Sunday, August 3, 2008

Who was Doc Savage's legal mother?

As I have noted in an earlier blog, the birth of Clark Savage Jr. was recorded in the United States after the survivors of the wreck of the Orion made it to New York. It appears that they gave a false date for Doc's birth, May 25, 1901 and other false information to conceal the identity of his father. They must have also concealed the true identity of Doc's mother. Which woman was named as Doc's mother on the legal birth certificate? I have done some research and my sources have told me the following story.

Dr. Clark Savage Sr. (aka James Clarke Wildman, aka James Wilder) loved several beautiful women in his life many of whom died tragically.

In the mid 1880s, James Wilder met Priscilla Travis while he was traveling under the alias 'Clark Savage' with his cousin Richard Henry Savage. She was a vivacious young New York socialite and the sole heir to her father's railroad fortune. She belonged to the same illustrious family as William B. Travis who was the commander of the Alamo during its last stand against Santa Ana. Her Uncle Milt Travis was a Texas Ranger and one of the sidekicks of Jim Hatfield the "Lone Wolf " Ranger.

Priscilla's father, John, had made his fortune investing in railroads in Texas and other places in the southwest. Once he had amassed sufficient wealth he moved the family to New York to live the High Life along with other millionaires. At the time 'Clark' and Priscilla met in 1892, her father had died from heart disease and her mother was ill with some type of abdominal cancer (probably ovarian) from which she perished in 1896.

Priscilla had reddish-auburn hair and green eyes. She was a flirt and a bit of a scandal. She had no living relatives other than her ailing mother and lived entirely on her own. She had met 'Clark Savage' at a New York party and the two were immediately attracted. James Wilder was known for liking 'fast company'. They kept in touch frequently and James even established a residence in New York City under the alias 'Clark Savage' so they could spend time together. Priscilla was one of the few people who knew that Englishman James Wilder and American 'Clark Savage' were the same person. She often traveled to Baltimore in secret when James entered medical school at Johns Hopkins. She never told anyone where she was going and she traveled under different assumed names. Their friends thought it was all very romantic and mysterious and expected that it would be only a matter of time before Priscilla and James would become engaged.

But Priscilla still had casual liaisons with other young men in between her visits to 'Clark.' He knew about this but he did not mind. Priscilla was a 'wild child' and that is what attracted him to her. He did not seriously entertain the idea of marrying her. Their relationship was one of mutual enjoyment. He doubted that 'Prissy' could ever be a proper wife. As Clark became more involved in his medical studies, and her mother became more ill, Priscilla's visits became less frequent.

When James learned about his family's financial problems in 1894, he left the US to go to Canada leaving Priscilla with the promise that he would return. In fact, he never did. During his adventures which were chronicled in Ian Cameron's book "The Lost Ones", James Wilder fell in love with a Viking-Eskimo maiden, Freyja, who died a tragic death. After the conclusion of this adventure, James was taken home by Ned Land and met Arronaxe Larsen, Ned's granddaughter and the daughter of Wolf Larsen. The two were married and when James had finally saved his family's fortune in Canada, he and Arronaxe went to England in the hopes that his real father would now claim him as the true heir to the Holdernesse Legacy. Alas, that was not to be.

Priscilla was not a blushing wall flower and she loved male companionship. When letters from 'Clark' stopped coming (even before his captivity with the Viking-Eskimos) she did not stay unattached for long. Priscilla bounced back and started dating again. She never heard from 'Clark' after 1895. For all intents and purposes 'Clark Savage' had disappeared without a trace.

Ironically, 'Clark' had introduce her to his friend Hubert Robertson who was in a loveless marriage arranged by his father. Hubert and Priscilla became clandestine lovers and this lead to the ultimate decline of Hubert's marriage. They kept their affair secret because if word got out, Hubert's father would have disowned him. The lovers were very discrete. In fact, Priscilla kept up the pretense that she was still seeing the missing 'Clark' on secret rendezvous when in fact she was actually with Hubert.

Eventually Hubert's father died and shortly thereafter, Hubert discovered that his wife was having affairs with several different men one of whom claimed he wanted to marry her. He confronted his wife with the evidence, never revealing his own adultery. They mutually agreed to a divorce for 'irreconcilable differences.' The divorce decree was to be finalized in June of 1901, and Hubert planned to wed his beloved Priscilla at sea in the Mediterranean that summer with his friends from Harvard -- James Wilder and Gunter Asch -- in attendance. He had purchased a schooner in Jamaica for the occasion, the Orion.

Robertson accepted a position as a visiting professor in Zoology at the College de France in Paris that year and he sailed his yacht to Marseilles. Priscilla secretly came to Paris in the late summer and the two had an early "pre-honeymoon" while he was teaching. For reasons of propriety, they tried to keep their relationship secret even from the faculty of the College. But such a thing is almost impossible to do when you are young and in love in Paris. In the US, all that her friends knew was that Priscilla was living "somewhere in Paris". Most of her American friends believed that she had gone to Europe to be near her old flame Clark Savage. In Paris, Priscilla actually lived under the assumed name, Clarisse Dauphin. No one ever suspected the relationship between Priscilla and Hubert though it became well known at the college that he had a mistress in Paris.

In late May of 1901, the events chronicled in The Adventure of the Priory School occurred and Hubert along with the Wilders, Priscilla, and Gunter Asch set out early for the Caribbean. While at sea, Hubert as captain of the ship married his Priscilla and it was duly noted in the ship's log. Wilder decided to assume the identity of Clark Savage again and Arronaxe was given the alias of Clarisse Dauphin. Since she spoke fluent French, they figured that she could pull off the deception. On board the Orion, Robertson recorded another marriage ceremony between Clark and Clarisse in the log.

The story of Doc Savage's birth has been told before and we will not go into detail about it here. Arronaxe finally realized she was 3 months pregnant during their flight from England. Clark Savage Junior was born on the Orion during a light squall near Andros Island in the Bahamas. They got word to Ned Land who came to help find the treasure and to see his grandchild. Neither of the marriages nor the birth were registered in the Bahamas. It was their intention to do so upon landing in New York.

Seeing that he had a strapping new son, Clark Sr. determined that he would do as much for his child as he could. He would be a better father to his son than his own father had been. Dr. Asch ran a clinic in Switzerland which specialized in assisting in the rehabilitation of the wealthy and powerful -- especially the children of such people -- who had handicaps and moral failings such as alcohol or cocaine addiction. Asch had theories about the raising of children and how to maximize their potential. Clark Sr. asked Asch to help design a program so that his son would be raised scientifically.

When they found the treasure they informed the Bahamian authorities and had it sent back to New York on a bonded cargo ship. Gunter Asch had gone back to Germany over the summer, but he returned in November to assist at the birth. Afterwards he returned to Germany by commercial liner. He planned to meet the Savages in New York to help them start the training program for Clark Jr.

As the Orion was sailing to New York, it was caught in a terrible storm. The ship was literally torn apart by waves and wind. The only survivors were Hubert Robertson, Clark Senior, Clark Junior, and Ned Land. The women and the other crewmen were all lost. Hubert was able to salvage some records, but the ship's log was lost.

My sources record an incredible story, the veracity of which I cannot confirm, but I present it to you anyway. You may believe it or not. It appears that Arronaxe had baby Clark Jr. in her arms at the time that the ship broke up and she drowned in the ocean. The survivors struggled to find each other in the stormy seas for several hours. Eventually Clark Sr, Hubert and Ned were able to find a life boat and get into it. At first they could not find any other survivors including baby Clark. They feared that he had been drowned with his mother, but after dawn as the storm calmed they heard a loud wailing that sounded like a baby crying. They followed the sound and found a naked baby Clark floating on his back and screaming like a banshee. None of them believed that a baby could have survived for several hours in the cold waters of the Atlantic without dying of hypothermia. When they got him out of the water, baby Clark was hot to the touch. His body had already compensated for the cold water. They wrapped him in a woolen blanket and he slept fitfully.

They were only in the water for 32 hours when they were rescued by a ship of the US Revenue Cutter Service (the organization which was later renamed the Coast Guard in 1915). During that day in the lifeboat, the men rehearsed their story so that there would be no confusion.

In order to conceal his identity, it was decided that James would continue to use the alias of Clark Savage and that Arronaxe's real name would not be mentioned. Originally Clark Sr. was going to continue to claim Clarisse Dauphin as his wife's name, but Hubert objected. He recommended that instead, Clark Sr. should claim that Priscilla was his wife and the mother of his child. His reasoning was this. The relationship between Clark Savage and Priscilla Travis was well known and of long standing. No one knew about her relationship with Hubert. When Priscilla had gone to Europe, most people had assumed she was meeting Clark. It was far more believable that they might have gotten married than that she had married Hubert. Besides, Priscilla had a sizable family fortune of which Clark Sr could make good use. Hubert had his own fortune which was much larger and he did not need Priscilla's money. And technically, as her husband, the disposition of her estate was up to him anyway. With the ship's log gone, the survivors could say whatever they liked. Besides, this would give baby Clark one parent who was a proven American citizen so that he could be guaranteed American citizenship even if his father's identity as a British subject was ever discovered. Ned Land agreed to the deception to protect the future prospects of his grandson.

James Wilder alias "Clark Savage" took a cold hard look at what had happened in his life. His own weakness for bad companions had caused him to deceive and then kidnap his own younger brother. It also cost the life of Dr. Heidegger from the Priory School. It could also have cost the life of his younger brother. Wilder had caused great anguish to his father the Duke of Holdernesse who out of fatherly concern assisted him in escaping from England to avoid prosecution for kidnapping and murder. James' actions had most certainly cost the life of his beloved wife and it was only by the grace of God that their son had survived. This is where Clark Sr. decided that he needed to make amends for his many sins. His life was failure. He was on the run from the law and was certain that it was only a matter of time before the caught up with him. He decided that his son would be means of atonement. Young Clark Jr. would not only be raised "scientifically", but with the purpose of righting the wrongs done in the world and making it a better place. The plan would come into better focus as time went on but this is where the germ of it began.

When Gunther Asch came to America to help in Clark Jr.'s training, he likewise became a willing party to the deception about Priscilla and embraced the vision of making Clark Jr. an
├╝bermensch. After Asch and Clark Sr. had had a falling out years later, Asch returned to Germany and eventually told the true story of Doc Savage's birth and training to German Intelligence.

So it was decided that the mother that Clark Sr. identified on baby Clark's birth certificate would be Priscilla Travis Savage who had supposedly become pregnant in the Fall during their tryst in Paris. Clark Sr. and Priscilla had been allegedly married on board the Orion by Robertson in January 1901. Priscilla was supposed to have stayed on board the yacht during her confinement and given birth on May 25th assisted by Dr. Asch. After the birth, the Orion sailed to the Caribbean. When they sailed, Hubert ostensibly brought along his French mistress, Clarisse Dauphin. With the log gone, and all the survivors in agreement, the deception was successful.

This identification allowed Clark Sr. to lay claim to the Travis estate and -- along with the money from the treasure found in the Caribbean -- it assisted him in establishing himself on Wall Street and starting the unique training program for his son.

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