Edgar Rice Burroughs

It might seem strange to be doing a post on the creator of Tarzan, but in his own way, Burroughs was significant in the development of the popular imagination. There probably isn’t a person alive in the developed world who hasn’t heard of Tarzan. He has appeared in not only books, but all sorts of media, including comics, radio, television, action figures, computer games, and of course, films. The first was a silent film in 1918, and the most recent 2016’s The Legend of Tarzan. The stories gave me hours of escapist pleasure growing up. Although Burroughs wrote dozens of novels and non-fiction on various subjects, I’m not really going talk about any others, except to touch on his John Carter of Mars. Because of those stories, when I was a young teen, I found the first quote that really touched my emotions because it expressed something I had felt but never put into words. Ray Bradbury said of this series, “[Burroughs’] greatest gift was teaching me to look at Mars and ask to be taken home.”

Burroughs was born in 1875 in Chicago to a family of British ancestry. This shows up in his stories, from Tarzan actually being Lord Greystoke, to John Carter being very much a British gentleman, though from Virginia. Discharged from the army because of a heart condition, Burroughs had several jobs before finding his place in pulp fiction. His stories were an immediate success, and he soon became quite wealthy.

His books are very much a product of his time, however. They are racist and women are treated as beings to bring civilization to red-blooded men, and to be rescued by them. Tarzan is also completely unscientific with a baby being brought up by apes educating himself and finding his place among human beings when an adult. But that doesn’t stop them from being fun escapist fare.

Burroughs died on March 19, 1950, and is buried in Tarzana, California.

Quotes by Edgar Rice Burroughs

If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.

I have been successful probably because I have always realized that I knew nothing about writing and have merely tried to tell an interesting story entertainingly.

If I had followed my better judgment always, my life would have been a very dull one.

You are here for but an instant, and you mustn’t take yourself too seriously.

It is a characteristic of the weak and criminal to attribute to others the misfortunes that are the result of their own wickedness.

I write to escape … to escape poverty.

I do not think that I am ever overconfident. I am merely wholly confident, and I maintain that there is all the difference in the world there.

No fiction is worth reading except for entertainment. If it entertains and is clean, it is good literature, or its kind. If it forms the habit of reading, in people who might not read otherwise, it is the best literature.

Fortunate indeed are those in which there is combined a little good and a little bad, a little knowledge of many things outside their own callings, a capacity for love and a capacity for hate, for such as these can look with tolerance upon all, unbiased by the egotism of him whose head is so heavy on one side that all his brains run to that point.

I have ever been prone to seek adventure and to investigate and experiment where wiser men would have left well enough alone.

I knew nothing about the technique of story writing, and now, after eighteen years of writing, I still know nothing about the technique…

I presume that it is the better part of wisdom that we bow to our fate with as good grace as possible.

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