The John Clayton Mystery

The most famous John Clayton, no doubt, is the creation of Edgar Rice Burroughs, better known as Tarzan of the Apes.  The ape man's father was also a John Clayton, as were practically all the eldest son's of the Greystoke linage.  Although Burroughs's figure may be the most famous, he is not the only author to use the name John Clayton in his writings.

In Three Months In The Jungle, by Sebastian Moran, published in 1884, a person named John Clayton, whose near fatal mauling by a tiger, is described in chapter 12.  Many Edgar Rice Burroughs scholars believe this John Clayton to actually be Tarzan's father.  If one accepts Tarzan Of The Apes provided date, May 1888, as John and Alice's sailing date, it could be possible that it was Tarzan's father.

The only problem with accepting, 1888 as the Greystoke's sailing date, is that Korak can not be Tarzan's, flesh and blood, born son.  If one believes the Fuwalda set sail in May 1888, one must also believe that Korak is adopted in some form, or the events in The Son Of Tarzan did not occur.  There is one other option available, of course. Believing Tarzan is a time traveler or dimension hopper.  If that is your belief don't bother reading chronology articles.  You don't need them.

There are many Edgar Rice Burroughs chronologist who believe that Tarzan is Korak's paternal father as told in The Beasts Of Tarzan, The Son Of Tarzan, The Eternal Lover, Tarzan The Untamed, Tarzan The Terrible and Tarzan And The Golden Lion.  They believe the Fuwalda set sail much sooner than the date provided in Tarzan Of The Apes.  Using this approach the most accepted date is 1872.  If one accepts this theory, the John Clayton mentioned in Three Months In The Jungle could not possibly be Tarzan's father.  If that is the case then who is he? To shed a little more light on this question, let's go one step further.

Besides Burroughs' John Clayton in Tarzan Of The Apes, and the John Clayton mauled by a tiger in Three Months In The Jungle, there is yet another.  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's cab driver in The Hound Of Baskervilles.  During that intriguing investigation of October 1889, Sherlock Holmes questions a rough-looking fellow, who had been driving a cab for seven years.  His address was; 3 Turpey Street, the Borough and his cab was out of Shipley's Yard, near Waterloo Station.  The driver turns out to be no part of the investigation, and once dismissed never plays another part in the story.

If Doyle's John Clayton has been driving a cab from 1882 through October 1889, it is obvious that he is neither Tarzan nor his father.  As noted earlier, Sebastian Moran's  Three Months In The Jungle, was published in 1884.  If you subtract the time that it would take for those events to occur, the author finding out the events, the adventures to be penned, then to be published, it is conceivable that the John Clayton who was mauled by the tiger could possibly be the cab driver of Doyle's story.  If this John Clayton is not Tarzan, nor his father.  Who is he?

We know that it is a Greystoke family tradition for the first born to be named John.  Burroughs plainly states in Tarzan Of The Apes that Tarzan's name is John, and the ape man's father's name was John.  Although Korak is called Jack and his son is called Jackie, their name is also John.  One can use Burroughs' own son, John Coleman, as circumstantial evidence, for he was called Jack.  Also, John Carter's great nephew called him Uncle Jack.

Using these four generations as proof, one would automatically presume that Tarzan's grandfather was also a John.  This is not the case, however.  Burroughs clearly indicates that Tarzan's grandfather was not a John Clayton.  When Paul D'Arnot was reading Lord Greystoke's diary to Tarzan we find that Tarzan is the second John Clayton.  "Somehow, even against all reason, I seem to see him a grown man,taking his father's place in the world - the second John Clayton - and bringing added honors to the house of Greystoke.  ERB-Tarzan Of The Apes, chapter 25.

If Tarzan's grandfather was not a John Clayton, then what was his name?  This is a very touchy subject because it can not be proved.  In conjecture only,.. Tarzan's great-grandfather's first son was born under illegitimate circumstances.  The birth was kept secret, but the child was given the name John Clayton anyway.  When great-grandfather Clayton's second son, Tarzan's grandfather, was born he was the legitimate first Greystoke child, but he was not the first born.

Thus, he was named something besides John.  When grandfather Clayton's first son, Tarzan's father, was born he was named John Clayton.  This was done to continue the Greystoke tradition of naming the first born son John.

Out of mockery for the Greystoke's John Clayton, the illegitimate older half brother to Tarzan's grandfather, named his first born son John Clayton also.  This is the other John Clayton mentioned in Three Months In The Jungle and The Hound Of Baskervilles.

James Michael Moody