Below is a fascinating letter from the creator of Tarzan and John Carter, Edgar Rice Burroughs, to his daughter in 1941, 29 years after the first Tarzan story was published. Burroughs penned a large number of letters during his lifetime but I chose to highlight this one for a few reasons: 1) The impressive letterhead address of “Tarzana, California.” Such was the success of his work, the district in which he had a permanent home was named in his honour; 2) The Honolulu address. Burroughs lived there for a while in later life and became a war correspondent after the Pearl Harbor attack, just months after this letter was sent; 3) The negative public reaction he mentions is quite surprising, his related ‘titmouse’ rant hilarious; 4) The second story he mentions – Wizard of Venus – was not discovered until after his death in 1950, and not published until 1964, 23 years after this letter was written.
For more things Burroughs, head on over to ERBzine.
Edgar Rice Burroughs
1298 Kapiolani Boulevard
Honolulu T H
January 24 1941
Your letter of the 14th was very welcome, as are all your letters. Although you sent it via air mail, it must have come by boat; as it was eight days getting here, and there has been no Clipper in for about a week. We were supposed to have had one this morning, but the morning paper now says it will arrive tomorrow; so I am sure your letter wasn’t on it. Quick, Watson, the needle!
Am glad that you liked THE DEPUTY SHERIFF. I wrote it in the summer of 1930, and we peddled it around to every magazine in the United States, with no buyers. I think Ralph did finally get rid of it to some magazine; I’ve forgotten which one now. I always liked it, and couldn’t understand why it didn’t sell readily. I guess the trouble was that all they wish from me is highly imaginative stuff. If anyone says a kind word about my work nowadays, as you did, I nearly break down and cry. I have had so many refusals lately and had my classics so gratuitously insulted over here that I have lost confidence in myself. I am getting damned sick of hearing people apologize to me for reading my stories, or pretend to grouse because they have had to read them to their children, or say that they used to read them while they were in kindergarden but have not read any for years and years. It used to amuse me, but I guess I must be losing my sense of humor. I think I shall come right back at the next one with a retort courteous, such as: “Well, you homely looking abortion, if you had the brains of a cross-eyed titmouse you’d keep your fool mouth shut instead of knocking inspired literature that has entertained a hundred million people for over a quarter of a century !!!” Do you think that would stop ’em? or is it too courteous?
Am just starting another goofy Venus story, THE WIZARD OF VENUS. This guy is something of a hypnotist, and he has every one in his valley buffaloed into believing that he has turned all their friends and relatives into zandars (Amtorian pigs). One family keeps their daughter in a pen back of the castle. All with apologies to Merlin, the Arthurian legend, and Mark Twain.
There is something in your letter that I do not understand – Oh! I just got it. “M.A.S.” – Mutual Admiration Society. It had me guessing for a while. It has been a long time since I heard it. I, too, wish that I were back where I could see you children often. Am sure that I still have a few laughs left under my belt that the weird Burroughs wit would bring out.
Are you getting any more movie work? and did Jim get the flying instructor job? I certainly hope so. Wish Hulbert would do something with his singing. The first thing he knows he’ll have a long, white beard and have to be pushed onto the stage in a wheel chair; and I understand that there have been very few successes under such circumstances. There would always be the danger that, when he took a high note, his upper plate would fall out and get lost in his beard.
Yes, the Pacific is some puddle, and at the present writing I am no puddle jumper.
I will now terminate this foolishness. Lots of love, darling; give my best to Jim and kiss the children for me.
Head Janitor, M.A.S.