Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan 1859-1930
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan 1859-1930
Scottish novelist, playwright, critic, historian, nonfiction writer, and short-story writer.
The following entry presents an overview of Doyle's career through 2002.INTRODUCTION
The name of Arthur Conan Doyle has become synonymous with classic detective fiction. Doyle is the creator of two of the most well-loved and widely recognized fictional characters of modern literature—the brilliant detective Sherlock Holmes and his faithful friend and assistant Dr. John Watson. For more than a century, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have remained the defining figures of detective fiction. The visual image of Holmes, characterized by his deerstalker cap, large, curved pipe, and magnifying glass, has become an iconic symbol for the archetypal detective hero. Doyle wrote a total of four novels and fifty-six short stories featuring Holmes and Watson, originally published between 1888 and 1927. Holmes has continued to impress generations of readers with his masterful use of deductive reasoning and keen observation in order to solve seemingly unsolvable crimes. Doyle's most highly regarded Holmes stories include the novel The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) and the stories "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," "The Red-Headed League," "The Man with the Twisted Lip," and "The Five Orange Pips," among others. In addition to his Holmes mysteries, Doyle also authored several works of historical fiction as well as adventure novels, poetry, and plays.
Doyle was born May 22, 1859, in Edinburgh, Scotland, the eldest son in an Irish Catholic family. Throughout Doyle's childhood, his father, an artist and civil servant, had difficulty supporting the family and was later institutionalized for alcoholism. Doyle received his education at the Jesuit institutions of Hodder Preparatory School and Stonyhurst College. Determined to become a doctor, he entered medical school at Edinburgh University, where he worked as the assistant to Dr. Joseph Bell, an eccentric surgeon and university professor. Doyle was impressed by Bell's uncanny powers of observation and his ability to determine the occupations of his patients based on seemingly insignificant details of their dress and mannerism, a skill which Doyle later incorporated into the character of Sherlock Holmes. In order to support himself through school, he obtained temporary work as a medical officer on an Arctic whaling ship. Upon earning his medical degree in 1881, Doyle spent several months working as a ship's doctor on a freighter voyage to Africa. After his return to England, he set up a medical practice, but struggled throughout the early 1880s to earn a living, as he failed to attract a sufficient number of patients. During this period, Doyle, who had sold his first short story to a magazine in 1879, began to supplement his income by selling several additional stories. In 1885 he married Louisa Hawkins, a wealthy woman whose income provided him with financial security for the first time in his life, allowing him to devote more of his time to writing, although he continued to practice medicine. His first Sherlock Holmes story, published in 1888, was a novel entitled A Study in Scarlet, with illustrations by Doyle's father, Charles Doyle. Though not an immediate sensation, subsequent Sherlock Holmes stories eventually earned Doyle an international readership and established Holmes as one of the most beloved fictional heroes of all time. By 1891 Doyle was able to retire from his meager medical practice and support his family as a full-time writer. Doyle had two children with his first wife, who died of tuberculosis in 1906. The following year, he married his longtime friend Jean Leckie, with whom he had three children. Extending his fictional detective work into real life, Doyle's reputation for crime-solving earned him the status of unofficial consultant to the English police, and Sherlock Holmes stories became required reading for English police detectives in training. Though he is now remembered primarily for his detective stories, Doyle was a prolific writer who also published numerous novels in a variety of genres, as well as a number of plays, books of poetry, spiritual treatises, political pamphlets, histories, and other works of nonfiction. When the Boer War broke out, Doyle, who at forty-one was too old to enlist for combat, served as a surgeon near the South African front. He was knighted in 1902 for his historical account of the incident, The Great Boer War (1900), as well as for a pamphlet in which he defended the British action in the Boer War. In his middle-age, Doyle became increasingly interested in spiritualism, writing and publicly speaking in defense of the belief that it is possible to communicate with the dead through a gifted "medium." During World War I, Doyle cleverly relayed information to British prisoners-of-war in Germany by sending them copies of books in which he made pinpricks under specific words throughout the text, in order to form a message. Doyle died of a heart attack at home in Sussex, England, on July 7, 1930.
Readers were first introduced to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in A Study in Scarlet. Doyle modeled his detective hero as a composite character derived from traits of a favorite uncle, his former teacher Dr. Bell, and the detective characters of Edgar Allen Poe, Wilkie Collins, and others. Holmes and Watson first meet each other in A Study in Scarlet when a mutual friend suggests they share lodgings to save money. At their first meeting, Holmes correctly deduces that Watson is a medical doctor who has been serving in the British wars in Afghanistan, has been wounded, and has recently returned to England. Thus begins one of the most enduring friendships in the history of literature. Watson is also introduced as the narrator of all of the Holmes stories, a meticulous chronicler of his friend's astounding genius. Commissioned by an American publisher, Doyle soon published a second Sherlock Holmes novel, The Sign of Four (1890), a detective story concerning an Indian treasure. After this minor success, Doyle conceived to create a series of short stories featuring the same central characters that, unlike the standard serialized novels of the time, could stand alone as complete narratives in themselves. "A Scandal in Bohemia," the first Holmes short story to appear in a magazine, in 1891, begins when the King of Bohemia surreptitiously hires Holmes to retrieve a scandalous and incriminating photograph in the possession of a young woman with whom he has had a clandestine affair. Holmes discovers the location of the photograph through a clever series of disguises and ruses, but in the end, the young woman outsmarts Holmes and manages to flee the country with the photograph. With the astounding success of his first few Holmes short stories, Doyle became internationally famous. The first twelve Holmes short stories were collected in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1892), followed by The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894), which contained the next set of twelve stories.
By the early 1890s, however, Doyle had grown weary of writing Holmes mysteries, which he considered to be of lesser literary merit than his historical novels, such as Micah Clarke (1889) or The Great Shadow (1892). In "The Final Problem," published in 1893, Watson describes the death of Holmes during a struggle with his arch-enemy, Professor Moriarity, in the mountains of Switzerland, in which he falls off the edge of a cliff. Though thousands of readers mourned and protested the death of their detective hero, Doyle did not write another Holmes story for nearly ten years. Then, in 1902, he published the novel The Hound of the Baskervilles, which is now regarded as one of the best of the Holmes stories. Through Dr. Watson, Doyle's narrator in The Hound of the Baskervilles, the author explains that the events in the novel took place before Holmes' death in Switzerland. Watson assists Holmes in solving the case of a series of untimely deaths of family patriarchs in the line of the Baskerville family. Located on the moors of rural England, the Baskerville family estate bears a legend that a giant beast-like dog prowls the grounds and attacks each new generation of Baskerville heirs. Holmes is called upon to solve the most recent Baskerville murder and thereby protect the newest heir, Sir Henry Baskerville, from a similar fate. The success of The Hound of the Baskervilles inspired Doyle to revive his hero, and in a subsequent story, "The Adventure of the Empty House," Watson explains that Holmes had faked his own death, deceiving even Watson himself, in order to work undercover as an international detective. Having succeeded in this aim, Holmes returns to London three years after his apparent death to once again take up residence with Watson and resume his previous work. Doyle's subsequent Holmes stories, which comprise over half of the total body of Holmes fiction, were collected in The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905), His Last Bow: Some Reminiscences on Sherlock Holmes (1917), and The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (1927). In the title story of His Last Bow, a sixty-seven-year-old Holmes manages to capture a German spy just before the outbreak of World War I. Doyle's fourth and final Holmes novel, The Valley of Fear, a "locked-room" murder mystery, was published in 1915. Doyle's last Holmes tale, "The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place," was published in 1927, three years before the death of the author. Doyle also wrote two plays featuring Watson and Holmes—Sherlock Holmes (1899), based on the short story "The Strange Case of Miss Faulkner," and The Speckled Band (1910), based on the short story of the same title.
Contrary to the opinions of his readers and critics, Doyle considered his seven historical novels to be among his greatest and most serious literary works. In the tradition of Sir Walter Scott's "Ivanhoe" novels, Doyle's historical novels concern the knightly adventures, chivalrous romances, and thrilling battles of medieval English legend. These novels, however, soon faded into obscurity and only The White Company (1891), which concerns the exploits of a band of knights in fourteenth-century England, is still read today. Like his historical novels, Doyle's several science fiction novels have for the most part fallen into obscurity. Of these, only The Lost World (1912) continues to be read today and was adapted to film in 1925 and 1992. The Lost World features Professor Challenger, a character who appears in several of Doyle's science fiction novels. In this adventure tale, Challenger leads an expedition of men to Brazil, where, on an isolated mesa, they discover a lost civilization of apemen who represent the "missing" link in the evolution of homo-sapiens.
Literary critics and audiences alike have agreed that Doyle's creation of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson will stand as his greatest literary achievement. Indeed, to some extent, the characters themselves have transcended the stories, in the sense that, while many recognize them by name and image, many fewer have actually read Doyle's fiction. The character of Sherlock Holmes has frequently been compared to such immortal fictional heroes as Hamlet, Don Quixote, and Robinson Crusoe. By no means a brilliant stylist, Doyle has been recognized for his lucid, straightforward, and uncomplicated prose. Andrew Lang, writing in 1904, remarked of Doyle's style, "his is a simple narrative, manner," and went on to state, "In short, we read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for the story, and are very glad that we have such stories to read; rapid, varied, kindly, and honest narratives." Critics have praised Doyle's skill in evoking a sense of setting and atmosphere, rendering such locations as the streets of London, the moors of rural England, and the interior of the Holmes/Watson living quarters tangibly familiar to his readers. Many reviewers have noted that, in contrast to his two central characters, Doyle's minor characters tend to be lifeless, one-dimensional stock characters. He has been heavily criticized for his portrayal of women in the Holmes stories, which are based on stereotypes and are generally considered to lack depth and complexity. In the early twentieth-first century, critics began to examine Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories and other fictional works within the historical and ideological context of late-Victorian British culture, particularly in regards to conceptions of empire. These critics have pointed out that Doyle's detective stories, though on the surface devoid of political content, express an underlying investment in promoting the values of British empire, which Doyle openly supported in many of his nonfiction writings. Lesli J. Favor, for example, has argued that Doyle's representations of women as well as foreigners in his stories function to subject both to the ideological strictures of the British empire. Favor has asserted that Doyle "presents heroes and villains in ways that assert the eminence of the English over the Other-than-English and the Male over the Other-than-male." Discussing the powerful appeal of Doyle's fiction during his lifetime, Catherine Wynne has stated that, "[i]n works that span the last decades of Victorianism across the Edwardian era into the years that saw the advent of modernism, Doyle tapped cultural and societal fears. His fictions and his public commitments register the preoccupations and anxieties of his time; his work engages with the rise and consequent decline of empire, ideas of racial theory, scientific progress, degeneration, the crisis of faith, and changes in gender relations."
"Sherlock Holmes" Series
A Study in Scarlet [illustrations by Charles Doyle] (novel) 1888
The Sign of Four (novel) 1890
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes [illustrations by Sidney Paget] (short stories) 1892
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes [illustrations by Sidney Paget] (short stories) 1894
*Sherlock Holmes: A Drama in Four Acts (play) 1899
The Hound of the Baskervilles [illustrations by Sidney Paget] (novel) 1902
The Return of Sherlock Holmes [illustrations by Sidney Paget] (short stories) 1905
†The Speckled Band: An Adventure of Sherlock Holmes (play) 1910
The Valley of Fear: A Sherlock Holmes Novel [illustrations by Arthur I. Keller] (novel) 1915
His Last Bow: Some Reminiscences on Sherlock Holmes (short stories) 1917; also published as His Last Bow: A Reminiscence of Sherlock Holmes, 1917
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (short stories) 1927
The Complete Sherlock Holmes. 2 vols. (novels and short stories) 1930
The Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Four Novels and the Fifty-Six Short Stories Complete. 2 vols. [edited by William S. Baring-Gould; illustrations by Charles Doyle and others] (novels and short stories) 1967
The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Completing the Canon [edited by Peter Haining] (short stories and essays) 1986
Micah Clarke (novel) 1889
The White Company (novel) 1891
The Great Shadow (novel) 1892
The Refugees: A Tale of Two Continents [illustrations by T. De Thulstrup] (novel) 1893
The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard [illustrations by W. B. Wollen] (short stories) 1896
Rodney Stone [illustrations by Sidney Paget] (novel) 1896
Uncle Bernac: A Memory of the Empire [illustrations by Robert Sauber] (novel) 1897
Adventures of Girard [illustrations by W. B. Wollen] (short stories) 1903
Sir Nigel [illustrations by Arthur Twidle] (novel) 1906
The Captain of the Polestar and Other Tales (short stories) 1890
Mysteries and Adventures (short stories) 1890; also published as My Friend the Murderer and Other Mysteries and Adventures, 1893
The Doings of Raffles Haw [illustrations by Paul M. McCall] (novel) 1891
The Parasite (novel) 1894
Round the Red Lamp: Being Facts and Fancies of Medical Life (short stories) 1894
The Stark Munro Letters: Being a Series of Twelve Letters Written by J. Stark Munro, M. B., to His Friend and Former Fellow-Student, Herbert Swanborough . . . During the Years 1881-1884 (novel) 1895
The Mystery of Cloomber (novel) 1896
The Great Boer War (history) 1900
Through the Magic Door (criticism) 1907
Round the Fire Stories (short stories) 1908
The Lost World (novel) 1912
The Poison Belt: Being an Account of Another Amazing Adventure from Professor Challenger [illustrations by Harry Rountree] (novel) 1913
Danger! And Other Stories (short stories) 1918
The Poems of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Collected Edition (poetry) 1922
Memories and Adventures (autobiography) 1924; revised edition, 1930
The Land of Mist (novel) 1926
The Macarot Deep and Other Stories (short stories) 1929
The Complete Professor Challenger Stories (short stories) 1952
The Unknown Conan Doyle: Uncollected Stories [edited by John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green] (short stories) 1982
*Doyle's play Sherlock Holmes is based on his short story "The Strange Case of Miss Faulkner."
†Doyle's play The Speckled Band is based on his short story "The Adventure of the Speckled Band."
Andrew Lang (essay date July 1904)
SOURCE: Lang, Andrew. "The Novels of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle." In Critical Essays on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, edited by Harold Orel, pp. 219-35. New York, N.Y.: G. K. Hall & Co., 1992.
[In the following essay, first published in The Quarterly Review in July 1904, Lang—acclaimed folklorist and compiler of the Color Fairy books—evaluates Doyle's historical novels and Sherlock Holmes tales, commenting on the "superficial character of [Holmes'] knowledge and methods."]
If this country's education were conducted on truly scientific principles, we ought to have statistics of the great Novel industry. It is not enough to know how many copies of popular novels are sold; on that point the publishers often give us ample information. From 80,000 to 150,000 copies of a novel that really reaches the heart of the English people are promptly disposed of; and, allowing only ten readers for each copy, the millions are plainly being influenced by our authors of genius. This is a grave thought for conscientious novelists; the making of the spiritual life of England is in their hands. They feel it, and are all but overborne by the too vast orb of their responsibilities. In their photographs, which accompany the reports of interviews with them, we mark with sympathy the ponderous brow, supported by the finger so deft on the type-writing machine; and, as we read the interview, we listen to the voice that has whispered so many thousands of words into the phonograph.
The popular novelists of England and of America are serious men; they occupy at least in their own opinion a position which, since the days of the great Hebrew prophets, has been held by few sons of earth. Now and again they descend, as it were, from the mountain and wearily tell the world the story of their aims, their methods, and their early struggles, before they were discovered by enterprising publishers, before their books provided the text of many a sermon, just as did Mr. Richardson's "Pamela."
These men and women are our social, spiritual, religious, and political teachers. This is an important fact, for their readers take fiction seriously; their lives are being directed, their characters are being framed, by authors such as Mr. Hall Caine, Miss Marie Corelli, Mr. Anthony Hope, Mr. Rudyard Kipling, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Unluckily we have, for lack of statistics, no means of knowing the nature and limits of the moulding of character and direction of life exercised by these energetic authors. Can it be possible that they sometimes neutralize each other's effects, and that the earnest reader of Mr. Wells finds the seeds of his doctrine blown away on the winds of the mighty message of Mr. Hall Caine? Does the inquirer who sets out to follow the star of Miss Marie Corelli become bewildered and "pixyled," as they say in Devonshire, by the will-o'the-wisps of Mr. Kipling?
The serious writers on "the Novel," in the Press, like the late Mr. Norris, author of "The Octopus," assure us that all is well, that the Novel is, or ought to be, everything; that the novelist is our inspired teacher in matters theological, social, political, and perhaps (when we think of Mr. H. G. Wells) scientific; not to mention that the historical novelist writes the only sort of history which should be, and which is, read by the world. But the pity of it is that novelists, like other teachers, differ vastly in doctrine among themselves; so that, if we read all the popular authors, we "come out," like Omar Khayyám, "no wiser than we went," but rather perplexed in our intellects.
The owners of the stores in America which gave away a celebrated British novel as a bounty on soap, are said to have expressed themselves thus:—
Our hands were never half so clean,
Our customers agree;
And our beliefs have never been
So utterly at sea.
The beliefs of the public may, of course, be brought back to dry land by some more orthodox novelist, but the whole process is unsettling. Yet it may be that the populace, in various sections, cleaves to one teacher, neglecting others. Do the devotees of Miss Marie Corelli read the discourses of Mr. Hall Caine; and do the faithful of Mrs. Ward peruse either, or both, of the other two spiritual guides? Lacking the light of statistics we can only guess that they do not; that the circles of these authors never intersect each other, but keep apart; just as a pious Mussulman does not study "Hymns Ancient and Modern," while a devotee of Mr. Swinburne seldom declines upon "The Christian Year." Meanwhile the mere critic fails to extract a concrete body of doctrine from the discourses of any of our teachers.
Concerning Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who is, we trust, nearly as popular as any teacher, it may be said with gratitude that he aims at entertaining rather than at instructing his generation. We venture to think that the contemplative and speculative elements in his nature are subordinate to the old-fashioned notion that a novelist should tell a plain tale. A handsome and uniform edition of his works lies before us, with manly, brief, and modest prefaces by the author. The volumes are fair to see; the type and paper are good, though the printing is not incapable of correction, and the spelling is sporadically American.
There are authors whom we like best in stately "library editions," others whom we prefer in first editions—of such are Keats and Charles Lamb; and, handsome as is the format of Sir Arthur's collected works, there are a few of them which please us most "in the native pewter." Now the native pewter of Sherlock Holmes is a sixpenny magazine, with plenty of clever illustrations; he takes better in these conditions than in a sumptuous text with only one or two pictures. Sir Arthur is an unaffected writer. His style is not "a separate ecstasy," as in the case of Mr. R. L. Stevenson's writings; his is a simple narrative manner. He does not pass hours in hunting for le mot propre; and a phrase is apparently none the worse in his eyes because it is an old favorite of the public, and familiar to the press and the platform. However, like Aucassin in the cantefable, "we love a plain tale even better than none," and love anything better than the dull and tormented matter of the prigs who, having nothing that deserves to be said, say it in a style which standeth in an utterly false following of Mr. George Meredith. "The Author's Edition" is a delightful set for a smoking room in a club or in a country house.
By a laudable arrangement, Sir Arthur has confined his speculative and contemplative exercises to a pair of books, The Stark Munro Letters and A Duet. In the former, a young man has his "first fight" (not at all in the style of the author's Rodney Stone ) "with the spiritual and material difficulties which confront him at the outset of life. There is no claim that his outlook is either profound or original." Indeed his outlook is not remarkable for subtlety or distinction. Sir Arthur is not a Pascal; and, if he were, his "Pensées," presented in a work of fiction, would fail to exhilarate. As he says, Tom Jones and Arthur Pendennis and Richard Feverel "do not indicate their relation to those eternal problems which are really the touchstone and centre of all character." Thank heaven they do not!
An eternal problem can hardly be "the centre of a character"; and, if it were, we do not always pine to read a novel about an eternal problem. A little of "Obermann" goes a long way. If a problem is eternal it has obviously never been solved; and what chance had Thomas Jones, a foundling, of solving eternal problems. As for Pen, he frankly abandoned the attempt. The narrator in the Stark Munro Letters ends his speculation by deciding that "something might be done by throwing all one's weight on the scale of breadth, tolerance, charity, temperance, peace, and kindliness to man and beast." Having arrived at this acceptable solution, we do not care to follow the mental processes by which the young thinker reaches the result. We have ever been of his mature opinion, which, moreover, has the sanction of the Church, and of the best heathen and Christian philosophers.
There is no speculation and no preaching of doctrines, no nonsense about a "message" or a "mission," in the rest of Sir Arthur's books, where the good people are plucky, kind, and honorable, while the bad people are usually foiled in their villainous machinations. The quality which recommends Sir Arthur's stories to his readers, and to ourselves, is a quality which cannot be taught or learned; which no research, or study, or industry can compass; which is born with a man; which can hold its own without the aid of an exquisite style; and which is essential. Sir Arthur can tell a story so that you read it with ease and pleasure. He does not shine as a creator of character. Perhaps Micah Clarke, an honest English Porthos, is the best of his quite serious creations; while Sherlock Holmes, not so seriously intended, has become a proverb, like Monsieur Lecoq. But Brigadier Gerard is Sir Arthur's masterpiece; we never weary of that brave, stupid, vain, chivalrous being, who hovers between General Marbot and Thackeray's Major Geoghegan, with all the merits of both, and with others of his own.
The ladies who pass through the novels play their parts, and are excellent young women in their rôles, but they are not to be very distinctly remembered, or very fondly adored. There is not a Sophia Western, an Amelia, a Diana Vernon, a Becky Sharpe, an Anne Elliot, a Beatrix Esmond, or a Barbara Grant, in their ranks; and indeed such characters are scarce in all fiction. The greatest masters but seldom succeed in creating immortal women; only Shakespeare has his quiver full of such children as these. In short, we read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for the story, and are very glad that we have such stories to read; rapid, varied, kindly, and honest narratives. As Mr. Arthur Pendennis remarked about his ancestral claret, "there is not a headache in a hogshead" of them.
We shall first glance at Sir Arthur's historical novels, Micah Clarke, The White Company, The Refugees, and Rodney Stone. The public is very far from sharing the opinion professed by James II in exile, that "history is much more instructive than novels, and quite as amusing." For ourselves we deem his Majesty's own historical work vastly more entertaining than any novel written during his lifetime; but, in the opinion of the public, history only exists as material for historical romances, just as the engineer said that rivers exist for the purpose of feeding navigable canals.
Sir Arthur's earlier historical novels are influenced, more than he probably suspects, by those of Sir Walter Scott. Micah Clarke, like Mr. Blackmore's Lorna Doone, is a tale of the last romantic rebellion with a base in England—the futile attempt of Monmouth. The big Porthos-like hero is, in some ways, akin to John Ridd; but he occupies, as regards politics and religion, the juste milieu that Sir Walter favored when he wrote history, and assigned to such romantic heroes of his own as Henry Morton, and even Roland Graeme. Though "a simple-hearted unlettered yeoman," Micah Clarke is really wise with the wisdom of the later Victorian time, and, in one remark, speaks as if he had read Mr. Herbert Spencer with approval, so far as the problems of religion are concerned. He takes a calm view of history, and is no fanatic of the Protestantism of his period—that of Titus Oates. "The mob's ideas of Papistry were mixed up with thumbscrews" (not a Catholic implement, by the way) "and Fox's Martyrology." Micah is the son of a church-woman, and a Puritan, and himself has no particular bent, except in favor of freedom and fighting. "I believe that there was good in Papistry, Church, Dissent, but that not one was worth the spilling of human blood." King James was the rightful King, and Monmouth, black box and all, was a bastard, to Micah's mind; but, as fighting was toward, he fought for the son of Lucy Walters.
Decimus Saxon, the pedantic soldier of fortune, a most entertaining character, with his Latin and his professional skill, his indifference as to the cause for which he draws his sword, and his eye for "caduacs and casualties," is an English Dalgetty, and almost as amusing as the immortal laird of Drumthwacket, "that should be." He is a grandson, as it were, of Dugald's father, Sir James Turner, who was learned, but not pedantic, and a far better-hearted man than either Decimus or Dugald. Indeed Decimus "doth somewhat lean to cutpurse of quick hand." A more original character is the "Malignant" Monmouthite, the ruined, kind, dandified, and reckless Sir Gervas Gerome, so full of fight and foppery.
Rather to the surprise of the reader, at a given moment, while escorting a preacher and his rustic flock of "slashing communicants" to join Monmouth, Decimus suddenly ceases to be Dalgetty, and becomes John Balfour, called Burley. A cornet of the King's Horse approaches the psalm-singing conventicle with a flag of truce, and we quote what follows.
"Who is the leader of this conventicle?" he asked.
"Address your message to me, sir," said our leader from the top of the wagon, "but understand that your white flag will only protect you whilst you use such words as may come from one courteous adversary to another. Say your say or retire."
"Courtesy and honor," said the officer with a sneer, "are not for rebels who are in arms against their lawful king. If you are the leader of this rabble, I warn you if they are not dispersed within five minutes by this watch"—he pulled out an elegant gold time-piece—"we shall ride down upon them and cut them to pieces."
"The Lord can protect His own." Saxon answered, amid a fierce hum of approval from the crowd. "Is this all thy message?"
"It is all, and you will find it enough, you Presbyterian traitor," cried the dragoon cornet. "Listen to me, you fools," he continued, standing up upon his stirrups and speaking to the peasants at the other side of the wagon. "What chance have ye with your whittles and cheese-scrapers? Ye may yet save your skins if ye will but give up your leaders, throw down what ye are pleased to call your arms, and trust to the King's mercy."
"This exceeds the limits of your privileges," said Saxon, drawing a pistol from his belt and cocking it. "If you say another word to draw these people from their allegiance, I fire."
"Hope not to help Monmouth," cried the young officer, disregarding the threat, and still addressing his words to the peasants. "The whole royal army is drawing round him and—"
"Have a care!" shouted our leader, in a deep, harsh voice.
"His head within a month shall roll upon the scaffold."
"But you shall never live to see it," said Saxon, and stooping over he fired straight at the cornet's head. At the flash of the pistol the trumpeter wheeled round and rode for his life, while the roan horse turned and followed with its master still seated firmly in the saddle.
Here we have Drumclog, and Cornet Graham, and Burley's slaying of him under a flag of truce, with his excuse for so doing, all over again; whereof the author must have been as unconscious as Sir Walter himself when he annexed a verse by the poetical valet of his friend Rose. The Shirra justly said that, like Captain Bobadil, he "had taught many gentlemen to write almost or altogether as well as himself." This English Drumclog ends like the other, after a pretty fight; and the adventures reach Taunton, where the condition of that unhappy and pious town, and of Monmouth's scythemen and other rude levies, is depicted with much fire and energy. The hero, with great self-sacrifice, hands over the love-making business to a humorous friend named Reuben, and is free to devote himself to manly adventure. At this point comes the news of the failure of Argyll; and Sir Patrick Hume of Polwarth and Sir John Cochrane (whom Claverhouse had prophetically damned) receive from Decimus the same critical hard measure as Macaulay gives them. "The expedition was doomed from the first with such men at its head," says Decimus—with truth; for Argyll, if alone, would have been safe, though the Lowland leaders, in any case, being odious to the Remnant, could have raised no stir in Scotland.
Monmouth himself appears to us to be very well designed, though he was more fair to outward view than he seemed in the eyes of Micah Clarke. Though his Stuart blood was doubted by all but Charles II, his weakness, waywardness, and loss of nerve when [the] Sedgemoor fight went against him, were quite in the vein of the Chevalier de St. George at Montrose, of Queen Mary at Langside, and of Charles Edward in the first hours after Culloden. Each one of that forlorn four had shown courage enough on other fields, but as leaders of a lost hope the terror of betrayal overmastered him. Unlike the rest, Monmouth was a sentimentalist of the most modern fashion. A worse commander could not have been found for a very bad cause.
Robert Ferguson is described as almost a maniac from sheer vanity; but the unique character of the Plotter cannot be unriddled in a novel, if it can be unriddled at all. Still, we do not recognize him when he speaks to Monmouth in the wildest manner of the Remnant. "Why was Argyll cutten off? Because he hadna due faith in the workings o' the Almighty, and must needs reject the help o' the children o' light in favor o' the bare-legged children o' Prelacy, wha are half Pagan, half Popish." The terms do not apply to the Campbells; and Ferguson had humor enough if Dalrymple says truly that he tided over a day's lack of supplies by inducing Monmouth to proclaim a solemn fast for the success of his arms. Probably Sir Arthur bases his account of Ferguson's demeanor on a passage of Burnet: "Ferguson ran among the people with all the fury of an enraged man that affected to pass for an enthusiast, though all his performances that way were forced and dry." He would not perform in this forced way before Monmouth.
Micah's personal adventures are excellent romantic reading, especially his captivity in a mysterious dungeon whence the most experienced reader, though he knows that the hero must escape, cannot imagine how he is to do it. Through "The Onfall at Sedgemoor" the author, like Scott at Flodden, "never stoops his wing," for Sir Arthur is a master in the rare skill of describing a battle with lucidity and picturesque vigor. There is no better account of Waterloo, from the private soldier's point of view, than that given in his brief novel, The Great Shadow ; and Sedgemoor also is excellent.
The picture of Judge Jeffreys may be cited: probably it is quite accurate; yet Dryden admired this man!
Last of all, drawn by six long-tailed Flemish mares, came a great open coach, thickly crusted with gold, in which, reclining amidst velvet cushions, sat the infamous Judge, wrapped in a cloak of crimson plush with a heavy white periwig upon his head, which was so long that it dropped down over his shoulders. They say that he wore scarlet in order to strike terror into the hearts of the people, and that his courts were for the same reason draped in the color of blood. As for himself, it hath ever been the custom, since his wickedness hath come to be known to all men, to picture him as a man whose expression and features were as monstrous and as hideous as was the mind behind them. This is by no means the case. On the contrary, he was a man who, in his younger days, must have been remarkable for his extreme beauty.1 He was not, it is true, very old, as years go, when I saw him, but debauchery and low living had left their traces upon his countenance, without, however, entirely destroying the regularity and the beauty of his features. He was dark, more like a Spaniard than an Englishman, with black eyes and olive complexion. His expression was lofty and noble, but his temper was so easily aflame that the slightest cross or annoyance would set him raving like a madman, with blazing eyes and foaming mouth. I have seen him myself with the froth upon his lips and his whole face twitching with passion, like one who hath the falling sickness. Yet his other emotions were under as little control, for I have heard say that a very little would cause him to sob and to weep, more especially when he had himself been slighted by those who were above him.
Micah Clarke is a long novel of five hundred and seventy pages; but nobody, when he has finished it, remembers that it is long—which is praise enough for any romance.
In the preface to Micah Clarke the author says:—
To me it always seems that the actual condition of a country at any time, a true sight of it with its beauties and brutalities, its life as it really was, its wayside hazards and its odd possibilities, are [sic] of greater interest than the small aims and petty love story of any human being. The lists, the woodlands, and the outlaws are more to me than Rebecca and Rowena.
Passe pour Rowena, but surely Diana Vernon or Beatrix Esmond is not of inferior interest to Locksley, Friar Tuck, and the lists of Ashby de la Zouche? "To others the story of one human heart may be more than all the glamor of an age, and to these I feel that I have little to offer."
This is very true, and marks one of Sir Arthur's limitations. He does not interest us in love affairs, or in his women. Fielding could not only give us life "with its wayside hazards," but also bring us acquainted with Amelia and Sophia, whom to have known is [a] great part of a liberal education, in the famous old phrase. In The White Company we have lists, indeed, and a scene reminiscent of that immortal passage in "Ivanhoe," where the Disinherited Knight smites, with the point, the shield of the Templar. Sir Arthur's romance of Froissart's age in some ways resembles "The Cloister and the Hearth"; its main interest lies in its "wayside hazards," whether in England, or with the wandering White Company in southern France. The hero, leaving the monastery where he has been educated with that useful old favorite, a gigantic, hard-hitting lay-brother, John of Hordle, marches to join a very good knight of fantastic chivalry, Sir Nigel Loring, and fights under his standard, south of the Pyrenees. It is a tale of swords and bows, and we cannot refrain from quoting "The Song of the Bow," which provokes the very unusual wish that the author had written more verse.
What of the bow?
The bow was made in England:
Of true wood, of yew wood
The wood of English bows;
So men who are free
Love the old yew-tree
And the land where the yew-tree grows.
What of the cord?
The cord was made in England:
A rough cord, a tough cord.
A cord that bowmen love;
And so we will sing
Of the hempen string
And the land where the cord was wove.
What of the shaft?
The shaft was cut in England:
A long shaft, a strong shaft.
Barbed and trim and true;
So we'll drink all together
To the gray goose feather
And the land where the gray goose flew.
What of the mark?
Ah, seek it not in England:
A bold mark, our old mark
Is waiting oversea
When the strings harp in chorus
And the lion flag is o'er us
It is there that our mark shall be.
What of the men?
The men were bred in England:
The bowmen—the yeomen—
The lads of dale and fell.
Here's to you—and to you!
To the hearts that are true
And the land where the true hearts dwell.
The roadside adventures, especially that of the man who has taken sanctuary, and of the pursuing avenger of blood, are brilliant studies of life in Chaucer's time; and, though they are many, they are not too many. The little fighting Sir Nigel, the soul of chivalry, is a very tall man of his hands—almost too excellent a swordsman for his weight and his inches—while the very plain middle-aged wife whose favor he wears, proclaiming her la plus belle du monde, is a figure as original as her lord. He is an expert in heraldry, and, his sole object being "advancement" in the way of honor, he holds his own in single combat with du Guesclin, though the natural odds are those of Tom Sayers against Heenan. Like the hero of the old song who
Met the devil and Dundee
On the braes of Killiecrankie,
Sir Nigel "fought by land and fought by sea"; and the adventure of the "Yellow Cog" with the rover galleys is one of the best fights in a book full of fighting. Even after "Ivanhoe" the tournament at Bordeaux and the adventure of the unknown knight seem fresh and stirring; and the unknown knight, du Guesclin, is quite equal to his reputation, when we reach the Jacquerie, which was a predestined incident. The siege of a house is always a lively affair, though the artist does not represent the bald and unhelmeted Sir Nigel as a very dangerous opponent; his attitude of self-defence rather resembles that of Mr. Pickwick, which was "paralytic"; indeed he is offering a tame and unheard-of kind of lunge, or rather poke, from the shoulder at an almost naked adversary, who "takes it very unconcernedly." When an archer shoots six hundred and thirty paces, we must presume that the author has warrant for such a prodigious deed with the long bow; to be sure the bowman makes use of his feet, "turning himself into a crossbow." Sir Arthur relies on "one chronicler," criticized by Mr. C. J. Longman in the Badminton "Book of Archery"; and that chronicler, Giraldus Cambrensis, does not stand the test of modern experiment.
As Sir Arthur adds historical notes, he might as well name his "old chroniclers," with their dates; otherwise their evidence is of no great value. The novel reader, who is terribly afraid of coming to know anything accurately, is not likely to look at the notes, and be frightened away by a name and a date. The White Company is a lively romance, and very good reading for boys and friends of old times and tall knights. There is a love story; but, by separating hero and heroine early in the tale, the author ingeniously avoids a subject in which he does not pretend to shine. The mystic Lady Tiphaine, wife of du Guesclin, with her limited clairvoyance, is not a success; and the author has never distinguished himself in dealing with the supernormal. In consulting with seeresses, "physical contact" is very properly "barred," so as to avoid "muscle-reading"; but Lady Tiphaine (who has a view of the future glories of the British Empire) "would fain lay hands upon someone" when she practices her clairvoyant art. After her success with the vision of the Union Jack, or the English banner, at all events,
"It is over," said du Guesclin, moodily.... "Wine for the lady, squire. The blessed hour of sight hath passed!"
Here the author is more patriotic than imaginative, though du Guesclin was naturally vexed, being a good Frenchman, at hearing of our superior colonial expansion.
The Refugees, a tale of the court of Louis XIV, about the time of the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, ends in the Iroquois country, whither the Huguenot characters have fled. The story, though full of life and action, deals with a theme which does not "set the genius" of the author. He has not the finesse for a romance of the court of France; and his foil to all its artificialities, Amos Green, a young English colonial trapper, is of incredible simplicity. He certainly would not have been allowed to shoot at casual birds in the streets of such rising American townships as Boston and New York, and he could not have expected such sporting privileges in Paris. Yet he is amazed and annoyed when he is not permitted to go about gunning in the midst of the French capital. He is, of course, very shrewd, much too shrewd to be so innocently simple, and he is our old friend the useful Porthos of the novel, like John of Hordle in The White Company. It is well to have a character who can open any door without a key, and fight more than the three enemies at once, whom Major Bellenden, in "Old Mortality," found too many for any champion except Corporal Raddlebanes. As to the Iroquois, we know their fiendish cruelties even too well from the "Lettres Edifiantes" of the Jesuit missionaries, and we do not care to make closer acquaintance with them in a novel. The following passage shows the courtiers waiting for the king to get out of bed.
Here, close by the king, was the harsh but energetic Louvois, all-powerful now since the death of his rival Colbert, discussing a question of military organization with two officers, the one a tall and stately soldier, the other a strange little figure, undersized and misshapen, but bearing the insignia of a marshal of France, and owning a name which was of evil omen over the Dutch frontier, for Luxembourg was looked upon already as the successor of Condé, even as his companion Vauban was of Turenne.... Beside them, a small, white-haired clerical with a kindly face, Père la Chaise, confessor to the king, was whispering his views upon Jansenism to the portly Bossuet, the eloquent Bishop of Meaux, and to the tall, thin, young Abbé de Fénelon, who listened with a clouded brow, for it was suspected that his own opinions were tainted with the heresy in question. There, too, was Le Brun, the painter, discussing art in a small circle which contained his fellow-workers Verrio and Laguerre, the architects Blondel and Le Nôtre, and sculptors Girardon, Puget, Desjardins, and Coysevoix, whose works have done so much to beautify the new palace of the king. Close to the door, Racine, with his handsome face wreathed in smiles, was chatting with the poet Boileau and the architect Mansard, the three laughing and jesting with the freedom which was natural to the favorite servants of the king, the only subjects who might walk unannounced and without ceremony into and out of his chamber.
"What is amiss with him this morning?" asked Boileau in a whisper, nodding his head in the direction of the royal group. "I fear that his sleep has not improved his temper."
"He becomes harder and harder to amuse," said Racine, shaking his head. "I am to be at Madame de Maintenon's room at three to see whether a page or two of the 'Phédre' may not work a change."
This passage cannot but remind us of the scene with the wits at Button's in "George de Barnwell," and also of an imaginative reporter's account of people at a private view, or some such function. At the period indicated, we need not be told, as we are, that people were not talking about "the last comedy of Molière" or of "the insolence of Pascal." Molière was dead; Pascal was dead; and Paris did not talk for ever about the "Lettres Provinciales." The rivalries of Madame de Montespan and Madame de Maintenon, the night ride of Amos—as adventurous, for a short distance, as that of the musketeers to Calais—remind us of Dumas, and do not bear the comparison. Montespan's attempt to have his wife beheaded is much less convincing than the decapitation of Milady. Here it is.
And thus it was that Amory de Catinat and Amos Green saw from their dungeon window the midnight carriage which discharged its prisoner before their eyes. Hence, too, came that ominous planking and that strange procession in the early morning. And thus it also happened that they found themselves looking down upon Françoise de Montespan as she was led to her death, and that they heard that last piteous cry for aid at the instant when the heavy hand of the ruffian with the axe fell upon her shoulder, and she was forced down upon her knees beside the block. She shrank screaming from the dreadful red-stained, greasy billet of wood; but the butcher heaved up his weapon, and the seigneur had taken a step forward with hand outstretched to seize the long auburn hair and to drag the dainty head down with it when suddenly he was struck motionless with astonishment, and stood with his foot advanced and his hand still out, his mouth half open, and his eyes fixed in front of him.
We think of the terrific scene when Barbazure's head was struck from his cruel shoulders as he was directing the execution of his innocent and injured spouse, for,
Quick as a flash de Catinat had caught up the axe, and faced de Montespan with the heavy weapon slung over his shoulder, and a challenge in his eyes.
"Now!" said he.
The seigneur had for the instant been too astounded to speak. Now he understood at least that these strangers had come between him and his prey.
However, Montespan stabs "his bearded seneschal through the brown beard and deep into the throat"—strange doings in the golden prime of Louis XIV. The Iroquois adventures are more plausible, and very exciting; while for villain, we have a Franciscan, more fierce and tenacious than any Dominican, who pursues a French heretic into the heart of the Iroquois country, where he gets his end more easily than the brave Père Brébeuf.
A more interesting novel, despite the wild improbabilities of the plot, is Rodney Stone, where the author is on English soil, among the bloods of the Regency and the heroic bruisers of an heroic age. The prize-fighters and country folk may be more truly drawn than the dandies; but every one who, like the Quaker lady known to George Borrow, adores "the bruisers of England" will find this a book to his heart's desire. From the old champion, Harrison, to that Sir Nigel Loring of the fancy, young Belcher, and the strange old Buckhorse with his bell-like cry, all Sir Arthur's fighting men are painted in a rich and juicy manner, with a full brush; and his hard-driving Corinthian blackguards are worthy of them, while the Prince Regent is more successful, as an historical portrait, than Louis XIV. There are plenty of "spirited rallies" and "rattling sets-to" in Sir Arthur's short stories; but "The Smith's Last Battle" is his masterpiece, and the chivalrous honesty of that excellent man would have made him justly dear to Borrow's Quakeress.
The best of the author's tales of times past, we have little doubt, are collected in the volume of The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard. This gallant, honest, chivalrous, and gay soldier represents a winning class of Frenchmen of the sword, with a considerable element of sympathetic caricature. The vanity of the Brigadier and his extreme simplicity are a little exaggerated; perhaps the author did not know at first how dear Gerard was to grow to himself and to his readers. In Napier's famous "History of the Peninsular War" we meet many young French officers doing things as desperate as Gerard does, and doing them, like the great Montrose, with an air, with a flourish, with a joyous acceptance of a dramatic opportunity. The English officer who captures Gerard, and plays a game of écarté with him for his liberty, was just such another as himself; but "Milor the Hon. Sir Russell. Bart" could never have told his own story. Like Thackeray's General Webb, and like General Marbot, the Brigadier "is not only brave, but he knows it," and is not at all diffident in making his hearers aware of his prowess. His fight with the Bristol Bustler is not the least audacious of his combats, though, being ignorant of the rules of the fancy, the Brigadier kicked his man. "You strike me on the head, I kick you on the knee"; he thinks that this is perfectly legitimate. "What a glutton he'd have made for the middle-weights," exclaims the Bustler's admiring trainer, after observing, "it's something to say all your life, that you've been handled by the finest lightweight in England." The Bible, as Izaak Walton observes, "always takes angling in the best sense"; and Sir Arthur takes boxing in the same liberal way. Keats would have sympathized with him deeply, for the poet was a man of his hands, and is said to have polished off a truculent butcher. But the Brigadier, of course, shines most with the sword, and mounted; and there is not a tale in the collection which we cannot read with pleasure more than once; indeed they are so equally good that it is hard to select a favorite. Perhaps "How Gerard Won His Medal" and "The Brothers of Ajaccio" come back most pleasantly to the memory, with the Brigadier's remarkable feat in saving the Emperor at Waterloo.
To prefer this book among Sir Arthur's is as much as to say that we deem him better at a conte than in the composition of a novel of the conventional length. This is natural, as adventure and description, rather than character and analysis and love stories, are his forte. He has omitted "The Firm of Girdlestone" from this collection, though we prefer it to "A Duet," where the story is one of young married affection, and there are neither swords in the sun nor wigs on the green. Ladies may write love letters about merinos and alpacas, and "a little white trimming at neck and wrists, and the prettiest pearl trimming. Then the hat en suite, pale gray lisse, white feather, and brilliant buckle." These things may be written, but the wooer would be as much bored as Bothwell probably was by Queen Mary's sonnets, if she really defied "the laws of God, and man, and metre" (especially metre) in the poems attributed to her by her enemies.
Not here, oh Apollo,
Are haunts meet for thee.
We cannot pretend to be interested in Frank and Maude, and "the exact position of the wife of the assistant accountant of the Co-operative Insurance Company"—certainly no lofty position for a bride whose father, we learn, had a billiard-room of his own, and everything handsome about him, at "The Laurels, St. Albans." Francis writes "critical papers in the monthlies," and here is an example of his discourse when, with his bride, he visits Westminster Abbey:—
What an assembly it would be if at some supreme day each man might stand forth from the portals of his tomb. Tennyson, the last and almost the greatest of that illustrious line, lay under the white slab upon the floor. Maude and Frank stood reverently beside it.
Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me,
Frank quoted. "What lines for a very old man to write! I should put him second only to Shakespeare had I the marshalling of them."
"I have read so little," said Maude.
"We will read it all together after next week. But it makes your reading so much more real and intimate when you have stood at the grave of the man who wrote. That's Chaucer, the big tomb there. He is the father of British poetry. Here is Browning beside Tennyson—united in life and in death. He was the more profound thinker, but music and form are essential also."...
"Who is that standing figure?"
"It is Dryden. What a clever face, and what a modern type. Here is Walter Scott beside the door. How kindly and humorous his expression was! And see how high his head was from the ear to the crown. It was a great brain. There is Burns, the other famous Scot. Don't you think there is a resemblance between the faces? And here are Dickens, and Thackeray, and Macaulay. I wonder whether, when Macaulay was writing his essays, he had a premonition that he would be buried in Westminster Abbey. He is continually alluding to the Abbey and its graves. I always think that we have a vague intuition as to what will occur to us in life."
"We can guess what is probable."
To find a likeness in the faces of Burns and Scott is certainly original criticism. These young married people certainly "do not overstimulate," whether they moralize in Mr. Carlyle's house or in the Abbey.
It may be a vulgar taste, but we decidedly prefer the adventures of Dr. Watson with Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Watson is indeed a creation; his loyalty to his great friend, his extreme simplicity of character, his tranquil endurance of taunt and insult, make him a rival of James Boswell, Esq., of Auchinleck. Dazzled by the brilliance of Sherlock, who doses himself with cocaine and is amateur champion of the middleweights, or very nearly (what would the Bustler's trainer say to this?), the public overlooks the monumental qualities of Dr. Watson. He, too, had his love affair in The Sign of Four ; but Mrs. Watson, probably, was felt to be rather in the way when heroic adventures were afoot. After Sherlock returned to life—for he certainly died, if the artist has correctly represented his struggle with Professor Moriarty—Mrs. Watson faded from this mortal scene.
The idea of Sherlock is the idea of Zadig in Voltaire's conte, and of d'Artagnan exploring the duel in "Le Vicomte de Bragelonne," and of Poe's Dupin, and of Monsieur Lecoq; but Sir Arthur handles the theme with ingenuity always fresh and fertile; we may constantly count on him to mystify and amuse us. In we forget what state trial of the eighteenth century, probably the affair of Elizabeth Canning, a witness gave evidence that some one had come from the country. He was asked how he knew, and said that there was country mud on the man's clothes, not London mud, which is black. That witness possessed the secret of Sherlock; he observed, and remembered, and drew inferences, yet he was not a professional thief-taker.
The feats of Sherlock Holmes do not lend themselves as inspiring topics to criticism. If we are puzzled and amused we get as much as we want, and, unless our culture is very precious, we are puzzled and amused. The roman policier is not the roof and crown of the art of fiction, and we do not rate Sherlock Holmes among the masterpieces of the human intelligence; but many persons of note, like Bismarck and Moltke, are known to have been fond of Gaboriau's tales. In these, to be sure, there really is a good deal of character of a sort; and there are some entertaining scoundrels and pleasant irony in the detective novels of Xavier de Montépin and Fortuné du Boisgobey, sonorous names that might have been borne by crusaders! But the adventures of Sherlock are too brief to permit much study of character. The thing becomes a formula, and we can imagine little variation, unless Sherlock falls in love, or Watson detects him in blackmailing a bishop. This moral error might plausibly be set down to that overindulgence in cocaine which never interferes with Sherlock's physical training or intellectual acuteness. Sir Arthur writes in one of his prefaces:—
I can well imagine that some of my critics may express surprise that in an edition of my works from which I have rigorously excluded all that my literary conscience rejects, I should retain stories which are cast in this primitive and conventional form. My own feeling upon the subject is that all forms of literature, however humble, are legitimate if the writer is satisfied that he has done them to the highest of his power. To take an analogy from a kindred art, the composer may range from the oratorio to the comic song and be ashamed of neither so long as his work in each is as honest as he can make it. It is insincere work, scamped work, work which is consciously imitative, which a man should voluntarily suppress before time saves him the trouble. As to work which is unconsciously imitative, it is not to be expected that a man's style and mode of treatment should spring fully formed from his own brain. The most that he can hope is that as he advances the outside influences should decrease and his own point of view become clearer and more distinctive.
Edgar Allan Poe, who, in his carelessly prodigal fashion, threw out the seeds from which so many of our present forms of literature have sprung, was the father of the detective tale, and covered its limits so completely that I fail to see how his followers can find any fresh ground which they can confidently call their own. For the secret of the thinness and also of the intensity of the detective story is that the writer is left with only one quality, that of intellectual acuteness, with which to endow his hero. Everything else is outside the picture and weakens the effect. The problem and its solution must form the theme, and the character-drawing be limited and subordinate. On this narrow path the writer must walk, and he sees the footmarks of Poe always in front of him. He is happy if he ever finds the means of breaking away and striking out on some little sidetrack of his own.
Not much more is left to be said by the most captious reviewer. A novelist writes to please; and if his work pleases, as it undeniably does, a great number and variety of his fellow-citizens, why should his literary conscience reject it? If Poe had written more stories about Dupin—his Sherlock Holmes—and not so many about corpses and people buried alive, he would be a more agreeable author. It is a fact that the great majority of Sherlock's admirers probably never heard of Poe; do not know that detective stories date from Dupin, and stories of ciphers and treasure from "The Golden Bug," or beetle, as the insect is usually styled in English. Of Sir Arthur's debt to Poe there is no more to say than he has said. Perhaps he has not himself observed that his tale of "The Man with the Twisted Lip" is a variant of the adventure of Mr. Altamont in the "Memoirs of James Fitzjames de la Pluche." The "mistry" of that hero's "buth," by the way, seems to have revealed in his Christian names, which, like the motto of Clan Alpine, murmur, "My race is royal." Readers who remember the case of Mr. Altamont are not puzzled by the disappearance of Mr. Neville St. Clair.
Possibly the homicidal ape in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" suggested the homicidal Andaman islander in The Sign of Four. This purely fictitious little monster enables us to detect the great detective and expose the superficial character of his knowledge and methods. The Andamanese are cruelly libelled, and have neither the malignant qualities, nor the heads like mops, nor the weapons, nor the customs, with which they are credited by Sherlock. He has detected the wrong savage, and injured the character of an amiable people. The bo:jig-ngijji is really a religious, kindly creature, has a Deluge and a Creation myth, and shaves his head, not possessing scissors. Sherlock confessedly took his knowledge of the bo:jig-ngijji from "a gazetteer," which is full of nonsense. "The average height is below four feet!" The average height is four feet ten inches and a half. The gazetteer says that "massacres are invariably concluded by a cannibal feast." Mr. E. H. Man, who knows the people thoroughly, says "no lengthened investigation was needed to disprove this long-credited fiction, for not a trace could be discovered of the existence of such a practice in their midst, even in far-off times."
In short, if Mr. Sherlock Holmes, instead of turning up a common work of reference, had merely glanced at the photographs of Andamanese, trim, elegant, closely-shaven men, and at a few pages in Mr. Man's account of them in "The Journal of the Anthropological Institute" for 1881, he would have sought elsewhere for his little savage villain with the blow-pipe. A Fuegian who had lived a good deal on the Amazon might have served his turn.
A man like Sherlock, who wrote a monograph on over a hundred varieties of tobacco-ash, ought not to have been gulled by a gazetteer. Sherlock's Andamanese fights with a blow-pipe and poisoned arrows. Neither poisoned arrows nor blow-pipes are used by the islanders, according to Mr. Man. These melancholy facts demonstrate that Mr. Holmes was not the paragon of Dr. Watson's fond imagination, but a very superficial fellow, who knew no more of the Mincopies (a mere nickname derived from their words for "come here") than did Mr. Herbert Spencer.
Sherlock is also as ignorant as Dickens was of a very simple matter, the ordinary British system of titles. He has a client, and he looks for that client in another "book of reference," not the light-hearted gazetteer which he consults with the pious confidence that Mrs. Gallup bestows on the Encyclopædia Britannica. He discovers that the client's name is "Lord Robert Walsingham de Vere St. Simon, second son of the Duke of Balmoral"—not a plausible title at best. Yet, knowing this, and finding, in the "Morning Post," the client's real name, both Sherlock and the egregious Watson speak of Lord Robert St. Simon throughout as "Lord St. Simon"! The unhappy "nobleman," with equal ignorance of his place in life, signs himself, "Yours faithfully, St. Simon."
Of course we expect that so clumsy a pretender to be the second son of a duke will be instantly exposed by the astute Sherlock. Not so; Sherlock "thinks it all wery capital." Now would Sherlock have called the late Lord Randolph Churchill "Lord Churchill," or would he have been surprised to hear that Lord Randolph did not sign himself "Churchill"? Anthropology we do not expect from Sherlock, but he really ought to have known matters of everyday usage. The very "page boy" announces "Lord Robert St. Simon"; but Sherlock salutes the visitor as "Lord St. Simon," and the pretended nobleman calls his wife "Lady St. Simon." But do not let us be severe on the great detective for knowing no more of anthropology than of other things! Rather let us wish him "good hunting," and prepare to accompany Dr. Watson and him, when next they load their revolvers, and go forth to the achieving of great adventures.
- "The painting of Jeffreys in the National Portrait Gallery more than bears out Micah Clarke's remarks. He is the handsomest man in the collection." (Author's note.)
Peter Haining (essay date 1986)
SOURCE: Haining, Peter. "Introduction." In The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Completing the Canon, edited by Peter Haining, pp. 7-36. London, England: W. H. Allen & Co., 1986.
[In the following essay, Haining provides an introduction to The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a collection of twelve "items" featuring Sherlock Holmes, which were written by Doyle, but never previously collected in a single volume.]
Somewhere in the vaults of the bank of Cox & Company, at Charing Cross, there is a travel-worn and battered tin dispatch box with my name upon the lid. It is crammed with papers, nearly all of which are records of cases to illustrate the curious problems which Mr Sherlock Holmes had at various times to examine.
So wrote Dr Watson in 'The Problem of Thor Bridge', and one of the most deeply-felt wishes of Sherlockians everywhere has long been that these illusive documents might come to light and at last be published. Of course, many another writer apart from the revered Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has attempted to create new Adventures for the Master of Detectives and his faithful chronicler—not a few of these tales based on hints and clues contained in the existing stories—but as in the case of all great originals (which Holmes undeniably is) no substitute can ever surplant the model. For would anyone deny that in under a century Sherlock Holmes has become one of the three most famous characters in literature, the other two being Hamlet and Robinson Crusoe?
According to the generally accepted viewpoint the Complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes consist of sixty cases—fifty-six short stores and four novel-length tales. But, as this book will show and as more than one Sherlockian expert has already proclaimed,1 there are in fact twelve more Sherlock Holmes items which should rightly be included in the canon. What, in fact, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle left us of his immortal sleuth was seventy-two items which are all essential to a full understanding of the genius of Holmes. The reasons for these twelve items being omitted will be discussed here in detail, item by item. They are all being collected together in one volume for the very first time, and as such form an essential addition to the existing definitive two-volume edition of the stories. The assembling of these rare and difficult-to-obtain items has naturally called for considerable detective work of its own—such has been their obscurity—and fellow-Sherlockians in both Britain and America have assisted me so that we can at last make easily available the complete canon of Sherlock Holmes Adventures. It is also satisfying to be publishing these illusive items on the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Conan Doyle (he was born in May 1859 and died in July 1930), and it is the passing of his work into the Public Domain which has assisted in their publication.
If, first, we examine these remaining items, they may be categorized as follows:
- Two commentaries by Conan Doyle on his famous detective: 'The Truth about Sherlock Holmes' and 'Some Personalia about Sherlock Holmes'.
- Two Conan Doyle parodies featuring Holmes: 'The Field Bazaar' and 'How Watson Learned the Trick'.
- Two Sherlockian cases: 'The Adventure of the Tall Man' (completed by another writer) and 'The Case of the Man Who Was Wanted' (which is the subject of some controversy as to its authorship).
- Two short stories by Conan Doyle, in which Holmes emerges as the writer of important letters to the Press and which help solve baffling mysteries.
- Two plays, a one-act drama—'The Crown Diamond' —and a comedy sketch—'The Painful Predicament of Sherlock Holmes' —in which the actor William Gillette may have had a hand.
- An early Conan Doyle story, 'The Mystery of Uncle Jeremy's Household', in which the prototypes of Holmes and Watson make their bow; and a poem, 'The Case of the Inferior Sleuth', in which Conan Doyle disassociates himself from Holmes's view of other literary detectives.
Should any fervent Sherlockian immediately dispute the inclusion of two of the items listed, namely 'The Case of the Man Who Was Wanted' and 'The Painful Predicament of Sherlock Holmes', the total of twelve extra items still holds good, for there are also in existence two other full-length plays by Conan Doyle—Sherlock Holmes and The Speckled Band. Sherlock Holmes was certainly written by Conan Doyle though William Gillette who made it famous may well have amended parts of it, while The Speckled Band was all his own work, a three-act drama based on the short story of the same title. These are not included in this collection, although they are undeniably part of the Sherlockian canon, for the simple reasons that they would have made this volume prohibitively long and, more importantly, both are readily available in editions published by Samuel French Ltd. So instead I have, as you will find, included in the book by way of an Appendix three other items of Sherlockiana, all by Conan Doyle. They each have a special relevance to completing our picture of the Great Detective.
For the sake of this completeness, I believe I should also mention one or two other items found among Conan Doyle's papers by his biographer, John Dickson Carr, while he was researching his Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1949), though neither could in my opinion be justifiably given a place in this book. In a packet marked 'Envelope XXIX', Carr tells us, he found a 'Map of Holmes's and Watson's Clash with the Enemy'—but before anyone can get excited at such a potentially important discovery he adds, 'This is a joke, not of Holmesian relevance.' More interesting, however, were three exercise books bound in thick cardboard which he came across among a collection of more than fifty of Doyle's notebooks and commonplace books. They contained a three-act play entitled Angels of Darkness, written in the author's neat and distinctive hand. Of this, Dickson Carr says:
'He had written the first two acts at Southsea in 1889, the third in 1890, when Sherlock Holmes seemed to have no possible future. Angels of Darkness is chiefly a reconstruction of the Utah scenes in A Study in Scarlet ; the whole action takes place in the United States. Holmes does not appear in it. But Dr John H. Watson does very much appear.
'Angels of Darkness presents a problem to any biographer. The biographer, in theory at least, must be an unrelenting Gradgrind; he should not indulge in those glorious Holmes-Watson speculations which have caused controversy on both sides of the Atlantic. But the devil of temptation prods horribly. Anyone who turns over the pages of Angels in Darkness, then, will be electrified to find that Watson has been concealing from us many important episodes in his life.
'Watson, in fact, once practised medicine in San Francisco. And his reticence can be understood; he acted discreditably. Those who have suspected Watson of black perfidy in his relations with women will find their worst suspicions justified. Either he had a wife before he married Mary Morstan, or else he heartlessly jilted the poor girl whom he holds in his arms as the curtain falls on Angels in Darkness.
'The name of the girl? There lies our difficulty. To give her name, a well-known one, would be to betray the author as well as the character. At best it would impeach Watson in matters other than matrimonial; at worst it would upset the whole saga, and pose a problem which the keenest deductive wits of the Baker Street Irregulars could not unravel.
'Conan Doyle . . . knew he must put aside that play forever. There were good things in it, notably the comic scenes not present in A Study in Scarlet ; but a play about Watson without Sherlock Holmes would leave the public aghast; and it has not been published even yet.'
Dickson Carr's verdict is certainly one that all Sherlockians will, I am sure, share!
But I have dwelt long enough on items which have no place here; let me now sketch in the background to the twelve items which do complete the canon. I have arranged them in chronological order of publication, from 'The Mystery of Uncle Jeremy's Household' in 1887 to 'How Watson Learned the Trick' written in 1924 (excluding, of course, 'The Truth about Sherlock Holmes' which Conan Doyle wrote in 1923, but which reads more conveniently at the beginning of the collection) and this more than spans the whole period of the saga from when it was begun in 1887 with A Study in Scarlet to His Last Bow which appeared in 1917. If these contributions are added to the sixty Adventures we already have, they at long last bring to a triumphant finale the authentic life and cases of the 'Master of Detectives'.
"The Truth about Sherlock Holmes" (1923)
I think it would be difficult to find anything more suitable than this essay by Conan Doyle to open a collection of his last writings about Sherlock Holmes—save, of course, arranging for him to compose a completely new Introduction from beyond the grave. He actually wrote it back in 1923 for Collier's, the American magazine firm who published many of the Holmes stories, and it appeared in their journal, The National Weekly in the pre-Christmas issue of 29 December 1923. In the piece he describes how he created Holmes, the initial difficulties he had in finding a publisher, and then his genuine amazement at how the public took to his detective. This popularity in turn created its own problems as far as his literary career was concerned, and he deals with this quandary in a frank and engaging way. Sir Arthur later utilized the facts in this essay in his long out-of-print autobiography, Memories and Adventures (1924), but this marks its first republication in its original form.
"The Mystery of Uncle Jeremy's Household" (1887)
As Conan Doyle has admitted, Holmes and Watson did not spring fully finished into his mind, but rather developed from his musing on his old university Professor, Dr Joseph Bell, and the detective story genre as a whole. Their first appearance in the form we now know and value was, of course, in the novel, A Study in Scarlet, published in Beeton's Christmas Annual of 1887. But they were actually taking shape before this and made their first bow in prototype in a tale Conan Doyle called 'The Mystery of Uncle Jeremy's Household' published in Boy's Own Paper almost twelve months prior to Beeton. It is significant to note that in his essay, 'The Truth about Sherlock Holmes', Conan Doyle makes reference to the fact that he wrote some of his earliest stories for several journals, including Boy's Own Paper, but dismisses all these efforts and trusts they will remain 'forever in oblivion'. On examination of 'The Mystery of Uncle Jeremy's Household', published in seven episodes during January and February, 1887, a reason for this attitude immediately becomes apparent: the tale is actually an early working of the idea of an intelligent and resourceful detective, complete with partner, solving a baffling mystery—the self-same format which was to make the Holmes and Watson stories so successful. Examination of Conan Doyle's work shows that he, in fact, recycled several of his early themes in later works: 'The Mystery of Sasassa Valley', for instance, which is reprinted later in this book, has at its heart a 'frightful fiend with glowing eyes', which turns out to be a rather more commonplace object. The parallel with the story of 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' will be obvious to the reader. My opinion concerning 'The Mystery of Uncle Jeremy's Household' is also shared by a distinguished Sherlockian, James Edward Holroyd, who has also had a chance to read the now extremely rare and coveted issues of the BOP in which the Conan Doyle detective story appeared. In the Sherlock Holmes Journal of spring 1967 he says the story is 'remarkable as containing various echoes of Holmes and Watson before the first Baker Street adventure appeared in print.' He goes on:
In the story, Hugh Lawrence, the narrator, had lodgings in Baker Street. His friend was John H. Thurston. Sherlockians will scarcely need to be reminded that Watson's front names were John H. and that Thurston was the name of the man with whom he played billiards at the club. Lawrence, like Watson, studied medicine, while Thurston, like Holmes, was devoted to chemistry, spent his time "happily among his test-tubes and solutions" and even had "an acid-stained finger"...If 'Uncle Jeremy's Household' was indeed written, or conceived before A Study in Scarlet, all the parallels I have quoted would become precursors of the Saga and would answer the question, "Did Sherlock Holmes originate in BOP?"
In reading this fascinating story, brought back into print for the first time in almost a hundred years, the reader will also find some other Sherlockian parallels not quoted by Holroyd. Hugh Lawrence, like Holmes, makes a practice of studying people to discern their characters, is good as cross-examination, and is quite indifferent to the charms of women. He is also strong, brave and resourceful and prefers to solve the mysterious goings-on in the household himself rather than call in the police. The reader will, I believe, find many other features in 'The Mystery of Uncle Jeremy's Household' that were repeated in A Study in Scarlet and later Holmes's adventures, thereby making it a legitimate precursor to the saga and qualifying it for a place in the canon.
"The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes: 'The Field Bazaar'" (1896)
'The Field Bazaar', which Conan Doyle wrote in 1896, is not only a genuine early Sherlockian adventure, but also one of the first parodies of Holmes and Watson—the type of story which subsequently became very popular with other writers, and has exercised pens as diverse as those of J. M. Barrie, Bret Harte, O. Henry, Stephen Leacock, R. C. Lehmann, A. A. Milne and Mark Twain to mention just a few. The parody is one of only two that Doyle himself wrote, the other being 'How Watson Learned the Trick' which is also republished in this collection. 'The Field Bazaar' is an amusing piece about a conversation between Holmes and Watson over their breakfast table and was written by Conan Doyle to help raise funds at Edinburgh University where from 1876 to 1881 he had studied to become a doctor. (The money was to help enlarge the University cricket ground and Conan Doyle was, as we know, a great cricket enthusiast.) It appeared in the university magazine, The Student on 20 November 1896, and has subsequently been referred to, because of its elusiveness, as a 'lost adventure'.
"The Story of the Man with the Watches" (1898) "The Story of the Lost Special" (1898)
These two detective stories by Conan Doyle which appeared in the Strand within a month of each other (July and August, 1898) have been exercising the minds of Sherlockians for almost fifty years. As far back as 1936 they were being described as 'Two suppressed Holmes episodes' by the noted authority Christopher Morley, and ever since argument has waged back and forward about their place in the canon. I myself have never been in any doubt, and this viewpoint is emphatically supported by perhaps the greatest expert on the saga, the American Edgar W. Smith, editor of The Baker Street Journal, who in 1956 wrote: '"The Lost Special" and "The Man with the Watches" are certainly, in my opinion, Canon-fodder. I am convinced that these accounts were written by Holmes, as were "The Adventures of the Lion's Mane" and "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier". The style is certainly not Watson's; but it reminds me very much of "His Last Bow" which many, including myself, now believe to have been written by Holmes.'
Knowing the delight of Sherlockians in discussing any contentious points concerning 'The Master', it is no surprise to find that there have been quite a number of articles published over the years on this issue, but almost to a man the writers support the view that both stories are part of the canon. That eminent English Sherlockian, Lord Donegall, is a strong advocate and has cited two particular quotations in the stories which he believes settle the matter beyond dispute. Writing in the Sherlock Holmes Journal, Winter 1969, he deals first with the case of 'The Lost Special' and says, 'But there can be no doubt, even in the face of Watson's silence, that the "amateur reasoner of some celebrity" [referred to in the story] who volunteered a solution of the case in a letter printed in the London Times on 3 July 1890, was indeed the sage of Baker Street. On this point, the evidence of the opening sentence of the letter as it has come down to us is final and conclusive.' Lord Donegall then turns to the other story: 'Nor can there be any doubt that the "well-known criminal investigator" [mentioned in the tale] who similarly volunteered a solution of the baffling mystery of "The Man with the Watches", two years later, was also Sherlock Holmes. Here again the explanation offered—in a letter to the Daily Gazette, written probably late in March or early in April 1892—did not jibe exactly with the facts as ultimately revealed; and here again the Watsonian reticence may be condoned both on this ground and on the ground of Holmes's preoccupation with other more pregnant things. But the letter itself rings true—the cold, systematic logic of the synthetic reasoning employed, and the condescending didacticism which marks the style and method of expression throughout, attest unerringly to the Master's hand.' In the light of such convincing argument, I find it impossible to deny that these two stories are not both deserved and important parts of the complete Sherlockian canon. (As a matter of record, both stories have for many years been included in all French editions of the Complete Adventures.)
"The Adventures of the Tall Man" (C. 1900)
This is a particularly unusual and interesting item of Sherlockiana for it is the plot outline for a Holmes Adventure which Conan Doyle never wrote in full. It was discovered by another of Conan Doyle's biographers, Hesketh Pearson, while he was burrowing among the author's voluminous papers in the early 1940s. Most appropriately, he chose the pages of the Strand magazine to announce his discovery, revealing in the issue of August 1943: 'Among Doyle's papers I discovered the scenario for an unwritten Sherlock Holmes story, in which the detective, baffled by the criminal's cunning, is reduced to the strategem of frightening the villain into a confession of guilt. This is done with the help of an actor, who makes himself up to resemble the murdered man, pokes his ghostlike head into the bedroom window of the murderer and cries out his name in "a ghastly sepulchral voice". The criminal gibbers with fright and gives the game away.' When this announcement was made by Pearson there were some who immediately expressed doubts about the authenticity of the outline—yet these were soon swept aside by Edgar W. Smith, who retorted in The Baker Street Journal, 'I think the plot is authentic. Yes, this doubtless came from the deed-box at Cox and Co!' The item is reprinted here just as Conan Doyle left it, and apart from its intrinsic value in providing us with details of yet another case of deduction by the Master, it also gives us a fascinating insight into the way the author wrote his stories, first mapping out his characters, plot and denouement before writing the actual tale. In 1947, another well-known American Sherlockian, Robert A. Cutter, took on the difficult task of clothing this literary skeleton with flesh: it is included here and is, I think, a work of which Conan Doyle would have approved.
"The Painful Predicament of Sherlock Holmes" (1905)
This is another illusive and puzzling piece of Sherlockiana—a one-act play in which Holmes solves a mystery without speaking a word! It is illusive because copies have been of the utmost rarity for over half a century, and puzzling because we cannot be sure whether the author was Conan Doyle or William Gillette, the American actor who first brought Holmes to the stage in New York in 1899. Of this original four-act drama, to which I referred earlier, Peter Richard tells us: 'In 1897 Doyle wrote his Sherlock Holmes play. Both Henry Irving and Beerbohm Tree considered producing it—but eventually the play was put aside until Charles Frohman procured the rights for the American actor, William Gillette . . . It had a long and successful history, Gillette playing the part in many revivals for some thirty-five years, including a London run at the Lyceum Theatre in 1901.'
It was in 1905, when the play, Sherlock Holmes, was already an established favourite with audiences, that 'The Painful Predicament of Sherlock Holmes' was first performed in London, with Gillette in the title role. At the time the American actor was appearing in a new comedy entitled 'Clarice', but wanted a short curtain-raiser to amuse his audience. According to a contemporary report he had planned to use a humorous sketch entitled 'The Silent System' but this apparently became unavailable and a substitute had to be found. Gillette decided to look no further than the character with whom he was already becoming identified and who had aided his career immeasurably—Sherlock Holmes. And at this point the speculation begins. Some Sherlockians are of the opinion that Gillette himself dashed off the 'Painful Predicament' although there is no manuscript in existence in his hand to substantiate this, while others, notably Edgar W. Smith, feel the actor may well have called on Conan Doyle—with whom he was already friendly—to whip up something quickly for him. We do know for certain that Doyle wrote several plays and pastiches at this time (for example the already mentioned Sherlock Holmes and 'The Field Bazaar' ) and it seems not unreasonable to speculate he could easily have produced this light-hearted sketch in a matter of days, if not hours. It is also a fact that Holmes was protected by copyright in England and Conan Doyle would have had to have been consulted. In any event, the play was staged on 23 March 1905, with Gillette and a Miss Barrymore as Holmes's talkative client. Just how hastily the production had been put on was revealed in a review in the New York Times the following day: 'Miss Barrymore played her part after only twenty minutes' study, a remarkable feat of memory, and only once did she slip up on her lines. During the whole course of the playlet, Mr Gillette did not speak once, but he has certain business of writing on slips of paper and handing them to Miss Barrymore. By this means he was enabled to write the cues out for her!' As an interesting footnote to this long-forgotten play, the actor who played the only other important character in the sketch, a page boy named Billy, was destined to enjoy a form of immortality more than equalling that of Sherlock Holmes. His name was Master Charles Chaplin.
"The Case of the Man Who Was Wanted" (C. 1914)
This is without doubt the most controversial of all the Holmes items associated with the canon. It was discovered among Conan Doyle's papers by Hesketh Pearson, and later published in America with the recorded permission of the Executors of the Conan Doyle Estate—and yet it is claimed that the story was actually the work of a retired English architect, Arthur Whitaker, who sold it for its plot to Conan Doyle for the ridiculous sum of £10! Let us, though, examine the facts. Pearson revealed his discovery in the same issue of the Strand (August 1943) in which he had reported finding the outline for 'The Adventure of the Tall Man'. He wrote, 'Another discovery of mine was more interesting: a complete adventure of the great detective called "The Man Who Was Wanted". It is not up to par, and Doyle showed wisdom in leaving it unpublished; though when news of my discovery reached America the threat of its suppression almost created an international incident, one Holmes fan going so far as to suggest that the future relationship between the two countries might be imperilled if this addition to the Sherlock saga was not given to the world.' Despite his lack of enthusiasm for the quality of the story, Pearson did add significantly, 'The opening scene between Holmes and Watson betrays the hand of the Master . . . By the time he wrote that story, Doyle was thoroughly sick of Sherlock Holmes.' John Dickson Carr also refers to the story in his Life of Conan Doyle (1949): 'He never tried to force a story. One Holmes story, "The Man Who Was Wanted" he rejected and put away. Since it has not been published, those of us who have read it can say that the central plot-idea—how a man may disappear from ship-board, under the eyes of witnesses—is worthy of that unwritten tale of Mr James Phillimore . . . But it is written casually, almost impatiently, with its author's mind and heart turned towards other matters.' Carr was not quite correct in one of his assertions, however, because 'The Man Who Was Wanted' had been published, albeit only in America. Ever since the news of Pearson's find had become common knowledge, American magazine publishers had relentlessly pursued Denis Conan Doyle, the Literary Executor of his father's Estate, for permission to reprint this 'lost adventure'. Finally, Denis succumbed to the advances of the giant Hearst Group in New York and granted permission for them to run it in their enormously popular magazine, The Cosmopolitan, in August 1948. Naturally enough, the story was heralded by a striking announcement: 'The most famous detective of all time solves his last case! A recently discovered and heretofore unpublished novelette starring the immortal Sherlock Holmes.' From that day to this the argument about the authorship has continued, although the disbelievers of its authenticity would appear to be in the stronger position as a result of the Executors actually making a payment of royalties to Mr Arthur Whitaker. Despite all that has been said and written about 'The Man Who Was Wanted', I still cannot help wondering whether Conan Doyle did not figure in its creation somehow. Sadly, neither Arthur Whitaker nor Denis Conan Doyle are still alive so that we might go over the matter anew. Perhaps, though, Sir Arthur might have had something to do with the concept or even written part of it (vide Hesketh Pearson's comment), and I find myself unable to dismiss the story as spurious as many Sherlockians have done. There is no denying the mystery surrounding 'The Man Who Was Wanted', but all the same I feel it deserves a place here. I trust you will agree.
"Some Personalia about Mr Sherlock Holmes" (1917)
Sherlock Holmes was a world-wide favourite when the Editor of the Strand, Greenhough Smith, anxious to keep the detective's name featuring in the magazine, persuaded Conan Doyle to write this article about the legend he had created. The essay makes a particular point of the belief that had grown up regarding Holmes being a real person, and cites a number of instances of people writing to the sleuth of Baker Street imploring him to help them solve real-life crimes of one sort or another. Understandably, Conan Doyle also mentions the occasions when he found himself being asked to play Sherlock Holmes, with results quite as spectacular as those enjoyed by the Great Detective! 'Some Personalia about Mr Sherlock Holmes' was first published in the December 1917 issue of the Strand and has remained difficult to find ever since.
"The Case of the Inferior Sleuth"(c. 1919)
In Holmes's first book, A Study in Scarlet, he addresses some rather unflattering remarks about two of his predecessors in detective fiction: C. Auguste Dupin, created in 1841 by Edgar Allan Poe, and Monsieur Lecoq, devised by the French writer, Emile Gaboriau, in 1866. Conan Doyle, of course, admitted that he drew considerable inspiration from the works of Poe and Gaboriau in creating Holmes, so it should be born carefully in mind that it is Sherlock who speaks these lines in that first story:
Sherlock Holmes rose and lit his pipe. 'No doubt you think that you are complimenting me in comparing me to Dupin,' he observed. 'Now, in my opinion, Dupin was a very inferior fellow. That trick of his of breaking in on his friends' thoughts with an apropos remark after a quarter of an hour's silence is really very showy and superficial. He had some analytical genius, no doubt; but he was by no means such a phenomenon as Poe appeared to imagine.'
'Have you read Gaboriau's works?' I asked. 'Does Lecoq come up to your idea of a detective?'
Sherlock Holmes sniffed sardonically. 'Lecoq was a miserable bungler,' he said in an angry voice; 'he had only one thing to recommend him, and that was his energy. That book made me positively ill. The question was how to identify an unknown prisoner. I could have done it in twenty-four hours. Lecoq took six months or more. It might be made a text-book for detectives to teach them what to avoid.'
Watson, apparently, was not the only one to be perturbed by such ungenerous remarks about two literary characters he admired. In 1915 the American critic and poet, Arthur Guiterman, addressed some strong lines of complaint to Conan Doyle. Poor Sir Arthur saw at once that the words he had put into the mouth of his character had been attributed equally to himself. He took up his pen to defend himself in a like manner. These two poems now form a unique and important addition to the canon—Conan Doyle's lines comprising the only Sherlockian verse he ever wrote—and in them the author sets the record straight once and for all on his opinion of Holmes's literary predecessors. The Guiterman poem first appeared in a collection of light verse called The Laughing Muse, and Doyle's riposte was published some years later in Lincoln Springfield's reminiscences, Some Piquant People (1924). This is the first time they have appeared together in a collection.
"The Crown Diamond: An Evening with Sherlock Holmes" (1921)
'The Crown Diamond' is the second of Conan Doyle's short plays featuring Sherlock Holmes and is unique among his work in that it was later turned into one of the Holmes cases, 'The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone', rather than having been adapted from existing material. Records indicate that this 'Evening with Sherlock Holmes' was given its first trial performance at the Bristol Hippodrome on 2 May 1921, and then transferred to London, opening there at the Coliseum on 16 May. Although the run continued, with one break, until the end of August, there is no indication that it has ever been performed again in England, and it has certainly never been staged in America. All the evidence points to the fact that Doyle astutely adapted the play into a short story for the Strand while it was still running at the Coliseum: in any event it appeared in the magazine in the October 1921 issue. Doyle also made certain changes to the story in the transition from stage to printed page, the most important one being that the villain of the play, the notorious Colonel Sebastian Moran, became Count Negretto Sylvius in the story. Though no one would claim that Conan Doyle was an outstanding playwright, his Holmes and Watson plays do have a sense of theatre about them which must have made their performances well worth attending, and it would indeed be nice to see them revived today. It is a particular pleasure to be rescuing 'The Crown Diamond' from obscurity and placing it in the Sherlockian canon as it has only once ever been printed—and that was in a private edition of just fifty-nine copies.
"How Watson Learned the Trick" (1924)
The writing of this Holmes and Watson parody, which Conan Doyle undertook towards the very end of his life, may well be the most curious story in the saga. In 1924 a remarkable doll's house belonging to the then Queen of England, was being put on exhibition in London. The beautifully made toy, with its exquisite miniature furniture and fittings, possessed a small library with rows of tiny books. At the time none of these books contained any text, and the idea was mooted to invite the leading literary figures of the day to write short stories which could then be painstakingly reprinted in the little volumes. Not surprisingly Sir Arthur was one of the authors who was approached and—staunch patriot that was—agreed soon thereafter producing a story he knew would be acceptable: a brief Sherlock Holmes episode called 'How Watson Learned the Trick'. On its receipt, says a contemporary report, it was 'printed and bound in one of the miniature volumes comprising the library of this elaborate Lilliputan structure.' Although the story naturally generated a considerable amount of interest while the exhibition was on, once the doors of the doll's house had been closed to the public it was soon forgotten and the text has since become excessively rare. It was briefly rescued from this obscurity in April 1951 when it appeared in a typewritten copy in The Baker Street Journal—from which it has been taken for this book. Aside from its rarity, 'How Watson Learned the Trick' is interesting because it seems to confirm the belief that Sherlock Holmes was born in Surrey. During the course of the episode, which takes place while the two friends are at breakfast, Holmes exclaims at the success of Surrey in a game of cricket. Commenting on this in his essay, 'Completing the Canon', Peter Richard says, 'Although a man may have only "small experience of cricket clubs" (as Holmes admits in "The Field Bazaar" ), it is not unusual for him to follow his home County side with interest, even enthusiasm. It therefore seems probable that Holmes's birthplace was in Surrey—possible, in fact, that his ancestors, being country squires and Reigate being in Surrey, that they were indeed the original Reigate Squires!' In hindsight, it seems most fitting that in the last uncollected adventure which Conan Doyle left us he should have presented a clue to the very birthplace of his by then immortal sleuth.
The Appendix to this volume brings together three rare and fascinating pieces of Holmesian material that, like the first twelve items, are all by Conan Doyle and similarly help broaden our knowledge of the Great Detective as well as his creator.
"A Gaudy Death: Conan Doyle Tells the True Story of Sherlock Holmes's End" (1900)
This section of the book begins with a particularly rare item which has escaped the attention of many Sherlockians. It appeared in the year 1900 in the British weekly magazine Tit-Bits, which, as it name suggests, was a pot-pourri of stories, articles, essays, interviews, puzzles and snippets of news and information all presented in a lively style to appeal to a mass readership. The publishers were George Newnes Ltd, who also owned the Strand magazine, and when Tit-Bits reached its thousandth issue and decided to celebrate the fact, they utilized this association to obtain a scoop for which any other journal would have paid a fortune—an interview with the notoriously publicity shy, Dr Conan Doyle.
Conan Doyle had, of course, already dispatched Holmes over the Reichenbach Falls and was apparently anxious that he should remain there despite the continuing pressure from his readers. Hence the interview, which is given in Conan Doyle's own words and was almost certainly vetted by him before publication, is all the more interesting because of the light it throws on how he planned the 'killing' of Holmes, and because a crack is already beginning to show in his resolve to leave his detective in his watery grave in Switzerland. This item has not been reprinted since its original appearance in that special issue of Tit-Bits dated 15 December 1900.
"The Mystery of Sasassa Valley" (1879)
I have already briefly mentioned this story, which was the first Conan Doyle succeeded in getting published and which earned him the princely sum of three guineas. It is, however, more important than it at first seems because it uses for the first time an idea that later became central to the most famous of all the Sherlock Holmes Adventures, 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'. In the light of this fact it's perhaps not surprising that Conan Doyle makes no specific mention of the tale of his autobiography, Memories and Adventures, written in 1924, merely informing us: 'During the years before my marriage I had from time to time written short stories which were good enough to be marketable at very small prices—£4 on average—but not good enough to reproduce. They are scattered about the pages of LondonSociety, All the Year Round, Temple Bar, The Boy's Own Paper and other journals. There let them lie.' In fact, 'The Mystery of Sasassa Valley' was submitted to the popular magazine Chambers's Journal in the spring of 1879 and after the usual interminable delay was accepted for publication. The struggling young doctor was delighted to accept and the story duly appeared, anonymously, in the October issue. (It was Chamber's policy to credit only their most famous contributors). At the time, we learn, Conan Doyle expressed only one regret about the publication—that the Editor had cut out his use of the word 'damn' in several conversations! With the passing of the years, however, he was no doubt glad the story was not easily attributable to him for, as you will read, it is based on a superstition about a demon-like creature with glowing eyes which eventually turns out to be . . . but I will not spoil your interest by revealing the ending. Nonetheless, the similarity with the idea of the 'demon hound' of Dartmoor will be evident to anyone who has read the Holmes story. This publication marks the mystery's first return to print in almost a hundred years.
"My Favourite Sherlock Holmes Adventure" (1927)
In March 1927, some months prior to the publication of the fifth and final volume of the short Holmes Adventures, The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle took up his pen for the last time to write about his famous sleuth. Appropriately it was for the self-same magazine in which the Great Detective had been 'born', the Strand. The occasion was the announcement of a competition in which readers were invited to pick their favourite Holmes Adventure, and Sir Arthur had agreed to provide the definitive list. Seemingly he could not resist the opportunity for a last parting shot at the character who had made him famous and wealthy, but had also over-shadowed every other achievement of his lifetime. 'I fear,' he wrote in the article, which was entitled 'Mr Sherlock Holmes to His Readers', 'that Mr Sherlock Holmes may become like one of those popular tenors who, having outlived their time, are still tempted to make repeated farewell bows to their indulgent audiences. This must cease and he must go the way of all flesh, material or imaginary. One likes to think that there is some fantastic limbo for the children of imagination, some strange, impossible place where the beaux of Fielding may still make love to the belles of Richardson, where Scott's heroes still may strut, Dickens's delightful Cockneys still raise a laugh, and Thackeray's worldlings continue to carry on their reprehensible careers. Perhaps in some humble corner of such a Valhalla, Sherlock and his Watson may for a time find a place, while some more astute sleuth with some even less astute comrade may fill the stage which they have vacated.'
Although by this time Holmes had literally dozens of rivals clamouring after his position of pre-eminence in the detective field, the passing years were certainly not going to oblige his creator: the two men from Baker Street were already numbered among the immortals of literature and there they were destined to remain. In the rest of his article Conan Doyle again went over the facts of Holmes's career and commented on the views which were reaching him that some readers felt the standard of the Adventures had declined in the later years. He concluded, 'It is as a little test of the opinion of the public that I inaugurate the small competition announced here. I have drawn up a list of the twelve short stories contained in the four published volumes2 which I consider to be the best, and I should like to know to what extent my choice agrees with that of Strand readers. I have left my list in a sealed envelope with the Editor of the Strand.' Three months after the appearance of this article, in the June issue, Conan Doyle ended the speculation by publishing his list—or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that he really began the arguments that have continued unabated to this day about the respective merits of the stories.
Later that year Sir Arthur used his essay 'Mr Sherlock Holmes to His Readers' as the Preface to The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, just deleting the reference to the competition and, for some strange reason best known to himself, the very relevant comment about the quality of the stories I have reprinted at the front of this book. With this list of his twelve favourite stories, Conan Doyle had finally done with Sherlock Holmes: he was never to write another word about him in the three short years of life which remained to him. Perhaps, though, there was no need to say any more, for his last paragraph in the address to readers was as good a finale as any author might hope to write about a character he had created and his particular ambitions for that character. So in bringing together this final collection of Sherlock Holmes material by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I can think of no better way of concluding my own remarks than by quoting his words one last time.
'And so, reader, farewell to Sherlock Holmes! I thank you for your constancy, and can but hope that some return has been made in the shape of that distraction from the worries of life and stimulating change of thought which can only be found in the fairy kingdom of romance.'
- An important study of these remaining items is the two-part essay, 'Completing the Canon', by Peter Richard, which appeared in The Sherlock Holmes Journal, Winter 1962 and Winter 1963 issues. There was also a 'Postscript' in the Spring 1964 issue. In these articles Mr Richard skillfully argues the claims for each additional story, and I am happy to acknowledge my debt to his work in conducting my own research and reaching my own conclusions for this collection.
- The four volumes of stories referred to by Conan Doyle are The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, The Return of Sherlock Holmes and His Last Bow. The remaining twelve stories were still to appear as The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes.
Jacqueline A. Jaffe (essay date 1987)
SOURCE: Jaffe, Jacqueline A. "The Most Important Work: Seven Historical Novels." In Arthur Conan Doyle, pp. 50-71. Boston, Mass.: Twayne Publishers, 1987.
[In the following essay, Jaffe provides an overview of Doyle's seven major historical novels, arguing that the novels owe an undeniable debt to the works of Sir Walter Scott.]
Micah Clarke (1889), the first of Doyle's seven full-length historical novels, was to be an exercise in writing by a man who took both fiction and history seriously. Doyle's desire to write historical romances can be traced to the influence of Sir Walter Scott, for not only had Scott been Doyle's favorite childhood author, he was also the writer who, earlier in the century, had rejuvenated the form of the historical novel.1 The critical and popular reception of Scott's novels established the historical novel as worthy of serious literary attention, and although Scott and Charles Kingsley (the author of many historical novels including Westward Ho! ) were now dead and Charles Reade (the best-selling author of The Cloister and the Hearth ) was an old man, Rider Haggard, R. D. Blackmore, and Robert Louis Stevenson had all written novels whose popularity attested to the continuing appeal of the conjunction of history and fiction.
Doyle, who aspired to be a serious writer, wanted to achieve this goal by following in Scott's footsteps, not only because he loved and respected that writer but also because since childhood he himself had felt and understood the appeal of this particular narrative form. The stories that his mother had told him, combining a love of the past, particularly the Middle Ages, with the form of the adventure story, was the kind of narrative most familiar and most beloved by him. It seems only natural that as he was waiting for A Study in Scarlet to be published, his thoughts should turn to the works of Sir Walter Scott and to his own desire to emulate that author.
Not all historical novels are romances. In several of Scott's novels, notably Old Mortality, The Antiquary, and The Heart of Mid-Lothian, the world of romance is largely subsumed in the author's realistic attempt to capture the lives of the lowland peasants in eighteenth-century Scotland. Significantly, though, Doyle loved best precisely those Scott novels, like Ivanhoe, that are romances. As Northrop Frye has pointed out, "The romance is nearest of all literary forms to the wish fulfillment dream....the child like quality of romance is marked by its extraordinarily persistent nostalgia, its search for some kind of imaginative golden age in time or space."2 Doyle desperately wanted to explore his own "imaginative golden age" in fiction, thus his historical novels are better defined as historical romances.
The appeal of the historical romance is—like the detective story and the adventure story—based on the reader's desire to escape the complexities of everyday life. These forms, or genres, provide such an escape because they are set apart from reality in worlds that are morally secure and closed. First as a listener and now as a narrator of tales, Doyle was attracted to these forms for those reasons, but he made a sharp distinction between them in terms of their literary value; detective and adventure stories provided pleasant, honest work, he thought, but historical novels were serious literary endeavors.
Thus, the ambitious author who had been accumulating books and information on the seventeenth century for two years, decided in 1887 to begin his most serious work: "I now determined to test my powers to the full and I chose a historical novel for this end, because it seemed to me the one way of combining a certain amount of literary dignity with those scenes of action and adventure which were natural to my young and ardent mind" (MA [Memories and Adventures ], 70).
As a child, his "ardent mind" had been further stimulated by the work of his favorite historian, Thomas Babington Macaulay, whose History of England3 can be credited with providing Doyle with the subject of Micah Clarke. "I wish Macaulay had written a historical novel," Doyle was to write later, but, in fact, Doyle wrote the novel himself, using Macaulay's events as inspiration.4 It was to the historian's stirring descriptions of the sombre soldier-preachers who followed Oliver Cromwell that Doyle owed his start: "I had always felt great sympathy for the Puritans who, whatever their little peculiarities, did represent political liberty and earnestness in religion" (MA, 18). These Puritan soldiers were to be the subject of his first historical work.
Micah Clarke is set in Scotland in 1685, when, under a Catholic king, James II, the Puritans were awaiting the call to arms of the Protestant claimant to the throne, James, duke of Monmouth. The story, related forty-nine years later, is told by Micah to his three grandchildren. As the lengthy subtitle explains, this book is Micah's testament "wherein is contained a full report of certain passages in his early life, together with some account of his journey from Havant to Taunton with Decimus Saxon in the summer of 1685 also of the adventures that befell them during the Western rebellion, and of the intercourse with James, Duke of Monmouth, Lord Grey and other persons of quality."5
This introduction serves to anchor the story firmly in geographical place and time, while Micah's initial remarks, echoing Doyle's own sentiments, reassure the reader that the storyteller is more competent than any historian to deal with the narrative demands of such a structure: "I shall try to make those dead men quicken into life for your behoof, and to call back out of the mists of the past those scenes which were brisk enough in the acting, though they read so dully and so heavily in the pages of the worthy men who have set themselves to record them" (MC [Micah Clarke ], 9).
Adventure is the one essential plot element in romance, and an element that is fully sustained in Micah Clarke, for once Micah leaves home, he is caught up by a continuous series of heroic adventures that move the narrative sequentially forward.6 As in most heroic adventure stories, these episodes take place within the larger context of the marvelous journey—a journey that is both physical, as Micah travels the width of southern England, and spiritual and psychological, as Micah passes from boyhood to manhood.
The combination of militancy and fanaticism so characteristic of Cromwell's supports is exemplified by Micah's father, "Ironside" Clarke, a man given to visionary fits, who is described by Micah as being filled with "fierce and earnest religion" (MC, 13). As an example of the younger generation, Micah and his religious beliefs are more moderate, due, we are told, to the influence of his mother's Episcopalian belief. Even in the face of her husband's fervency she had "held to her religion with a quiet grip which was proof against every attempt to turn her from it" (MC, 16). The young Micah is thus presented as the product of both his father's moral rigidity and his mother's tolerance, while his faith, a result of this diversity and best described as benevolent humanism, transcends all sectarian divisions.
The "call to adventure," 7 the summons to the hero that moves him to begin the quest, is, in this book, contained in a letter brought by a soldier of fortune, Decimus Saxon, to Micah's father. At first sight the substantial differences that lie between Micah and his father seem to set the stage for a generational conflict, but the potential conflict between father and son is moved to the larger world outside the home when Ironside Joe finds that he is too old to go to war. The summons meant for Joe is passed to the gentler Micah who rides off on his large gray horse, aptly named Covenant, to face the forces of religious fanaticism and of worldly vice on the battlefield of England.
Once he leaves home, Micah's heroism is immediately tested by Monmouth's messenger, Decimus Saxon, who had posed as a Puritan zealot while in Ironside Joe's home but who, as soon as they are on the road, drops his Puritan language and behavior. Decimus shows himself to be a true soldier of fortune, one willing to fight for any side providing he stands to gain by it: "It is nothing to me whether James Stuart or James Walters sits upon the throne but the court and army of the King are already made up. Now since Monmouth hath both courtiers and soldiers to find it may well happen that he may be glad of my services and reward them with honourable preferment." Saxon's mercenary motives are placed in sharp contrast to Micah's integrity: "My folk," he responds quickly, "have always fought for the liberty of the people and the humbling of tyranny" (MC, 96-97).
The conflict between the two men flares into open hostility on the first night, when Decimus wants to steal gold from an alchemist who has befriended them. At first Micah contents himself with physically defending the treasure, warning: "if you should attempt it I shall lay you on your back," but the next day he follows this up with the moral censure of abandoning Decimus, because, as he explains, "You are no fit company for honest men" (MC, 102). This punishment, indicative of Micah's attitude throughout, is a salutary one for Decimus. He learns from Micah's ideals and ends up calling the younger man "Master Morality" while promising to "unlearn some of the tricks of my trade" (MC, 105).
Following the format of the romance, the hero continues to be given various tests. In the second one Micah proves his physical strength by engaging in a hand-wrestling contest with a powerful German soldier, who has a grip "which no man in the Palatinate would exchange" (MC, 199). After deliberately losing the first round in order to learn his adversary's tricks, Micah demands a rematch, which he wins. The English company is overjoyed; they give him the public acclaim indicative of his new stature. "'We breed brawn in England as well as in Bradenburg,' said Saxon, who was shaking with laughter over the German soldier's discomfiture. 'Why, I have seen that lad pick up a full-size sergeant of dragoons and throw him into a cart as though he had been a clod of earth'" (MC, 200).
Having demonstrated moral courage and physical ability, Micah's third test is one that calls for a blend of caution and boldness. In a move calculated to undercut the strength of the opposing forces, Monmouth determines to send a message to the powerful duke of Beaufort asking him to change sides and fight for the claimant. Micah immediately volunteers for the task: "My father bade me spare neither life nor limb in this quarrel, and if this honourable council think that the duke may be gained over, I am ready to guarantee that the message shall be conveyed to him if men and horse can do it" (MC, 311). After a series of adventures that include a run-in with smugglers, a sea fight, and an escape from the infamous Boteler Dungeon, Micah delivers the message safely and returns a hero to Monmouth's army.
Micah's final test brings him full circle, for once again at the end of the book, he pits his decency and tolerance against Saxon's anarchic nature. This occurs at the end of the battle after a savage fight when Micah and Decimus have wounded their pursuers. Decimus, white with anger, wants to kill them. Once again, Micah defends what he knows to be right, namely, that one must not kill defenseless men, against his friend's animal-like behavior. As Micah recounts it, their argument went like this: "'Nay, nay! Blood enough hath been shed' said I, 'let them lie.' 'What mercy would they have had upon us?' he cried, passionately, struggling to get his wrist free. 'They have lost, and must pay forfeit.' 'Not in cold blood,' I said firmly. 'I shall not abide it'" (MC, 345).
Thus, by distinguishing between when it is honorable to kill his enemies and when it is dishonorable, Micah resolves the conflict between the need for physical action at a dangerous time and the need for Christian charity. Micah is an active hero, one who does not hesitate to fight or kill if the occasion warrants. He does not like violence and he counsels against it whenever possible, but if he has to fight, on his own or anyone else's behalf, he does so courageously and skillfully. Doyle, in fact, revels in the need for action, as his descriptions of the scenes of battle show. To fail to take action or to miss the right moment for doing so would bring dishonor on the participant; therefore it is essential that the hero of these novels be physically able and aggressive whenever the situation demands. Micah is such an active hero, yet he is one whose conscience is as active as his body. The episodes of physical testing are important precisely because those episodes also make a definite moral point. The violence that Micah and his friends indulge in is justified as the proper response to a chaotic historical period only as long as their reasons for doing so are "worthy." Violence that is indulged in for base reasons, ones motivated by feelings of revenge or of cruelty, must not be allowed, for those are the very acts that bring the hero dishonor.
The heroic virtues that Micah embodies are the best that England can produce. Further, because he is young and pure of heart, Micah does not embody the leftover heroism of a bygone age; this kind of heroism is left to Micah's courtly friend from London, Sir Gervas Jerome. So persuasive is Jerome's heroism that some critics have suggested that he is the true hero of this novel. 8 Gervas's death scene is, in fact, the traditional one of the gallant soldier. In response to Micah's offer of escape, Micah tells us: "He looked up smiling and shook his head. 'I stay with my company,' said he. 'Your company,' Saxon cried. 'Why, man, you are mad! Your company is cut off to the last man.' 'That's what I mean,' he answered, flicking some dirt from his cravat. 'Don't ye mind! Look out for yourselves. Goodbye, Clarke'" (MC, 342).
The fact that Gervas's death is contrasted with Micah's escape from death, and further, that it is Micah who tries to save his friend, suggests, however, that Jerome is not the true hero here. Gallant and courageous as the knight is, he still epitomizes the old values. Ultimately, he is a member of a doomed aristocracy who can best serve England's interests by making way for the new order, the more democratic values exemplified by the artisans and workers who are Micah's friends. Sir Gervas is a nostalgic and doomed figure; Micah is not.
Micah Clarke, completed in only three months, was dedicated to Doyle's mother, the Ma'am, and sent out with high hopes on the part of the author: "If it comes off," he confessed in a letter to his favorite sister Lottie, "we may then, I think, take it as proved that I can live by my pen." 9 Doyle was still thinking of himself as a doctor, so that his writing, the "milk cow" as he termed it, was only a means to an end. Yet, at first it appeared as though even this means was to be denied him, for publisher after publisher, including his mentor and former editor James Payn, rejected the manuscript.
In a fortuitous move, however, Doyle sent the book in November 1888 to Robert Louis Stevenson's friend and editor, Andrew Lang, the Scottish poet and critic who had already published some of Doyle's short stories. Lang, one of the foremost admirers and defenders of the form of the romance, had published a manifesto on its behalf the previous year. The right author, Lang claimed in this essay, writing "an impossible romance," could "still win us from the newspapers and the stories of shabby love, and cheap remorses and commonplace failures." 10
Happily for Doyle, Lang thought that Micah Clarke was such a work. The novel was immediately accepted by Lang and published by Longmans in February 1889. As it turned out, Andrew Lang's belief in Doyle's ability to woo the general reader back to heroic romances was completely justified. Not only did almost all the critics rave about Micah Clarke, but the book sold extremely well. Doyle, who earlier had talked about trying a long adventure story modeled on the work of Rider Haggard, was so buoyed by the success of Micah Clarke that he immediately started work on what was to be his own favorite story, The White Company.
The White Company
The White Company (1891), a story set in 1366, a time which saw the full flowering of knights and chivalry, was one of the few novels that Doyle became completely immersed in. He had developed the idea for this book in between medical rounds, familial responsibilities, short stories, and Micah Clarke, but when he decided to write The White Company, he put everything else aside and devoted himself to it in an unprecedented manner. The preceding Easter, he had gone to the New Forest for a brief holiday with three male friends. After walking in the New Forest, Doyle decided that he wanted to begin his story there, so, later that spring, he returned alone with a huge supply of books on the history, the heraldry, the social customs, clothing, manners, and speech of the fourteenth century. It was not until autumn of the same year that he returned to Southsea to his wife and to his nine-month-old daughter, Mary Louise, and he spent the next eleven months, an inordinate amount of time for this author, writing The White Company.
As in Micah Clarke, the story's protagonist, Alleyne Edricson, is a young man who embodies the qualities of innocence and chastity characteristic of the archetypal hero. But, unlike Micah who begins and ends the book by asserting his own version of Christianity, a humanistic version that will serve England and Englishmen better than either the fanaticism of the Puritans or the duplicity of the established Protestant Church of England, Alleyne, raised in the monastery of Beaulieu, is, as a product of the teachings of the monks, a religious young man. Alleyne's education, therefore, is to be in the ways of the world, ways which are opposed to the ways of the cloister. The characters who undertake Alleyne's worldly education are a small band of friends, a group of representative Englishmen, who, meeting him after he leaves the monastery, persuade him to go to fight the French under the banner of a venerable knight, Sir Nigel Loring.
The two friends who teach him most about the ways of the world and of society are John of Hordle and Samkin Aylward. Big John of Hordle, modeled after the Little John who appears in the tales of Robin Hood, had also been a novice at Beaulieu Abbey until he was dismissed from the order because he had broken three rules. First, he had drunk in one gulp the portion of beer allotted to four monks; second, after being reproved for blasphemy he had put the reprover face down in the fish pond; and third, in order to help a woman over a fast-flowing stream, "he did lift up the said Mary Sowley and did take, carry and convey her across." 11 The large, red-headed John loves life too much to be shut up in a monastery, and it is from him that Alleyne learns about the joy and zest of life.
The contrast at the ecclesiastical trial between the freedom-loving, self-assured John and his accusers, the timid, hypocritical monks, illustrates one of Doyle's central themes, that the monks, instead of serving God, are serving the selfish, materialistic aims of the ambitious dignitaries of the church. From the first moment, the reader is told that John is aligned with all things natural: "His cowl thrown back upon his shoulders, and his gown robes unfastened at the top, disclosed a round, sinewy neck, ruddy and corded like the bark of the fir. Thick, muscular arms, covered with a reddish down, protruded from the wide sleeves of his habit, while his white skirt, looped up upon one side, gave a glimpse of a huge knotty leg, scarred and torn with the scratches of brambles." The monk, "a lean, white-faced brother who appeared to be ill at ease, shifting his feet from side to side and tapping his chin nervously" (WC [The White Company ], 4), stands in sharp opposition to the confident defendant. The difference between the muscular Christian embracing the world with all its difficulties and the ratlike servant of God who turns his back on the world illustrates Doyle's principal concern in The White Company.
Doyle's position in The White Company is that organized religion, the hierarchy of the church, is oppressing the very people that it should serve. The men who believe in Christianity (that is, a direct application of the lessons of Christ's life, not the form of Christianity practised by the medieval church) are naturally close to God, for their religion lives in their hearts and minds. As examples of this, John of Hordle, Alleyne Edricson, and Samkin Aylward all carry God with them; they are Christians at heart so they do not need to have Christianity interpreted for them. Pierre Nordon has pointed out that Doyle believes in "the spiritual benefit of action," 12 and in The White Company the way that the friends act in the world, both in peace and in war, is held up as the spiritual standard, a standard that is clearly in contrast to the pious morality of the passive monks at Beaulieu.
The second friend and tutor to Alleyne is Samkin Aylward, one of those English archers who made the longbow an intrinsic part of fourteenth-century warfare. Samkin is forty years old, a seasoned veteran of the French wars, a master bowman, and a womanizer. Described as being of medium build, he has "extraordinary breadth of shoulder, well marked features in a deeply tanned face" and eyes that "were bright and searching, with something of menace and authority in their quick glitter . . . as befitted one who was wont to set his face against danger" (WC, 35).
Aylward, the hardened campaigner, spends the time in between battles bringing his captured loot back to England and chasing every woman who crosses his path: "'Hola! a woman by my soul!' he says, "and in an instant he had clipped Dame Eliza round the waist and was kissing her violently. His eye happening to wander upon the maid, however, he instantly abandoned the mistress and danced off after the other" (WC, 43). The naive Alleyne is at first confused by the mixture of vice and virtue in Samkin's character: "Men had been good or had been bad in his catalogue, but here was a man who was fierce one minute and gentle the next, with a curse on his lips and a smile in his eye. What was to be made of such a man as that?" (WC, 45).
What Alleyne does finally make of Samkin Aylward is that—like the rest of mankind—the archer is both good and bad, that is, he is human. The important lesson for Alleyne is that both John of Hordle and Samkin Aylward love life and manage to enjoy it while still striving to be responsible men. John finds his place in the world by becoming a good soldier and Samkin finally stops his philandering to marry the mistress Eliza and settle down as the prosperous innkeeper of "The Pied Merlin."
Parallel to the three friends yet superior to them in terms of age and rank are the three knights that they serve: the thin, Don Quixote-like figure of Sir Nigel Loring, the robust gourmet Sir Oliver Butteshorn, and the one-eyed, seasoned veteran, Sir John Chandos. These three knights fulfill the functions of the archetypal wise men who frequent the pages of romances, but, whereas in earlier stories these characters might have been imbued with magical powers, in The White Company they act simply as the teachers of the standards of the chivalric age. Because their form of knightly behavior belongs to an age that is over, their lessons are not always valuable ones, however. Sir Nigel Loring, who is forever looking for "fortune to send him a venture" (WC, 140), a knightly exchange or deed by which he would win some personal honor, is told—in no uncertain terms—by Prince Edward that sometimes notions of personal honor must give way to the needs of the larger body politic. True to the absolute demands of the chivalric code, Sir Nigel urges the prince to stick to a vow made in a foolish moment even though it was a mistake, and even though it would cost the prince dearly. Nigel is too old to learn the lesson implicit in the princely rebuke—although in this instance he has to succumb—but Alleyne and his comrades are not. They have to learn that sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice their desire for personal honor in the service of the greater social good. Sir Nigel exemplifies the rigidity of the old heroic code, while the next generation has to learn to practice intelligent restraint as a means to achieving the collective good.
The plot of The White Company, a plot which includes Alleyne's fight with his evil older brother, a battle at sea with Norman pirates, a knight's tournament at which an unknown Black Knight defeats all five of England's bravest warriors, a defense of a castle under siege, and a fierce fight with the Spanish in which the White Company itself gains eternal honor, is exciting enough to capture any reader's imagination. But the most compelling part of the novel has to do with the struggle of Alleyne and his band of comrades to maintain their standards of honor and decency in a world that does not always understand or care about the difference between good and evil. This struggle, of course, has mythic dimensions. Alleyne's triumph over passivity, hypocrisy, and brutality reminds us, as Doyle intends it to, of the struggles of Ulysses, of St. George, of Lancelot, and of all mythic heroes.
Alleyne's relationship with the women in The White Company, and in particular with the daughter of the knight he serves, the lovely Lady Maude Loring, is the one expected by readers of romance. Lady Maude, whose love Alleyne has to win, is the person whose vulnerability, whose need for love and protection, provides the impetus for his action. And Alleyne carries with him her scarf as a visible symbol of what he has to attain. Unlike the heroes of many romances, however, Alleyne does not have to learn self-restraint; his path of duty is not one of self-control but one of self-expansion so that, while still remaining a Christian, he can experience life in all its complexity. His ability to win the lady of pleasure, to participate in love and marriage, is, therefore, measured by the distance that he travels from the world of the death-dealing monks.
Alleyne's return, just seconds before Maude, who believes him dead, enters a nunnery, provides a dramatic context for the reconciliation of the lovers and a satisfying resolution to the dichotomy between the monastery and the world, monk and knight, death and life that the novel has established. As a knight Alleyne has chosen to live in the world, as a lover he has to prevent his lady's incarceration in the very institution that he has already rejected.
Doyle portrays Maude's entrance into the nunnery as a form of death, for her figure "garbed in white" and "wreathed in white blossoms" suggests a corpse, while the church building, wherein "dank, cold air comes out from the black arch" (WC, 360), is clearly the tomb itself. Alleyne, who has reached the end of his journey and now stands for love and sexual life, is contrasted to the female attendants "who have ever been taught that the way of nature is the way of sin," and who are ushering Maude into the vault. This passage, with its overtones of Orpheus and Eurydice, ends happily as the young knight literally scatters the procession of virginal novices before barring the door to the tomb-church with his own body.
Once the reconciliation is complete and the lovers are physically united, "his arms around her drooping body and her wet cheek upon his breast" (WC, 360), nature welcomes them back from the sexual death of the convent: "The sun shines bright and the birds are singing amid the ivy on the drooping branches" (WC, 361); while their marriage celebrates the completion of Alleyne's journey from monkish celibacy to life and to love. Indeed, the ceremony that marks their marriage also marks Alleyne's final rite of passage from boyhood to manhood and therefore marks the final defeat for the death-dealing practices of the church. Alleyne's triumph is the triumph of life itself.
In the final pages, Doyle reiterates and emphasizes his position on organized religion. The church, he asserts, is a greedy, tyrannical institution that has forgotten, in its lust for power, the true meaning of Christ's teachings. Yet he also maintains that the future of Christianity is not all black, for the ending of The White Company suggests that if we cannot put our faith in the official emissaries of God's word, we can and must put our faith in the kind of muscular Christianity that lies at the heart of the knightly code of behavior. The White Company expresses Doyle's belief that honorable behavior, the impulse to protect all those who are weak and helpless and to fight aggressively to see that justice is done, is "an article of faith which might strengthen and sustain as powerfully as any religion." 13 Doyle loved The White Company best precisely because in it he was able to enunciate his own creed, encapsulated in phrases like "Help to the helpless, whosoever shall ask for it," "Fearless to the strong; humble to the weak," "To give your word is to give a knightly pledge,"14through the actions of that small band of comrades whose antecedents are the great heroic figures of the mythic and historical past. In a moment of authorial exaltation over this story, he wrote to his sister: "You will be pleased, I am sure, to know that I have finished my great labour, and that The White Company has come to an end. The first half is very good, the second quarter pretty good, and the last quarter very good again. So rejoice with me, my dear, for I am as fond of Hordle John and Samkin Aylward and Sir Nigel Loring as though I knew them in the flesh, and I feel that the whole English-speaking race will come in time to be fond of them also."15
With some trepidation Doyle first sent the manuscript to his old friend and editor James Payn, the man who had earlier refused to publish Micah Clarke. To the author's great surprise and "everlasting joy,"16 Payn not only wanted to publish the novel, he praised it extravagantly, suggesting that it was the best historical novel since Ivanhoe. To one who wanted to follow in Scott's footsteps, this was the greatest praise, and Doyle treasured it appropriately.
The reader and critic will have some trouble echoing Payn's position, however, for while The White Company is a good historical novel that contains wonderful passages, it is marred by various authorial inconsistencies which make any comparison to Ivanhoe seem excessive. Scott, as one critic has pointed out, "was a Jacobite at heart, though his patriotism and his common sense made him a faithful subject of the reigning king."17 To turn Scott's position around, Doyle was at heart, first and foremost, a royalist, while his sense of fair play and decency made of him, in theory, a democrat. The more proficient novelist managed to find subjects that could accommodate both his heart and head, but the less expert Doyle often finds himself floundering in situations where his loyalties are opposed.
The White Company uses a wide social strata; trades-people, yeomen, nobles, and peasants are all shown involved in the complex series of relationships that binds them together. The successful portrayal of the clash of those classes, the depiction of those moments in history when the ideology of the aristocracy is inimical to the ideology of the peasants, for example, demands a writer who is sure of where his sympathy lies.
One example from The White Company will suffice to illustrate this pervasive narrative difficulty. While the friends are riding over the marshes of France, the narrator comments, sympathetically, on the plight of the starving peasants, those "strange lean figures scraping and scratching amid the weeds and thistles" whose land has been "ten times harried" to raise the ransom money for their feudal lord. The narrator, seeming to understand the plight of the peasants, explains: "Yet why should they build and strive, when the first adventurer who passed would set torch to their thatch, and when their own feudal lord would wring from them with blows and curses the last fruits of their toil" (WC, 261). Further, the narrator ends with a timely warning to the oppressive nobility, "when such men who are beyond hope and fear, begin in their dim minds to see the source of their woes, it may be an evil time for those who have wronged them."
Yet, that very night when the "Brushwood folk" attack the castle, the narrator's sympathies abruptly change. The peasants, described as "fierce," "wild," "murderers" complete with "flashing teeth," "bristling hair," and "mad leapings and screamings," become subhuman. These wretches, with no feelings or indeed any discernible human trait, are so bestial that the heroic knights are able to kill them mercilessly. "In front of the central guest-chamber stood DuGuesclin and Sir Nigel, half-clad and unarmoured, with the mad joy of battle gleaming in their eyes. Their heads were thrown back, their lips compressed, their blood-stained swords poised over their right shoulders and their left feet thrown out. Three dead men lay huddled together in front of them: while a fourth, with the blood squirting from a severed vessel, lay back with updrawn knees, breathing in wheezy gasps" (WC, 262).
While Scott's sympathy would have been consistently with the peasantry, the poor, and the dispossessed, even when they acted brutally or when the historical moment was clearly against them, Doyle, trapped within his ideal of what is an aristocratic knightly code, is only certain that no group of peasants could sustain that code. Therefore, although he despises the changes in feudalism instigated (in this case) by the breakdown of noblesse oblige, he is far from advocating rebellion for the peasants. What he wants is a return to the old social ties where kindliness and responsibility characterize the relationship between lord and peasant. The discrepancy in the text between the narrator's initial view of the downtrodden peasants and Sir Nigel's high-handed dismissal of them as "curs" and "dogs" reflects a discrepancy in Doyle's view of the world that is not easy to reconcile.
Nevertheless, The White Company was an immediate popular success. Initially put out in the usual three-decker style, the first edition was quickly sold out, as were the more than fifty editions of the novel then published in a single volume. Though Doyle was extremely pleased that the public liked what he felt was his most memorable achievement, when he finished writing he was introspective and depressed. He felt as though The White Company had said everything that he wanted to say; he had done what he set out to do and he was finished.
Characteristically unable to live with any form of indecision or ambiguity, Doyle turned back to medicine in an effort to redirect his energies. To this end, he determined to go to Vienna (where, contrary to popular belief, he did not meet Freud) to train to be an eye specialist. But ironically this decision served only to lead him back to his career as a writer, for by the following year—August 1891—he had had not one eye patient, he had been critically ill with pneumonia, and, in the aftermath of both these events, had decided to live by his writings. Within a few months of his return, he had again turned his attention to a third historical novel: The Refugees.
The Refugees, begun in December 1891 at the same time that Doyle was writing the second series of six Holmes stories, was finished early in 1892. Doyle was a well-established writer by this time, so the novel was immediately accepted for publication as a serial in Harper's magazine. It ran from January to December 1893 and was published as a book by Longmans in July 1893.
Set in 1685, The Refugees has a plot that moves from the French court of Louis the Fourteenth to the forests of Canada as a band of French Huguenot refugees flees from their homeland only to find themselves in the middle of the French-Indian war. Originally, Doyle had wanted to reintroduce Micah Clarke and Decimus Saxon as characters in his new novel, but he soon decided that was too difficult and concentrated instead on two new characters: Armory DeCatinat, a Protestant Frenchman serving as a captain of the King's Guard and an American, Amos Green, a woodsman and explorer of the New World. The scenes of the Iroquois attacks in the forest are modeled on James Fenimore Cooper's Leatherstocking tales, while the history is based on the work of the American historian James Parkman.
The Franco-Canadian novel is not one of Doyle's best historical novels, possibly because during this period he was under constant pressure to produce more and more Holmes stories. His enthusiasm for this book was, in any event, never very strong, and he seems with The Refugees to have come as close to writing a "page-turner" as it was possible for him to do. In a letter to his sister, discussing his treatment of the intrigues at the court of Louis the Fourteenth he admits this: "My word, my word, I give the reader his six shillings worth of passion!...Talk about love-scenes! It is volcanic."18 In spite of these passages the author's own verdict of himself as "fairly satisfied" is perhaps the best overall judgment of The Refugees.
The Lesser Three: The Great Shadow, Rodney Stone, andUncle Bernac
During the next four years, Doyle wrote three more historical novels and a number of short stories featuring the infamous Brigadier Gerard. These stories, first published in book form as The Exploits of Brigadier Gerard (1896) with a second later series appearing as The Adventures of Gerard (1903), won a wide audience. The historical period is still Napoleonic France, but rather than historical romances, these stories are comic adventure stories, featuring Etienne Gerard, a colonel of the Hussars of Conflans, a man capable of heroism, yet one whose chief characteristic is that of being "gloriously ridiculous."19 Gerard's self-satisfaction, his boasting, his narcissistic blindness, all combine to satirize the heroic qualities that he epitomizes and to place Gerard firmly in the grand tradition of heroic buffoons.
Doyle's next full-length historical romance, The Great Shadow, was commissioned by Arrowsmith, in the spring of 1892, to appear as a novel in their Christmas annual. The book was probably finished by midsummer of that year. The "shadow" of the title refers to Napoleon Bonaparte, and the book ends with the Battle of Waterloo, a battle where the "shadow" that lay over all Europe was finally dissipated by the English forces. As five of his ancestors had fought there and his mother had awarded the battle a central part in her stories of family history, Doyle had a deep personal interest in Waterloo. And perhaps partly as a result of his early and long familiarity with this event, he made the battle scene, complete with the gun smoke that effectively blinds, deafens, and stifles the men of the 71st Highlanders the best in the book. The sheer confusion of such a battle, the panic of the men and horses, the sense of unreality that permeates the atmosphere, and the immediacy of the life-and-death struggle when the French do suddenly appear out of the smoke, are all captured in this one chapter with the greatest skill.
The next novel, Rodney Stone, serialized in the Strand and published as a novel by Smith Elder and Co., was finished at the end of 1895. This book, set in the time of the Regency, is a tribute to the art of prizefighting. The England of dandies, gaming parlors, highwaymen, the England of gentlemen who would match their horses and their carriages against each other in a race on the public road from Brighton to London, are all vividly evoked as background to the rise of Boy Jim, a simple blacksmith's son who becomes one of the best prizefighters of his day. This novel is very uneven, but so great was Doyle's reputation by this time that he was given an advance of four thousand pounds for the novel and an equally surprising advance of fifteen hundred pounds for the serial rights.
Uncle Bernac, begun in 1896, was Doyle's least favorite work. He knew from the time that he began writing or "labouring" as he characterized his activity, that this book was to be a failure. Planned as a short novel, Uncle Bernac yet "cost me more than any big book. I never seem to be quite in the key, but I must slog through it somehow."20
Unfortunately, Uncle Bernac shows all the defects of such authorial slogging. Set in Napoleonic France at the point when Napoleon's Grand Army was at Boulogne preparing for the invasion of England, the story simply never develops. Doyle's greatest difficulty is that he is not sure whether Napoleon, his chief protagonist, is "a great hero or a great scoundrel"21 so the participation of the hero, Louis, in Boney's service is fundamentally problematic. Unlike the figure of Cromwell in Micah Clarke, the ambitious narcissistic Corsican soldier is not a character that Doyle respects or admires. As an indication of Doyle's xenophobic confusion, Napoleon is variously described as a dictator, a womanizer, a poet, a cruel manipulator, and a child, while further on he appears as terrible, charming, wolflike, intelligent, and measured.22 So troublesome is this conflict that the book degenerates, after the first hundred pages, into what is a historical exercise in portraiture, a portrait which Doyle achieves by simply recreating several days in Napoleon's life.
To the careful reader, Uncle Bernac suggests that Doyle was tired of the form of the historical novel. Apparently, there was nothing further that he wanted to say. It seems as though Doyle was being personally astute about his lack of interest in the form when, at the end of Uncle Bernac, he apologizes to the reader for the verbose coverage of Louis' troubles: "You have already heard more of them perhaps than you care for" (Bernac, 307).
The Last and Best: Sir Nigel
However, in 1904, fourteen years after The White Company appeared, Doyle undertook his last and best historical novel, one that was to act as a chivalric companion to The White Company —Sir Nigel. As the title indicates, the hero of this work is Nigel Loring, but the novel is not a sequel to The White Company ; instead it is set some forty years before The White Company at a time when the young Nigel Loring, the venerable knight/teacher to Alleyne Edricson in the earlier book, is himself approaching manhood.
Like The White Company, Sir Nigel begins with a scene in a monastery where a single culprit is about to be severely punished by the ecclesiastical might of the large and powerful Abbey of Waverley. On first reading, these opening scenes are almost identical, for the crimes of the transgressor are very small in comparison to the power and greed of the abbey, but in fact the opening scene at Waverley suggests the central difference between the two novels. In The White Company, the culprit is John of Hordle, a character whose expulsion from the abbey sets the stage for the coming together of the band of comrades. Hordle, with his love for life, is not compatible with the sickly monks, and their parting is relatively painless. But in Sir Nigel the young hero himself is the innocent victim of blatant religious greed and intolerance. Unlike The White Company, which examines the relationship of a group of friends to the society they serve, Sir Nigel concentrates on a single individual, the young Nigel who, as Nordon suggests, "gives us the impression of controlling his own fate to the fullest limits allowed by freedom of the will."23 Nigel's confrontation with the ecclesiastical hierarchy is thus made more terrible since he stands alone in the struggle between good and evil.
Similarly, the picaresque elements of The White Company are subsumed in Sir Nigel to the demands of a plot that revolves around Nigel Loring's vow to do three great deeds before returning to England to claim the hand of the "grave featured" Mary Buttesthorn.24 The serial adventures of the friends of the White Company are replaced in Sir Nigel by the quest of a single hero whose journey serves to emphasize both a love of individual freedom and what Nordon calls "the code of chivalry in action."25
Initially, Nigel personifies only the former. We hear of his putting pike in the abbot's carp pond as revenge against the tyrannical abbey and of his "mishandling the messenger" who comes to summon him to his trial (Nigel, 47). Nigel's boyish attempts to wreak vengeance on the church are about to be severely punished when, at the very moment when the Lorings stand to lose their remaining few acres, the secular might of the king is interposed between the abbot and Nigel. The arrival of the king's messenger at Waverley also presages a movement from local to national affairs, a movement which heralds the start of Nigel's adventure.
Before Nigel sets out on his marvelous quest for adulthood and honor, he must, as all heroes must, be equipped with the weapons that he will need. While his father's armor is clearly too big for the youthful Nigel, he wears it nonetheless and so impresses the great knight Sir John Chandos with his audacity and skill that he is given "a bag of gold pieces" which he uses to buy a cunningly woven suit of armor, "that very suit for which he had yearned" (Nigel, 113-114).
The winning of a war horse is a more complicated matter and one that pits Nigel's strength and spirit against the unruly "yellow horse of Crooksbury" (Nigel, 14). The horse is as much an outsider in the placid everyday life of the village as Nigel is himself, while his proportions suggest a destiny that will parallel the young knight's: "Fetlock deep in the lush grass there stood a magnificent horse, such as a sculptor or a soldier might thrill to see. His color was a light chestnut with mane and tail of a more tawny tint. Seventeen hands high, with a barrel and haunches which bespoke tremendous strength he fired down to the most delicate lines of dainty breed in neck and crest and shoulder" (Nigel, 17).
In a passage familiar to every reader of romance and adventure and one that presages the hero's own experience, Nigel appears just as the great horse is about to savage a monk who has dared to try to capture the wild horse: "his head craned high, his ears erect, his mane bristling, his red nostrils opening and shutting with wrath, and his flashing eyes turning from side to side in haughty menace and defiance" (Nigel, 17).
Traditionally, when such an animal appears in older tales it has magical properties, but here it is only the simple monks, representing the uninitiated, who believe that the horse has supernatural origins: "the Devil is loose in the five-virgate field!" (Nigel, 13). Nigel, however, recognizing the same qualities in the horse that he prizes in himself, understands immediately that the horse is superior not supernatural. In a six-page passage that is clearly symbolic, Nigel masters the wild animal by riding it until they both drop exhausted on the ground. "You are my horse, Pommers," Nigel whispered, and he laid his cheek against the craning head. "I know you, Pommers, and you know me, and with the help of Saint Paul we shall teach some other folk to know us both" (Nigel, 28).
The recognition scene in which Nigel first names the horse, then claims him for his own, then walks side by side with him as an equal back to the village, is the scene in which Nigel attains the status of hero because the conquest of the horse represents the beginning of his conquest of his own destructive passions. In the battle for mastery both horse and rider are cleansed of their hate and anger, but only the horse has—as yet—learned to bend his will to another's commands.
The lesson that Nigel quickly teaches Pommers, to accept the idea of freedom within restraint, is one that Nigel learns more slowly. The lesson is first clearly enunciated by Sir John Chandos even before Nigel begins his quest. Speaking of some of his own early encounters, Chandos terms them "follies" and when Nigel hotly disputes this, crying, "Are they not the means by which honorable advancement may be gained and one's lady exalted," Chandos lectures him on the need for control and moderation: "But as one grows older and commands men, one has other things to think of. One thinks less of one's own honour and more of the safety of the army" (Nigel, 63-64).
Nigel accomplishes the first task of the three that he vowed to perform for the honor of St. Catherine and the Lady Mary when he helps lead a secret attack on a castle held by the French. The squire's second task, however, leads him to make exactly the mistake that Chandos had warned him against. In the heat of the battle, Nigel gives in to his notion of personal honor and leads a group of English archers in a suicidal attempt to break down the door that guards the entrance to the moat. Nigel's reasons are personal, chivalric ones, "for our fair ladies' sake" (Nigel, 257), but as a result of his misplaced heroism seven archers are killed and thirteen men at arms wounded. Knolles is furious and threatens to send Nigel ignominiously back to England: "Who was he, a raw squire, that he should lead an attack without orders? See what his crazy knight errantry had brought about?" (Nigel, 260).
Nigel finally manages to exonerate himself but not until, accepting the blame, he has chastised himself: "he withdrew apart, threw himself down amongst the bushes, and wept the hottest tears of his life, sobbing bitterly with his head between his hands" (Nigel, 260). Nigel's own cleansing tears presage his "breaking-in" period wherein his idea of anarchic freedom dies and a form of freedom, one that can be disciplined to the needs of other people, is born. When Nigel does return to the castle to rescue a friend, he does so without any thought of personal gain. And he wins honor precisely because his act was not motivated by base desire.
In an incident that demonstrates that he has learnt the chivalric lesson of unselfishness Nigel's third task is accomplished when he captures John, king of France, but does not want to gain the honor of holding him for ransom. Nigel's duty as a squire demands that he be at his master's side at all times so, after capturing the king, he leaves John of France on the battlefield while he carries out his squire's duties. Nigel's humility and "greatness of soul"26 are thus rewarded with a knighthood.
The wedding of Nigel and Mary provides the traditional celebratory end to the romance, with the final blessing being given by Mary's father: "Now, take an old man's blessing, and may God keep and guard you both, and give you your desert, for I believe in my soul that in all this broad land there dwells no nobler man nor any woman more fitted to be his mate!" (Nigel, 344).
Although the story of Nigel is completed with that, Doyle has not finished. In a final authorial exhortation, he emphatically binds the present to the past: "And yet even gnawing time has not eaten all things away. Walk with me toward Guilford, reader, upon the busy highway. Here, where the high green mound rises before us, mark yonder roofless shrine which still stands four-square to the winds. It is St. Catherine's where Nigel and Mary plighted their faith" (Nigel, 345). This suggestion, that the past is an enduring part of the present and that its influence is still strong (the shrine, "four-square to the winds"), shows that one of Doyle's motives in writing this book was to remind his readers of England's glorious past in an effort to encourage them to come to grips with their contemporary problems.
The end returns the reader full circle to the beginning of Sir Nigel, to a country struggling to reconstitute itself after the awful devastation caused by the Black Death. We are told that in the period following this dreadful plague, at such a time of crisis, a different, freer England was being formed. Although Sir Nigel begins with this, the full import of this framing device is not felt until the end, when Doyle states that such a time has come again and that the heroism of the past must serve as an example and inspiration for present-day Englishmen and women. Like Shakespeare's histories, which stress the need to recognize the precise nature of the historical moment and to act quickly and decisively when that time demands, Doyle's conclusion warns the British people that the time for such action is come again. He does not specify any actual problem or point to any particular crisis, but he is talking about a world where all the many problems of postindustrialism were beginning to surface. As the old safe standards associated with Victorianism faded away, Doyle expressed his anxiety about what the twentieth century would mean to England.
Sir Nigel is an expression of that anxiety contained in a hymn to the past, a hymn which also serves as a call to English men and women to be as strong in this time of change as their ancestors:
The body man lie in mouldering chancel, or in crumbling vault, but the rumor of noble lives, the record of valor and truth can never die, but lives on in the soul of the people. Our own work lies ready to our hands; and yet our strength may be the greater and our faith the firmer if we spare an hour from present toils to look back upon the women who were gentle and strong, or the men who loved honor more than life on this green stage of England where for a few short years we play our little part.
- For a full discussion of this issue, see Helen Cam's essay, "The Historical Novel" in Routledge & Kegan Paul pamphlet (historical association pamphlet number G.48), Great Britain, 1961.
- Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, 187.
- Thomas Babington Macauley, History of England, vols. 1 and 2 appeared in 1848, vols. 3 and 4 in 1855; vol. 5 was published posthumously in 1861.
- Quoted in Pierre Nordon, Conan Doyle, trans. Frances Partridge. (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1967), 288.
- Micah Clarke (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1889). All further page references will be to this edition and cited hereafter in the text as MC.
- See Frye, Anatomy of Criticism, 186.
- See Campbell, The Hero, 210.
- For a fuller treatment of this argument, see Nordon, Conan Doyle, 286-97.
- Quoted in Carr, Life, 83.
- Andrew Lang, Adventures among Books (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1905), 279-80.
- The White Company (London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1891), 6; hereafter cited in the text as WC.
- Nordon, Conan Doyle, 309.
- See Carr, Life, 86.
- Amy Cruse, The Victorians and Their Reading, (London: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1935), 34.
- Quoted in Carr, Life, 102.
- Ibid., 135.
- Ibid., 147.
- Ibid., 148.
- Uncle Bernac (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1897), 158; hereafter cited in the text as Bernac.
- See Nordon, Conan Doyle, 312.
- Sir Nigel (New York: McClure, Phillips & Co., 1906), 116; hereafter cited in the text as Nigel.
- See Nordon, Conan Doyle, 312.
- Ibid., 313.
1. The Non-Holmes Novels
(Periodical publication dates are given in parentheses.)
Micah Clarke. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1889.
The Firm of Girdlestone; A Romance of the Unromantic. London: Chatto & Windus, 1890.
The White Company. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1891. (Cornhill Magazine, January-December 1891; New York Sun, May-August 1891.)
The Doings of Raffles Haw. London: Cassell & Co., 1892. Reprinted, 1912.
The Fate of Fenella. New York: Cassell & Co., 1892. No English edition. (Twenty-four chapters, each by different authors who were familiar with the preceding chapters. Doyle wrote chapter 4.)
The Great Shadow. Bristol, England: Arrowsmith, 1893. (Louisville Courier-Journal, 2 October-6 November 1892; Chicago Tribune, same dates.)
The Refugees. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1893. (Harper's magazine, January-December 1893.)
The Parasite. London: Constable & Co., 1894. (Harper's weekly, November-December 1984.)
The Stark Munro Letters. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1895. (Idler, October 1894-November 1895; Leslie's Weekly, December 1894-April 1895.)
Rodney Stone. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1896. (Strand, January-December 1896.)
Uncle Bernac. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1897. (Queen, January-March 1897; Cosmopolitan Magazine, same dates.)
The Tragedy of the Korosko. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1898. (Strand, May-December 1897; American Strand, June 1897-January 1898.)
A Duet, With an Occasional Chorus. London: Grant Richards, 1899.
Sir Nigel. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1906. (Strand, December 1905-December 1906.)
The Lost World. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1912. (Strand, April-November 1912.) The more readily available edition is Pocket Classics (Gloucester, England: Alan Sutton, 1984).
The Poison Belt. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1913. (Strand, March-July 1913.) The more readily available edition is The Adventures of Professor Challenger (London: W. H. Allen & Co., 1985) which contains all the Challenger stories except The Lost World. The Professor Challenger Stories (London: John Murray, 1952) has the complete collection.
The Land of Mist. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1926. (Strand, July 1925-March 1926.)
2. The Non-Holmes Collected Stories
(This lists those collections published in Doyle's lifetime. The note following indicates which editions are still available and those which have been recently reprinted.)
Dreamland and Ghostland. London: Redway, n.d. (ca. 1889).
The Captain of the "Pole Star" and Other Tales. London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1890. (This edition is still available.)
The Gully of Bluemansdyke. London: Walter Scott, 1893. (This edition is currently available.)
My Friend the Murderer. New York: Lovell, Coneyell & Co., 1893.
Round the Red Lamp and Other Tales of Medical Life. London: Methuen & Co., 1894.
The Great Keinplatz Experiment. Chicago: Rand McNally & Co., 1894. (This edition is currently available.)
The Exploits of the Brigadier. London: George Newnes, 1896. (A new Pocket Classics edition of these stories was published in 1984.)
The Man from Archangel and Other Tales. New York: Street & Smith, 1898. (This edition is still available.)
The Green Flag. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1900.
Stories of War and Sport. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1902.
The Adventures of Gerard. London: George Newnes, 1903.
Round the Fire Stories. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1908.
The Last Galley. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1908. (This edition is still available.)
Danger! And Other Stories. London: John Murray, 1919. (This edition is still available.)
3. Omnibus Editions
Conan Doyle's Best Books. New York: Collier & Son, n.d. (ca. 1911).
The Conan Doyle Stories. London: John Murray, 1922. Six volumes, including 1. Tales of the Ring & Camp;2. Tales of Pirates & Blue Water;3. Tales of Terror & Mystery;4. Tales of Twilight & the Unseen; 5. Tales of Adventure and Medical Life; and 6. Tales of Long Ago.
The Works of Conan Doyle. New York: W. J. Black, 1928.
The Maracot Deep and Other Stories. London: John Murray, 1929.
The Conan Doyle Historical Romances. London: John Murray, 1930. Two volumes, long and short stories: The White Company, Sir Nigel, Micah Clarke, The Refugees, Rodney Stone, Uncle Bernac, and the Brigadier Gerard stories.
Uncollected Stories: The Unknown Conan Doyle. Edited by John M. Gibson and Richard L. Green. New York: Doubleday & Co., 1982. Draws together thirty-three diverse stories from Doyle's work that serve as a good introduction to the author's narrative skills.
4. The Holmes Novels and Stories
A Study in Scarlet. London: Ward Lock & Co., 1888. (First appeared in its entirety in Beeton's Christmas Annual for 1887.)
The Sign of Four. London: Spencer Blackett, 1890. (Lippincott's Magazine, February 1890.)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. London: George Newnes, 1892. (The first twelve stories, originally published in the Strand, July 1891-December 1892.)
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. London: George Newnes, 1894. (The second series of twelve stories, published in the Strand, December 1892-November 1893, as additional episodes of The Adventures.)
The Hound of the Baskervilles. London: George Newnes, 1902. (Strand, August 1901-April 1902.)
The Return of Sherlock Holmes. London: George Newnes, 1905. Thirteen stories. (Strand, 1903 and January 1905.)
The Valley of Fear. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1915. (Strand, September 1914-May 1915.)
His Last Bow. London: John Murray, 1917. Seven stories. (Strand, September 1908-September 1917.)
The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. London: John Murray, 1927. The final twelve stories. (Strand, October 1921-April 1927).
Collections and Omnibus Editions
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Short Stories. London: John Murray, 1929.
Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Long Stories. London: John Murray, 1929.
The Complete Sherlock Holmes. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1930. The definitive two-volume omnibus, with the famous introduction by Christopher Morley, "In Memoriam Sherlock Holmes."
A Treasury of Sherlock Holmes. Edited by Adrian Conan Doyle. Garden City, N.Y.: Hanover House, 1955. Twenty-seven of the short stories plus A Study in Scarlet and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Introduction by the editor.
The Annotated Sherlock Holmes. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1967. 2 vols. The definitive annotated edition, edited by William Baring-Gould.
The Original Illustrated Sherlock Holmes. Secaucus, N.J.: Castle Books, 1981. Includes the first three volumes of the short stories plus The Hound of the Baskervilles reproduced in facsimile as they first appeared in the Strand.
In 1974, J. Murray, London, issued a reprint of the first editions of the collected stories and the novels. In addition the same material is also available in the series of paperback volumes published, by arrangement with the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, by Berkley Mystery Books.
The Great Boer War. New York: McClure, Phillips & Co., 1900.
The German War. London and New York: Hodder & Stoughton, 1914.
A History of the Great War: The British Campaigns. 6 volumes. New York: George H. Doran Co., 1915-1920. (The American edition of The British Campaign in France and Flanders.)
6. Spiritualist Writings
The New Revelation. New York: George H. Doran Co., 1918.
The Vital Message. New York: George H. Doran Co., 1919.
Spiritualism & Rationalism. New York: George H. Doran Co., 1920.
The Wanderings of a Spiritualist. New York: George H. Doran Co., 1921.
The Coming of the Fairies. London: Hodder & Stoughton, Ltd., 1922.
The Case for Spirit Photography. London: Hutchinson, 1922.
The History of Spiritualism. 2 volumes. New York: George H. Doran Co., 1926.
7. Pamphlets on Public Issues
The War in South Africa, Its Cause and Conduct. London: Smith, Elder, 1902.
The Crime of the Congo. London: Hutchinson & Co., 1909.
The Case for Oscar Slater. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1912.
Great Britain and the Next War. Boston: Small, Maynard & Company, 1914.
The Guards Came Through and Other Poems. London: J. Murray, 1910.
Songs of the Road. London: Smith, Elder, 1911.
Songs of Action. London: Smith, Elder, 1916.
The Story of Waterloo. London: Samuel French, 1900.
The Speckled Band: An Adventure of Sherlock Holmes. London and New York: Samuel French, 1912.
Sherlock Holmes: A Drama in Four Acts. (with William Gillette) Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1935.
Memories and Adventures. Boston: Little Brown & Co., 1924. Even though Doyle is silent on those personal matters where the reader most wishes him to be fulsome, this informative account is the best place to begin to understand the author.
The books and articles that follow are necessarily selective, not because there is a large body of critical work on Doyle's writings—there is not—but because of the extraordinary number of publications devoted to writings about Holmes. There is a growing body of serious scholarly work on detective fiction and Holmes as a fictional construct—which I have indicated—but critical studies on the rest of Doyle's work are scandalously few and far between. Fulfilling Doyle's worst fears of the appeal of his character, Holmes has, it appears, continued to overshadow the bulk of his creator's work. In an effort to redress the balance, I have included those books and articles that best suggest the direction that serious critics might take; I have only included a few examples of the Holmesian (in Britain) or Sherlockian (in the United States) writings. For those readers who are interested in pursuing this latter approach, The Baker Street Journal: An Irregular Quarterly of Sherlockiana, published in New York, or the semiannual Sherlock Holmes Journal, published in London, provide the best introduction.
1. Bibliographic Guides
Green, R. L., ed. A Bibliography of A. Conan Doyle. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.
Locke, H. A Bibliographical Catalogue of the Writings of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, 1879-1928. Tunbridge Wells, England: D. Webster, 1928.
2. Critical Studies—Books
Baring-Gould, William S. Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1962. An exhaustive and informative biography of Holmes demonstrates the phenomenon of the "Sherlockian" writings.
Barzun, Jacques, and Wendell Hertig Taylor. A Catalogue of Crime. New York, 1971. A comprehensive, annotated bibliography of detective fiction from the beginnings to the late 1960s. Perceptive comments on Holmes.
Batho and Dobree, eds. The Victorians and After, 1830-1914. New York: Robert McBride & Co., 1938. Good on the romantic writers associated with Doyle, notably Stevenson and Kipling. Short critical essay on Doyle as a writer of romance is deprecatory, asserting only that "Rodney Stone at least attains a very high level of action."
Cawelti, John G. Adventure, Mystery, and Romance. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1976. Still the best book on interpreting the phenomenon of formulaic stories, in particular the detective story. Suggestive discussion of Holmes linking crime to the middle-class family in late Victorian England.
Cruse, Amy. After the Victorians. London: Allen & Unwin, 1938. Extensive references to Doyle, including Doyle's views on other novelists.
Eco, Umberto, and Thomas Sebeok, eds. The Sign of Three: Dupin, Holmes, Peirce, Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1983. A collection of ten essays in which semioticians decode and disclose the juxtapositions between the life and work of the logician Charles Peirce and the methods employed by Sherlock Holmes. Penetrating and perceptive, this book suggests to critics of Holmes in particular and of detectives in general, the many areas of inquiry still to be undertaken.
Ernst, B. M. L., and Hereward Carrington. Houdini and Conan Doyle: The Story of a Strange Friendship. New York: A and C Bono, 1932. The complicated relationship between the illusionist Harry Houdini and Doyle documented by their extensive correspondence. Provides first-hand evidence of the extent of Doyle's credulity as well as his strict sense of morality. Excellent.
Gibson, John Michael, and Richard Lancelyn Green, eds. The Unknown Conan Doyle: Essays on Photography. New York: Secker & Warburg, 1982. Collection of light and lively essays on photography, written by Doyle for the British Journal of Photography in the 1880s. Useful as social history.
Gillis, James M. False Prophets. New York: Macmillan Co., 1927. A Christian defends Doyle's attack on the Church. The chapter on Doyle as a Spiritualist prophet summarizes the charges leveled at the author in the later years of his life.
Hall, Trevor. Sherlock Holmes and His Creator. London: Duckworth, 1978. Series of essays representing the continuing debate between the faithful followers of the Baker Street Canon and the rest of the world. Fortunately, the mock-scholarly tone is often set aside here so that "Conan Doyle and Spiritualism" is a noteworthy, well-researched look at the writer's frame of mind when he became an adherent. Hall ultimately understands Doyle's embracing of the faith, but he also quotes extensively—in material not generally used—from those who find Doyle's position indefensible.
Haycraft, Howard. Murder for Pleasure: The Life and Times of the Detective Story. New York and London: Appleton, Century Co., 1941. In spite of all the recent works on the subject, this is still the best history of the genre. Includes a seminal chapter on Holmes.
——, ed. The Art of the Mystery Story. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1946. An intelligent and helpful compilation of the most important essays devoted to detective fiction. Includes essays by Dorothy Sayers, G. K. Chesterton, Vincent Starrett, Joseph Wood Krutch, and Marjorie Nicholson.
Knox, Ronald A. Essays in Satire. London: Sheed & Ward, 1928. A structural analysis of the Holmes stories. Hard to read, as the writing attempts the kind of facetiousness endemic to the Holmesians, but worth reading if only for the identification of the eleven segments in A Study in Scarlet.
Leibow, Ely. Dr. Joe Bell: Model for Sherlock Holmes. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Popular Press, 1982. Biography of Doyle's famous medical school teacher. Leibow settles what is surely one of the sillier literary conflicts, namely: Was Dr. Bell the model for Holmes? Doyle's correspondence with Bell—reproduced here—and with members of his own family, seems to leave little room for doubt.
McQueen, Ian. Sherlock Holmes Detected: The Problem of the Long Stories. Newton Abbot: David & Charles, 1974. Analyses of the four Holmes novels.
Murch, A. E. The Development of the Detective Novel. New York: Philosophical Library, 1958. A solid work on the history and development of the genre; particularly good on the nineteenth century with a lively chapter on Doyle.
Ousby, Ian. Bloodhounds of Heaven. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1976. A contemporary, scholarly study of the detective story with excellent chapters on Dickens, Collins, and Doyle.
Parek, Leroy. Watteau's Shepherds: The Detective Novel in Britain, 1914-1940. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green University Press, 1979. Doyle and Holmes used in early chapters. Interestingly, the rise of the detective story is linked to the juvenile paper and schoolboy novel. A particularly important link in relation to Doyle who wrote both kinds of stories with equal gusto.
Peterson, Audrey. Victorian Masters of Mystery: From Wilkie Collins to Conan Doyle. New York: Frederic Ungar, 1984. The final chapter on Doyle discusses Doyle as the detective that he was in the George Edalji case. Adds nothing to what has been stated earlier about this aspect of the author's life.
Redmond, Donald A. Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Sources. Kingston, Ont., Canada: McGill-Queens University Press, 1982. As its title suggests with an emphasis on the names used in the Holmes stories. Bibliography indispensable to all Sherlockians.
Rodin, Alvin E., and Jack D. Kay, Medical Casebook of Doctor Arthur Conan Doyle: From Practitioner to Sherlock Holmes and Beyond. Melbourne, Fla. Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, 1984. A comprehensive account of all Doyle's medical writings. Written to demonstrate the extent and depth of his medical concerns as they appear in all his work. Fine, well-researched biographical information.
Routley, Erik. The Puritan Pleasures of the Detective Story. London: Gollancz, 1972. An informed analysis of reader fascination with Holmes. Also a much-needed critical discussion of Doyle as a writer of romance, linking the detective story to the genre of romance.
Sayers, Dorothy L. Unpopular Opinions. London: Gollancz, 1946. A collection of Miss Sayers's classic essays including those about Holmes and Watson. Excellent.
Shreffler, Philip A., ed. The Baker Street Reader; Cornerstone Writings about Sherlock Holmes. Westport, Conn. and England: Greenwood Press, 1984. A recent compilation of the most famous "Sherlockian" essays drawn from a wide variety of sources and spanning a period of fifty years.
Starrett, Vincent, ed. 221B: Studies in Sherlock Holmes, by Various Hands. New York: Macmillan Co., 1940. Early collection of important essays about Holmes and Watson by the acknowledged expert on that subject. Starrett is always readable and informative.
Stevenson, Lionel. The English Novel: A Panorama. Cambridge, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin Co. [The Riverside Press], 1960. Thought provoking and critically stimulating account of the time, but unfortunately it only relates Doyle briefly to the other writers of romance.
Symons, Julian. Mortal Consequences: From the Detective Story to the Crime Novel: A History. London: Faber & Faber, 1972. Indispensable study of the form. Notable for sensible stand against what he calls "the tedious pieces" on Holmes's life, education, habits, etc.: "By emphasizing and enlarging the myth of Holmes, they tend to obscure Conan Doyle's real and considerable achievement."
Walker, Dale. Jack London, Sherlock Holmes, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Amsterdam, N.Y.: Alvin S. Fick, 1974. Reprint. Bloomington, Ind.: Gaslight Publications, 1981. Although Walker tries to demonstrate the literary kinship that existed between the two authors, the most convincing points are those describing Doyle's kinship with the group of American Spiritualists (London's relatives) who believed in London's "return" from the dead.
Watson, Colin. Snobbery with Violence. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1971. Study of detective story with innumerable references to Doyle and Holmes. Emphasis on class influence and connections makes this study different and important.
Waugh, Charles G., and Martin H. Greenberg, eds. The Best Science Fiction of Arthur Conan Doyle. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press: 1981. Incisive introduction by George E. Slusser to Doyle's scientific romances, with brief but intelligent comments on all the Challenger stories.
3. Critical Studies—Articles
Barolsky, Paul. "The Case of the Domesticated Aesthete." Virginia Quarterly Review 60(3) (1984): 438-52. Sees Holmes as a character typical of the fin de siecle—an aesthete, but overlooks first, that Holmes combines both meditative aesthete and active hero, and, second, that the aesthete side of Holmes declines over the publication of the stories.
Campbell, James L. "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle." In Science Fiction Writers; Critical Studies of the Major Authors from the Early 19th Century to the Present Day, edited by E. F. Bleiler. New York: Scribner's, 1982. Valuable essay. Brief, but pertinent analysis of all the Challenger stories. Draws attention to the largely overlooked long short story "The Maricot Deep," showing how Doyle sees technology aligned with materialism as leading to moral decay.
Clausen, Christopher. "Sherlock Holmes, Order, and the Late-Victorian Mind." Georgia Review 38(1) (Spring 1984): 104-23. The Holmes canon is a "largely overlooked source for the study of late-Victorian ideas, attitudes and culture." Excellent scholarly essay linking desire for social order and middle-class fears of crime to creation of Holmes.
Farell, Kirby. "Heroism, Culture, and Dread in The Sign of Four." Studies in the Novel 16(1) (Spring 1984): 32-51. Doyle's idea about death and Holmes's "power over death" provide the structure that underlies the more obvious theme of crime and detection in the novel. Initial comparison of Holmes to Faust is weak, but the emphasis on the parallelism of "evil" couple, Small and Tonga, and the "good" couple, Holmes and Watson, is provoking and intelligent.
Ferguson, Paul F. "Narrative Vision in The Hound of the Baskervilles." Clues: A Journal of Detection 1(2) (Fall-Winter 1983): 24-30. Good essay demonstrating narrative, design, and intention in The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Hall, Trevor. "Sherlock Holmes: The Higher Criticism." Leeds, England: W. S. Maney & Son, 1971. For those who take pleasure in the idea that Holmes was a living person, this lecture, a parody of scholarly lectures, summarizes the debates that have bedeviled the "Higher Criticism" of the literature of Baker Street.
Jackson, Paul R. "Pale Fire and Sherlock Holmes." Studies in American Fiction 10(1) (Spring 1982): 101-5. References to Holmes as they appear in Nabokov's work. Draws attention to the important position that the detective, as a reader of signs, holds for many modern novelists.
Meikle, Jeffrey. "'Over There': Arthur Conan Doyle and Spiritualism." Library Chronicle of the University of Texas 8 (1974): 23-37. Historical approach to Doyle's Spiritualism, discussing the changes that occurred in the one-time simple adherent, leading to Doyle's stance as prophet and teacher of millions.
Carr, John Dickson. The Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. New York: Harper, 1949. The definitive biography of Arthur Conan. As Carr had access to Doyle's papers on an unprecedented scale, this book is filled with information that is unavailable elsewhere, although many of the "reported" conversations and scenes are actually fictionalized.
Doyle, Adrian Conan. The True Conan Doyle. New York: Coward-McCann, 1946. A defense of his father written in response to what the Doyle family regarded as Hesketh Pearson's unjust biography. This short study is so defensive of Doyle that it raises more questions than it answers.
Edwards, Owen Dudley. The Quest for Sherlock Holmes. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing, 1983. Covers Doyle's first twenty-three years with an epilogue that takes us up to A Study in Scarlet. Too much information about dates, times, and origin of names in the Holmes stories. Interesting speculation about the effects of the author's father's alcoholism on Doyle's life and work.
Hardwick, Michael, and Mollie Hardwick. The Man Who Was Sherlock Holmes. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1964. Particularly sound on the later stages of Doyle's life. Some new information, which leads the authors to some persuasive speculations, including their contention that Doyle lost an offer of a peerage because of his unpopular opinions on Spiritualism.
Higham, Charles. The Adventures of Conan Doyle: The Life of the Creator of Sherlock Holmes. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1976. A lively, well-written but somewhat fanciful account of Doyle's life. Best on the short stories of adventure and terror.
Lamond, John. Arthur Conan Doyle: A Memoir. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1971. Reprint. 1972. A frankly eulogistic biography by an intimate friend of the Doyle family with an emphasis on the Spiritualist years and Doyle's development as a leader of the Spiritualist cause. Contains a glowing epilogue by Lady Conan Doyle.
Nordon, Pierre. Conan Doyle: A Biography. Translated by Frances Partridge. London: John Murray, 1966. Combines accurate biographical information with an informative, intelligent analysis of all the author's work. Of particular interest and help is the chapter on "The Novels of Chivalry." This is the best critical biography of Doyle.
Pearsall, Ronald. Conan Doyle: A Biographical Solution. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1977. Pearsall integrates biographical information with an analysis of Doyle's work, but he concentrates almost exclusively on Holmes. Common-sense approach to Doyle's character.
Pearson, Hesketh. Conan Doyle. London: White Lion Publishers, 1974. The Doyle family felt that this biography tarnished Doyle's reputation. While the tone is often nasty, it does serve as a foil to much that is fawning in other writings about Doyle.
Symons, Julian. Portrait of an Artist: Conan Doyle. London: Whizzard Press, Andre Deutsch, 1979. This small volume gives the usual information about Doyle's life plus some insightful comments about his writings. Supplemented by 122 photographs and illustrations.
Rosemary Jann (essay date autumn 1990)
SOURCE: Jann, Rosemary. "Sherlock Holmes Codes the Social Body." ELH 57, no. 3 (autumn 1990): 685-708.
[In the following essay, Jann argues that Doyle's use of detailed observation and logical reasoning in his Sherlock Holmes stories functions to reinforce normalizing ideologies of societal control regarding class and gender.]
It is my business to know things. That is my trade.1
The persistent appeal of the Sherlock Holmes stories owes much to his all but invincible accuracy in recognizing which facts are clues and in forcing them to tell their tales. Many critics have followed Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's biographer Pierre Nordon in viewing Holmes as a resonant symbol of the late Victorian faith in the power of logic and rationality to insure order, but fewer have focused on the narrative manipulation necessary to guarantee his positivistic triumphs.2 Although Sherlock Holmes claims that "guessing" is a "shocking habit—destructive to the logical faculty" ("SIGN" ["Sign of Four" ], 93), the familiar pattern whereby he identifies the traces of crime and evaluates their relationship in fact rests on the constant informed guessing of hypothesis formation and testing. The contributors to The Sign of Three amply demonstrate that Holmes's logic is patterned less on induction or deduction than on what Charles Peirce defined as abduction and Holmes calls "analytic" reasoning ("STUD" ["Study in Scarlet" ], 83): moving backwards from an effect to hypothesize about the situation(s) that could have caused it.3 Unlike Peirce, however, Holmes seldom tests the logical validity of his abductions; as Marcello Truzzi points out, Holmes's apparent wizardry rests largely on the fact that Doyle has simply arranged the plots so that the detective either guesses correctly the first time, or easily eliminates alternative hypotheses.4 The "logical" solution has been created in order to be discovered; the "facts" are allowed to tell only one tale.
Holmes also differs from Peirce by stressing not the originality and creativity of abduction, but its close conformity to recognized codes and laws. An important effect of Doyle's fictional project is to reassure readers of the reliability of such codes and to render logical the social order that they imply. Holmes's conclusions are "elementary" ("CROO" ["Crooked Man" ], 412) because his method is nothing "but systematized common sense" ("BLAN" ["Blanched Soldier" ], 1011). Doyle reinforces this view by having Watson repeatedly admit how "ridiculously simple" ("SCAN" ["Scandal in Bohemia" ], 162) is Holmes's reasoning once explained (e.g., "DANC" ["Dancing Men" ], 511). Holmes's investigations relentlessly transform what might be merely "subjective" guesses into "objective" facts ("SUSS" ["Sussex Vampire" ], 1042) and thus reaffirm the transparency of his logic and the "common sense" assumptions it is based upon.5
The myth of rationality that Doyle constructs in the Holmes stories relies heavily on the posited but seldom tested validity of indexical codes of body and behavior that allow Holmes infallibly to deduce character and predict actions from gesture and appearance. Doyle modeled Holmes's method on that used by his professor at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Dr. Joseph Bell, for diagnosing not just his patients' medical ills but also their recent or habitual behavior.6 Linking such "symptoms" to Freudian slips and the trademark techniques of particular artists, Carlo Ginzburg has underlined the importance of their being unconscious and difficult to dissemble, so that the body can't help but betray its secrets to the "scientific" specialist.7 Holmes "claimed by a momentary expression, a twitch of a muscle or a glance of an eye, to fathom a man's inmost thoughts. Deceit, according to him, was an impossibility in the case of one trained to observation and analysis" ("STUD," 23). He is constantly searching for "traces of . . . individuality" ("SIGN," 112), but these are interpretable precisely because they can always be referred to quite deterministic codes of class, gender, and ethnicity that are always already there to render true "individuality" an illusion; Holmes "never make[s] exceptions. An exception disproves the rule" ("SIGN," 96). What Allan Sekula suggests about nineteenth-century physiognomy and phrenology is equally true of the more elaborate typologies based upon them in the Holmes stories: they create the distinctions that they purport to observe, in effect constructing categories of the normative while appearing merely to interpret them. Such typologies can be seen as playing an important part in the increasing specification of individuality that for Michel Foucault is directly proportional to the social control exercised in modern disciplinary systems; as power becomes more anonymous, those most subject to it become less so—they are in effect controlled by having all aspects of their identities subject to surveillance and measured against posited norms of behavior. By being able to reduce even the most bizarre details to their proper place in such typologies, Holmes helps enforce the fixity and naturalness of the social ordering that rests upon them. The effect of his "trade" in "facts" is to protect social order by a continual reiteration of normalcy. As D. A. Miller puts it, the detective's "super vision" creates "the prospect of an absolute surveillance under which everything would be known, incriminated, policed."8
It is important to note that it is not just the criminal body, but the entire social body that must be coded in the Holmes adventures, since discipline, as Foucault points out, "individualizes bodies" not by a fixed position but by their relative position in a ranked order, a network of relations through which they circulate (Discipline and Punish, 145-46). If we accept Sekula's formulation of the two major models for criminal investigation in the late nineteenth century—one focused on the specification of the characteristic criminal body, the other on identifying the actual bodies of specific criminals guilty of specific crimes (18)—we can see that Doyle in effect applies both models to the entire social order. The "individuality" of clients and criminals is equally subject to specifying codes, codes that in turn assume the existence of fixed behavioral types. Everyone in the Holmes universe becomes Foucault's "calculable man" (Discipline and Punish, 193).
My main objective in examining the sources and elaboration of such codes in the Holmes canon is to consider Doyle's use of various nineteenth-century typologies to give "scientific" support to a particular social order and to focus on instabilities in the classification of class and gender that betray Doyle's ideological investments. Catherine Belsey, following Pierre Macherey, has noted the ways feminine sexuality eludes the rational solution of mystery promised by the Holmes stories; my concern lies more with evasions of coding that similarly expose the incompleteness of Doyle's positivistic enterprise.9 Although in theory the order of the Holmesian universe rests on the inescapable typing of all classes, in practice the upper classes are more likely to elude the determinism of such typing, just as they more successfully resist the exposure of their secrets and escape the penalties of the criminal justice system. Holmes's purported success at assuming new personalities through disguise ("BLAC" ["Black Peter" ], 559) is the best example of this evasion; it exposes the artificiality of such codes—for how can behavior so presumably natural be so easily counterfeited?—and in the process makes clear the unequal subordination to social control that ideology wishes to conceal.
"Data! data! data!" he cried impatiently. "I can't make bricks without clay."
("COPP" ["Copper Beeches" ], 322)
Sherlock Holmes's "extraordinary genius for minutiae" ("SIGN," 91) and his insistence that a "cold and unemotional manner" alone can make detection an "exact science" ("SIGN," 90) are presented as the most prominent traits of his character. And yet notwithstanding his frequent cautions against theorizing without data (e.g., "STUD," 27; "VALL" ["Valley of Fear" ], 779; "DEVI" ["Devil's Foot" ], 960), Holmes does not really follow "docilely wherever fact may lead" ("REIG" ["Reigate Puzzle" ], 407). He may not be misled by social "prejudices" ("REIG," 407), but he sees clues others miss precisely because he is looking for them, because he has already formed a hypothesis that predicts the relevant evidence ("SILV" ["Silver Blaze" ], 343). When chided by dull-witted police inspectors for being carried away by "mere" theories ("SIGN," 113; "BOSC" ["Boscombe Valley Mystery" ], 213), he always turns out to be correct. He insists that an impersonal and inflexible logic guarantees the correctness of his "deductions" ("COPP," 317; "SPEC" ["Speckled Band" ], 258), but he is actually able to mold the "clay" of facts correctly every time because Doyle has already determined the shape of the brick. His dazzling successes in apparently reading Watson's mind ("DANC," 511; "CARD" ["Cardboard Box" ], 888-90) are only the most obvious instances in which Holmes pulls off feats of deduction because Doyle has artificially limited the range of possible interpretations of behavior, making what is only possible seem inevitable. Doyle perhaps unconsciously admits as much by having Holmes chide Watson for achieving "meretricious" effects by withholding "some factors in the problem which are never imparted to the reader" ("CROO," 412) until the case is complete, although of course Holmes himself encourages just such effects by concealing all details of his solutions until they have been vindicated ("VALL," 787).
Moreover, despite Holmes's assertions that logic and imagination are incompatible ("EMPT" ["Empty House" ], 495), it is "the scientific use of the imagination" that allows him to "balance probabilities and choose the most likely" ("HOUN" ["Hound of the Baskervilles" ], 687). Many of his solutions depend, like his mind-reading, upon his ability to imagine what others would have done or thought under particular circumstances. Inspector Gregory in "Silver Blaze" and Officer Lestrade in "Norwood Builder" fail not because they lack logic, but because they are too vulgarly commonsensical. They lack the comprehensive grasp of human experience that presumably allows Holmes to imagine how a suspect behaved ("SILV," 344; "NORW" ["Norwood Builder" ], 501). "You know my methods" he reminds Watson in "The Musgrave Ritual" :
I put myself in the man's place, and, having first gauged his intelligence, I try to imagine how I should myself have proceeded under the same circumstances. In this case the matter was simplified by Brunton's intelligence being quite first-rate, so that it was unnecessary to make any allowance for the personal equation, as the astronomers have dubbed it.
As these remarks suggest, Holmes's "imagination" is guided by the thorough predictability of human behavior, a predictability that depends on all forms of behavior being as easily quantified, classified, and comparatively ranked as intelligence is here. A client can be treated as "a mere unit, a factor in a problem" ("SIGN," 96), because the laws of human behavior are as regular as the "propositions of Euclid" ("STUD," 23). Holmes cites the late-Victorian rationalist Winwood Reade as his authority for claiming that "while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty" ("SIGN," 137), his actions predictable by statistical probabilities. Because in crime, as in all other forms of human endeavor, there is "nothing new under the sun" ("STUD," 29), Holmes can rely on earlier criminal cases to guide him in present ones (e.g. "REDH" ["Red-Headed League" ], 176-77). Similarly, Holmes is able to solve the riddles of individuality by referring details back to codes that reliably interpret them. Standing behind such codes is that staple of late-Victorian materialism, the deterministic order of the "great chain" of life, a vision of nature in which interconnectedness insures the fixed position of each part ("STUD," 23). To the logician, a drop of water implies the Atlantic ("STUD," 23); to the "ideal reasoner," a single fact betrays the template of actions that formed it as inevitably and naturally as a single bone leads a Cuvier back to the only species to which it could have belonged ("FIVE" ["Five Orange Pips" ], 225).
To perfect his art, of course, the "ideal reasoner" must be able to command a virtually encyclopedic knowledge. Hence, Holmes is constantly "docketing" ("SIXN" ["Six Napoleons" ], 587; "SUSS," 1035) information for future reference either mentally ("LION" ["Lion's Mane" ], 1090) or literally in his voluminous indexes ("BRUC" ["Bruce-Partington Plans" ], 913). Not surprisingly, he professes himself an enthusiastic admirer of Alphonse Bertillon ("NAVA" ["Naval Treaty" ], 460), the French criminologist who kept indexes of physical measurements by which he hoped to specify the "characteristic elements of individuality" that would infallibly identify criminal offenders.10 According to Dr. James Mortimer, however, as a "practical man of affairs" Holmes knows how to employ his scientific precision more productively than Bertillon ("HOUN," 672-73); for the "practical" agent of social order, facts are presumably not ends in themselves but the means to control others. Holmes, like his brother Mycroft, has a brain like a great storehouse of apparently miscellaneous and irrelevant facts, available for the moment when by retrieving and then "focusing" them, he will reveal them to be parts of a pre-existing system of meaning waiting to be discovered and utilized to solve crimes, or in Mycroft's case, to determine national policy ("BRUC," 914; "LION," 1090). Massimo Bonfantini and Giampaolo Proni are surely correct in arguing that the detective is engaged not in hermeneutics but in puzzle solving, seeking the one correct answer from a finite and predetermined set of clue-fitting possibilities.11 Holmes shares with Watson a "love of all that is bizarre and outside the conventions and humdrum routine of everyday life" ("REDH," 176) not just because the grotesque is so often linked to the criminal ("WIST" ["Wisteria Lodge" ], 869), but because such details, by demanding explanation, lead the "scientific" analyst ("HOUN," 764) most directly to the deeper conventions of behavior according to which they are no longer bizarre.12 Nothing is "so unnatural as the commonplace" ("IDEN" ["Case of Identity" ], 191) because it is too featureless to be coded. The "colourless, uneventful case" alone is hopeless ("SHOS" ["Shoscombe Old Place" ], 1108) because its details offer no contrast or difference by which they can be assigned a place in a system of meaning. Holmes's success in making "trifles" ("BOSC," 214) reveal essences rests on the fact that he is presumed to be detecting a natural and transcendent order whose determinism is so all-embracing that even the smallest details signify the whole.
"How do you know?" "I saw their traces."
("RESI" ["Resident Patient" ], 432)
Doyle helped create the tradition of the detective distinguished by his skill at reading the signs the body involuntarily leaves behind. Criminals, Holmes assures Watson, always create "some indentation, some abrasion, some trifling displacement" of the environment that the "scientific searcher" can discover ("BLAC," 562): footprints betray their maker's height, bloodstains his physical type, fingerprints his unique identity ("STUD," 33, 85; "NORW," 506). But every body, criminal or client, unwittingly gives and receives marks that make its "personality" ("BOSC," 214) subject to moral as well as physical appraisal. Holmes's abilities go far beyond the simple grasp of correspondences by which disordered dress always betrays disordered minds (e.g., "IDEN," 192; "DEVI," 956); he astounds Watson as much by reading the signs of individuality left on pipes, watches, and bootlaces ("YELL" ["Yellow Face" ], 352) as he does by reading minds: indeed, for Holmes it is virtually the same act. Watson's family watch reveals to Holmes the drunkenness and poverty of his brother, and Henry Baker's hat not just his age and hair color but his foresight, his impoverishment, his moral decline, and his estrangement from his wife ("SIGN," 92; "BLUE" ["Blue Carbuncle" ], 246-47). For Holmes, objects submit themselves to natural ranking as readily as people; by mastering all possible classifications of cigar ashes, typefaces, bicycle tires, and perfumes, he can force these objects to collaborate in his further specification of the individuals who use them ("STUD," 33; "HOUN," 686; "PRIO" ["Priory School" ], 547; "HOUN," 765).
In addition to participating in an inherent ordering, objects are also important for the way they mark bodies in distinguishing ways, as mud marks the left arm of one riding in a dog cart ("SPEC," 259) or a peddle marks the cyclist's shoe ("SOLI" ["Solitary Cyclist" ], 527). It is not just conventional behavior—the sailor's rum drinking or the sporting talk of the breeder ("BLAC," 571; "GLOR" ["Gloria Scott" ], 380) that Doyle uses to type people, but their very bodies. The weaver's tooth, the compositor's thumb ("COPP," 317), the different hands formed by cutting cork, laying slate, and polishing diamonds ("SIGN," 91), all demonstrate the internalization of labor by the worker's body.13 And yet Holmes's sweeping claim that a man's calling is "plainly revealed" by his fingernails, callouses, and the state of his clothing ("STUD," 23) is clearly much truer of the working than of the middle and upper classes. Where the lower classes are classified indelibly by their collisions with the world of objects, higher classes are marked from the inside out, not by what they have done but by what they "are." The essence of their moral and intellectual identities is inscribed in their faces, heads, and the bearing of their bodies.
This privileging of higher, less material expression over the lower, more physical body has affinities with what Peter Stallybrass and Allon White characterize as a common tactic in the late Victorian "politics of transgression": the projection of bodily functions onto the working classes and the dark nether world in which they lived—the same nether world Holmes must so often explore in the pursuit of crime.14 Doyle's use of such a tactic suggests that the naturalizing of class difference wins out over his desire to submit the entire social body to a uniform degree of coding. This reading of the body politic also reflects in some respects methods applied in the early nineteenth-century French physiologies—those handbooks of description and illustration which, according to Walter Benjamin, assured people threatened by the anonymity of the modern city that the profession, life style, and moral character of strangers could be read by external signs. As such methods were later developed by writers like Poe and caricaturists like Honore Daumier and Henry Monnier, however, the bourgeois was just as easily stereotyped as the worker, whereas Doyle subjects only the lower classes to such strict predictability. The effect of most of Doyle's codings is to define all Others by their deviation from a natural unmarked self that was male, British, and at least bourgeois.15
In these codings of others, Doyle relies upon the authority of a variety of Victorian strategies for demonstrating the physical bases of difference. Watson assumes and Holmes endorses virtually every scientific and pseudoscientific system of bodily signs available in the nineteenth century, with the usual effect of blurring the line between the voluntarily or culturally influenced and the biologically programmed. Holmes advocates the kind of hereditary determinism common in the late nineteenth century, solving "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box" by detecting a family resemblance in the ears of victim and client, for instance, or realizing that Stapleton must be a Baskerville by his resemblance to the portrait of the evil Sir Hugo ("CARD," 896; "HOUN," 750). More importantly, moral traits are considered similarly inheritable, so that the abnormal cruelty of a child can incriminate his parents in "The Copper Beeches" (330). Holmes's theory that "the individual represents in his development the whole procession of his ancestors, and that such a sudden turn to good or evil stands for some strong influence which came into the line of his pedigree" ("EMPT," 494) is employed most usefully to explain the criminal "stain" in men like Moriarty ("FINA" ["Final Problem" ], 470-71) or his second in command, Moran ("EMPT," 494). But for Holmes as well, the artist's blood that he shares with Mycroft plays a larger role in accounting for their shared genius in detection than does the training each has received ("GREE" ["Greek Interpreter" ], 435). Of course, the alleged biological determinism of that genius deflects no credit from Holmes, any more than the inherited criminality of Moriarty and Moran absolves them from moral responsibility for their crimes.16 Biology may be destiny, but free will remains the foundation for moral judgment in Doyle's world.
Doyle's similar reliance on ethnic stereotyping reflects the widespread interest in "racial" differences in late Victorian science. 17 Some kinds of cultural signs are strictly conventional, like the letters printed by Germans ("STUD," 33), the calls by which Australians communicate ("BOSC," 213), or the blow-pipes, tropical snakes, and other exotic artifacts that so often lead Holmes to the guilty. But bodies betray "racial" essences as well, in their feet ("SIGN," 127), but more often in their typically African ("YELL," 361), Greek ("GREE," 438), Italian ("NAVA," 449), Old English ("DANC," 513) or Sussex ("LION," 1085) faces. In the later and less inspired stories, such ethnic stereotyping hardens into a prop, whereby deviance from the English "type" invariably signals criminal propensities. The most common sign of the "strange, outlandish blood" ("LION," 1084) that conduces to violence is dark skin, which signals the "tropical" imbalance of the Tiger of San Pedro ("WIST," 884) and of several South American wives ("SUSS," 1038; "THOR" ["Problem of Thor Bridge" ], 1066), the "almost Oriental" depravity of the Baron Gruner ("ILLU" ["Illustrious Client" ], 996), as well as the presumed inferiority of the American black ("3GAB" ["Three Gables" ], 1023; but compare "YELL," 361).
The logic behind such ethnic essentialism also informs Doyle's class and criminal typologies: signs of moral and intellectual "nature" were indelibly inscribed on the surface of the body, and particularly on the face. Such assumptions were underpinned by still vigorous popular traditions of physiognomy and its related branches of pathognomy and phrenology, which gave varying degrees of quasi-scientific status to reading the face and head in the nineteenth century. Although Doyle does incorporate some references to phrenology—in the anthropometrical interests of James Mortimer ("HOUN," 672) or in Moriarty's surprise that Holmes lacks "frontal development" ("FINA," 472), for instance—physiognomical conventions provided him a wider and more various range of possibilities for social coding. It is usually Watson's "quick eye for faces" ("RETI" ["Retired Colourman" ], 1116) that records and interprets their appearances, but Holmes and the occasional third person narrator clearly follow the same conventions (e.g., "BLAN," 1001; "MAZA" ["Mazarin Stone" ], 1015-16). Holmes's ability to read Watson's mind rests largely on the validity of pathognomy, the reading of emotions from facial expression. In claiming that "the features are given to man as the means by which he shall express his emotions" ("RESI," 423), Holmes leaves conveniently ambiguous the sanction for such correspondences: was the face, as Johann Caspar Lavater had claimed, shaped by God to reveal one's moral state, or shaped by adaptation through the process of evolution, as Darwin's 1872 The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals had argued?18 Either explanation renders changes in facial expressions transparent and unambiguous when "scientifically" interpreted: Holmes easily determines whether contorted features signify guilt ("RESI," 430), terror ("DEVI," 957), agony ("LION," 1084) or hatred ("SUSS," 1043).
Physiognomical conventions were more important than pathognomical ones in determining character since they were presumably more permanent, while enjoying the same kind of sanction: Watson identifies the cruel mouth that disfigures Baron Gruner's otherwise handsome face as "Nature's danger-signal, set as a warning to his victims" ("ILLU," 996). Holmes similarly identifies moral character with physical appearance when he pronounces Mortimer Trengennis's "foxy face and small, shrewd, beady eyes" the signs of a particularly unforgiving disposition ("DEVI," 966). This process of physiognomical correspondence is extended by Doyle to lend a quasi-biological justification to a whole range of bodily signs linked to class and gender. Although Holmes allows that "finesse" is usually the product of "higher education" ("SIGN," 135), the distinction between acquired and innate traits is often ambiguous. Take handwriting, for instance. It seems plausible enough to detect in it the writer's level of education (e.g., "CARD," 891; "CREE" ["Creeping Man" ], 1073, 1082). But for Holmes it just as infallibly reveals traits less subject to conscious cultivation: strength or weakness of character, for instance ("SIGN," 96; "REIG," 407), or the writer's gender ("WIST," 874; "CARD," 891; "REDC" ["Red Circle" ], 906). "Bearing" presents similar problems. Former officers have a military "air" about them ("STUD," 24), a certain "carriage" ("STUD," 26) or "cut" of their figures ("BLAN," 1000) or an "expression of authority" ("GREE," 437) that infallibly reveals their profession to Holmes. These signs could perhaps result from an internalization of disciplinary training, not unlike the marks of trade on the worker's body; but when one considers that many officers were still self-selected from the middle and upper classes, their air of authority could just as easily be the outward manifestation of an inward superiority.
For class has its own bearing and physiognomy; good "breeding," as the term suggests, is a process of transmitting essences born in the blood and inscribed in face and body. It creates "exceedingly aristocratic" ("MUSG" ["Musgrave Ritual" ], 388) as well as refined and cultured faces ("3GAB," 1024), and gives gentlemen an unequivocal bearing ("NORW," 497-98; "HOUN," 685). John Scott Eccles provides the perfect alibi in "The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge," for his features and manner mark him as "the very type of conventional British respectability"; neither inspector dreams of questioning his extraordinary story (870, 876). For Doyle as for most later Victorians, however, true gentility required not just an accident of birth, but an inherent moral superiority.19 Doyle betrays the typical bourgeois suspicion of aristocratic decadence in having Watson characterize Lord Holdhurst as one of "that not too common type, a nobleman who is in truth noble" ("NAVA," 459). Mary Morstan's "spiritual" eyes give evidence of her "refined and sensitive nature" ("SIGN," 94), notwithstanding her relative poverty, and the "innate nobility of character" in Grace Dunbar's face convinces even the usually unsusceptible Holmes of the governess's innocence, despite the weight of incriminating evidence against her ("THOR," 1065-66). When a middle-class person is involved, Doyle usually endorses Watson's conviction that previous evidence of "character" always "goes for something" in mitigating suspicion ("BRUC," 922).
Such intangible signs of class refinement naturally outweigh more grossly physical signs or the marks of objects in determining status: Violet Smith, the "Solitary Cyclist," has fingers that could belong to either a typist or a musician, but Holmes knows that the "spirituality" of her face is such that "the typewriter does not generate" (527). Similarly, Lord Mount-James has a manner that commands attention despite his shabby appearance ("MISS" ["Missing Three-Quarter" ], 626), and the "Creeping Man," Professor Presbury, remains "dignified" even while under the influence of animal hormones (1081). The middle and upper classes have more control over physical signs in another sense as well, in that by convention they have more control over their bodies. Aristocrats constitute "a caste who do not lightly show emotion," and seldom expose the "natural man" behind the "aristocratic mask" ("SECO" ["Second Stain" ], 657, 652). Gentlemen may fly into rages, but are capable of reducing the "hot flame of anger" to "frigid" indifference by their "supreme self-command" ("THOR," 1059), especially when confronted by Holmes's even greater coolness and self-assurance ("DEVI," 967; "SHOS," 1111). Appearances can be deceiving, as Holmes reminds Watson ("SIGN," 96), but it is almost always characters from the higher classes who successfully counterfeit themselves: it is the most outwardly respectable of the "Three Students" who proves guilty (600), and the "refined-looking" Neville St. Clair who disguises himself as the hideous "Man with the Twisted Lip" (242). Stapleton, the rogue Baskerville, is also able to elude Holmes through disguise ("HOUN," 690).
The lower classes, on the other hand, are not only marked by physical signs that cannot be concealed by behavior, but are also more easily read and manipulated by Holmes. Their secrets are as open to surveillance as their bodies. Whereas the upper classes are "naturally" reserved, the London message-boy cannot help telegraphing his state of mind through every twitch of his body ("SIXN," 585). It is true that their very social negligibility (and that they are children) gives Holmes's ragged crew of street arabs, the "Baker Street Irregulars," access to information that would be withheld from "an official-looking person"; but it is also significant that their potentially subversive ability to "go everywhere and hear everything" is transformed by Holmes's superior bourgeois "organization" into more useful "work"—that is, more effective social control—than the official police could produce ("STUD," 42; see also "SIGN," 127). Holmes similarly advises Watson that the village pub when properly exploited is always a more profitable source of specific information about locals than an official like the rental agent Watson consults in "The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist" (532).
Holmes is, as Watson reports, "a past-master in the art of putting a humble witness at his ease," and uses this "ease" to "extract" ("MISS," 624) all relevant information from sacked employees and carefully "cultivated" village gossips ("WIST," 879, 882), and innkeepers ("SHOS," 1108). The main objective in dealing with "people of that sort," Holmes explains in "The Sign of Four," is to prevent them from realizing the value of their information: "never . . . let them think that their information can be of the slightest importance to you. If you do they will instantly shut up like an oyster. If you listen to them under protest, as it were, you are very likely to get what you want" (124). Giving the witness a false sense of superiority by volunteering incorrect information also proves useful in eliciting correct descriptions from hotel clerks ("HOUN," 692), and helps trick even the most hostile servant into admitting precisely what he or she wishes to conceal (e.g., "3GAB," 1026, 1031). Susceptibility to the same kind of ruse exposes "John Garridebs" as the common criminal, Killer Evans, rather than the more respectable Counselor at Law he pretends to be ("3GAR" ["Three Garridebs" ], 1045, 1047), and cements the reader's contempt for the suspiciously foreign and vulgar Count Sylvius in "The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone" (1015-16). Lower-class talk involuntarily incriminates "the humble" in this fictive world: even their anonymous confessions in the "agony columns" of the local newspapers can be turned to profit against them by Holmes (e.g., "REDC," 904).
Significantly, women are portrayed as more vulnerable than men to manipulation by Holmes. He possesses a "peculiarly ingratiating way with women"—particularly lower-class women—that readily establishes "terms of confidence with them" ("GOLD" ["Golden Pince-Nez" ], 617), as well as "an almost hypnotic power of soothing" them—that is, of making them feel at ease enough to reveal what he wants to know ("REDC," 902). The malleability of women is in keeping with Doyle's tendency to subject a much wider range of female (as opposed to male) behavior to typing. It is not just conventional stereotypes about women that Doyle exploits—their "pertinacity" and "cunning" ("REDC," 901), for instance, or their greater capacity for hatred when spurned ("ILLU," 990). Holmes cites gender as his authority for an implausibly specific array of female conduct: when a woman "oscillates" upon the pavement, it always means she has "an affaire de coeur" on her mind ("IDEN," 192); when a woman is agitated, she demands her tea ("CROO," 417); a devoted wife would let no one prevent her from viewing her husband's dead body ("VALL," 801); no woman would send a reply-paid telegram instead of coming herself ("WIST," 870). The common thread in these examples seems to be the assumption that women in general (like the lower classes) have less control over their emotions. That assumption also underlies Holmes's somewhat contradictory complaint that the "motives" of women are "inscrutable" precisely because they lack rationality: "Their most trivial action may mean volumes, or their most extraordinary conduct may depend upon a hairpin or a curling tongs" ("SECO," 657; see also "ILLU," 988). Belsey argues that women's sexuality, so often the motive behind Doyle's plots but so seldom acknowledged or confronted, betrays by its very absence from the tales the gaps in the author's pretensions to a scientific determinism that can account for all forms of behavior.20 A similar analysis could be applied to women's lack of logic: it disrupts the predictability of "man in the aggregate," upon which Holmes's deductions depend. Doyle's uneasiness with such exceptions to the rule is signaled in the strained plausibility of the "rules" for females in the aggregate that Holmes does come up with.
A closer examination of Doyle's treatment of "women in general" suggests, however, that in actual practice, class and ethnicity have much the same predictive value as they do for men. The jealousy that is axiomatic in female nature is intensified by foreign, especially more or less "Celtic" strains of blood, for instance. The "fiery and passionate" Welsh blood of the wronged maidservant in "The Musgrave Ritual" leads Holmes naturally to assume that to revenge herself she trapped the butler, Brunton, in a secret chamber (396); Holmes surmises that Stapleton's Spanish wife in "The Hound of the Baskervilles" similarly decided to betray him only when she finally discovered his infidelity (766). The "fiery tropical blood" of Peruvian and Brazilian wives helps account for the intensity of their jealousy in later stories ("SUSS," 1038; "THOR," 1057). English-women, especially those of the higher classes, exercise more self-control and can conceal their emotions—and their secrets—more effectively. Working-class women are doubly marked for exploitation: the same class conventions that make their bodies available for sexual consumption by gentlemen govern the taking of information as well, as is clear when Holmes chides Watson for not exploiting all possible sources of information about the suspect in "The Adventure of the Retired Colourman" :
With your natural advantages, Watson, every lady is your helper and accomplice. What about the girl at the post-office, or the wife of the green grocer? I can picture you whispering soft nothings with the young lady at the Blue Anchor, and receiving hard somethings in exchange.
Holmes exploits the same convenient confusion between sexual and factual exchange in "The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton," in which he courts and even becomes engaged to the housemaid in order to gain information about Milverton's house and habits (576).
Although the previous romantic entanglements of middle- and upper-class women are at the root of many mysteries that Holmes solves, their sexual vulnerability is more limited and does not so automatically guarantee that their motives will be as easily penetrable. Holmes may opine that the genteel woman outside male control like the Lady Frances Carfax constitutes "one of the most dangerous classes in the world" insofar as her wealth and independence, by allowing her to act on her desires, make her "the inevitable inciter of crimes in others" ("LADY" ["Lady Frances Carfax" ], 942-43). But in many cases involving gentlewomen the disruptive sexuality that Belsey analyzes is defused by their voluntary suppression of desire in obedience to genteel, chivalric codes of courtship. Holmes is "indescribably" annoyed by the "calm aloofness and supreme self-complaisance" of Violet de Merville, for instance ("ILLU," 992-93); her irrational attachment to the evil Baron Gruner serves as an example of woman's illogic to Holmes (988), but her passion is rendered tacitly and genteely asexual by being portrayed as a kind of otherworldly fanaticism (991) that is ultimately susceptible to "moral" proof against him (999). Women like Lady Brackenstall often possess a force of character and a "charming personality" that temporarily deceive even Holmes ("ABBE" ["Abbey Grange" ], 642); the greater freedom of her Australian girlhood may have encouraged her involvement with another man (638), but her social code still insures that he be of the same class and platonically devoted to rescuing her from a drunken aristocrat (648-49). Other types of power are also reserved to middle- and upper-class women. Disguise is usually Holmes's exclusive province, but Lady Hilda Trelawney Hope exploits it successfully against a lower-class constable to extricate herself from the repercussions of an "indiscreet" letter written before her marriage ("SECO," 662, 664-65). Although Irene Adler's class is more ambiguous, she is most successful in maintaining control of her sexuality and her secrets, perhaps because what she lacks in gentility, she makes up for by possessing a "soul of steel" and "the mind of the most resolute of men" ("SCAN," 166). Indeed, her demimonde status is itself a valuable weapon; it is not low enough to prevent her from marrying a respectable lawyer, but it is sufficiently questionable to enable her to turn the tables on the exploitative aristocrat and blackmail the King of Bohemia for having "cruelly wronged" her by deserting her for a prudent political marriage with the strictly proper daughter of another royal family (175). True, she "responds beautifully"—that is, predictably, "naturally"—when Holmes stages a fire on the assumption that "when a woman thinks that her house is on fire, her instinct is at once to rush to the thing which she values most" (173). But she later revenges herself on him for having "made [her] reveal what [he] wanted to know" (174); she successfully usurps both the appearance and the prerogatives of a man by disguising herself and later escaping the country with the incriminating photograph. Like the other women just discussed, however, she voluntarily polices herself so that her potential subversion of social order is muted. By choosing not to use the photograph, she ultimately abets the more pervasive pattern in Holmes's stories, whereby the upper classes are almost always enabled to escape social and legal punishments for their crimes.
He loved to lie in the very centre of five millions of people, with his filaments stretching out and running through them, responsive to every little rumour or suspicion of unsolved crime.
Even the world of crime, the realm of ultimate social deviance, is implicitly ordered by class distinctions that identify common criminals by their regressive bodily signs while characterizing the criminal genius by the range of his intellect. Watson often conceives of the investigation of crime as the hunting of wild beasts in the "dark jungle of criminal London" ("EMPT," 488; see also "BLAC," 565). It is thus appropriate that so many of these criminals bear the atavistic physical signs that marked the Lombrosoan criminal type as an evolutionary throwback to animal or savage.21 Enoch Drebber's former status as a Mormon Elder cannot redeem him from the moral degeneracy written in his "low forehead, blunt nose, and prognathous jaw"—the classic signs of the apelike Lombrosoan deviant ("STUD," 29). Jonathan Small in "The Sign of Four" is similarly "monkey-faced" (124), as is Beppo, the Italian sculptor in "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons" (586), while a "beetling forehead" and "sunken animal eyes" mark the criminal body of the escaped convict Selden in "The Hound of the Baskervilles" (745).
As a connoisseur of crime, Holmes is only momentarily challenged by the machinations of such genetically programmed thugs. He frequently laments the "dullness" and lack of "audacity and romance" in the London crime scene ("BRUC," 913; "WIST," 870) and rejoices when he encounters a wrongdoer whom he can "be proud to do business with" ("PRIO," 548). But such "business" can only be conducted among intellectual, and by extension, social equals. In considering the common people incapable of "great" crimes, the Holmes stories continue what Foucault has described as the "aesthetic rewriting of crime" in nineteenth-century Europe; as such crimes become "the exclusive privilege of those who are really great," the focus shifts from physical confrontation and punishment to the intellectual contest between murderer and detective.22 Intelligent crime becomes a kind of business that requires at least bourgeois status in its entrepreneurs. Jonathan Small, for instance, possesses "a degree of low cunning" but lacks the "delicate finesse" that is "usually a product of higher education" ("SIGN," 135), and it takes aristocratic blood and an Oxford education to put John Clay, the mastermind of the Red-Headed League, "at the head of his profession" ("REDH," 186). "When a doctor does go wrong," his "nerve" and "knowledge" insure that he will rank among "the first of criminals" ("SPEC," 270). Even the highly intelligent butler who masterminds the treasure hunt in "The Musgrave Ritual" turns out to be a former schoolmaster who commands many foreign languages and musical instruments (389).
Primacy in the criminal world is reserved for those great minds which rival Holmes's own. Stapleton's audacity and intelligence prove him a "foeman who is worthy of our steel" in "The Hound of the Baskervilles" (698); Baron Gruner, "a real aristocrat of crime," shares Holmes's artistic temperament, the sign of that "complex mind" that "all great criminals" possess ("ILLU," 987-88). These men yield first place, of course, to James Moriarty, the mathematical genius, the Napoleon of crime ("FINA," 471), and mastermind of a vast bureaucracy of criminal activity. An executive who follows "the American business principle" of "paying for brains" ("VALL," 777), Moriarty can thus administer criminal activity without getting his own hands dirty. As the only foe whom Holmes admits to the same intellectual plane as himself ("FINA," 475), Moriarty cannot of course be considered a mere crook; his managerial skill is no shopkeeper's cunning, but the practical counterpart of his rarefied mathematical genius ("VALL," 769-70). Although Moriarty is finally overcome by Holmes's greater physical skill ("EMPT," 486), their real rivalry has been presented as one of pure intellect.
It goes without saying that these criminal geniuses are free from the genetic stigmata of crime that mark their underlings.23 Stapleton is "clean-shaven" and "prim-faced" ("HOUN," 706), and John Clay's white hands and clean-cut boyish looks allow him to masquerade as a philanthropist ("REDH," 186, 188). When their criminal propensities are marked in their bodies, it is usually through the more conventional physiognomical signs that shape their expressions, rather than an animalistic fixity of their features. Gruner's cruel mouth marks a face that is otherwise "regular and pleasing" ("ILLU," 996). Brunton is a "well-grown, handsome man" with the "splendid forehead" that is the traditional sign of a large intellect ("MUSG," 389). Moriarty possesses the same high domed forehead; his "manner" may strike Holmes as "reptilian," but his features are "ascetic" ("FINA," 472). His second in command, Sebastian Moran, combines "the brow of a philosopher" with "Nature's plainest danger-signals": cruel eyes and an aggressive nose ("EMPT," 492).
Holmes and Moriarty are doubles in a class by themselves, capable of raising crime to a fine art.24 With Moriarty gone, Holmes becomes so frustrated with the "unworthiness" of London crime that at the beginning of "The Bruce-Partington Plans" he is tempted to turn criminal himself, and in fact later breaks into a house in the pursuit of evidence ("BRUC," 913, 927; see also "CHAR" ["Charles Augustus Milverton" ], 578 and "ILLU," 998). Just as Holmes and Moriarty transcend ordinary social typing by their claims to an aristocracy of talent, both are adept at evading classification, able to remain "aloof" from "general suspicion" and "admirable" in "self-effacement" ("VALL," 770). Both can read their interlocutors without being read themselves ("VALL," 775; "BLAN," 1000). Moriarty can easily pass himself off as an innocuous and fatherly professor, and Holmes is a skilled actor.
Indeed, the ability to counterfeit himself makes Holmes, the reader of all social codes, appear to be subject to none. He keeps several small refuges where he is able, as Watson tells us, to change "his personality" at will ("BLAC," 559). He is the master of the signs of class and vocation—disguising himself as a groom ("SCAN," 168), a "rakish young workman" complete with "swagger" ("CHAR," 575), an aged seaman with "workhouse cough" and bandy legs ("SIGN," 133). He as easily masters the signs of gender—the bumbling of an old woman ("MAZA," 1014)—and of ethnicity, being as adept in the broken English of an old Italian priest ("FINA," 474) as he is in the slang of an Irish-American malcontent ("LAST" ["Last Bow" ], 975). Although the value of physiognomy and medical symptoms as signs rests in their supposedly involuntary and unconscious betrayal of the subject's character, Holmes easily counterfeits the hunchback of the old book seller ("EMPT," 485), the thin, wrinkled lassitude of the opium addict ("TWIS" ["Man with the Twisted Lip" ], 231), and the death-throes of obscure tropical diseases ("DYIN" ["Dying Detective" ], 941). His own steely- or dreamy-eyed facial expression usually gives nothing away, although Watson can sometimes read the subtle signs of increased excitement in his face ("BRUC," 919; "DEVI," 960; "THOR," 1068). Holmes offers only the most extreme example of the way social and intellectual superiority permits the selective transcendence of coding and the control it signifies.
What one man can invent another can discover.
Holmes can reinforce the power of social ordering all the more effectively for being positioned above the crude machinations and self-interest of official power in his society. Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, characterized as bureaucratic specialists managing information most efficiently for the public good, belong to that bourgeois aristocracy of talent that claimed to substitute expertise for self-interest in the administration of government in the second half of the nineteenth century. Holmes's contempt for the ineptness of the official police assumes the intellectual superiority of professional practice to the rigid routine of the functionary. The metaphors Doyle uses to characterize Holmes's work repeatedly stress its impersonality and disinterestedness. Holmes is "the scientific student of the higher criminal world" ("NORW," 496), whose main motive for detection is intellectual curiosity, a "craving for mental exaltation" ("SIGN," 90). He possesses "the impersonal joy of the true artist in his better work" ("VALL," 773); his cheeks flush "with the exhilaration of the master workman who sees his work lie ready before him" ("PRIO," 547); his brain is an engine that will rack itself to pieces without sufficient evidence to contemplate ("DEVI," 960).
Moreover, Holmes appears to champion not the status quo, but a higher or finer code of justice than that insured by official law. It is not the status of his clients, we are told, but the intrinsic merit of their cases, which stimulates Holmes ("NOBL" ["Noble Bachelor" ], 287). He is far more often the "enforcer of standards of decency" than the imposer of legal sanctions; indeed, he often breaks the law in the service of fair play.25 But if he is, as Ian Ousby argues, "a law unto himself: the representative of a private code of justice which transcends the technicalities and inflexibilities of official laws," this private law always works to reinforce the same class prerogatives as those protected by the official ones.26 Particularly in the later stories, Holmes's adventures work relentlessly to preserve the social status quo by shielding the upper classes from being legally punished or—what is just as significant in a world where knowledge means power—even allowing their secrets to be told. Sherlock Holmes's "case book," Watson tells us, is full of information not only about crimes, but about "the social and official scandals of the late Victorian era"; like Holmes, of course, Watson can always be counted on to protect family honor and reputation by concealing identity ("VEIL" ["Veiled Lodger" ], 1095). The ending of "The Adventure of the Abbey Grange," where Holmes serves as judge and Watson as jury to absolve Captain Crocker of any legal responsibility for the murder of the brutal Sir Eustace Brackenstall (650), is only the most obvious case in which Holmes allows genteel or aristocratic people to escape scandal or the legal repercussions of their wrong-doing, so long as chivalric codes of justice and fair play have been served (see also "SECO," 666; "REDC," 913; "DEVI," 970). And in any case, official justice seldom poses any real threat to fair play, for "when the object is good and a client is sufficiently illustrious, even the rigid British law becomes human and elastic" ("ILLU," 999). Thus in "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client," Holmes's house-breaking is excused as a minor deviance in comparison with Baron Gruner's aberrant sexuality, which has as a result been prevented from staining the genteel Violet de Merville.
The crimes that Doyle fears are less violations of the official law than challenges to the social and sexual conventions that insured order in his world. Holmes's discrete interventions are sometimes necessary to readjust the balance of power in this world, but order itself need never be seriously threatened so long as its conventions are biologically inscribed in members of society. The realistic novel teaches us as readers to be "compulsive pursuers of significant design"; nowhere is this truer than in detective fiction, where we are constantly reacting to the pressure of clues that must be interpreted.27 The Holmes stories were calculated to provide their Victorian and Edwardian readers with hypotheses to guide this interpretation, the same hypotheses about human behavior that Holmes follows in deducing an entirely predictable social world. With its wealth of concrete detail, the Holmes canon, like the novel in general, offered a surrogate source of experiential data about that world; specifically, it assured its audience that the same positivistic exactitude that had proved valid in much nineteenth-century natural science could be reliably extended to confirm that the social order rested on a deeper biological order.28 The value of codes rests in their putative universality, their ability to produce a predictable world. Yet the higher classes benefit from the biologizing of their inherent superiority, while they escape from the limitations that biology would impose, remaining less calculable, less constrained by social discipline, and more in control of the secrets that could give others power over them.
Behind the almost compulsive insistence on orderliness in the Holmes stories we can feel the anxious pressure of instability and disorder. In the assertion that class superiority had a biological basis, that social identity was transparent to the trained viewer, that the higher classes could be counted upon to police themselves, we can sense many of the insecurities of the late Victorian period. Jacqueline Jaffe notes the recurrent imagery of the Holmes stories: Holmes and Watson leave the snug civility of the Baker Street rooms to penetrate the dark, dirty, dangerous world without and restore it to order.29 As the modern city revealed by sociological investigators increasingly seemed like a jungle, inhabited by savages whose motives were unintelligible and whose potential for violence was unrestricted by common decencies, a key to reading social identity was all the more needed to provide some degree of control over the unknown. As crimes like the Jack the Ripper murders enlarged the imaginable limits of violence in frightening ways, what a comfort to see Sherlock Holmes demonstrating again and again that even the most bizarre cases could be "logically" contained. In a late Victorian society rocked by scandals, how necessary was the reassurance that Holmes and Watson would protect the upper classes from blackmail and publicity, and give them the opportunity to settle their accounts in private.30 And what better antidote to the threatening sexuality of the New Woman than not to acknowledge it at all—to offer the reassuring spectacle of woman's predictable unpredictability controlled by chivalric conventions, either imposed from without for their own good or internalized by the women themselves. Faced with increasing evidence of the disruptive power of the irrational and the unconscious, these tales strive to preserve the unified, fully intelligible self of realism by insisting that people remain totally predictable, or that at least among those deserving of social power, the desire that could undermine logic and predictability would be self-policing. Uncoding the social body of the Sherlock Holmes stories reveals the ideological work performed by positivistic science, which could soothe such anxieties by rendering natural and self-evident the social order that generated them.
I am grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for allowing me to attend a summer institute in which I completed some of the research for this essay, and to my colleagues Devon Hodges and Eileen Sypher, who offered valuable suggestions concerning it.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier" in The Complete Sherlock Holmes, 2 vols. (New York: Doubleday, 1930), 1008. All references will be made parenthetically to this edition. I have also adopted the abbreviations for specific story titles used by Jack Tracy, ed., The Encyclopedia Sherlockiana, ora Universal Dictionary of the State of Knowledge of Sherlock Holmes and His Biographer, John H. Watson, M.D. (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1977), xix.
- "Abbey Grange"
- "Black Peter"
- "Blanched Soldier"
- "Blue Carbuncle"
- "Boscombe Valley Mystery"
- "Bruce-Partington Plans"
- "Cardboard Box"
- "Charles Augustus Milverton"
- "Copper Beeches"
- "Creeping Man"
- "Crooked Man"
- "Dancing Men"
- "Devil's Foot"
- "Dying Detective"
- "Empty House"
- "Final Problem"
- "Five Orange Pips"
- "Gloria Scott"
- "Golden Pince-Nez"
- "Greek Interpreter"
- "Hound of the Baskervilles"
- "Case of Identity"
- "Illustrious Client"
- "Lady Frances Carfax"
- "Last Bow"
- "Lion's Mane"
- "Mazarin Stone"
- "Missing Three-Quarter"
- "Musgrave Ritual"
- "Naval Treaty"
- "Noble Bachelor"
- "Norwood Builder"
- "Priory School"
- "Red Circle"
- "Red-Headed League"
- "Reigate Puzzle"
- "Resident Patient"
- "Retired Colourman"
- "Scandal in Bohemia"
- "Second Stain"
- "Shoscombe Old Place"
- "Sign of Four"
- "Silver Blaze"
- "Six Napoleons"
- "Solitary Cyclist"
- "Speckled Band"
- "Study in Scarlet"
- "Sussex Vampire"
- "Problem of Thor Bridge"
- "Three Gables"
- "Three Garridebs"
- "Man with the Twisted Lip"
- "Valley of Fear"
- "Veiled Lodger"
- "Wisteria Lodge"
- "Yellow Face"
- See, for instance, Christopher Clausen, "Sherlock Holmes, Order, and the Late Victorian Mind," Georgia Review 38 (1984): 106-110, James Kissane and John Kissane, "Sherlock Holmes and the Ritual of Reason," Nineteenth-Century Fiction 17 (1963): 355-56, and Ian Ousby, The Bloodhounds of Heaven: The Detective in English Fiction from Godwin to Doyle (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1976), 153-56 for discussions of the role of scientific rationality in the Holmes canon. See also Pierre Nordon, Conan Doyle: A Biography, trans. Frances Partridge (New York: Holt, Rhinehart, and Winston, 1967), 247.
- For a summary of Peircean abduction as employed by Doyle, see Thomas A. Sebeok, "One, Two, Three Spells UBERTY (In Lieu of an Introduction)," in Umberto Eco and Sebeok, eds., The Sign of Three: Dupin, Holmes, Peirce (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1988), 7-9.
- Marcello Truzzi, "Sherlock Holmes: Applied Social Psychologist," in The Sign of Three (note 3), 70.
- Massimo A. Bonfantini and Giampaolo Proni, "To Guess or Not to Guess?" in The Sign of Three (note 3), 127. For the conformity of Holmes's abductive reasoning, see 128-29.
- See Frank McConnell's argument that detective stories always work to affirm a myth of reason: "Detecting Order Amid Disorder," The Wilson Quarterly 11 (1987): 178. For Bell's diagnoses of behavior see Thomas A. Sebeok and Jean Umiker-Sebeok, "'You Know My Method': A Juxtaposition of Charles S. Peirce and Sherlock Holmes," in The Sign of Three (note 3), 30-32.
- Carlo Ginzburg, "Morelli, Freud, and Sherlock Holmes: Clues and Scientific Method," in The Sign of Three (note 3), 86-88.
- D. A. Miller, The Novel and the Police (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1988), 35; Allan Sekula, "The Body and the Archive," October 39 (Winter 1986): 12; Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage, 1979), 192-93; see also Ginzburg, 109. Further references to Foucault and Sekula will be cited parenthetically in the text.
- Catherine Belsey, Critical Practice (London: Methuen, 1980), 109-17; Pierre Macherey, A Theory of Literary Production, trans. Geoffrey Wall (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978).
- Quoted by Sekula (note 8), 27. Sekula's comments on Bertillon suggest more specific parallels with Holmes. Under Bertillon's system, "individuality as such had no meaning. Viewed 'objectively' the self occupied a position that was wholly relative" (34).
- Bonfantini and Proni (note 5), 127-28.
- Compare Gian Paolo Caprettini's paraphrase of the abductive method: "x is extraordinary; however, if y would be true, x would not be extraordinary anymore; so, x is possibly true." "Peirce, Holmes, Popper," in The Sign of Three (note 3), 142.
- See Elaine Scarry, "Work and Body in Hardy and Other Nineteenth-Century Novelists," Representations 3 (1983): 90-123, for a consideration of other aspects of the work/body relationship in the later Victorian period.
- Peter Stallybrass and Allon White, The Politics and Poetics of Transgression (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1986), chap. 3. Roger Cooter addresses a similar privileging of head over body in nineteenth-century phrenology in The Cultural Meaning of Popular Science: Phrenology and the Organization of Consent in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1984), 110-11.
- Walter Benjamin, Charles Baudelaire: A Lyric Poet in the Era of High Capitalism, trans. Harry Zohn (New York: New Left Books, 1973), 39. Judith Wechsler makes a similar point in A Human Comedy: Physiognomy and Caricature in Nineteenth-Century Paris (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1982), 34. For the stereotyping of the bourgeois, see particularly Benjamin, 52-53; Wechsler, chaps. 4 and 5; see also Louis Chevalier, Laboring Classes and Dangerous Classes in Paris during the First Half of the Nineteenth Century, trans. Frank Jellinek (New York: Howard Fertig, 1973), 416-17.
- See Sekula (note 8), 20-21, 24-25, and 37 for the changing views of accountability for criminal deeds held by different nineteenth-century theories of criminology.
- The best account of nineteenth-century racial theory is Nancy Stepan, The Idea of Race in Science: Great Britain, 1800-1960 (Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1982).
- Johann Caspar Lavater, Essays on Physiognomy, trans. Thomas Holcroft, 15th ed. (London: William Tegg and Co., 1878) and Charles Darwin, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals (New York: Appleton, 1872). For surveys of the roots and uses of physiognomy in the nineteenth century, see Jeanne Fahnestock, "The Heroine of Irregular Features: Physiognomy and the Conventions of Heroine Description," Victorian Studies 24 (1981): 325-50, and Graeme Tytler, Physiognomy in the European Novel: Faces and Fortunes (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1982); on phrenology, see Cooter (note 14).
- Robin Gilmour, The Idea of the Gentleman in the Victorian Novel (London: Allen and Unwin, 1981), offers a useful analysis of the shift from strictly hereditary to moral and social definitions of the gentleman in Victorian fiction.
- Belsey (note 9), 117.
- For a full consideration of anthropometrics and their use by Lombroso, see Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man (New York: Norton, 1981), 124-43.
- See Foucault (note 8), 68-69; Foucault makes a similar argument in "Prison Talk," in Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings, ed. Colin Gordon, trans. Colin Gordon, Leo Marshall, John Mepham, Kate Soper (New York: Pantheon, 1980), 46.
- See Sekula (note 8), 37, for examples of nineteenth-century criminologists who generally disagreed with the Lombrosoan school by judging physiognomical typing useless in classifying the "higher and more dangerous order" of criminals.
- Foucault, "Prison Talk" (note 22), 46.
- Jacqueline Jaffe, Arthur Conan Doyle (Boston: Twayne, 1987), 47.
- Ousby (note 2), 168.
- See Leo Bersani, A Future for Astyanax: Character and Desire in the Novel (Boston: Little, Brown, 1969), 52; and Caprettini (note 12), 136.
- For the Holmes canon as surrogate source of experience, see Ginzburg (note 7), 101.
- Jaffe (note 25), 39.
- See McConnell (note 6), 174, for Victorian anxiety about violent crime; Ousby (note 2), 164-65, for blackmail and publicity.
Lesli J. Favor (essay date April 2000)
SOURCE: Favor, Lesli J. "The Foreign and the Female in Arthur Conan Doyle: Beneath the Candy Coating." English Literature in Transition, 1880-1920 43, no. 4 (April 2000): 398-409.
[In the following essay, Favor asserts that Doyle's representation of women and foreigners in his novels and Sherlock Holmes stories portrays both parties as "colonized others," which must be subordinated by the white, male, British imperial establishment.]
Imperialism and the woman question, key elements in the cultural construct of late-Victorian England, intersect in the fiction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Routinely, Conan Doyle depicts subjects from nations other than England, subjects who are female, dangerous, undesirable, even murderous. Knighted for his patriotic polemics on the Boer War, Conan Doyle believed in the relevance of politics to fiction. He said that "the age of fiction is coming—the age when religious and social and political changes will all be effected by means of the novelist....To get an idea to penetrate to the masses of the people, you must put fiction around it, like sugar round a pill."1 In his fiction Conan Doyle's "othering" of the foreign and the female is evident in his construction of character traits and placement of subjects in plot positions. He presents heroes and villains in ways that assert the eminence of the English over the Other-than-English and the Male over the Other-than-male.
In "The Speckled Band," Conan Doyle traits a murderer with trappings of the Far East, creating a villain from afar who preys on innocent English citizens. In The Parasite he constructs a mesmerist as female, West Indian, and spiritually parasitic; she preys on English men in a small college town. In Lot No. 249 he creates a deadly confrontation between "a scientific student" and a neighbor who, being expert in Eastern languages and Egyptian artifacts, has brought a mummy back to life. In various Sherlock Holmes stories featuring female subjects, Conan Doyle devises plots that depend upon women who, despite being vital to the narrative, are nevertheless silent and, except for occasional scenes, are physically absent. Like colonized foreign subjects, females are controlled, contained, and marginalized. In these stories, the villains' outcomes are death, the females' fate are containment, and the English male heroes reassert the power of reason, patriarchy, and Empire.
Conan Doyle's own favorite Holmes story, "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," 2 vividly demonstrates fiction's powers of vilifying the foreign. Holmes investigates threats to the life of his client Helen Stoner3 and decides on two suspects, each characterized as foreign and threatening. The first is a band of gypsies living on the property of Helen's family manor, where she lives with her stepfather, Dr. Grimesby Roylott. Roylott himself is Holmes's other suspect, and the evil in him stems from his connection with the East. He lived for some time in Calcutta; he keeps dangerous Indian animals as pets; he uses a murder weapon that originates in India; and he is wearing Turkish slippers when he attempts the murder of Helen and afterwards dies.
These details of "The Speckled Band" form a network of imperialist ideas and assumptions that infiltrates the construction of Holmes as hero and Roylott as villain. And while readers enjoy this "grim snake story," to use Conan Doyle's own phrase,4 they are at the same time availing themselves of the author's imperialist views. Conan Doyle believed that "in time....the Anglo-Saxon will swing the sword of justice over the whole world,"5 and he demonstrates his vision in "The Speckled Band" and other stories. Holmes is the hero while Roylott is the villain, and Holmes is pure English while Roylott is tainted by the East.
The strongest evidence in "The Speckled Band" of Conan Doyle's imperialist views is his characterization of Roylott. While certain traits are classically villainesque, such as the quick, hot temper and the brutal strength, other elements are clearly Eastern, and while these Eastern elements are not inherently evil, they take on an aura of evil when combined with Roylott's temper and violence. Holmes states that "the idea of using a form of poison which could not possibly be discovered by any chemical test was just such a one as would occur to a clever and ruthless man who had had an Eastern training."6 Additionally, Roylott's murder weapon is found only in India: the Indian swamp adder.7 Besides his choice of murder weapon, Roylott's preference for "red heelless Turkish slippers," his "passion . . . for Indian animals," his preference for "strong Indian cigars," and his friendship with "the wandering gipsies" all work together to establish him as distinctively foreign in character, habit, and action.8
Roylott serves to suggest that the Other might be an Englishman who has been irreparably altered by the Other. Roylott is an Englishman whose "family was at one time among the richest in England." While Roylott was in India practicing medicine, his "hereditary" "violence of temper approaching to mania . . . [was] intensified by his long residence in the tropics." In a fit of temper, he "beat his native butler to death" and, after imprisonment in India, he "returned to England a morose and disappointed man." In effect, India brought out the worst in Roylott and propelled him back to England to wreak havoc there. Back in England, after "a series of disgraceful brawls took place, two of which ended in the police-court . . . [Roylott] became the terror of the village."9 His only friends are the gypsies he permits to wander his estate.
While Roylott's Indian connections are implicitly the source of his evil, they are also the cause of his own death. The smell of his strong Indian cigar wafting through the ventilator into Helen's bedroom alerts Holmes to the connecting air shaft. Holmes arranges with Helen to slip secretly into her room after dark and wait for Roylott to make his move. When Roylott sends his swamp adder through the air shaft and down the fake bell pull in Helen's room, Holmes is waiting; he strikes at the snake with a cane. The frenzied snake shoots back through the vent and bites Roylott instead, killing him with his own murder weapon.
Holmes simply shrugs off his own involvement in Roylott's death. As he and Watson travel home to Baker Street the next day he tells Watson, "I am no doubt indirectly responsible for Dr. Grimesby Roylott's death, and I cannot say that it is likely to weigh very heavily upon my conscience."10 In Holmes's eyes—indeed, in many readers' eyes by this point—Roylott deserved to die.
Conan Doyle's construction of the women in "Charles Augustus Milverton," "The Greek Interpreter," and "The Dancing Men" illustrates how a society's patriarchal ideology infiltrates its fiction with results similar to those of imperialism. "Charles Augustus Milverton" features a blackmailer named Milverton, the women he blackmails, and Holmes, who investigates the case of Eva Blackwell. The plot centers on three female characters: Eva Blackwell, an unnamed woman who shoots Milverton, and Milverton's housemaid Agatha. The first of these women, Eva Blackwell, is Holmes's client and presumably the focal subject of this mystery; nevertheless, Lady Blackwell remains physically absent from events; we simply hear about her from Watson. The second female, the mystery murderer, enters the story only briefly but is nevertheless indispensable: while Holmes and Watson are hiding in Milverton's study, interrupted in their clandestine search by the arrival of Milverton himself, the mystery woman enters, shoots Milverton, and disappears. She remains silent as well as nameless and does not surface again. The third woman also remains silent. She is Milverton's housemaid, and Holmes proposes marriage to her to gain her confidence and thus her knowledge of Milverton's house and routine. Between the three women the case is opened and shut; Holmes's contribution is simply to drop Milverton's blackmail files into the burning fireplace as he flees the scene of the crime.
A similar case is "The Greek Interpreter." Again the plot depends on a female who is relegated to the narrative's margins. Only once does Sophy appear in person, and even then indirectly as part of the account of events told to Holmes by the man who interprets Greek. Moreover, the image of Sophy he conveys is vague; he says, "I could not see her clearly enough to know more than that she was tall and graceful, with black hair, and clad in some sort of loose white gown."11 Sophy utters one broken sentence and is gone. She is known to readers third-hand, for the information passes from the Greek interpreter to Holmes and Watson and then from Watson to his readers. We eventually learn that Sophy, who is Greek, has caused the crisis at hand by running away from home with an Englishman. Her brother follows her to England and is captured by Sophy's boyfriend, and the Greek interpreter is brought in to translate negotiations between boyfriend and brother over Sophy's property. During this meeting, Sophy bursts upon the scene and then immediately is dragged away. While appearing in the action only briefly, Sophy is nevertheless the sole cause of events.
This pattern of backgrounding female subjects recurs in "The Dancing Men." Holmes must solve a life-or-death puzzle stemming from the mysterious past of a woman named Elsie. Elsie's husband (note that the active subject position has already shifted to the husband) has noticed chalk drawings of little dancing stick-figure men on the doors and window ledges of their house. Elsie, he presumes, can read these hieroglyphics but refuses to admit it, much less read them to him. Convinced his life is in danger, Elsie's husband reports to Holmes what Elsie has said and done so far, which amounts only to refusals to discuss the hieroglyphics. This is as close to Elsie as the reader gets, for by the time Holmes and Watson travel to the couple's estate, Elsie has suffered a gunshot wound and remains unconscious and therefore speechless for the remainder of the narrative. Elsie is never actively or verbally present in the story, although like Sophy, she is the cause of the events.12
When Conan Doyle does place a female subject actively and vocally in the forefront of a narrative, the woman is nevertheless subjugated to male characters by her potentially harmful or morally bankrupt nature. Women are clearly traited as potentially harmful in "A Scandal in Bohemia," in which we learn that Holmes unrelentingly refuses to become seriously involved, romantically or otherwise, with any woman because, as Watson explains, "for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results."13 In this famous story Irene Adler outwits Sherlock Holmes and escapes the country with the very photograph he was hired to procure. Watson tells us that Holmes is lucky to be rid of her destructive feminine influence, the cause of so much grit in the well-oiled wheels of male intelligence. "Grit in a sensitive instrument," Watson writes, "or a crack in one of [Holmes's] own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his."14 And while Holmes remembers Irene with dubious affection as not just any woman but the woman, the one who outwitted him, he nevertheless maintains an "aversion to women."15 Women and their accompanying emotions are a "distracting factor" to male powers of reason and deduction; indeed, "all emotions . . . were abhorrent to his cold, precise, but admirably balanced mind."16
An examination of The Parasite (1894),17 a novella about a mesmerist who spiritually attaches herself to her subjects like a parasite, vividly illustrates the parallel between women and the colonized Other. The tension between the main characters, Austin Gilroy and Helen Penclosa, symbolizes the tension between England and her colonized countries.
Austin Gilroy is a young English science professor, and Helen Penclosa is a mesmerist from the West Indies. Throughout the narrative, Conan Doyle traits Gilroy as scrupulously rational and familiarly English while Helen, the outsider, is a dark and alien "Other," a foreign source of evil and power that intrudes on the domestic security of Gilroy and his fiancée, Agatha. Gilroy is a physiology professor who, in seeking scientific evidence of the process and effects of mesmerism, submits to hypnotism by Helen. At first, Gilroy is impressed by her abilities and records in his journal: "My horizon of scientific possibilities has suddenly been enormously extended."18 Since readers learn the events of the narrative through Gilroy's journal entries, they experience those events from Gilroy's perspective; like Elsie, who exists second-hand through her husband's narration, Helen exists second-hand through Gilroy's journal.
And like the East, which brought out Roylott's evil nature, Helen brings out the worst in Gilroy. Gilroy soon realizes that Helen "has conceived a passion for me" and worse, that she "has a parasite soul." He realizes too that "she rouses something in me—something evil—something I had rather not think of. She paralyzes my better nature, too, at the moment when she stimulates my worse." Uncontrollably, however, Gilroy is continually drawn to Helen until the moment of her death. At several points he attempts to break off contact with her; he relies on his scientific training, saying "I must pit my intellect against her powers."19 Helen vengefully counters by causing him to perform embarrassing and harmful actions while under hypnosis; Gilroy delivers absurd lectures and loses his professorship, he attempts to rob a branch of the Bank of England, and he beats up a fellow professor. Gilroy's final action under Helen's power is curtailed by the woman's death, at the moment of which Gilroy awakens from a trance to find himself in his fiancée's boudoir preparing to throw acid on her.
Creating a protagonist such as Gilroy accomplishes at least two things. Conan Doyle is writing the story just one year after the supposed death of Sherlock Holmes, his most popular character, in "The Adventure of the Final Problem" (1893). While "killing" Holmes was Conan Doyle's own idea, his reading public was so dissatisfied and angry that, in creating Professor Gilroy, he may have been attempting to pacify readers with a Holmes substitute complete with rational, scientifically driven motivations and desires.
But Conan Doyle is doing much more with The Parasite than simply responding to his readers' desire for a Holmesian hero. Critics such as Stephen Knight have argued that a nation's attitudes, fears, and hopes often surface in its popular culture.20 In popular fiction like Conan Doyle's, heroes like Austin Gilroy and Sherlock Holmes provide hope by functioning as a means of controlling those fears, and they do so through the logical, fact-based pursuit of knowledge from observable data. Gilroy asserts that "A departure from pure reason affects me like an evil smell or a musical discord."21 Both Gilroy and Holmes rely on scientific data to form conclusions about the dangers they face. In writing stories such as these in which the hero is rational and scientific, and the villain is emotion-driven (that is, irrational) and non-scientific, Conan Doyle is expressing personifications of his own familiar England and the less familiar colonized nations. Moreover, male subjects possess the scientific traits and female subjects possess the emotional traits; these scientifically rational men ultimately control and/or contain the irrational women.
During the course of The Parasite, Gilroy battles to maintain control of himself against the parasitic Helen, who seeks to "possess" him by gaining control of his unconscious impulses. Gilroy feels her alien presence within him as "a peculiar double consciousness." Helen's is "the predominant alien will which was bent upon drawing me to the side of its owner, and there was the feebler protesting personality, which I recognized as being myself."22 Elsewhere Gilroy calls Helen a "devil woman."23 By representing Helen in this devouring, demonizing way, Conan Doyle reveals his own cultural and racial prejudices and stereotypical conceptions of foreigners and in this case West Indians in particular. In addition, he reasserts the primacy of the familiar and rational over the suspect nature of the foreign and irrational.
The conflict between Gilroy and Helen being a power struggle, it is not surprising that Helen's power should be represented in predator imagery. Helen brings out a "brutal primitive instinct" in Gilroy,24 and he refers to her regularly as "the creature." She is characterized three times as a tiger and twice as a snake. When Gilroy makes a mental effort to resist Helen's will and power, he nevertheless feels pulled to her like prey in the grasp of a predator. After Helen, from across town, uses her hypnotic hold on Gilroy's mind to induce him to come to her, Gilroy writes in his journal: "Suddenly I was gripped—gripped and dragged from the couch. It is only thus that I can describe the overpowering nature of the force which pounced upon me."25
Conan Doyle expresses the power struggles between Gilroy and Helen in war imagery that can suggest Britain's battles to acquire colonies. Helen directs the destructive activities of her hypnotized subjects much as "an engineer on the shore might guide a Brennan torpedo."26 Also, when Gilroy stands up to Helen, he "won his way to the front by his hard reasoning power and by his devotion to fact."27 The professor's scientific, rational mind withstands the attack of Helen's power, at least for a time, and then further developments in the struggle unfold in terms of captivity, an extension of the war motif. Gilroy vows that "I must at all costs break this chain which holds me," and during a trance he realizes that "I am her slave, body and soul."28
Gilroy's experiences in resisting Helen's power give form to a new sort of threat from the colonized Other—the threat of power from afar. That is, a citizen of England cannot be sure of insulation from the colonized subjects even though there is a great distance between them. Like Penclosa, the Other may exercise its will across distances, dragging its prey to destruction. What, then, is to serve as protection against the Other? Gilroy's final, desperately formed decision is that he must kill Helen—exterminate the brute, if you will.
The Other is at fault for war and its consequences, whether that war be a figurative/intellectual war or a literal/physical war. While Gilroy knows that he himself has performed embarrassing and harmful actions, he concludes that Helen is to blame; she is the source of this evil. Gilroy writes with relief in his journal, "There is some consolation in the thought, then, that these odious impulses for which I have blamed myself do not really come from me at all. They are all transferred from her. . . . I feel cleaner and lighter for the thought."29
As with Roylott's death in "The Speckeld Band," Conan Doyle here achieves several key effects with Helen's death. While justifying the villain's demise and thereby satisfying readers' desire for justice, he subtly merges patriarchy and imperialism. Disturbingly, Conan Doyle does not resolve the tension of a parasitic Other maintaining control over a resistant English victim. Gilroy is ultimately unable to break free of Helen's power, and he is on his way to kill her when he learns that she has just died of an illness. Conan Doyle does not invite readers to perceive Helen's death as unfortunate or even sad but, on the contrary, as occurring in the nick of time. Patriarchy and imperialism perform a disturbing merger: the death of the Othered woman allows the Anglo male to live on in safety.
When Gilroy finally decided that he had to kill Penclosa to escape her power, he focused on her animal nature. "Murder!" he wrote in his journal. "It has an ugly sound. But you don't talk of murdering a snake or of murdering a tiger."30 Gilroy reduced the Other to an animal state, a condition he felt comfortable attacking, even killing. His adversary was no longer a person but an animal, a bestial threat to the domestic safety of himself and the other members of his collegiate English community. In Gilroy, Conan Doyle has characterized not only an empiricist hero of science and rationalism but also an imperialist hero of the British Empire.
Just as the threats of Roylott, with his Eastern training, and Helen Penclosa, with her alien will, are neutralized by the timely deaths of these villains, so is a threat from the East neutralized by another timely death in Lot No. 249. In this novella, a young medical student discovers that his downstairs neighbor has brought an Egyptian mummy back to life and is directing it to attack his enemies. Abercrombie Smith, the student of medicine, must pit his scientific intellect against Edward Bellingham, a student with an Eastern training. In the end, Smith forces Bellingham at gunpoint to hack up the mummy and burn the pieces along with the roll of papyrus containing the mummy's secrets. After performing this "public duty," Smith goes back to his medical studies. Bellingham retreats to Eastern locales and is "last heard of in the Sudan."31
Conan Doyle constructs Abercrombie Smith as studious, manly, dutiful, and above all, scientific. Like Sherlock Holmes, he smokes a pipe habitually, and like his creator Conan Doyle, he studies medicine. Taking shape from these traits is an English hero along the lines of Sherlock Holmes or Austin Gilroy, who will confront the threat of the Other with scientific cunning, deadly force, and reassuring finality. Smith is among those "men whose minds and tastes turned naturally to all that was manly and robust," and his apartment furnishings reveal his priorities: there lies "a litter of medical books upon the table, with scattered bones, models and anatomical plates," and to the side are stashed "a couple of singlesticks and a set of boxing gloves."32 As well, Smith is "a famous runner,"33 an accomplished oarsman, and soon-to-be medical doctor. "With his firm mouth, broad forehead and clear-cut, somewhat hard-featured face," he is the epitome of Victorian manliness, and being humble as well, he is "so dogged, so patient, and so strong that he might in the end overtop a more showy genius."34 In short, Abercrombie Smith is a perfect specimen of English morality and heroism.
A sharp contrast, indeed, is Edward Bellingham, the man behind the mummy. His appearance, habits, and furnishings, too, reveal his nature and suggest that he has more in common with the mummy than is possible without mystical intervention. In fact, Smith "had never seen nature's danger signals flying so plainly upon a man's countenance."35 The Egyptologist is "very fat, but gave the impression of having at some time been considerably fatter, for his skin hung loosely in creases and folds, and was shot with a meshwork of wrinkles. Short stubbly brown hair bristled up from his scalp, with a pair of thick wrinkled ears protruding on either side."36 Smith's close friend observes that "there's something damnable about him, something reptilian." Bellingham is an expert in Eastern studies and speaks fluently in a number of Eastern tongues—"he's a demon at them"—and can converse with Arabs "as if he had been born and nursed and weaned among them."37 In his apartment, "walls and ceiling were thickly covered with a thousand strange relics from Egypt and the East," including weapons, statues of Eastern deities, and a stuffed crocodile from the Nile. While Smith's table is covered with medical paraphernalia, Bellingham's is "littered with papers, bottles, and the dried leaves of some graceful palmlike plant"—and a mummy.38
Just as the evil Helen Penclosa is compared to snakes and tigers, so is the Egyptian mummy, when brought to life, compared to apes and tigers. When the mummy attacks a student against whom Bellingham bears a grudge, he swings down from a tree, apelike, to strangle him with "beastly arms" that are "as strong and as thin as steel bands"; he afterwards escapes by "swinging himself over" a nearby wall. Rumors circulate that an ape must have escaped his trainer. Later, when the mummy pursues Smith down a dark countryside lane, he "was bounding like a tiger at his heels" and Smith escapes to say he had "been within handgrip of the devil."39
At first Smith views the idea of a mummy springing to life with "scientific contempt," but after the wild animal-like attacks on others and himself, he confronts Bellingham and warns him, "You'll find that your filthy Egyptian tricks won't answer in England."40 And like Gilroy, who decides he must kill Helen to escape her parasitic powers, Smith determines that the only solution to the murderous mummy is to kill it, and he is willing to kill Bellingham in the process if necessary. He tells his close friend that murder "is quite on the cards.... There is only one course open to me, and I am determined to take it."41 Smith gears up with a heavy revolver, a hunting crop, and the longest amputating knife he can procure and confronts Bellingham. He ensures that the mummy, with its "spices and dried essences," and the papyrus containing the secret to bringing it to life, are all burned before his eyes. Finally, like Holmes who departs the scene of Roylott's death with an almost flippant attitude, Smith quits the scene of the mummy's incineration while saying to Bellingham, "And now, good morning, for I must go back to my studies."42
The implications of Conan Doyle's constructions of foreign and female subjects are not to be underestimated. The narratives communicate, via the villains, a "type" that tells the reader how to view foreigners. Women remain silent shadows with rare forays as villains into the foreground. As well, via the hero, the narrative presents a desirable type to which the reader can direct his or her admiration and desires of emulation. Moreover, the reader is likely to experience the narrative events through the (male) hero rather than through the villain or woman and thus tends to identify with, even take on attitudes of this hero. As Judith Fetterley has argued, narratives that foreground and value male subjects while minimizing or eliminating female subjects induce female readers to become not-female in order to step into the protagonist's shoes and experience the story completely. "In such fictions," she writes, "the female reader is co-opted into participation in an experience from which she is explicitly excluded; she is asked to identify with a selfhood that defines itself in opposition to her; she is required to identify against herself."43 The same argument easily applies to non-Anglo readers of imperialist fiction; they, too, must identify against themselves. In this way, imperialist views (in the male hero) towards the foreign and the female were taught to the British public through popular fiction. The effects of these views on readers a century later, after history has recorded the decline of British imperialism and the rise of feminist criticism, would provide for a profitable study.
- See Robert Barr, "A Dialogue between Conan Doyle and Robert Barr, Recorded by Mr. Barr," McClure's Magazine, 3 (1894), 508.
- See John A. Hodgson, "Doyle's Favorite Sherlock Holmes Stories," Sherlock Holmes: The Major Stories with Contemporary Critical Essays, John A. Hodgson, ed. (Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1994), 435.
- Hodgson troubles the issue of the Indian swamp adder, pointing out that no such animal exists and charging that the story therefore "criminally violat[es] the laws of its genre . . . [and] of realism itself." See Hodgson, "The Recoil of 'The Speckled Band': Detective Story and Detective Discourse," Sherlock Holmes: The Major Stories with Contemporary Critical Essays, 337. Cait Murphy provides additional critique of the "nonexistent" swamp adder and its impossible capabilities. See Murphy, "The Game's Still Afoot," The Atlantic, 259:3 (1987), 58-62 and 64-66.
- See Hodgson, "Doyle's Favorite," 435.
- See Raymond Blathwayt, "A Talk with Conan Doyle," Bookman 50, (1897), 51.
- See Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Adventure of the Speckled Band," The Classic Illustrated Sherlock Holmes (Stamford, CT: Longmeadow, 1987), 123.
- See Rosemary Hennessy and Rajeswari Mohan, "The Construction of Women in Three Popular Texts of Empire: Towards a Critique of Materialist Feminism," Textual Practice 3, (1989), 323-59. Hennessy and Mohan examine Helen Stoner in conjunction with female subjects in two other popular texts of the period, arguing that "The Speckled Band" "dramatizes the sexual economy of patriarchy: the equation of women and property". (324).
- See Doyle, "Speckled Band," 121, 111, 110.
- Ibid., 110.
- Ibid., 123.
- See Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter," Classic Illustrated, 298.
- See Catherine Belsey, "Constructing the Subject: Deconstructing the Text," Contemporary Literary Criticism: Literary and Cultural Studies, 3rd ed. Robert Con Davis and Ronald Schleifer, ed. (New York: Longman, 1994), 355-70. Of great merit is her study of Elsie and the (sub)text of "The Dancing Men," performed from a feminist-Marxist perspective.
- See Arthur Conan Doyle, "A Scandal in Bohemia," Classic Illustrated, 11.
- Ibid., 11.
- See Arthur Conan Doyle, "Greek Interpreter," 293.
- See Arthur Conan Doyle, "Scandal," 11.
- Critical studies of The Parasite are few. Worth reading is Stephen K. Knight, "The Case of the Great Detective," Meanjin 40:2 (1981), 175-85. This essay contains one paragraph on The Parasite and builds a case for Penclosa's symbolizing a threat against patriarchy.
- See Arthur Conan Doyle, The Parasite, The Horror of the Heights, and Other Tales of Suspense (San Francisco: Chronicle, 1992), 63.
- Ibid., 70, 72.
- See Knight, 185.
- See Arthur Conan Doyle, Parasite, 55.
- Ibid., 76, emphasis added.
- Ibid., 77.
- Ibid., 69.
- Ibid., 76, emphasis added.
- Ibid., 62.
- Ibid., 65, emphasis added.
- Ibid., 73, 77.
- Ibid., 72.
- Ibid., 88.
- See Arthur Conan Doyle, Lot No. 249, Horror of the Heights, 42, 46.
- Ibid., 17, 18.
- Ibid., 39.
- Ibid., 20.
- Ibid., 23.
- Ibid., 22.
- Ibid., 18.
- Ibid., 22-23.
- Ibid., 30, 39, 40.
- Ibid., 30, 38.
- Ibid., 43.
- Ibid., 46.
- See Judith Fetterley, The Resisting Reader: A Feminist Approach to American Fiction (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978), xii.
Catherine Wynne (essay date 2002)
SOURCE: Wynne, Catherine. "Introduction." In The Colonial Conan Doyle: British Imperialism, Irish Nationalism, and the Gothic, pp. 1-18. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.
[In the following essay, Wynne explores how the Gothic elements of Doyle's fiction act as expressions of the underlying tensions between his Irish heritage and his support of the British Empire.]
Imperial Investigations and Colonial Detections
"[A]n empire is a passing thing . . . a colony is not," writes the Irish poet Thomas Kinsella. "[A] colony establishes an independent life, with a confusion of loyalties that shows itself in politics and literature, manners and customs, and other things."1 Kinsella is writing of the dual literary tradition of Ireland, the Gaelic and the English, and argues that a dual approach is necessary for a true understanding of the Irish literary tradition. Though specifically about Ireland, his definition has broader cultural resonance. First of all, though, the terms "empire" and "colony" demand closer scrutiny. Empire is constituted by the annexing of territory by, and the rule of, a foreign metropolitan center, the insertion of a military order, the expropriation of wealth, and the imposition of an external culture. Colonialism, as Declan Kiberd argues, embodies more than this in that it also denotes the notion of physical and cultural implantations in the creation of settler communities.2 Colonialism seeks the political, social, and religious transformation of the colonized culture and institutes a quasi-scientific and typically racist discourse to embellish its claims to cultural superiority and political hegemony.3 At the same time, the colonized culture does not exist in stasis but exerts to varying degrees a political and cultural dissent. The interaction between colonizer and colonized is a complicated one that embodies more than just resistance and conflict. Duality creates a degree of crossover, cultural mutation, and change. In the colonial context, identities become contested, confused, and even obscured.
Colonialism, in the sense of physical and cultural implantations, had been operational in Ireland for centuries. By the 1801 Act of Union of Great Britain and Ireland, Ireland remained effectively, if not titularly, a colony. By definition, Ireland's position was unique. The Act of Union should have established its parity with Great Britain, but the economic and social conditions of nineteenth-century Ireland ensured its secondary status.4 Indeed, the cultural apparatus designated the Irish as incapable of self-rule.5 Political dissent against the Act of Union emerged as early as 1803 and would continue in a constitutional or non-constitutional manner until 1921, as politician and revolutionary fought for varying forms of self-government. At the same time, Ireland was part of the British empire, and Irish soldiers fought imperial battles on foreign soil. To some degree, then, the Irish recruit implicitly or explicitly subscribed to an ideology of empire.6 Characteristic of this are the events of Easter 1916. While Irish soldiers fought in the British army on the battlefields of France, their revolutionary contemporaries were fighting a rebellion in the name of an independent Republic in Dublin.
The colonial condition vacillates between assent and dissent and in so doing produces complex allegiances and identities. Settlement, change, and engraftation bring about Kinsella's "confusion of loyalties."7 The notion of colony or the colonial is not a closed concept, and the very nature of colonial interactions and negotiations creates a difficulty with categorization. Because it is not a "passing thing," colonialism is subject to change, redefinition and rearticulation.8 It exists not only within the borders of the colony but beyond them and permeates the history, politics, imagination, and literary consciousness of those who experience, are constituted by, or are shaped by colonial agency.
That a colonial legacy should emerge, then, in a writer of immediate Irish descent is hardly surprising. That it should arise in a writer known for his allegiance to empire and famous for his creation of a "quintessentially" English detective takes a little more imagination. Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) was a product of a colonial inheritance and of an imperial climate. Ireland and empire coalesce in his biography. Of Irish parentage, born in Scotland, but living in England for most of his adult life, he emerged into, and was formed by, a political climate obsessed with imperial identity and haunted by the specter of Irish separatist demands. The often-troubled convergence of Irish nationalism and British imperialism emerges, as we shall see, in Doyle's public pronouncements and in his political actions. In brief, his letters to the press attempt to rationalize Irish political claims, while his most contentious public stance was for the commutation of the death penalty for Sir Roger Casement, knighted for services to Crown and then tried and executed for treason for the role that he played in the run-up to the Easter 1916 Rising. These types of tensions emerge in Doylean writings that tease out complex negotiations of identity. Indeed, the conflict between imperial fidelity and colonial heritage often finds an uneasy resolution in his Gothically charged fictions. Of course, fin-de-siècle British cultural tensions such as racial degeneration, gender "disease" and imperial decay are often mediated through the Gothic. At the same time, in Doyle's fictions Gothic motifs are bound up with the thematics of colonialism in the battle for the possession and control of land, preoccupations with racial and criminal identity, superstition, the quasi-scientific, and the occultist possession of mind and body. Here, topography, race, psyche, and sexuality become, as we shall see, contested and contentious spaces. In Doyle the imperial and the colonial converge, and he was bequeathed such a position by his specific historical context.
In his 1924 autobiography, Memories and Adventures, Doyle records: "I, an Irishman by extraction, was born in the Scottish capital" after "two separate lines of Irish wanderers came together under one roof."9 As Sherlock Holmes can trace his own lineage from English landowners and a French artist, Doyle, too, was a hybrid product of eighteenth-century Irish Catholic gentry on his paternal side and of Cromwellian planters on his maternal one. Doyle's mother, Mary Foley, was the Irish-born daughter of a Dublin doctor whose widow emigrated to Edinburgh to seek a new life and to establish a boardinghouse. It was here that Charles Altamont Doyle, the author's father, met and married Mary Foley. Charles' father, the Doyle patriarch John, was the famous Regency caricaturist, H. B., thus instituting the Doylean artistic temperament. In a little-known short story "The End of Devil Hawker" (1930), his grandson would pay tribute to "the long and wonderful series of H. B., the great unknown John Doyle, who in his day was a real power in the land."10 In any case, as Holmes observes in "The Greek Interpreter" (1893): "Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms."11 Significantly, the observation emerges as Holmes and Watson discuss whether the individual is a product of heredity or of training. Contrary to Watson's interpretation, Holmes subscribes to the primacy of heredity in his own case and at this point introduces to Watson that he has a hitherto undisclosed brother, Mycroft.
But Doylean blood in the family's most famous member was also to take a strange form. The influence of lineage is attested by Doyle's son, Adrian, in his short memoir The True Conan Doyle (1945): "Conan Doyle, by descent and parentage, was a Southern Irishman" and was, Adrian continues, "in essence an hereditary product."12 Pierre Nordon's 1966 biography of the author persuasively argues that rich and varied family traditions provide the clue to his complex character. The Irish Catholic and artistic tradition of his paternal side converged with the military tradition of his maternal one. Nordon pertinently argues that Doyle could neither banish nor harmonize his familial traditions. They become central to an understanding of the author as they explain his artistic vocation and his non-literary pursuits, and they clarify the "shadows surrounding his work."13 Nordon quite rightly identifies the conflict in Doyle. What the shadows are he does not reveal. Of course, such occlusions can be read as the tension arising from Doyle's colonial inheritance—an unease that often reemerges in Gothic thematics.
Duality converges biographically in Doyle and replicates in his writing and in his public career. He establishes himself as both Irish and British, of Southern Irish descent but born in Edinburgh, a Catholic whose familial history is one of dispossession. The loss of land during the Penal Laws operating against Catholics in eighteenth-century Ireland prompted the Doyle family's eventual removal to London by 1815. Religious and social dispossession coalesced with the artistic temperament and found resonance in the family's sons. Richard Doyle, Arthur's uncle, was Punch's main cartoonist between 1843 and 1850. In 1850 Pope Pius IX decided to create new bishoprics in England, and when Punch adopted an anti-Catholic stance, Richard Doyle irrevocably resigned his position in protest. The author William Makepeace Thackeray tried to get him to reverse his decision, arguing that the Times had similarly abused the Catholic Church and yet their Catholic journalists did not resign. Richard Doyle reputedly rebuffed this with the remark that it was "all very well in The Times . . . but not in Punch. For The Times is a monarchy whereas Punch is a republic."14 Political and religious commitments are Doylean traits. The illustrated diary of Charles Altamont Doyle, a document originating from his 1889 residency in an asylum, demonstrates a commitment to Irish nationalism. Richard's career as a cartoonist and Charles' asylum drawings thus cast a rather different light on the Doyles' identity than might be retroactively deduced from their most celebrated member's imperial stance and most famous fictional creation.
Several anomalies converge in Arthur Conan Doyle. Raised a Catholic, he abandoned his religion and later embraced the tenets of spiritualism. Akin to many of his Irish contemporaries, he exhibited a keen interest in fairy lore and the occult. Doyle's letters to the press indicate a strong interest in Irish affairs, ranging from an anti-Home Rule stance to later support for Irish federalism. Such political mutation is not unique in an Irish colonial context. It occurs in a more radical manner in two of Doyle's friends and former political allies. Both Roger Casement and the English author Erskine Childers had been advocates of empire, and both would go on to embrace and die for their commitments to militant Irish separatism. We return to these issues in the following chapters. It is sufficient at this point to establish that the colonial climate implants unstable loyalties. Significantly, Casement was instrumental in convincing Doyle of Ireland's claims for a separate parliament. Doyle's attempted reconciliation of British imperialism and Irish nationalism was ongoing. In a draft of a letter possibly designed for an Irish newspaper from April 1912 he acknowledges his imperialist allegiance but also desires that Irish political aspirations should include imperial fidelity. He is an imperialist because he "believe[s] the whole to be greater than the part.... It was the apparent enmity of Ireland to the Empire which held me from Home Rule for many years."15 Furthermore, he desires that Irish nationalists remain faithful to the Union Jack because "[m]ore Irishmen have died for that flag than men of any other race in proportion to numbers. It is the sign of the Empire which Ireland has helped to build and which, be the local exception what it may, has stood for freedom and progress all the world over."16 Doyle clearly saw a role for an independent Ireland in the British empire. However, the clarity of his public responses often belies more difficult fictional negotiations. In works that span the last decades of Victorianism across the Edwardian era into the years that saw the advent of modernism, Doyle tapped cultural and societal fears. His fictions and his public commitments register the preoccupations and anxieties of his time; his work engages with the rise and consequent decline of empire, ideas of racial theory, scientific progress, degeneration, the crisis of faith, and changes in gender relations. Such issues become interesting in the context of this study because they demonstrate how a colonial identity intrudes on the creation of an imperial selfhood. As Doyle strove to become more English than the English themselves in his cult of empire, this persona is challenged and undermined by recurring Gothic themes that arise in narratives that often return us to Irish political and social concerns.17
Still, Doyle is often exclusively categorized as the quintessential Englishman, patriotically devoted to Crown, empire's defender and empire's apologist. Of course, he was the great propagandist of the Boer War. In a letter to his mother in December 1899 he explains his decision to volunteer to fight and establishes himself as great imperial advocate after Rudyard Kipling: "I learned patriotism from my mother, so you must not blame me. What I feel is that I have perhaps the strongest influence over young men, especially young athletic sporting men, of any one in England, (bar Kipling)."18 This connection with the Anglo-Indian author is interesting in a fictional context because in Kipling's Kim (1901) colonial and imperial converge to bolster the empire. Kimball O'Hara looks like an Indian, and calls himself English but is, in fact, an Irish boy. Kim's Irishness, his racial otherness, makes him a useful British spy. Not English but not Indian either, his Irishness occupies the space in which the contest of empire can be fought and, in Kipling's narrative viewpoint, won. For Doyle, however, where colonial and imperial meet, the encounter is a tense one.
Hugh Gough's preface to The True Conan Doyle emulates Doyle's self-representation as an English patriot. Even though Gough affirms that Doyle was "by birth an Irishman, [and] though Irishmen have their own characteristics, the mixture of blood and culture is so profound that Conan Doyle can be accepted as a shining example of the best characteristics of the English race."19 In a bizarre deployment of pseudoscientific racial theory, among the Doylean traits that Gough defines as quintessentially English are "a personified love of adventure, even of danger, a capacity to fight energetically and fiercely, to blaze out with anger when his conceptions of right or justice were outraged, and yet to be courteous, gentle, and full of fun."20 Gough situates Doyle in the vein of the masculine adventurer of late-century imperial romance. We only have to look to H. Rider Haggard for a fictional counterpart.21 Nonetheless, he fails to expand upon what Doyle's Irish characteristics might involve, but his attestation of the confluence of blood and culture is useful in that it returns us to Kinsella's notion of complex allegiances.
In 1902, Doyle published The War in South Africa: Its Causes and Conduct in order to defend the British handling of the Boer War. As an army doctor in South Africa, he felt that he had enough experience to present his case. For Doyle, "it becomes a duty which we owe to our national honour to lay the facts before the world."22 The war itself was highly problematic. Very briefly rehearsed, Britain had gone to war in 1899 with the South African Republic (the Transvaal) and the Orange Free State, which were under the control of Dutch settlers known as the Boers. The wealth in gold and diamonds in the region had attracted European, mainly British colonists (Uitlanders) who claimed that they were being oppressed by the Boers; they were denied equal rights and the right to vote. Britain intervened on their behalf, and the colonial secretary, Joseph Chamberlain, provocatively inflamed the tense situation. By September 1899 British troops were deployed to Natal. The Transvaal and the Orange Free State mobilized and issued an ultimatum to Britain in early October to withdraw all troops from the borders within forty-eight hours. This did not happen, and war ensued on October 12. The detail and complexity of the Boer War are beyond the range of this study.23 In the context of my argument, I want to present the war in how it relates to Doyle's engagement with notions of imperialism and colonialism. Of primary interest here is Doyle's interpretation of the causes of the war. He condemns the treatment of the Uitlanders as they were denied the privilege of the ballot box. The Boers are indicted:
A handful of people by the right of conquest take possession of an enormous country over which they are dotted at such intervals . . . they refuse to admit any other people upon equal terms, but claim to be a privileged class who shall dominate the new-comers completely. They are outnumbered in their own land by immigrants who are far more highly educated and progressive, and yet they hold them down in a way which exists nowhere on earth. What is their right? The right of conquest. Then the same right may be justly invoked to reverse so intolerable a situation.24
What Doyle is actually demonstrating here is, in fact, the operation of imperialism. The domination of subject peoples by European powers reached its zenith in the late nineteenth century—a similar "right of conquest" had made Britain the great imperial power by the time of the South African conflict.25 What is different in this context is that the subject people are British. For Doyle, the Boers are despotic and regressive, while Britain is democratic and progressive. Doyle's point on the issue of the vote is also interesting: "[T]he whole argument is based upon the narrow racial supposition that every naturalized citizen not of Boer extraction must necessarily be unpatriotic. This is not borne out by the examples of history. The new-comer soon becomes as proud of his country and as jealous of her liberty as the old."26 Doyle is pointing here to his own racial extraction and to his British political allegiance. However, his argument for an easy convergence and absorption of disparate identities is politically naive; he had only had to look at contemporary examples in Ireland, where Catholic nationalism and Protestant unionism were polarizing, not to mention his own uneasy negotiation of an Irish nationalist and Catholic legacy. He goes on to state that the Transvaal "is an oligarchy, not a democracy, where half the inhabitants claim to be upon an entirely different footing from the other half. This rule represents the ascendancy of one race over the other, such an ascendancy as existed in Ireland in the eighteenth century."27 It is hardly surprising that Ireland should emerge in the context of imperial debacle and where issues of resistance are broached. Doyle closes his text with a hope for peaceful union: "a South Africa in which there shall never again be strife, and in which Boer and Briton shall enjoy the same rights and the same liberties, with a common law to shield them and a common love of their own fatherland to weld them into one united nation."28 The colonial memory produces complex frictions that Doyle always seeks, but more often than not, fails to resolve.
Since such tensions permeate Doyle's biography and public career, it is hardly surprising that he should find recourse in a detective fiction where solutions can be found—to put the point at its simplest, Holmes can solve the crime and reinstate order. Or can he? As we shall see, the Holmesian canon also betrays these strains. While Holmes is presented as a definitively English sleuth (though of French descent), the stories consistently locate him within situations and environments that exhibit colonial traits. Yet, since the late Victorian period a popular preoccupation with Holmes has culminated in a cult of personality. The first serialized Holmes story, "A Scandal in Bohemia," appeared in The Strand Magazine, George Newnes' fledgling enterprise, in July 1891.29 The detective immediately gripped the public imagination. It has been argued that the myth of Holmes as a real person was fueled by the fact that the stories' illustrator, Sidney Paget, modeled Holmes on his brother Walter, consequently giving the fictional character a physical embodiment.30 A more likely explanation, though, is that the stories hit a nerve in the Victorian psyche. On the eve of British imperial decline and influenced by a social theory preoccupied with degeneration, Victorians found stability in a form of fiction that promised that everything—even if not already known—is at least knowable in theory.31 In other words, if Holmes was a real person, then their world was all the more controllable and all the less minatory.
In such an environment Holmes' demise at the Reichenbach Falls caused consternation. Charles Higham records the public effect of "The Final Problem" (1893), Holmes' final foray:
In great fear and trembling, Newnes published the story. Not until the death of Queen Victoria seven years later was there such widespread mourning. Over twenty thousand people canceled their subscriptions immediately. They, and tens of thousands more, wrote angrily to The Strand, protesting this bloody act of murder. "You beast!" one woman's letter began.
Young men in the city wore black silk bands around their hats, or upon their coat sleeves, and women appeared in mourning. The Prince of Wales was especially dashed by the great detective's demise, and it was rumored that Queen Victoria was Not Amused.32
Higham further notes that people believed not only that Holmes existed but "that a Dr. Watson (some said, Dr. Watson of Upper Norwood) had written the account of his exploits. The legend even persists to this day, with Conan Doyle relegated to the role of Dr. Watson's literary agent."33 Doyle was simultaneously repulsed and intrigued by this myth, commenting in Memories and Adventures : "I do not think that I ever realized what a living actual personality Holmes had become to the more guileless readers, until I heard of the very pleasing story of the char-à-banc of French schoolboys who, when asked what they wanted to see first in London, replied unanimously that they wanted to see Mr. Holmes' lodgings in Baker Street."34 Despite stated frustration on the author's part, the preface to the final collection, The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (1927), actually finds Doyle himself indulging the popular response. By humanizing the detective, by endowing him with a "biography," Doyle advocates his own superfluity. The author becomes the penumbral entity behind the fictional creation. Indeed, Doyle believed that the response to Holmes overshadowed other aspects of his oeuvre: "Had Holmes never existed I could not have done more, though he may perhaps have stood a little in the way of the recognition of my more serious literary work."35 Such shadows lead us back to the Gothic. The detective also betrays his Gothic propensities. Holmes experiences his own dualities and tensions, best embodied in the contest with his fictional double, Professor Moriarty. Their very doubling, the detective versus the criminal, ties in with late-century preoccupations with racial degeneration. For Holmes, the need for criminal stimulus is intrinsic to his intellect, and when crime abates, he injects cocaine. As Watson comments in "The Resident Patient" (1893): "He loved to lie in the very centre of five millions of people, with his filaments stretching out and running through them, responsive to every little rumour or suspicion of unsolved crime."36 Similarly, Moriarty's criminal organization is compared to a spider's web. At the same time, Moriarty's name also betrays its hiberian background. This is not merely of cognomenal interest but, as we shall see, situates the Napoleon of crime within the context of Irish political nationalism. Before we move into the Gothic territories of the colonial engagement, we need to briefly locate Doyle's Gothic predilection in the context of nineteenth century British and Irish literature.
Gothic as a fictional form commences with the publication of Hugh Walpole's The Castle of Otranto in 1764, and as a defined fictional mode it officially ceased to exist with the publication of Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer (1820). Its generic period emerges securely in the context of British fiction and culminates with an Irish-authored text and in an Irish landscape. Yet, the Gothic, true to its very nature, resurfaces to haunt nineteenth-century British and Irish fictions. Doyle's writing can be established in the context of both. Of course, many of Doyle's fictions would fit, with varying emphases, within the general conventions of the mode as established by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's seminal study:
These include the priesthood and monastic institutions; sleeplike and deathlike states; subterranean spaces and live burial; doubles; the discovery of obscured family ties; affinities between narrative and pictorial art; possibilities of incest; unnatural echoes or silences, unintelligible writings, and the unspeakable; garrulous retainers; the poisonous effects of guilt and shame; nocturnal landscapes and dreams; apparitions from the past; Faust- and Wandering Jew-like figures; civil insurrections and fires; the charnel house and the madhouse.37
Here Sedgwick is setting out the parameters of the Gothic novel as it emerged in the late eighteenth century. Fred Botting builds on this definition and augments the genre's mutation in the nineteenth:
Tortuous, fragmented narratives relating mysterious incidents, horrible images and life-threatening pursuits predominate in the eighteenth century. Spectres, monsters, demons, corpses, skeletons, evil aristocrats, monks and nuns, fainting heroines and bandits populate the Gothic landscapes as suggestive figures of imagined and realistic threats. The list grew in the nineteenth century, with the addition of scientists, fathers, husbands, madmen, criminals and the monstrous double signifying duplicity and evil nature. Gothic landscapes are desolate, alienating and full of menace.38
The early Gothic preoccupation with the religious institution and its practices is transformed in Doyle's fictions into religious tension, while live burial and subterranean passages embody racial conflict; doubles permeate; identities are obscured; repose is precarious; landscapes are threatening; criminals abound; and the scientist/detective tries to make sense of a complex world. But it is not the characteristics of the Gothic that are most interesting in the context of late-century fictions. As Gothic emerged into this period, many of these effects disappeared, and the mode became almost conventionally indefinable. What becomes notable, then, in the context of fin-de-siècle Gothic is, as Julian Wolfreys points out, the manner in which "Gothic's sense of the alterity of subjectivity" destabilizes a coherent sense of self. It threatens to undermine a containment of meaning and allows for diversity and fragmentation.39 It opens the possibility of other discourses and promises heterogeneity. Equally, for Cannon Schmitt, late-century Gothic becomes "[r]emarkable for the provocative way in which it deploys apparent fixities (of gender, class, nation) in the service of instability and collapse."40 The genre is, continues Schmitt, subversive: "[T]he sexuality, chaos, confusion, and terror the novels feature are read as the emergence of what has been forbidden. As the textual practice that registers this emergence, the Gothic disrupts the dominant system—whether that system is identified as rationalism, capitalism, patriarchy, or the realist novel."41 Following such analyses, the intrusion of the Gothic in Doylean texts is established as the voice of the colonial and of the marginalized that haunts narratives that tease out the tensions between an imperial and cultural center and the dissident and dissenting margins.
By the late nineteenth century social and cultural anxieties culminated in the production of a Gothic charged with fears of imperial collapse. The fin-desiècle dialectic of progress and degeneration produced the fear of regression.42 The paradox of Western civilization was that all that was deemed progressive might, in fact, be its concealed opposite. Progress could act as a stimulus for, as much as a defense against, a degenerating society. Here Gothic becomes a register of fear as a seemingly consolidated Western culture was under attack, an attack that came from within the structure as well as without. Consequently, given his imperial loyalties and his Gothic fictions, it is hardly surprising that Doyle has been drawn into what Patrick Brantlinger has coined an "imperial Gothic."43 For Brantlinger, the imperial Gothic "combines the seemingly scientific, progressive, often Darwinian ideology of imperialism with an antithetical interest in the occult."44 He continues that the "three principal themes of imperial Gothic are individual regression or going native; an invasion of civilization by the forces of barbarism or demonism; and the diminution of opportunities for adventure and heroism in the modern world."45 Brantlinger draws Haggard, Kipling, Bram Stoker, Robert Louis Stevenson, Joseph Conrad, John Buchan, and, by extension, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray into this "imperial Gothic" paradigm. However, the trouble with Brantlinger's portmanteau definition is that it is just that. It is an attempt to create generalities as differences, and both textual and contextual nuances are submerged within this governing "imperial" rubric.
Dracula (1897) is a case in point. It simply becomes "an individual invasion or demonic possession fantasy with political implications,"46 and Brantlinger thus links Dracula into late-century imperial fears. But the novel was written by an Irishman who was also preoccupied with Irish social and political concerns.47 The Count is an invasive figure from the East who threatens Victorian polity, but he can also be read as a fictional embodiment of Charles Stewart Parnell, the messianic leader of the Irish Home Rule movement from 1877 to 1890 and whose death in 1891 also signaled the demise of Irish constitutional nationalism until it reflickered in 1903.48 Parnell became a figure of myth. Allegedly, he was never seen in his coffin, thus invoking the popular idea that maybe he had never died at all.49 A Dracula-like figure, Parnell's specter haunted Irish politics for years. Consequently, Dracula is a text about empire, but it is equally about Ireland.
Similarly, Brantlinger's interest in Doyle leads to a preoccupation with the author's spiritualism. He defines it as "a kind of psychic emigration and colonization."50 Imperial in aspect, it becomes another manifestation of an imperial Gothic. Following this reading, Doyle's spiritualism can be theorized in the context of imperial decline. The opportunities for adventure were disappearing after the end of World War I; hence, Doyle retreated to a psychic landscape in order to colonize it. At no point does Brantlinger engage with Doyle's Irishness, which complicates the Gothic predilection of his fictions. Doyle becomes fixed within the imperial nexus. Yet, Doyle must be examined within the context of a colonial inheritance in which issues of colonization predominate in the preoccupation with land, its ownership and control, in racial and criminal identity, in psychological autonomy or its loss, in sexual control or its absence. Engagements with these colonial issues result in ambiguity, fear, anxiety, and confusion—the hallmarks of late-nineteenth-century Gothic.
Given the colonial emphases of Doyle's fictions, he also needs to be situated in the context of scholarship on Irish literary Gothicism. A marginalized area, critical response to Irish Gothic is largely embodied in W. J. McCormack's declaration that "[q]uite enough has been written about Gothicism as such."51 McCormack in his introduction to the section on "Irish Gothic and After (1820-1945)" in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (1991) attempts to define and indeed limit the parameters for recent criticism of the genre.52 For McCormack, the Gothic exists in a "fugitive and discontinuous manner."53 It simply endured in nineteenth-century Ireland. For him, the Gothic form is akin to Dracula: never truly alive in the first place, it now exists in a state of undeath. Equally, McCormack largely dismisses Stoker's work, remarking of Dracula that it is "a luridly obvious product of what Yeats was soon to call the anti-self."54 He argues that Stoker's abandonment of Ireland in both literary and personal terms (only one of his novels is Irish-based, and he moved to London to work as theater manager at the Lyceum in 1877) is an eschewal of colonial themes. On the contrary, Stoker's move away from Ireland as a literary backdrop can be seen as an attempt to achieve a distance necessary for articulation, to find a point outside the culture from which that culture's nature can be explored, both consciously and unconsciously. The persona of a specifically Transylvanian vampire provides for Stoker a certain cultural distance, to articulate not only British imperial fears but also Irish political malaise. McCormack similarly underestimates Wilde's contribution to the genre by focusing on the pseudo-Gothic fiction "The Canterville Ghost" (1887) and largely ignoring the strongly Gothically inflected heterogenity of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). Admittedly, Stoker and Wilde fare rather better than Doyle, who emerges in McCormack's discussion only via a fleeting parenthetical aside:
Yet, despite his background, Stoker rarely refers in his fiction to Ireland or its surviving folk traditions. True, his first novel (The Snake's Pass, London, 1891) is set in County Mayo, abounds in sentimental violent incident, and even summons up legends of the French revolutionary invasion. True also that Dracula was eventually translated into Irish in 1933, perhaps to mark the accession to power of Eamon De Valera. Essentially, Stoker aligns himself with the London exiles (and not only Shaw and Wilde, but Arthur Conan Doyle and Arthur Sullivan).55
Doyle becomes the London exile, of marginal relevance in the context of Irish writing. Hence, a debate on the Gothic becomes skewed. Both Brantlinger and McCormack see Doyle in a one-dimensional framework. Of course, Doyle is writer preoccupied with imperial demands, but he is also a writer whose public commitments show his concern with Irish political interests—and the tension between these positions often resurfaces in Gothic or Gothically inflected fictions. This aspect of his work demands attention and refuses either imperial relegation or colonial parentheses.
For Terry Eagleton, Gothic within an Irish context is a singularly Protestant preoccupation, a product of paranoia.56 The Protestant Gothic is an articulation of fear: fear of dispossession and fear of possible violence, as waning Ascendancy power gave way to waxing Catholic-oriented nationalism. The mode, he claims, is a markedly Protestant development: "Gothic carries with it a freight of guilt and self-torment, and these are arguably more Protestant than Catholic obsessions."57 For Eagleton, "much of the Anglo-Irish obsession with magic, the occult, secret societies and the rest was an attempt to surmount the solitude of the Protestant self—to find in ritual and mystical brotherhood a consoling substitute for that sense of system and solidarity which the Catholic Church was able to bestow on its adherents."58 Be that as it may, Doyle's intrusion within a colonial Gothic framework complicates the issue. The rise of interest in the occult and the growth of movements such as spiritualism and Theosophy must be seen in a larger context as a product of the age of Darwinism and as a part of the search for new beliefs in place of a Christianity that could no longer provide definitive answers. W. B. Yeats, taken with Protestant forms of magic, flirted with Gothicism and the new religions, as did the lapsed Catholic Arthur Conan Doyle; Yeats wrote "The Second Coming" in 1921, and Doyle published, a year later, The Coming of the Fairies. John Lamond notes in his account of Doyle that the publication of Darwin's works caused religious debate to spread through the University of Edinburgh: "There were constant arguments in the classrooms on these subjects, resulting in a wave of unbelief sweeping over the medical section of the university."59 Doyle's conflict with the Catholic religion of his family was obviously affected by this environment. Yet there is also evidence in his fictional autobiography, The Stark Munro Letters (1895), that, as for James Joyce, his discomfort with Catholicism began as a schoolboy. However, for Eagleton, the Gothic "typically runs its course in some stagnant backwater secluded from the mainstream of history."60 The genre is remarginalized, because it does not exist in a mainstream. At this point it is useful to return to Kinsella. For him, the confusion of colonialism creates a problem with definitions, but "it is at the margin that the need for precision increases, and where things may be learnt."61 After all, it was the Gothic that gave expression to late-century Victorian anxieties, both Irish and British. It reemerges at the point of convergence of British imperialism and Irish colonialism in the fictional oeuvre of a popular author.
Interesting in the context of this study is Eagleton's work on Wuthering Heights (1847). Heathcliff and the Great Hunger (1993) commences by trying to establish an analogy between Emily Brontë's text and famine in Ireland. Eagleton suggests a correlation between Branwell Brontë's visit to Liverpool in August 1845 and his sister's commencement of her novel some months later. For Eagleton, this time scale indicates that the novel can be reinterpreted as an allegory of Irish society's predicament during the 1840s—an interesting premise based on the huge Irish emigration that commenced with the onslaught of the starvation.62 Accordingly, Branwell may have met Irish peasant refugees and related stories to his sister on return to Haworth. Eagleton further supports this thesis by referring to the Brontës' Irish ancestry, a background that they attempted to suppress. Branwell, on this reading, is the model for Heathcliff; artistic but thwarted, both men are an embodiment of the self-destructive Celt.
I argue that the Gothic inflections of this novel provide a point of comparison with Doyle's work. As a matter of anecdote one of Richard Doyle's last paintings was of the Brontës' Haworth parsonage.63 More pertinently, in Through the Magic Door (1907), Doyle talks about the Brontës in the context of their Cornish roots: "Whence came the intense glowing imagination of the Brontës—so unlike the Miss Austen-like calm of their predecessors? Again, I only know their mother was a Cornish woman."64 Doyle fails to mention their Irishness—which is significant in the context of Wuthering Heights. A novel suffused with Gothic thematics emits a colonial resonance with its obscure, degraded (and for Eagleton an Irish immigrant) identity. Colonial motifs also surface in the imposition of violent power and its equally violent resistance and in the battle for the possession and control of land and property. A wild landscape, evocative of the moor in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901-2), is a central motif, as we shall see, of colonial Ireland, just as the possibility for superstition and apparitions situates both texts within a colonial framework. The thematics of colonialism are here infused with Gothic inflections. It is a preoccupation that, like Cathy's ghost tapping at the window crying for admittance, refuses to depart into some formal backwater.
An outsider engaging with the center in terms of discourse, Doyle exhibits a contentious, complex, and often ambivalent response to a difficult Irish heritage, where his imperial status also positioned him as an outsider. His preoccupations with colonialism are demonstrated in recurring obsessions with land, mind, racial identity, and sexuality. Refracted, however, through an imperial prism, a tense and ambivalent response to such issues emerges in Gothically inflected narratives. The Gothic is an important mode within the colonial context because, as Julian Moynahan notes, it gives a voice to those who are without power and are disenfranchised yet seems "at times, to subvert and contradict the official best intentions of its creators."65 Always keen to state his imperial allegiance, Doyle's public response to Irish political claims is nonetheless measured, temperate, and intermediary. The anxieties that such conflicting positions incur emerge in fictions, even in detective ones, where a Gothic ambience prevails, intrudes, and disturbs.
The first chapter of this book examines how Doyle reconciles the friction between his fidelity to empire and the claims of Irish nationalism through an examination of imperial, colonial, and criminal conflict. The focus is on soldiering and on secret societies. Doyle's fictional and nonfictional representations of Irish soldiers present them as symbols for potential imperial unity, while his sympathetic Fenian stories attempt some understanding of the social conditions that provoked extreme political movements and reactions in nineteenth-century Ireland. The chapter focuses on The Valley of Fear (1915), the only Holmes story with explicit Irish subject matter (the diasporic Irish in America). Doyle's fiction returns to the historical Molly Maguires, an agrarian secret society that had terrorized the midcentury rural landscape of central and northwestern Ireland and had ostensibly disappeared only to resurface in the Pennsylvanian coalfields of the 1870s. The story draws a fresh line of analysis through the canon by examining covert thematic allusions to Irish political nationalism that implicate the archcriminal Moriarty. If Moriarty's organization presents the greatest challenge to the detective, his Irish ancestry and allegiance were a similar challenge to his creator. The tension between the desire for imperial unity and the demands of Irish separatism produces a Gothic strain. Here, racial identity is occluded, a criminal organization is never named, and politics are never defined.
Chapter 2 focuses on the colonial landscape. Central to this chapter is a study of The Hound of the Baskervilles and its preoccupation with a particular kind of locale: wet, desolate, dangerous ground. The moor of The Hound of the Baskervilles will be refigured within the context of late nineteenth-century Irish preoccupations (literary and historical) with the ownership of land and the moor and bog, respectively. The moor functions as a Gothic monster; as an unstable entity, the Grimpen Mire at once threatens to uphold a rebarbative past and at the same time allows for a liberated future. "The Heiress of Glenmahowley" (1884), set in Ireland, demonstrates the bog's role in the agrarian struggle. Viscous landscapes, as this chapter argues, pose a dilemma: resisting interpretation and control (even the camera's), they register the instability of the colonized topos. Running alongside the remarkable prominence of this trope—alongside what can be termed a "topographical Gothic"—are a number of themes strongly linked to colonial issues: the conflict of superstition and reason, the value of certain traditions when weighed against the prospect of material gain, the achievement of social progress through a sloughing off of some of the attributes that give a culture its particular weave. Control of land and its concomitant defiance of possession mirror the complexities of the colonial situation, a theme central to a writer who emerges from a colonial heritage, one of land and cultural dispossession.
Chapter 3 engages with imperial politics. Central to this is Doyle's relationship with Casement and their work for the reform of the Belgian Congo. Casement had exposed the ruthless system of imperial exploitation operational on the Congo, which was under the control of King Leopold of Belgium. This chapter links Doyle's humanitarian interest with "The Adventure of the Speckled Band" (1892) and the play The Speckled Band (1912). Both narratives demonstrate a ruthless and fatal exploitation that serves as an analogy for an abusive imperialism and exposes a Doylean disquiet with regard to empire. An analysis of the snake motif draws it into the dynamics of Irish politics and Doyle's shifting arbitration of British imperialism and Irish nationalism. In Doyle's writing, non-Irish landscapes populated with snakelike creatures often recall an Irish topography. Shifting and evasive, Gothic and libidinal, the snake motif symbolizes in these fictions an undermining of authority and an evasion of fixedness and control. They connote the instability of the imperial dynamic.
Chapter 4 examines Doyle's interest in the mesmeric and the pseudoscientific and his ultimate conversion to the spiritualist cause, a commitment that damaged his postwar reputation. This chapter reinterprets Doyle's spiritualism and reads it as a product of a dispossessed colonial identity. For Doyle, spiritualism and fairy belief constitute the ultimate reconciliation of an Irish familial and cultural heritage. In "The Adventure of the Empty House" (1903) spiritualist preoccupations and Irish thematics converge when the son of an Irish earl is mysteriously murdered in a room locked from the inside. Meanwhile, the tension between cultural center and colonial margins is reflected in The Parasite (1894), a text that exposes the limits of conventional science. Mesmerism imperils the mind's autonomy, exposes the confines of orthodox science, and deposes its sovereignty. As a penetrative force it denies a rational, imperial, and patriarchal hegemony. Doyle's occultist texts articulate the fragility of the dominant culture and its redundant efforts to quell the colonized's spiritual, superstitious, and mesmeric propinquities. However, in order to sound the reaches of all these questions, we turn our investigation toward bogs and moors, aberrant serpents, mesmeric susceptibilities, and spiritualist tendencies. Firstly, though, the game is afoot on the trail of Irish soldiers, Mollies, and Fenians.
- Thomas Kinsella, The Dual Tradition: An Essay on Poetry and Politics in Ireland (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1995) 111, 112.
- See Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland (London: Jonathan Cape, 1995) 4. See also Edward W. Said, Culture and Imperialism (London: Chatto and Windus, 1993) 8.
- See David Lloyd, Ireland after History (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press in association with Field Day, 1999) 2-3.
- For a study of the union and its economic consequences, see Earl of Dunraven, The Legacy of Past Years: A Study of Irish History (London: John Murray, 1911) 177.
- See, for example, Richard Ned Lebow, White Britain and Black Ireland: The Influence of Stereotypes on Colonial Policy (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1976).
- For an examination of the Irish soldier in the British army, see Keith Jeffery, "The Irish Military Tradition and the British Empire," An Irish Empire?: Aspects of Ireland and the British Empire, ed. Keith Jeffery (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1996) 94-122.
- Kinsella, Dual Tradition, 112.
- Arthur Conan Doyle, Memories and Adventures (1924; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984) 8, 10.
- Arthur Conan Doyle, "The End of Devil Hawker," Uncollected Stories: The Unknown Conan Doyle, comp. and intro. John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green (London: Secker and Warburg, 1982) 421. The story was first published in The Strand Magazine in November 1930.
- Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Greek Interpreter," The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes, pref. Christopher Morley (1930; Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1981) 435.
- Adrian Conan Doyle, The True Conan Doyle, pref. Hugh Gough (London: John Murray, 1945) 5, 7.
- Pierre Nordon, Conan Doyle, trans. Frances Partridge (1964; London: John Murray, 1966) 17.
- Quoted in ibid. 13.
- Quoted in ibid. 105.
- Quoted in ibid. 105.
- Arthur Conan Doyle, To Arms!, pref. F. E. Smith (London: Hodder and Stoughton, ) 27.
- Quoted in Nordon, Conan Doyle, 46.
- Hugh Gough, "Preface," The True Conan Doyle, by Doyle 3.
- See, for example, Sir Henry Curtis in H. Rider Haggard's King Solomon's Mines (London: Cassell, 1885). On Doyle and masculinity, see Diana Barsham, Arthur Conan Doyle and the Meaning of Masculinity (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000).
- A. Conan Doyle, The War in South Africa: Its Causes and Conduct (London: Smith, Elder, 1902) v. Doyle defends British honor against charges of wanton farm-burning, explains the conditions of the concentration camps, and attempts to rebuff, although not very convincingly, the British journalist W. T. Stead's accusations of the rape of South African women by British soldiers.
- For a study of the Boer War, see Thomas Pakenham, The Scramble for Africa, 1876-1912 (1991; London: Abacus, 1992) 557-82. For a study of Doyle in the context of the conflict, see Paula Krebs, Gender, Race, and the Writing of Empire: Public Discourse and the Boer War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).
- Doyle, The War in South Africa 30.
- Although "A Scandal in Bohemia" was, in fact, the third Sherlock Holmes story to appear, it was the first to be published in The Strand Magazine. The first Holmes story, "A Study in Scarlet," was published in Beeton's Christmas Annual in 1887; the second one, "The Sign of Four," was commissioned by the Philadelphia-based magazine Lippincotts. It was through the serialized stories in The Strand Magazine, though, that these detective stories became popular.
- See Charles Higham, The Adventures of Conan Doyle: The Life of the Creator of Sherlock Holmes (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1976) 96.
- For a discussion of Doyle's work in the context of the debate on degeneration, see Daniel Pick, Faces of Degeneration: A European Disorder, c. 1848-c. 1918 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989) 167-75. For an account of Victorian unease regarding these questions, see Tom Gibbons, Rooms in the Darwin Hotel: Studies in English Literary Criticism and Ideas 1880-1920 (Nedlands, W. A.: University of Western Australia Press, 1973) 1-39. For an examination of how detection and criminal anthropology tied into a racist and imperial discourse, see Ronald R. Thomas, Detective Fiction and the Rise of Forensic Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999) 201-39.
- Higham, Adventures 114.
- Doyle, Memories and Adventures 108.
- Arthur Conan Doyle, "Preface," The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, by Doyle (London: John Murray, 1927) 7.
- Arthur Conan Doyle, "The Resident Patient," The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes 423.
- Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, The Coherence of Gothic Conventions (1980; New York: Methuen, 1986) 9-10.
- Fred Botting, Gothic (London: Routledge, 1996) 2.
- Julian Wolfreys, "'I Could a Tale Unfold' or, the Promise of Gothic," Victorian Gothic: Literary and Cultural Manifestations in the Nineteenth Century, ed. Ruth Robbins and Julian Wolfreys (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000) xviii.
- Cannon Schmitt, Alien Nation: Nineteenth-Century Gothic Fictions and English Nationality (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997) 3.
- Ibid. 9.
- See William Greenslade, Degeneration, Culture and the Novel, 1880-1940 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994) 15-31, 265-70.
- Judith Wilt makes the first forays into this domain, however, in an article published in 1981 in which she propounds how imperialism was the driving prompt behind the mutation of Gothic into science fiction at the end of the nineteenth century. Wilt also proposes a theory of the Gothic: "Counter-attack seems in a way the primary mode of the 'gothic'; though that term is a little difficult to define, the genre is most easily recognizable in works which dramatize a dark subversion of reigning public ideas, or a violent return of suppressed ideas." "The Imperial Mouth: Imperialism, the Gothic and Science Fiction," Journal of Popular Culture 14. 4 (Spring 1981): 620.
- Patrick Brantlinger, Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830-1914 (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1988) 227.
- Ibid. 230.
- Ibid. 234.
- See Catherine Wynne, "Mesmeric Exorcism, Idolatrous Beliefs, and Bloody Rituals: Mesmerism, Catholicism, and Second Sight in Bram Stoker's Fiction," Victorian Review 26. 1 (2000): 43-63.
- For Dracula's analogies with Parnell, see Chris Morash, "'Ever Under Some Unnatural Condition': Bram Stoker and the Colonial Fantastic," Literature and the Supernatural: Essays for the Maynooth Bicentenary, ed. Brian Cosgrove (Blackrock, Co. Dublin: Columbia Press, 1995) 110; Bruce Stewart, "Bram Stoker's Dracula: Possessed by the Spirit of the Nation?" in That Other World: The Supernatural and the Fantastic in Irish Literature and Its Contexts, ed. Bruce Stewart, vol. 1 (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1998) 66.
- For a more recent study of the novel's Irish analogies, see Declan Kiberd, Irish Classics (London: Granta Books, 2000) 379-98.
- Brantlinger, Rule of Darkness, 253.
- W. J. McCormack, Dissolute Characters: Irish Literary History through Balzac, Sheridan Le Fanu, Yeats and Bowen (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993) 3.
- Julian Moynahan's study argues that "nineteenth-century Ireland was an impressive candidate for Gothic treatment. The country was in fact sometimes seen as a sort of living Gothic, or agonized Gothic romance that had turned real." Anglo-Irish: The Literary Imagination in a Hyphenated Culture (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995) 111.
- W. J. McCormack, "Irish Gothic and After (1820-1945)" in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, gen ed. Seamus Deane, asc. eds. Andrew Carpenter, Jonathan Williams, vol. 2 (Derry: Field Day Publications, 1991) 831.
- Ibid. 842.
- Ibid. 845.
- For a study of the Gothic and Protestantism, see Victor Sage, Horror Fiction in the Protestant Tradition (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988).
- Terry Eagleton, Heathcliff and the Great Hunger: Studies in Irish Culture (London: Verso, 1995) 188.
- Ibid. 189. Eagleton's idea ties in with those of R. F. Foster. In this context see, R. F. Foster, "Protestant Magic: W. B. Yeats and the Spell of Irish History," Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History (Harmondsworth: Allen Lane, 1993) 212-32, 349-52.
- John Lamond, Arthur Conan Doyle: A Memoir, epilogue Lady Conan Doyle (London: John Murray, 1931) 8.
- Eagleton, Heathcliff 188.
- Kinsella, Dual Tradition 112.
- On this topic, see R. F. Foster, Modern Ireland 1600-1972 (Harmondsworth: Allen Lane, 1988) 345-57.
- For this information, see Rodney Engen, Richard Doyle (Stroud, Glos.: Catalpa Press, 1983) 171-72.
- Arthur Conan Doyle, Through the Magic Door (London: Smith, Elder, 1907) 88.
- Moynahan, Anglo-Irish 111.
SIR NIGEL (1906)
Saturday Review (review date 8 December 1906)
SOURCE: Review of Sir Nigel, by Arthur Conan Doyle, illustrated by Arthur Twidle. Saturday Review 105, no. 2667 (8 December 1906): 713.
[In the following review, the critic characterizes Sir Nigel as a "'boy's book'; with all the thinness and the hardness which the term seems to imply."]
Sir Conan Doyle assures us in his introduction [to Sir Nigel ] that many books have gone to the building of his story, and there is, indeed, evidence of his reading on almost every page of it. He can talk with the most learned of cote-hardies, pourpoints, courtepies, paltocks, and hanselines; he can daunt you out hawking with all the phrases of the falconer, "ringing" and "crabbing" and "binding"; he can point you the difference between all the terms of the forest craft, between cete and skulk, pride, nye, singular and sounder: he can describe a Knight's armour, an archer's trappings, the setting of a battle. He can give you, in short, everything in the time and of the time but the time itself. That eludes him. He offers you an age without atmosphere, cold and hard-edged as a scene in the moon. He apologises for incidents which may accentuate the contrast between the fourteenth and the twentieth centuries, but the mischief is that the contrast is not more apparent, and that there is no sense of vitality save where the manners of the two approximate. His apologies should rather be concerned with his over-tenderness for our susceptibilities, if that be responsible for a picture of thought and manners which no more adequately represents the fourteenth century than did Tennyson's gentlemanly "Idyls" the days of King Arthur. His failure to make us feel in our faces one single significantly scented breath of the past, dragged though we precipitantly are through so many gallant and well-contrived adventures, extends to and may be well illustrated by his failure in portraiture. Even the authentic men of his time, almost all of whom have been magnificently rendered by previous writers, he fails to invest with more actuality than may be reached by careful description of their features and clothes. With personality he cannot endow them; and though he sees from afar the Pilgrims' Way thronged with wayfarers as a trunk road in the East, he cannot succeed, when he sets us down there, in making us feel their presence about us. In truth one doubts if the time makes any appeal to him save as a setting for his hero's wanderings, which he conducts with a fine show of spirit. It is just a "boy's book"; with all the thinness and the hardness which the term seems to imply; but a boy's book which shall be steeped in the atmosphere of times so far away, which shall render something of the difference, not only between tournaments and League football, but between entirely different ideals of manhood, and which yet shall retain so much of a common virility and of noble purpose as can be assimilated by a boy's understanding, remains, one might conjecture, still to be written.
HIS LAST BOW: SOME REMINISCENCES ON SHERLOCK HOLMES (1917)
Spectator (review date 15 December 1917)
SOURCE: Review of His Last Bow: Some Reminiscences on Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle. Spectator, no. 4668 (15 December 1917): 718.
[In the following review, the critic discusses Doyle's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes in His Last Bow.]
The reports of Sherlock Holmes's death which gained currency some years ago proved to be "greatly exaggerated," and we are further reassured, on the unimpeachable testimony of his friend Dr. Watson [in His Last Bow ], that he is still alive and well, "though somewhat crippled by occasional attacks of rheumatism." Inasmuch, however, as the famous detective emerged from a retirement of some seventeen years on the eve of the war, in consequence of the domiciliary visits of both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary and with results of immense national importance, we think it rather indiscreet of Dr. Watson to specify his present residence. But there can be no harm in mentioning that his time is divided between philosophy and agriculture. He had completed a Practical Handbook of Bee Culture just before the war, but he does not seem to have done anything further in the way of musical criticism since the publication many years ago of his masterly and monumental treatise on the Polyphonic Motets of Lassus. We are afraid that his rheumatism has impaired his powers as a violinist, and that the 500-guinea Strad which he picked up for 55s. seldom leaves its case. As for his taste in philosophy Dr. Watson is silent, but we suspect him of Pragmatism. He is apparently still a bachelor and a misogynist, though invariably courteous to women, and his aversion from publicity has grown with advancing years. But while some changes may be observed in the character of the great detective—notably in his appreciation of Nature and country life—his friend and Boswell, the incomparable Watson, preserves all the ingenuous qualities that endeared him to us at the outset. In their last venture (August, 1914) he is the "same blithe boy as ever," in Sherlock Holmes's happy phrase, just as ready as of old to cast his practice to the winds and accompany his idol on the most daring and perilous quests. It is true that Sherlock Holmes told him in the "nineties" that after all he was "only a general practitioner with very limited experience and mediocre qualifications." But at the moment Sherlock Holmes was playing a game. None the less, we sometimes wonder what Watson's patients thought of a doctor whose time was so often neither his own nor theirs. As a collaborator he was generally a disastrous failure ("among your many talents dissimulation finds no place"), and, in the initial stages of the attempt to rescue Lady Frances Carfax, Sherlock Holmes declared that he could not recall any possible blunder which Watson had omitted. Still, he was, and is, a most careful chronicler, and an idolater whose devotion stood the rudest tests. One cannot rid oneself of the suspicion that Sherlock Holmes, in spite of his aversion from publicity, is not altogether immune to the incense of flattery.
As for the stories, which, with the exception of the last, date back to the time previous to Sherlock Holmes's retirement, their impressiveness is somewhat impaired by the frequency with which they end in a confession. The best of them, to our way of thinking, is the tale of the abstraction and recovery of some important documents from the Admiralty, in which we are introduced to Sherlock's brother Mycroft Holmes, the specialist in omniscience and "the most indispensable man in the country," though he only draws £450 a year, remains a subordinate, and has no ambitions of any kind. The most gruesome is "The Cardboard Box," and the element of the supernatural is effectively suggested in "The Devil's Foot." But throughout we remain fascinated not so much by the unerring skill of Sherlock Holmes as by the minute precision of Watson in recording the mysteries in the unravelling of which his share was generally negligible and often ridiculous.
DANGER! AND OTHER STORIES (1918)
Times Literary Supplement (review date 12 December 1918)
SOURCE: Review of Danger! And Other Stories, by Arthur Conan Doyle. Times Literary Supplement, no. 882 (12 December 1918): 620.
[In the following review, the critic offers a negative assessment of Danger! And Other Stories, noting that "this book takes a low place among those that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has written."]
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's new book, Danger! And Other Stories, will disappoint discriminating admirers of his work. He has, as we all know, written some very good, almost great, short stories of the "sensational" type. In the best of these the idea was good and they were well constructed, carried one irresistibly to the finish, and contained little superfluous verbiage. Perhaps when these were written there was more incentive to a short-story writer to keep up a high standard than there is now. The increased importance now attached to form has made the standard for a writer who attempts to do good work more exacting.
Whatever the cause may be, this book takes a low place among those that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has written. The ideas of most of the stories are very thin, and the writing verbose and rhetorical. For instance, this is how one character tells us that he does not eat meat:—"In diet I had long been a Pythagorean, so that the scraggy, long-limbed sheep which browsed on the wiry grass by the Gaster Beck had little to fear from their new companion." The dramatic construction, too, of several of the stories is distinctly poor, so that on finishing them we are frequently left with a sensation of anti-climax. Most of the stories in the book might be classed as "sensational," the most interesting being the opening one, written, the author tells us, before the war, and containing a curiously accurate prediction of "unrestricted submarine warfare." Of the remainder, two are examples of the author's rather heavy type of humour, and one, the last in the book, is a description of three children and their doings. This story appears to have been written when the author was suffering from the effects of a severe dose of Freud. We fancy, though, that few readers will get further in it than the description of one child as "the most gallant, unselfish, innocent thing that ever God sent out to get an extra polish upon earth."
We have written severely about this book because we have judged it by the standard of the author's own best work. Of course the book would compare favourably with the work of the average purveyor. Sir Arthur can tell a story well, and avoids crudities and improbabilities. But either he has lost his early powers or he has not; if he has not, a book like this from him is an artistic crime. In either case, we hope that the books he will write in the future will before publication receive "an extra polish upon earth."
Saturday Review (review date 18 January 1919)
SOURCE: Review of Danger! And Other Stories, by Arthur Conan Doyle. Saturday Review 127, no. 3299 (18 January 1919): 63-4.
[In the following review, the critic comments on the mixed nature of the stories collected in Danger! And Other Stories.]
The eponymous story [of Danger! And Other Stories ], to which the author evidently attaches importance, is not very convincing. He informs us in his preface that it was written eighteen months before the war in order to alarm us about submarines. One of the smallest Powers in Europe defied Great Britain over a frontier dispute and the death of two missionaries. The Capital was taken and the fleet destroyed at once, but eight submarines starved us out so completely in a few weeks that the people were reduced to eating roots, and Great Britain had to give in. The argument is that, if this could be accomplished by eight submarines, the Germans with their greater numbers would paralyze us even more quickly. It does not seem to occur to the author that his warning is discounted by the fact that they did nothing of the kind, and therefore his moral, that we ought to revive our agriculture and build Channel tunnels, falls to the ground.
Some of his stories are, however, delightful, and we must congratulate him once more on his versatility. He adopts almost a different style for each narrative. Perhaps the most attractive consists in a reproduction of real children's patter, the wonderful game of Indians they played with Daddy, their troublesome questions about Noah and Jonah and the snakes of South America, and the story of a cricketer who bowled right through a coat and then killed a dog.
"'Daddy, is it true that God listens to all we say?'
'I don't know about that,' Daddy answered cautiously. You never know into what trap those quick little wits may lead you. The Lady was more rash, or more orthodox.
'Yes, dear, He does hear all you say.'
'Is He listenin' now?'
'Well, I call it vewy rude of Him.'"
'Borrowed Scenes' is also delightful. An ardent disciple of Borrow wanders about Sussex, talking exactly like the Master. He quotes Dafydd-ap-Gwilyn and Calderon and Lopez de Vega to the yokels of the Rose and Crown at Swinehurst. Then he meets a hoppicker's wife.
"'Do you dukker?' I asked (meaning, tell fortunes).
She slapped me on the arm. 'Well, you are a pot of ginger!' said she.
I was pleased at the slap, for it put me in mind of the peerless Belle. 'You can use Long Melford,' said I, an expression which, with the master, meant fighting.
'Get along with your sauce!' said she, and struck me again.
'You are a very fine young woman,' said I, 'and remind me of Grunelda, the daughter of Hjalmar, who stole the golden bowl from the King of the Islands.'
She seemed annoyed at this. 'You keep a civil tongue, young man,' said she."
Then he tries "Long Melford" with a drayman, who makes off with a sovereign and leaves him with a kick on the head. Finally he is escorted to the station. 'He is a gentleman too,' said the constable, 'and I doubt not that he lives in a big house in London town.'
'A very big house, if every man had his rights,' said the stationmaster.
'One Crowded Hour' is an unconvincing story of a squire who was robbed by a financier and revenged himself by turning a highway robber with a motor car, and plundering his man, after holding up an old friend for a purse of seven shillings, and some actresses for their trinkets.
'The Fall of Lord Barrymore' affords a slight, amusing picture of Vauxhall in the days of the Georges. 'The Horror of the Heights' is a blood-curdling story of an aviator's adventures at over 40,000 feet, and the uncanny creatures he encountered in the jungles of the air.
Altogether, there is something for every taste.
THE CASEBOOK OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1927)
Times Literary Supplement (review date 23 June 1927)
SOURCE: Review of The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle. Times Literary Supplement, no. 1325 (23 June 1927): 438.
[In the following review, the critic offers commentary on the publication of The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, the final collection of Sherlock Holmes stories produced in Doyle's lifetime.]
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle issues The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes almost as a concession to the children of all ages who have been wheedling the great detective to tell them just one more story before bedtime. There is to be no more about Holmes after this. Sir Arthur appears to take little pride in his association with Holmes, and his dismissal of Watson is contemptuous. His attitude to Watson is intelligible; there are ugly rumours about the paternity of Watson; some say he is a changeling introduced into the Baker-street household by a public who fastened on "Holmes, you amaze me!" and refused to recognize it as the utterance of the competent fellow Holmes would have preferred to work with. But Holmes, though like other people he had more than one parent, inherits his vigour from Sir Arthur; he was a man of action as well as of thought, and he gave us not only the solution of a puzzle but the thrill of a set-to.
Of the characters created by living writers of fiction none is known to so many readers as Sherlock Holmes; and it is not merely his trade that is suggested by the mention of his name, but also his habits, his habitat, his henchman. Divide the people who had an opportunity of knowing Holmes into people who think and people who do not think, and the proportion who took advantage of the opportunity is probably higher in the first class than in the second. Holmes is not the idol of a clique; it is not a mark of culture to know him; but not to know him is a sign of lacking some sense common to humanity. The company does not stand up on the entry of Holmes, it makes room for him with a laugh. The laugh may be at him as well as with him; but that still leaves Sir Arthur with an achievement upon which he might, one would think, congratulate himself. The laugh at what is exaggerated in the portrayal of Holmes is a tribute to the lucidity with which he is drawn. We all know what Holmes is at. It helps us to realize how intricate the puzzle is that Holmes should fill his oldest and foulest pipe before sitting down to it. So, too, with his drugs; they are prescribed by that cunning physician, Sir Arthur, for their effect on the reader's imagination, not for their effect on Holmes's intellect. It is to the same end that Sir Arthur, a writer of plain English, sometimes uses orgulous words:—
Exactly! But does the name Isadora Klein convey nothing to you? She was, of course, the celebrated beauty. There was never a woman to touch her. She is pure Spanish, the real blood of the masterful Conquistadors, and her people have been leaders in Pernambuco for generations.
But that is about all the attention his women get from him, as women. It is one of the reasons for his success in his own line that he keeps no cats that do not catch mice; all that he writes is to the point. The matter is arranged in the most effective form. His readers can trust him to play fair in the important matter of clues.
Is one conscious of a falling off in these later stories? Almost inevitably so; for with the method no longer novel they would otherwise have to be better than the first batch. But the reviewer found that at bedtime he bargained with himself for just one more.
Booth, Martin. The Doctor, the Detective, and Arthur Conan Doyle: A Biography of Arthur Conan Doyle. London, England: Hodder & Stoughton, 1997, 371 p.
Biography of Doyle.
Lellenberg, Jon L., editor. The Quest for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: Thirteen Biographers in Search of a Life. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987, 217 p.
Collection of biographical essays on Doyle by various authors, including a foreword by Dame Jean Conan Doyle.
Stashower, Daniel. Teller of Tales: The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle. New York, N.Y.: Holt, 1999, 472 p.
Biography of Doyle.
Accardo, Pasquale. Diagnosis and Detection: The Medical Iconography of Sherlock Holmes. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1987, 139 p.
Critical analysis of the significance of the medical references found in Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories.
Frank, Lawrence. Victorian Detective Fiction and the Nature of Evidence: The Scientific Investigations of Poe, Dickens, and Doyle. New York, N.Y.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, 249 p.
Examination of the references to forensic science and criminal evidence in the mystery and detective fiction of Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, and Arthur Conan Doyle.
Jaffe, Jacqueline A. Arthur Conan Doyle. Boston, Mass.: Twayne, 1987, 148 p.
General introduction to criticism and interpretation of Doyle's works.
Kendrick, Stephen. Holy Clues: Investigating Life's Mysteries with Sherlock Holmes. New York, N.Y.: Pantheon Books, 1999, 192 p.
Critical analysis of the elements of mysticism and religion in Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories.
Kestner, Joseph A. Sherlock's Men: Masculinity, Conan Doyle, and Cultural History. Aldershot, England: Ashgate, 1997, 250 p.
Exploration of the constructions of masculinity in Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories.
Orel, Harold, editor. Critical Essays on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. New York, N.Y.: G. K. Hall, 1992, 290 p.
Collection of essays by various authors on Doyle's life and work.
Pearson, Hesketh. "Sherlock Holmes." In Conan Doyle: His Life and Art, Second Edition, pp. 86-101. London, England: Methuen & Co., 1943.
Discusses the characters of Holmes and Watson and the literary precursors to the Sherlock Holmes tales, as well as providing a brief history of the publication and critical reception of Doyle's detective stories.
Putney, Charles R., Joseph A. Cutshall King, and Sally Sugarman, editors. Sherlock Holmes: Victorian Sleuth to Modern Hero. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1996, 329 p.
Selection of critical essays by various authors on Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories.
Additional coverage of Doyle's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Thomson Gale: Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vol. 14; Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction: Biography & Resources, Vol. 1; Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults, Vols. 4, 5, 11; British Writers Supplement, Vol. 2; Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography, 1890-1914 ; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 104, 122; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 131; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vols. 18, 70, 156, 178; DISCovering Authors ; DISCovering Authors: British Edition ; DISCovering Authors: Canadian Edition ; DISCovering Authors Modules: Most-studied Authors, Novelists ; DISCovering Authors 3.0 ; Exploring Short Stories ; Literature and Its Times, Vol. 2; Literature Resource Center ; Major 20th-Century Writers, Eds. 1, 2; Mystery and Suspense Writers ; Reference Guide to English Literature, Ed. 2; Reference Guide to Short Fiction, Ed. 2; St. James Guide to Crime & Mystery Writers, Vol. 4; St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, & Gothic Writers ; St. James Guide to Science Fiction Writers, Ed. 4; St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers ; Science Fiction Writers, Ed. 2; Short Stories for Students, Vol. 2; Short Story Criticism, Vol. 12; Something about the Author, Vol. 24; Twayne's English Authors ; Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Vol. 7; Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Writers ; World Literature and Its Times, Ed. 4; World Literature Criticism ; Writers for Children ; and Writers for Young Adults.