SOME SPECULATIONS REGARDING THE AMERICAN CLAYTONS
J. G. Huckenpöholer
Originally appeared in ERBapa #44, 1995
During the 1994 ECOF in Baltimore, someone mentioned casually, "Of course you know about Tarzan's daughter." Of course I knew no such thing, so he referred me to The Man-Eater. Sure enough, in that story Virginia Scott says, "Oh, it's Mrs. Clayton and Charlotte!"(1)
But is there any indication that this is a daughter of Tarzan's? For several reasons, I believe she is not. My reasoning is as follows:
- Virginia Scott and Jane Porter Clayton were approximately the same age--Jane might be two or three years older, but no more. She would not refer to a contemporary as "Mrs. Clayton;" if they were close friends she would refer to her as "Jane;" if not, as "Lady Greystoke." Remember, this was the Virginia of John Carter, not that of Douglas Wilder. "Birth and breeding"--to quote an older friend of mine--were everything.
- The events of The Man-Eater were, as nearly as I can tell, contemporaneous with the action in Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar. Jane was in Africa, being pawed over by Achmed Zek, during this period. [ERBmania! editor's note: ERB fans have long struggled happily to define a timeline that embraces the early Tarzan works of Edgar Rice Burroughs with his "non-Tarzan" tales of The Son of Tarzan, The Eternal Lover, and The Man-Eater.]
- There is no indication that Charlotte is a daughter; she could be a niece, a cousin, or a companion.
- (and most important) is Jane's statement in The Son of Tarzan on learning of Korak's intention to marry Meriem: "Now," she cried, "I shall really have a daughter!"(2)
This is prima facie evidence that she had not had a daughter before this time.
So who are "Mrs. Clayton and Charlotte"? I believe they are distant cousins of Tarzan's who settled in Virginia during the English Civil War, during the period when a large number of royalists emigrated rather than swear allegiance to Cromwell. It is true that Burroughs has a tendency to draw together elements of his various series; however, I think in this case that the assumption of identity is unwarranted. Instead, I offer the following hypotheses:
- The Clayton family was divided in its loyalties, as was the case with many noble families during the Civil War. The Roundhead branch remained in England, while the Cavalier branch settled in Virginia; or
- The entire family removed to Virginia for the duration of the Commonwealth, and on the restoration of Charles II in 1660 one branch returned to England while another remained in Virginia.
Nowadays when we think of the difficulty of crossing the Atlantic during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, we tend to underestimate the amount of back-and-forth travel that occurred during the colonial period. It is worthwhile noting that, for example, one of Cromwell's top generals in the English Civil War was a Harvard graduate(3)--I believe it was Robert Overton but cannot verify that at the moment. In any case, I believe this to be the most likely explanation for the Virginia Claytons.
10. January 1995
1.Burroughs, Edgar Rice, Beyond Thirty and The Man-Eater, South Ozone Park, N. Y., Science-Fiction & Fantasy Publications, 1957, p. 141.
2.Burroughs, The Son of Tarzan, Chicago, A. C. McClurg & Co., 1917, p. 389.
3.The southern colonies tended to support the royalists during the Civil War, while New England was overwhelmingly pro-Cromwell. Several of Cromwell's top lieutenants--most notably Goffe and his son-in-law Whalley--escaped to Massachusetts at the time of the restoration, and lived there safe from retribution.