Nestled among the Irwin Porges papers for his 1975
biography of ERB, I found an interesting office memo written by Burroughs
in May, 1925. It sums up his basic beliefs in writing fiction for entertainment,
and is delivered with his usual brand of humor, so we are publishing it
in this issue of The Gridley Wave.
... "Ye Editor"
former North High boy came in to see me today - Clarence L. Blair - and
asked me to send a message to the North High boys and girls for their Annual.
He suggested that I write something inspiring on "good literature."
I shall have to confess to you, as I did to him,
that a great many book reviewers insist that I know nothing about literature
kind, but, however that may be, I am sure that
I know what young people like to read and a great many old people who are
still young in heart, and if my stories are not literature, they are at
least clean, and, I hope, entertaining.
There are among you, probably, future famous authors
and playwrights, and each of you, when he has attained the full flower
of his abilities, will have his limitations just as all writers and playwrights
and other human beings have. So, if I were to send any message to
you, it would be simply to give the best that
there is in you to your public. Your best will never be perfect but if
it is your best it
will be worthy of applause and will receive the
recognition that is its due.
In writing a story I always feel bound by a certain
duty that I owe my readers to give them the best I can. However far beneath
highest standards it may be, it is still my best
and I know that I have not cheated and whatever success I have, I have
is enough preaching, as everyone hates to be
preached to, however interesting the sermon may be to the preacher.
When writing to young people in schools I am always
reminded that, while some schools use my books in their English work, others
bar me absolutely. In one of the latter, where Tarzan was looked upon in
holy horror, a girl was asked to write a review of one of John Burroughs’
nature studies. When she handed it in the teacher was shocked to discover
that she had written a synopsis of TARZAN OF THE APES. On the other hand,
there is a teacher in a school in Florida who is reading THE CAVE GIRL
out loud to her class - a very human teacher - may her tribe increase!
-Edgar Rice Burroughs