Edgar Rice Burroughs
About the Author
American novelist, creator of the world famous character of Tarzan, one of the indispensable icons of popular culture. Burroughs also published science fiction and crime novels. Critics have considered Burroughs's fiction often crudely written and chauvinist. His books, however, are still widely read and usually more interesting than the films. It is true that Burroughs often portrayed Africans, Arabs or Asians as evil or comic, but the stories also contain several elements that have kept them 'politically correct': Waziri warriors are brave, and his cave girl Nadara and Dejah Thoris, the princess of Mars, are courageous and resourceful characters.
Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in Chicago, Illinois, into a prosperous family. His father, George Tyler Burroughs, was a Civil War veteran. Burroughs attended several private schools, including the Michigan Military Academy, Orchar Lake (1892-95), where he was instructor and assistant commandant (1895-96). He served in the 7th Cavalry in the Arizona Territory (1896-97) and Illinois Reserve Militia (1918-19). After military career Burroughs was owner of a stationery store in Pocatello, Idaho (1898), and associated with American Battery Company, Chicago (1899-03). In 1900 he married Emma Centennia Hulbert (divorced in 1934); they had two sons and one daughter).
The next ten years the family lived near poverty. Burroughs was associated with Sweetser-Burroughs Mining Company in Idaho (1903-04), a railroad policeman in Salt Lake, Utah (1904), a manager of stenographic department at Sears, Roebuck and Company in Chicago (1906-08), a partner of an advertising agency (1908-09), an office manager (1909), a partner of a sales firm (1910-11). In 1910-11 Burroughs worked for Champlain Yardley Company, and from 1912 to 1913 he was manager of System Service Bureau.
Before Tarzan Burroughs led a life full of failures. The turning point came when he started to write for pulps at the age of 35 - firmly convinced that he could write as rotten stuff as published in pulp fiction magazines. His first professional sale was Under the Moons of Mars, serialized in 1912 and introducing the popular invincible hero John Carter, who is transported to Mars apparently by astral projection, following a battle with Apaches in Arizona. The 'Martian' series eventually reached eleven books. Other popular series from Burroughs's pen were The Carson of Venus books, blending romance and comedy, the Pellucidar tales, located inside the Earth, and The Land That Time Forgot trilogy - totally some 68 titles.
Burroughs's first succesfull story was Dejah Thoris, Princess of Mars which appeared in 1912 in All-Story Magazine. A few months later in 1912 appeared his breakthrough novel Tarzan of the Apes, followed by 24 other Tarzan adventures. ''If I had striven for long years of privation and effort to fit myself to become a writer,'' Burroughs later told, ''I might be warranted in patting myself on the back, but God knows I did not work and still do not understand how I happened to succeed.'' In 1913 Burroughs founded his own publishing house Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. Burroughs-Tarzan Enterprises and Burroughs-Tarzan Pictures were founded in 1934.
The world famous protagonist in Tarzan books is John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, whose aristocratic parents are abandoned on the west coast of Africa. He is orphaned as a child and raised by an ape, but grows into a leader of the hairy tribe. In the jungle Tarzan learns to read when he finds a book from the remnants of his parents hut. During the tale, Tarzan finds love, becomes a hero, and finds his arictocratic roots. His wife is an American woman, Jane Porter, they also have a son. With the help of animals - mostly elephants and apes - Tarzan gains the unofficial status of the king of the jungle, and gains immortality through an African shaman's secret formula. In several Tarzan books the invincible hero is involved with lost races, hidden cultures, or even with an entire lost continent, but never shows any inclination of taking more than ones share of fortunes during his adventures.
In addition to his four major adventure series, Burroughs wrote between the years 1912 and 1933 several other adventure novels, among them The Cave Girl (1925), in which a weak aristocrat develops into a warrior, two Western novels about a white Apache, The War Chief (1927) and Apache Devil (1933), showing sympathy for Native Americans, and Beyond the Farthest Star (1964), in which science-fiction canon is used to depict the brutality of war.
In 1919 Burroughs purchased a large ranch in the San Fernando Valley, which he later developed into the suburb of Tarzana. To pay his expensive lifestyle and to cover his misadventures in financial investments he wrote an average of three novels a year. The first Tarzan film was produced in 1918, When the Olympic swimming champion Johnny Weissmuller took the role in the 1930's, the films became really popular.
In 1933 Burroughs was elected mayor of California Beach. He married in 1935 Florence Dearholt (they divorced in 1942). During World War II Burroughs served at the age of 66 as a war correspondent in the South Pasific. He also wrote columns ('Laugh It Off) for Honolulu Advertiser (1941-42, 1945). Burroughs died of a heart ailment on March 19, in 1950.
After Burroughs's death, enthusiasm for his books gradually waned. He once admitted to an interviewer: "I don't think my work is 'literature', I'm not fooling myself about that." In 1960s Edgar Rice Burroughs Corporation managed to arise a new interest in the author's work and his books have been since profitably in print. While criticized as repetitious and clumsy, Burroughs's stories share the same colourful imagination familiar from the classic works of H.G. Wells and H. Rider Haggard. Burroughs's novels have also became target for academic research.
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