Clark Savage, Sr. and the Victorian World of A Feast Unknown – Part 3

In the first part of this article, a few paragraphs from the Foreword of Philip José Farmer’s novel A Feast Unknown were presented, describing how the narrator, Lord Grandrith, was certain that his biological father was Jack the Ripper. That father would also go on to sire James “Doc” Caliban, Farmer’s pastiche of Doc Savage.

Here is more from the Foreword:

That part of the diary which I had forbidden other to read describes how my mother happened to be with her husband in Whitechapel on that fog-smothered night. She had insisted on going with him to look for his brother, who had escaped from the cell in the castle in the Cumberland County. Private detectives had quietly tracked John Cloamby (author’s note: AKA James Wilder, ultimately to become the senior Caliban) to the Whitechapel district of London. His brother, James Cloamby, Viscount Grandrith, had joined this hunt. My mother, Alexandra Applethwaite, related to the noble family of Bedford, had insisted on accompanying him.

My uncle objected to bringing his wife along for several reasons. The strangest was that his brother had attempted to rape her after breaking out of his cell by bending several of the bars and uprooting them from their stone sockets. Only her screams and the prompt appearance of two manservants armed with pistols had saved her.

Farmer displays his love of family-tree play here, as well as suggestion — the description of the dangerous brother shows him escaping due to a strength characteristic of his later son, Doc Savage. The Foreword of A Feast Unknown goes on to show the hunt in Whitechapel, which does indeed result in Alexandra’s rape. Afterward, it goes on to describe the sexual estrangement of Viscount Grandrith to his wife after the assault, their trip to Africa just as Jack the Ripper began his rampage of death in that same Whitechapel, and the birth in Africa of the Grandrith child, who would become Farmer’s avatar of Tarzan.

Later, the ancient head of the Nine, Anana, lays it all out for Grandrith and Caliban.

“Your father has a son in America.”

“All exceedingly strong men with tendencies to madnesses. All were doctors too, as if the knife were your totem, your desire, your bliss. All lovers of violence.”

So this, in Farmer’s narrative, is the pastiche equivalent of Clark Savage, Sr. With a history of unspeakable violence, then of changing his life-path after recovering from madness, becoming a doctor in America, and going on to train his son to “fight evil”. Psychologically, very compelling.

James Talos Sr, AKA Doc Caliban Sr, AKA Clark Savage Sr, by Iason Ragnar Bellerophon

It all set down roots to provide an explanation for the elder Savage’s fanaticism toward the life-mission of his son, shaped out of the dark world at the end of the 19th century, aimed at bringing light and honor and positive change to the early 20th.

“Lovers of violence,” as Anana had stated, perhaps. Doc is also surrounded by rampant violence throughout his adventures. Interestingly, the first few Doc Savage novels show a Doc who uses a good deal of brutal violence himself, before exercising personal control and implementing his more humanitarian philosophies. Like father, like son.

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