[SPOILER ALERT: I include the book’s key plot elements in the following.]
Long intrigued by Edwin L. Arnold’s 1905 novel, Lieut. Gullivar Jones: His Vacation (or, as Ace retitled it in 1964, Gulliver of Mars), I finally read it.
Perhaps I had put it off because there were too many unread Burroughs’ novels still ahead of me. Or maybe, because A Princess of Mars had been my stunning introduction to Burroughs, I risked impending deflation if that glorious flowering of imagination had been partially cribbed from an earlier work.
The happy result was that the comparison of Arnold’s largely forgotten book with the subsequent classic has given me a richer understanding of and appreciation for the singular genius of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Then, no longer playing the hanging judge, I could read Gullivar Jones more generously and enjoy the book for what it is: an early, romantic/sci-fi travelogue. It has ambitions it does not attain – a flawed but nevertheless engaging Edwardian artifact.
This review covers the following:
- My synopsis of Gullivar Jones
- Why Gullivar Jones might appear to be an influence on Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars
- Why Edwin Lester Arnold is no Edgar Rice Burroughs
- Two solid reasons why we can safely assume that Burroughs never heard of Edwin Arnold or Gullivar Jones
MY SYNOPSIS OF GULLIVAR JONES
We meet Lieut. Gullivar Jones, U.S.N., in New York City on his way to dinner. Suddenly a man falls from the sky, now dead, wrapped in a strange carpet with a design “much like a star map.” Jones has been in the throes of despair over his poor prospects for the promotion which would confer on him eligibility to ask for the hand of his beloved Polly, whose photograph he wears in a locket around his neck. As he inadvertently stands on the carpet, he wishes aloud that he “were anywhere but here, anywhere out of this red-tape-ridden world of ours. I wish I were in the planet Mars!”
We already know where we will find him next.
On the Red Planet, Jones has landed among the attractive Hither people, an indolent, carefree, drug-addled race of humans who are served by an androgynous race of saffron-robed slaves and provided all their needs without ever working. Mars itself is a world of exotic vistas, lush vegetation and forests, flowing rivers, and great seas. On arrival Jones meets the slave An, who serves as guide and language tutor. Jones learns that Martians have extremely brief intervals of childhood and old age, and so most all appear “in a state of sleek youthfulness,” “the eternal Martian bloom.” An also speaks with great reluctance about the rival, much feared Thither people, whom they would rather forget.
The Hither people are ruled lightly by Prince Hath and Princess Heru, a pair who enigmatically appear to be neither husband and wife nor brother and sister. On a waterway in the capital city of Seth, An and Jones steer their barge near one bearing the regents, which allows Jones to meet the pair. An accident pitches Heru overboard, and Jones dives to her rescue. She is not oblivious to his charms, nor he to hers: “I…tried to keep my eyes off the outline of Heru, whose loveliness shone through her damp, clinging robe, as if that robe were but a gauzy fancy.”
The rather vacuous Princess Heru throws herself at Jones when they are together in the royal library, where he would rather review the tomes of Martian learning and wisdom. He has arrived just before the marriage banquet, at which each eligible man draws from an urn a token by which he is assigned his spouse. Jones joins the men out of curiosity, Heru whispers a clue allowing him to select her token, and she is marked to be his mate.
But their mutual joy is short-lived. Thither men break up the party and seize the newly-betrothed princess. Jones fights valiantly for her until strong drink overtakes him:
Then the liquor I had had would not be denied….The spell of the love-drink that Heru, blushing, had held to my lips was on me. Its soft, overwhelming influence rose like a prismatic fog between me and my enemy…and I slipped down in drowsy oblivion before my rival.
The Thither people, “hairy ruffians,” are Mars’ up-and-comers, steadily advancing on Hither territory. The Thither king, Ar-hap, annually requires as tribute a Hither maiden of great beauty. This year, by unhappy coincidence, his henchmen have chosen Heru for him. Gullivar Jones promptly sets out on a mission to recover his Martian princess.
In making his way to Ar-hap’s distant capital, Jones encounters many strange sights. Among the fascinating fauna are a “huge” stag (“bigger than any mortal stag ever was”), “gigantic bats,” a “forest cat,” “myriad insects,” “snakes,” “forest pigs,” and “rats…as big as elephants.”
Thankfully, Arnold is more inventive in describing the Martian flora. Jones reports that the two most amazing of all the plants he encounters include a tall tree fern with a single blossom holding a chalice of “molten amber wine.” He watches in horror as an ape, attracted to the chalice, quickly becomes a grizzly meal for the fern. The other wonder is a tree which, at its life’s end, leaves nothing standing but “a skin of dust.” It dissolves at Jones’ touch.
Jones is often taken for a spirit and receives aid on his travels, including the gift of a sea-going canoe. The first hazard he faces is “a strong, black river,…the River of the Dead, by which many go but none come back.” A navigational error has led him there, where he sees numerous rafts adrift bearing individual, dead Martians. They crowd increasingly tightly as they approach a great falls. Jones narrowly avoids the “tumble to perpetual oblivion,” and enters instead “a lake in the midst of an unbroken amphitheatre of cliffs gleaming in soft light all round.” At one end of the lake, however, he glimpses the final, hazardous falls, which with ingenuity and luck he also avoids.
He admires a cliff of “sepulchral radiance” which, seen in full light, is in fact a petrified audience of the dead, “a whole nation in ice, a huge amphitheatre of fossilized humanity which stared down on me.” Jones makes out a former king, and as a gold circlet drops from the corpse’s head the Earthman pockets it.
A chance encounter furnishes him with another guide, a “rough, uncouth” fellow “but honest enough.” Jones is developing an admiration for the Thither people: “There was something in the nature of those rugged barbarians just coming into the dawn of civilisation that won my liking far more than the effete gentleness of others across the water.”
Conversely, and fresh from his mercifully aborted journey on the River of Death, he reports that
I…fell again to wondering what made me follow so reckless a quest in the way I doing: asking myself again and again what was gazelle-eyed Heru to me after all and why should it matter even as much as the value of a brass waistcoat button whether Hath had her or Ar-hap. What a fool I was to risk myself day by day in quaint and dangerous adventures, wearing out good government shoe-leather in other men’s quarrels, all for a silly slip of royal girlhood who, by this time, was probably making herself comfortable and forgetting both Hath and me in the arms of her rough new lord.
And, by the way, “Where was the magic rug itself?” That night he dreams he is “afloat on a raft, hotly pursued by my tailor,…while in his fist was a bunch of unpaid bills.”
But we are only halfway through the book. Jones pulls himself together, realizes that it is the nature of youth to seek reckless adventure, and notes that “the very spice of danger made my steps light and the way pleasant.” A friendly Thither woodcutter describes the way to Ar-hap’s castle but warns Jones to avoid the ruins of a “haunted fairy town to which some travelers have been, but whence none have returned alive.” It is home to “the shrine of Queen Yang, who, tradition says, killed herself and a thousand babies with her when we took this land.”
Of course, in due course, and off-course, Jones is soon amidst the remains of a fallen temple, sees a baby’s skull, and suddenly realizes that “the whole floor was mottled with them—scores and hundreds of bones and these poor little relics of humanity jutting out of the sand everywhere.” Our hero recognizes the skeleton of the Hithers’ long-dead Queen Yang, removes her crown because it is now the rightful property of Princess Heru, and heads off for his confrontation with Ar-hap.
A comet appears in the Martian heavens. The surface temperatures begin to rise, ever increasing as Jones journeys onward with the “red sword in the sky.” In suffocating heat that threatens to devastate the planet, he happens to arrive at the king’s door as the monarch is due to entertain petitioners. At Ar-hap’s side Jones sees
Heru, my ravished princess, and, still clad in her diaphanous Hither robes, her lovely face white with anxiety, her eyes bright as stars, the embodiment of helpless, flowery beauty, my heart turned over at the sight of her.
Jones informs the king that he has come for Heru and, in the event of the king’s refusal, he will “haunt” the ruler. Jones admits to the reader, “It may not seem a great stroke of genius here, but the effect on the Martian was instantaneous.”
King Ar-hap is cowed but suspicious, and he challenges Jones:
“Look here, Mister-from-Nowhere, if you are really a spirit, and have the power to hurt as you say, you will have the power also to go and come between the living and the dead, between the present and the past. Now I will set you an errand, and give you five minutes to do it in.”
Poor Heru dropped in a limp and lovely heap at that dire threat, while I am bound to say I felt somewhat uncomfortable, not unnaturally when all the circumstances are considered….
But Jones is again in luck. His first errand is to fetch and produce the crown of a certain dead Hither king, which turns out to be exactly the one he had taken impulsively at the frozen cliff. Jones leaves, gets the “gold circlet” from a bag in his sleeping room, and promptly returns to the throne room with it in hand.
Ar-hap is clearly shaken but declares, “I will not yield my prize on one throw of the dice….Do this other task and none will doubt that you are a potent spirit.” The second assignment is to retrieve the crown of Queen Yang, which he also just happens to have earlier acquired for Heru. Jones’ spectacular serendipity has held, and Heru is released.
Meanwhile, in the ensuing days the heat intensifies, rivers dry up, and both flora and fauna die or are near death. Heru has lost consciousness. Then the comet passes, a few initial drops of rain soon become a torrent, and a gradual revival begins. Jones fetches water for Heru, who awakens. With the princess “clad in little more than her loveliness and the gauziest filaments of a Hither girl’s underwear” over which he gallantly throws his cloak, they use the slow-moving recovery around them to make their escape to Seth – where all hell is about to break loose.
The Hither people celebrate the restoration of Princess Heru with exuberant, childlike joy along with indifference to Gullivar Jones’ role. She, too, is swept up with no apparent care for him and plans an immediate marriage to Hath. Jones regrets his own reaction:
Overlooked, unthanked, I turned sulky, and when this mood, one I can never maintain for long, wore off, I threw myself into the dissipation about me with angry zeal. I am frankly ashamed of the confession, but I was “a sailor ashore,” and can only claim the indulgences proper to the situation. I laughed, danced, drank, through the night; I drank deep of a dozen rosy ways to forgetfulness, till my mind was a great confusion, full of flitting pictures of loveliness, till life itself was an illusive pantomime, and my will but thistle-down on the folly of the moment. I drank with those gentle roisterers all through their starlit night, and if we stopped when morning came it was more from weariness than virtue.
The assault of the vengeful King Ar-hap and his Thither warriors is sudden and brutal: “Never was surprise so utter, ambush more complete.” Jones, now fighting valiantly, sees Hath killed. Then he watches a skiff escaping the city and bearing the unconscious Heru.
There I was like a rat in a trap, and like a rat I made up my mind to fight savagely to the end, without for a moment deceiving myself as to what that end must be….I was glad from the bottom of my heart my poor little princess was safely out of it. Nor did I bear her or hers the least resentment for making off while there was yet time and leaving me to my fate—anything else would have been contrary to Martian nature.
But that apparent fate is not to be, for once more fortune favors the brave. As Jones barricades himself behind a door, he miraculously discovers the magic carpet. “I threw myself down upon that incredible carpet and cried from the bottom of my heart, ‘I wish—I wish I were in New York!'” He is soon reunited with his precious Polly, who agrees to marry him the following Monday.
WHY GULLIVAR JONES MIGHT APPEAR TO BE AN INFLUENCE ON BURROUGHS’ A PRINCESS OF MARS
During the Burroughs revival of the 1960s, Richard Lupoff of Canaveral Press became convinced that the arcane, 1905 Arnold tale of Lieut. Jones’ exotic adventures on the Red Planet with a Martian princess had been a likely inspiration for A Princess of Mars. He based that conclusion on a number of striking similarities between the two stories which he had difficulty crediting to mere chance.
Lupoff was responsible for executing his company’s agreement with Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. to issue posthumously several Burroughs first editions. In the process of his work he brought the Arnold book the attention of Donald A. Wollheim, editor-in-chief at Ace Books, who reissued the novel as Gulliver of Mars. Burroughs fans have been intrigued with the relationship of the two Martian romances ever since.
Lupoff laid out his case in The Master of Adventure and reviewed its highlights in his Introduction to the 2003 Bison Books edition of Gullivar of Mars: Commemorative Edition.
In brief, Lupoff concluded that “Gulliver Jones’s Mars and John Carter’s Barsoom bear such a resemblance as to stretch the long arm of coincidence far beyond the breaking point.” To wit:
- the military protagonists’ evidently non-scientific arrivals on Mars
- a formerly great civilization in decline, implacably harassed by barbarian hordes
- curious absence of old people and small children
- comparable princess rescues
- River of Death and River Iss
To those we can add the scanty covering of the princesses; the availability of mental telepathy; both men’s rapid acquisition of the Red Planet’s universal mother tongue; and an unresolved, life-threating disaster for each princess as her story concludes.
Lupoff anticipated push-back over the obvious differences between the characters of Gullivar Jones and John Carter. He noted that Arnold had written a more Carter-like hero in the title character of an earlier novel, The Wonderful Adventures of Phra the Phœnician. I am prepared to take his word for that, although it would be significant only if one assumes that Burroughs was so taken with Gullivar Jones that he sought out the earlier book – or that he had read the earlier book and sought out Gullivar Jones.
Richard Lupoff may well be right, and he would suggest you read the novel and decide for yourself (the text is online: http://www.erbzine.com/craft/gulliver.html). Unlike Lupoff, however, the more I consider Gullivar Jones and A Princess of Mars, the harder his conclusion is to accept.
WHY EDWIN LESTER ARNOLD IS NO EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS
Arnold’s subtexts. Gulliver Jones has at least two significant interests that Princess does not, which may weigh on the former unnecessarily.
First, as the title suggests, it seeks to be a commentary on contemporary society in the form of an exotic travelogue. With relatively little of the biting satire found in Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels and a more lighthearted touch, Gullivar Jones intends nevertheless to call that classic to mind but suffers from the underwhelming comparison.
Second, Arnold’s Mars appears to be an overt analog to the world of H. G. Wells’ popular classic, The Time Machine, published ten years before Gullivar Jones. Wells describes a world divided between the elegant, evolved Eloi and the brutish, ape-like Morlocks, who feed on the former. Arnold’s Hither and Thither people represent a similar premise, but he reverses Wells’ judgment: it is the Thither people Jones admires.
Reviewer Jayme Lynn Blaschke (https://www.sfsite.com/09a/gu159.htm) thinks that Arnold also wants to enlist Gullivar Jones in the English author’s purpose of having a little fun at the expense of his country’s American cousins.
The epitome of the “ugly American,” Gullivar is brimming over with arrogance and a certainty he is right in all courses of action he should choose. Perpetually condescending towards his hosts—be they Hither or Thither—he views them all with a benign racism that is either a subversive political commentary by Arnold or the author’s personal beliefs (a reflection of the times) coming through. My personal take is that the former is more accurate, because at one point claims a vast swath of Mars for the United States, using the “Munroe Doctrine” as justification. He explains it to the befuddled natives: “Oh, it is simple enough, and put into plain language means you must not touch anything that is mine, but ought to let me share anything you have of your own.”
Be of good cheer, Burroughs faithful. Gullivar Jones is at best a Prius to the Tesla that is A Princess of Mars. The Prius is a good car – but it is no Tesla.
Why was Gullivar Jones in need of resuscitation in the first place? Certainly were it not for Lupoff’s keen eye, coupled with Burroughs’ resurgent popularity, the Arnold novel would have remained in tranquil obscurity. Arnold does not appear to understand or intuit the fundamentals of good storytelling.
First of all, Arnold’s protagonist is not compelling. The novel struggles mightily but unsuccessfully to overcome this fundamental handicap. Readers must buy into the goal(s) a protagonist seeks to achieve. Because Jones seems rather indifferent to his fate, so is the reader. The conflicted Jones too often does not seem to know himself what drives him, what he wants. He is an impulsive, adventurous bumbler who almost fecklessly caroms from one situation to another, reacting without coherent intent or motivation. Call him prematurely postmodern. It is not easy to become emotionally invested in him.
Jones has two related conflicts to resolve, if you exclude his tailor’s bills: does he marry Polly or Heru? and does he return to Earth or stay on Mars? His thoughts on each are highly malleable and are driven by external events. In seeking the low-cost option, Jones seems almost to have no sustained preference, and so we are not sure we care.
Second, although Arnold is not bereft of imagination, what we have in Gullivar Jones is a travel narrative set in a semi-exotic environment which could just as easily be a lost civilization on Earth as on another planet. The only significant element of the story that is not terrestrial is its nominal location. People and animals on Arnold’s Mars barely differ from those of our own world. As Jones observes, “The similarity of many details of existence here and there was the most striking of the things I learned whilst on the red planet.”
Third, the leisurely pace of Arnold’s tale provides the reader more than adequate time to note the clunky coincidences with which it abounds. He wastes much ink on describing the journey, with various forgettable characters appearing and disappearing.
Some storytelling failures are just inexplicable. A noteworthy example involves two scenes which bookend the novel. At critical times for the Hithers, a public ceremony is held at which the Princess Heru peers into a magic globe to divine her people’s future. In Chapter 5, Jones accidentally knocks the globe to the ground, destroying it: “Over went that implement of a thousand years of sorcery.” Gosh, that sounds disastrous, right? But don’t worry, because in the climactic Chapter 20 Jones reports simply that “They had placed another magic globe under a shroud on a tripod” for the use of the princess.
Arnold’s writing style isn’t bad and at time verges on the poetic. Nevertheless, for lack of a gripping story his Martian novel deserved to rest undisturbed for nearly half a century.
Edwin Lester Arnold was no Edgar Rice Burroughs.
Enter John Carter. It has become a cliché to call Burroughs a “master storyteller” or “master of adventure” only because it is so self-evident. I like “the Picasso of the Pulps.”
For the sheer pleasure of it, I reread Burroughs’ first novel and marveled at the contrast with Arnold’s last novel. Because you are may be familiar with A Princess of Mars, I will highlight only a few elements of the book which to me demonstrate Burroughs’ genius.
From virtually the first line of the novel we are intensely curious about Captain John Carter, and we know why we care about him. Burroughs’ first installment of his original version in “The All-Story” included only a 214-word introduction, ostensibly an “Editor’s Note,” which ended with this paragraph:
His death occurred upon a winter’s night. He was discovered by the watchman of his little place on the Hudson, full length in the snow, his arms outstretched above his head toward the edge of the bluff. Death had come to him where curious villagers had so often, on other nights, seen him standing rigid—his arms in supplication to the skies.
Immediately comes Chapter 1: “I am a very old man; how old I do not know. Possibly I am a hundred, possibly more; but I cannot tell because I have never aged as other men.” The mystery deepens: “Some day I shall die the real death from which there is no resurrection. I do not know why I should fear death, I who have died twice and am still alive.” As a result: “I have determined to write down the story of the interesting periods of my life and of my death.” He has returned from the dead twice, he feels an urgency about telling his story, and we are holding it in our hands.
Now that he has our full attention, he takes us on a brief adventure in the Arizona Territory, an episode which by itself is nearly as exotic as anything Arnold offers. Soon, though, we are with Carter on Mars. Why Mars? There is not simply a good reason, there is a cosmic reason. Carter, inspired as he looks out on “the beauties of an Arizona moonlit landscape,” tells us:
I turned my gaze from the landscape to the heavens where the myriad of stars formed a gorgeous and fitting canopy for the wonders of the earthly scene. My attention was quickly riveted by a large red star close to the distant horizon. As I gazed upon it I felt a spell of overpowering fascination—it was Mars, the god of war, and for me, the fighting man, it had always held the power of irresistible enchantment. As I gazed at it on that far-gone night it seemed to call across the unthinkable void to lure me to it, to draw me as the lodestone attracts a particle of iron.
Arnold’s novel, by sharp contrast, begins in New York City where Gulliver Jones is “a plain, prosaic naval lieutenant in the Republican service.” It is night, and Jones “passed from light to light or crossed the mouths of dim alleys leading Heaven knows to what infernal dens of mystery and crime.” In his own words, Jones is “wasting time” living a life “as dull as ditch-water with wretched vistas of stagnant waiting.” In frustration he wishes aloud “to be anywhere but here, anywhere out of this red-tape-ridden world of ours! I wish I were on the planet Mars!” Gullivar Jones simply wants to get away. Mars for him is no more than a useful metaphor for escape. He is running away from his life.
As military men, John Carter and Gullivar Jones share superficial similarities, but the souls who inhabit those bodies can hardly be more different. One is a self-possessed man of action and purpose. The other is a semi-passive, irresolute whiner. One inspires while the other tires.
Once on Mars, Carter displays the superhuman abilities and devotion to justice that clearly make him our culture’s (and Barsoom’s) first superhero. And Gulliver Jones? The principal impression his “otherness” makes on the Martians is that he is a traveler or a spirit. The only evidence of any unusual strength comes in his parenthetic remark in Chapter 11 that he had completed a canoe trip in four hours which the Martians had estimated would take him six, “for the Martians had forgotten in their calculations that my muscles were something better than theirs.”
When Carter first sets eyes on Dejah Thoris, he is irrevocably smitten – for the first time in his life. He quickly becomes completely focused on the twin objectives of surviving on Barsoom and courting the princess. When Jones first sees Heru, he reports that he “fell desperately, wildly in love with her,” conveniently forgetting Polly, his Earthbound love. That impetuous crush is strong but fleeting.
Tharks, thoats, calots, and zitadars vs. gigantic bats and rats. This is self-explanatory. Almost everything John Carter finds on Barsoom is more imaginative than what Jones encounters on Mars. Burroughs is renowned for his complex world-building, surpassing by far Arnold’s two-dimensional travelogue.
Emotional payoffs. How many twelve-year-olds have become hooked on Burroughs? How many sixty-year-olds? (Of the latter, at least one I know of for sure.) Burroughs appears to be a straightforward writer – but his consistent ability to tug at his readers’ heartstrings is one of the keys to the great appeal and longevity of his novels.
In Princess, there are several scenes that will grab most any reader. Certainly Carter’s conversion of the Tharks’ guard dog, Woola, into his own faithful companion is one highlight. Sola’s story, along with the tension it builds, is resolved in a climax which arouses deep satisfaction in the reader. In Chapter 17, escaping the city of Thark, Carter instructs Sola to take Dejah Thoris with her to safety as Thark warriors approach. When Dejah Thoris turns to Sola and shocks Carter with her stunning declaration that “Dejah Thoris remains to die with the man she loves,” honestly, is there a dry eye in the house? These soaring moments simply do not exist in Arnold’s Gullivar Jones.
TWO SOLID REASONS WHY WE CAN SAFELY ASSUME THAT BURROGHS NEVER HEARD OF EDWIN ARNOLD OR GULLIVAR JONES
My conclusion is based on two significant, historical, facts which seem to have been left largely undiscussed: Arnold’s own later history and Burroughs’ own words.
Edwin Lester Arnold. Arnold’s novel undoubtedly suffers from being read in the shadow of Burroughs’ towering creation. But at least in terms of popular appeal, Arnold had become a failed novelist years before Burroughs’ first story hit the streets.
Arnold was born in 1857, the son of a British journalist and poet. He published his first book in 1877 and his first novel, Phra the Phœnician, in 1890 in the U.S. His sixth and last novel, Gullivar Jones was published in 1905 but only in the U.K. It was his second consecutive flop and sold so poorly that he gave up writing. To my knowledge, no non-textual evidence has ever emerged that Burroughs saw it before writing Princess in 1911.
Neither is there historical evidence of which I am aware that Burroughs had ever heard of Arnold, much less bought or read his books. Between 1905 and 1911, Burroughs was living in genteel poverty, scrimping every way he could to support his family.
It is probably more significant that Arnold lived until 1935, a full generation after Burroughs published the story known worldwide as A Princess of Mars. Arnold and/or his representatives would have had every opportunity to challenge the originality of Burroughs’ novel. But there seems to be no record of any such complaint, either public or private.
Edgar Rice Burroughs. In reviewing any influence of Gullivar Jones on A Princess of Mars, we also have Burroughs’ own correspondence to support claims of his originality.
In the summer of 1911, Burroughs submitted the partially-finished story he called Dejah Thoris, Martian Princess to “The All-Story” magazine, whose editor was Thomas Newell Metcalf. He and Metcalf corresponded back and forth with suggestions about details of the story’s plot, until Newell wrote on November 4, 1911 that he was finally accepting the novel as most recently submitted. He added this pro forma request:
I am sorry to have been so long in giving you an answer on this and I hope we will be able to do business together. While speaking of this, considering the fact that we have never done business together before, I should be very glad if you would send us a reference to some publisher or other reasonable person who can assure us that your work is certain to be entirely original. This is a mere matter of form and I am sure you will understand how we feel.
Burroughs immediately answered the editor in clear terms:
The fact that it is the first story will make it impossible for me to give you any publishers as references – I do not know any.
I can however, give you the names of many business men in Chicago who have known me for years and through them you can assure yourself of my trustworthiness.
The story is absolutely original and I believe the best proof to you must be the fact that I wrote the ending along lines of your own suggestion.
In my view, there is no good reason to doubt the truth of Burroughs’ explicit statement in light of what we know of his character. Certainly it was good enough for Metcalf.
I am at a loss to understand why these two factors have not become more integral to the Arnold/Burroughs discussion. If they have, I am not aware of it.
Regardless of the support for either position, we surely owe a great debt to the incomparable Richard Lupoff, Burroughs scholar and devotee par excellence, for urging that Gullivar Jones be lifted out of obscurity, if only for comparison with the master’s creation. In my opinion, all flaws considered, it is worthy reading for any fan of the Barsoom novels.
Perhaps Den Valdron (ERBzine 1403: http://www.erbzine.com/mag14/1403.html) summarized it best when he wrote:
It’s true enough that Arnold’s romance featured a dying decadent society, an alien princess, a river of death, and barbarian invaders. But then again, rivers which are receptacles for the spirits dead appear on Earth in the Nile and the Ganges. Every adventurer seeks a princess and contends with Barbarians. So, the case for Arnold, I find doubtful.
But what the hell. Even the allegation, whatever its merits, has given Gulliver Jones a lease on life he would never have had, except as a quasi-part of Burroughs Martian canon. It’s led to fan debates, new publications of his novel, and even a distinctly Burroughsian Marvel comic series [The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. II].
So can’t we all just be friends?
Well, we sure can in the comics. In addition to the Marvel series noted by Valdron, in 2012 Dynamite created the Warriors of Mars series, with Joe Jusko cover art, in adventures which joined Gulliver Jones, John Carter, and even Carter’s progeny: http://www.dynamite.com/htmlfiles/viewProduct.html?CAT=DF-Warriors_of_Mars.
NOTE: This review and commentary first appeared in ERBapa #128 (Winter, 2016), a publication of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Amateur Press Association.