Master of Adventure: The Worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs

By Richard A. Lupoff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
The Beginning of a Career

This book is not intended primarily as a biography of Edgar Ride Burroughs. For one thing, that matter was handled to an extent by Pastor Heins in his introduction; for another, three full-length biographies of Burroughs exist as well as his own unpublished autobiography (heavily referenced by his biographers), and to attempt a more detailed portrait of him than Heins provides would probably be superfluous in view of such extensive coverage.

Nonetheless, it is appropriate to present at least a lightning sketch of Burroughs' life in order to get a few dates and circumstances settled, and in order to obtain some perspective for later evaluation of Burroughs' works.

In brief, then, Edgar Rice Burroughs was born in Chicago on September 1, 1875. The son of a former Civil War major (Union) who after the war became a successful businessman, the young Burroughs received a fine education, attending first the Brown School, then due to a diphtheria epidemic, Miss Coolie's Maplehurst School for Girls (yes!), and in turn the Harvard School, Phillips Andover, and finally the Michigan Military Academy.

In his various schools Burroughs tended to be at best a mediocre scholar, caring little for studies, but at the military academy he found the vigorous life and the opportunity to ride frequently much to his liking—he had already put in a period as a real cowboy on a family ranch in Idaho—so that he not only lasted through graduation, but actually returned for a time as Assistant Commandant of Cadets.

At the same time he taught a course in geology—doing research for his classes that later served well in providing the background for a number of stories with “lost world” settings.

It must have been a combination of admiration for his father and enjoyment of his days at Michigan Military Academy that imbued Burroughs with a feeling for the “military virtues” of courage, honor, skill in combat both with and without arms, spartan endurance of imprisonment if captured by

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