased a good many Apaches”, he tells us, “But fortunately for me, I never caught up with any of them.”
Private Burroughs soon had his fill of Fort Grant, and after appealing to his father for help, his discharge was arranged through political friends. In 1900, he married Emma Centennia Hulbert, who dutifully followed him back and forth across America during the next eleven years.
He became a cowboy in Idaho, then a shopkeeper, a railroad policeman, a gold miner, and even an “expert accountant”, although he knew nothing of the profession. Throughout this period, he somehow raised money for a number of his own businesses, all of which sank without a trace.
Life was dismal for the newly-married couple. Burroughs became depressed, his wife discouraged. Perhaps to escape from the grim reality of his own life, or perhaps to amuse Emma, he would often sketch darkly humorous cartoons or write fantastic fairy tales of other worlds.
Much later, he was to confirm the fact that he wrote all his stories, particularly those of other worlds, as much for his own entertainment as for that of his readers.
“In all these years I have not learned one single rule for writing fiction. I still write as I did 30 years ago; stories which I feel would entertain me and give me mental relaxation, knowing that there are millions of people just like me who will like the same things I like. Anyway, I have great fun with my imaginings, and I can appreciate–in a small way–the swell time God had in creating the Universe.”
By 1911, Burroughs’ position had become so desperate that not even his cartoons and stories could block out the frustrating fact of his successive failures. He hardly knew where to turn next, and even went so far as to apply for a commission in the Chinese Army. (The application was summarily rejected.)
Finally, he reached rock bottom. He was 35 years old, without a job, without money. There was a wife and two children to support, and a third child was expected soon. He could buy food and coal only by pawning his watch and Emma’s jewelry.
“Then,” he tells us, “somehow I got hold of a few dollars and took an agency for the sale of a lead-pencil sharpener. I would not try to sell the sharpeners myself, but I advertised for agents and sent them out. They did not sell any pencil sharpeners, but in the leisure moments, while I was waiting for them to come back to tell me that they had not sold any, I started writing UNDER THE MOONS OF MARS, my first story.”
“I had no idea how to submit a story or what I could expect in payment. Had I known anything about it at all, I would never have thought of submitting half a novel, but that is what I did. Thomas Newell Metcalf, then editor of All-Story Magazine, published by The Prank A. Munsey Co., wrote me that he liked the first half of the story and if the second was as good he thought he might use it. Had he not given me this encouragement, I would never have finished the story and my writing career would have been at an end, since I was not writing because of any urge to write nor for any particular love of writing. I was writing because I had a wife and two babies, a combination which does not work well without money.
“I finished the second half of the story and got $400 for first magazine serial rights. The check was the first big event in my life. No amount of money today could possibly give me the thrill that this first $400 check gave me.”
Today, that story is acclaimed by scholars as the turning point of 20th century science fiction, and new editions of it continue to be published each year throughout the world.
But, Burroughs was still a long way from becoming an established writer. His next literary effort, an historical novel set in the England of the Plantagenet kings, was rejected. He nearly gave up, but his publisher would not hear of it. “Try again,” he urged. “Stick with the ‘damphool’ stuff.”
He did, and with his next novel his future was decided forever. The novel was TARZAN OF THE APES. An astonishing success on its appearance in All-Story Magazine in 1912, TARZAN OF THE APES brought Edgar Rice Burroughs™ a mere $700, but after being rejected by practically every major book publisher in the country, it finally was printed in book form by A.C. McClurg and Co., and became a 1914 best-seller.
A torrent of novels followed; stories about Mars, Venus, Apaches, westerns, social commentaries, detective stories, tales of the Moon and of the middle of the Earth–and more and more TARZAN books. By the time his pen was stilled, nearly 100 stories bore Edgar Rice Burroughs’ name.
In 1918, TARZAN came to the screen with TARZAN OF THE APES, starring Elmo Lincoln, the first film in history to gross over one million dollars. Since then, over 40 TARZAN films and dozens of one-hour television episodes have been produced, each a great financial success.
Although he would joke about the, Burroughs was bitterly disappointed with the TARZAN motion pictures. Often he would not go to see them. His TARZAN was a supremely intelligent, sensitive man. His TARZAN sat in the House of Lords when not otherwise occupied in the upper terraces of the African jungle. His TARZAN was the truly civilized man–heroic, handsome, and above all, free.
In 1919, with financial security assured, Burroughs moved to California, where he purchased the 550-acre estate of General Harrison Gray Otis, renaming it ‘Tarzana Ranch’.
By 1923, the city of Los Angeles had completely surrounded Tarzana Ranch, and Burroughs sold a large portion of it for homesites. In 1930, a post office was established in the community, and the 300 residents held a contest to find a name for the new community. The winning entry was “Tarzana.” Today, Tarzana has its own park, library, a freeway, banking facilities, bowling centers, medical buildings, country clubs and a bright future for its 35,000 residents in a relatively tranquil atmosphere.
In 1923, Edgar Rice Burroughs became one of the first authors in the world to incorporate himself. By the mid- thirties, he was “big business.” Daily and Sunday comic strips appeared in over 250 newspapers all over the world; millions of TARZAN comic books were published and sold; and a TARZAN radio serial thrilled its listeners across the country, with Burroughs’ daughter, Joan, in the role of JANE, and her husband, James H. Pierce, as TARZAN.
Today, TARZAN television programs are syndicated to more than 200 TV stations in the U.S. and abroad. A TARZAN movie plays somewhere in almost every country of the world every day. With the contemporary emphasis on outer space, Burroughs’ science fiction writings are being printed in even greater numbers.
Most importantly, he is gradually receiving the critical acclaim he was denied in his lifetime. No longer is TARZAN OF THE APES considered mere entertainment–for TARZAN is the “Naked Ape”, the tribal ancestor of Marshall McLuhan. And Burroughs’ wild imaginings among the stars are no longer beneath the notice of serious men; they have become subjects for scholars and an inspiration to a new generation of writers of imaginative fiction.
He is remembered as a modest man who never took himself or anything else too seriously. His friends recall his ready sense of humor, his great love of the outdoors, and his unbounded pride in his country.
In 1942 he became America’s oldest war correspondent, covering stories with the Pacific Fleet for United Press. He returned home from the South Pacific only after suffering from the beginnings of the heart disease that would eventually end his life eight years later. Ironically, he was unable to find a suitable home in Tarzana, and he spent his remaining years in a modest house in nearby Encino. It was there, on March 19th, 1950, that Edgar Rice Burroughs set down his pen for the last time.
WITH a full-throated scream, chiseled abs and a wild mane of hair The Legend Of Tarzan, a £136million blockbuster, swings into British cinemas on Wednesday.
Starring True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård as the Lord of the Jungle and blonde beauty Margot Robbie as his mate Jane, it is the latest in more than 50 Tarzan movies since the ape man first hit the big screen in 1918.
The story of British aristocrat Lord Greystoke’s infant son abandoned in the African forest after his parents’ death, raised by apes before reclaiming his blue-blood heritage, has also spawned TV and radio series, comics, cartoons, animated features, and merchandise from Tarzan knives to lunch-boxes and loincloths.
Tarzan was the original superhero, inspiring the creators of Superman and Batman, and his tale of noble humanity in savage equatorial depths continues to grip popular imaginations, with a brand now worth millions.
Yet few today remember the remarkable story of Tarzan’s progenitor, author Edgar Rice Burroughs, who amazingly never set foot in Africa in his entire life.
A youthful drifter and US Army reject, snake oil salesman and failed businessman who began writing in desperation to pay his bills, Burroughs sold more than 100 million books, but despite worldwide success never appreciated his own achievements.
“I don’t think my work is literature,” he said. “I’m in the same class with the serial artist, the tap dancer and the clown.”
But Burroughs, who penned 24 Tarzan novels translated into 30 languages, and bestselling science fiction tales – including A Princess of Mars, which later became the 2012 movie John Carter – was among the most widely-read authors of the first half of the 20th century.
“If you write one story, it may be bad,” he explained. “If you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.”
Burroughs’ prodigious output was driven not by artistic aspirations, however. “I have often been asked how I came to write,” he said. “The best answer is that I needed the money. When I started I was 35, and had failed in every enterprise I had ever attempted.”
Born in Chicago in 1875, the son of a whisky distiller descended from America’s earliest English Puritan settlers, he was sent to his brothers’ Idaho cattle ranch as a child to avoid an influenza epidemic, learning how to ride a horse and shoot, befriending killers and thieves. He longed for adventure, but seemed doomed never to find it.
A rebellious troublemaker, he was dismissed by the prestigious Phillips Academy in Massachusetts, tried deserting military school, was rejected by the famed Rough Riders, failed his entry exam for West Point, and finally joined the US Army in General Custer’s former regiment, the Seventh US Cavalry, based in Arizona Territory.
“I chased Apaches but never caught up with them,” he lamented, catching only dysentery, and ultimately discharged with a heart murmur.
A succession of desultory jobs followed: gold dredger, railroad policeman, accountant, office manager, and door-to-door salesman hawking lightbulbs, candy, and a quack cure for baldness and alcoholism. “I was a total failure,” Burroughs confessed.
He wed childhood sweetheart Emma Hulbert in 1900 but by the time their first two children were born, he recalled: “I had no job, and no money. I had to pawn Mrs. Burroughs’ jewelry and my watch in order to buy food. I loathed poverty. I got writer’s cramp answering blind ads, and wore out my shoes chasing after others.”
He eventually found a job selling pencil sharpeners and while reading pulp magazines Burroughs realized: “Although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining.”
His first yarn “Under The Moons of Mars,” later retitled A Princess Of Mars, was snapped up by The All-Story magazine for the princely sum of $400, and though the rag rejected Burroughs’ second story, it published his third: Tarzan of the Apes.
He was paid $700 in 1912 – about £12,850 today – but despite its magazine appearance every major publisher refused to release Tarzan in book form, and it was two more years before the jungle adventurer finally landed on bookshelves.
When Tarzan Of The Apes debuted in cinemas in 1918, it became the first film ever to earn $1million.
But while crafting a macho hero, Burroughs lamented his own sedentary profession. “I was sort of ashamed of it as an occupation for a big, strong, healthy man,” he admitted.
The author tried several jobs including gold dredger, railroad policeman, and door-to-door salesman [but writing became his “cash cow.”] Finally wealthy, he moved to California in 1919 and bought a large ranch north of Los Angeles, naming it Tarzana. What he lacked in literary prowess he made up for in business acumen.
Burroughs was one of the earliest writers to incorporate in 1923, and in 1931 launched his own imprint, publishing his own books and striking film and radio deals. But his passion for horses, cocktails, fast cars, and women left the author perpetually cash poor.
In some years he wrote four books, struggling to support his three children along with alcoholic ex-wife Emma after their 1934 divorce, his daughter’s deadbeat actor-husband Jim Pierce, his trusted aide Ralph Rothmund, and his high-living second wife and her two children.
In the midst of his messy divorce from Emma, Burroughs had wooed silent movie star Florence Gilbert, whose husband, Ashton Dearholt, produced the 1935 hit The New Adventures of Tarzan. Burroughs married Florence later that year, even though at 60 he was 28 years her senior, but quickly exhausted himself trying to keep up with his bride’s Hollywood lifestyle.
As war raged across Europe in 1940 Burroughs moved with Florence and her two children to Hawaii, where he spent as much time partying as he did writing.
But on December 7, 1941, while playing tennis in Honolulu, Burroughs watched in horror as Japanese warplanes bombed Pearl Harbor. Florence, weary of living in hotel rooms and chauffeuring her drunk husband around, returned to California and filed for divorce citing “mental cruelty.” Burroughs’ attempts to act youthful only made her feel old, she complained.
At 66 Burroughs became a war correspondent. Too old at 66 for active duty, the adventure-seeking author became a war correspondent, making three trips to Pacific combat zones. After the war Burroughs returned to California where his beloved Tarzana ranch was sub-divided to pay his bills. Curmudgeonly, he developed Parkinson’s disease before dying of a heart attack in 1950.
Tarzana today is a middle class Los Angeles suburb replete with manicured country clubs, shopping malls and drive-in restaurants – the antithesis of the primitive nobility Burroughs evoked in Tarzan.
These three texts have been published by various houses in one or two volumes. Adding to the confusion, some editions have the original (significantly longer) introduction to Part I from the first publication as a magazine serial, and others have the shorter version from the first book publication, which included all three parts under the title The Moon Maid.