The House That Sherlock Holmes Built

The Broadway actor-manager William Gillette was famous for playing Sherlock Holmes. His 1899 production was the first stage play authorized by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The image of the character with his deerstalker hat, magnifying glass, and curved meerschaum pipe is largely derived from Gillette’s stage persona.

A native of Connecticut, Gillette built a large and eccentric country house in Hadlyme near the mouth of the Connecticut River. The estate is now operated as a state park.

Gillette Castle re-opened yesterday after being closed for more than a year. I took the opportunity to visit. You can watch a tour in the video below, or at YouTube.

Cast a Long Shadow

As a voracious consumer of mystery novels I have a certain fondness for The Shadow. Introduced in 1930 by pulp publishers Street & Smith as the host of their radio program Detective Story Hour the character was developed in a series of novels by Walter B. Gibson, writing under the name Maxwell Grant. The Shadow had a corresponding but not-entirely-overlapping identity in pulps, radio (where he was voiced most famously by Orson Welles), and film—but it was Gibson’s stories that set the standard. Costumed in trench coat and fedora with a crimson scarf half covering his face, The Shadow became a template for comic book heroes like Batman.

Deadline reports that Condé Nast, which owns The Shadow, has contracted advertising executive turned writer James Patterson to revive the character “in a series of books that will also aim to be adapted for the screen.” The new series will evidently update the setting from the 1930s to “the modern age,” no doubt forgoing the ambiance of grotesquerie and chinoiserie. Suffice it to say, the project does not appeal to me.

Gibson wrote literally hundreds of Shadow stories, which are enough to keep any reader busy. I collect the reprints published two-titles-to-a-book by Nostalgia Ventures/Sanctum Books. Last year Sanctum announced that their reprints would end with Volume 151 because “Condé Nast would not renew rights.” Now we know why. Happily all but three of Gibson’s titles had already been reprinted.

Sherlock Holmes and the English Opium Eater

Last year I wrote about the literary connections between Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Machen in The Baker Street Journal. This year I write about the influence of Thomas De Quincey on Conan Doyle.

Founded in 1946 by Edgar W. Smith, the BSJ is the preeminent journal of Sherlockian scholarship.

My essay, “Sherlock Holmes and the English Opium Eater” appears in the Autumn 2019 issue on newsstands now.

Subscribe to The Baker Street Journal here.

Knocking at the Gate

Writing in the New Republic, Colin Dickey describes the influence of Thomas De Quincey’s 1823 essay “On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth” as it relates to the suspense genre:

There’s a moment in Alfred Hitchcock’s penultimate film, Frenzy, when the murderer Robert Rusk, a serial sexual predator, finds himself in a bit of a bind. Having just loaded the corpse of the hero’s girlfriend onto a truck carrying sacks of potatoes, Rusk realizes he’s left some incriminating evidence on the body. He climbs back up to retrieve it, but the truck begins moving, taking him further from London and into the country. As Rusk struggles to retrieve his tie-pin from his victim’s hand, he discovers rigor mortis has set in and he’s forced to break her fingers to get it free. It’s an elaborate, perversely comic scene in which a loathsome monster is strangely empathetic: Like any workaday slob, he’s made a small mistake in his job, and fixing it has turned into an increasingly complex comedy of errors. Who couldn’t sympathize with him? This is one of the great hallmarks of Hitchcockian suspense: The moment when, against all your instincts, you find yourself developing some measure of sympathy with the Devil.

More than a hundred years before Hitchcock began making films, Thomas De Quincey first pegged this affect in an 1823 essay, “On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth.” The essay turns on the moment when Macbeth is in the process murdering King Duncan. Macbeth is momentarily disturbed by MacDuff’s knocking at the gate, and he panics that his crime might be discovered. Why, when we know Macbeth’s crime to be immoral, do we switch allegiance, ever so momentarily, from the victims to the murderers?

De Quincey had no language available in the canon of Shakespearean criticism to describe how such a moment engendered “a peculiar awfulness and a depth of solemnity,” it fell to him to invent it. “Murder, in ordinary cases, where the sympathy is wholly directed to the case of the murdered person,” he reasons, “is an incident of coarse and vulgar horror; and for this reason that it flings the interest exclusively upon the natural but ignoble instinct by which we cleave to life.” This attitude to primal panic would never “suit the purposes of the poet.” What, then, must a poet do to elevate such a scene to high art? The only option: “He must throw the interest on the murderer.”

De Quincey and his subsequent essay “On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts” are treated at length in a chapter on the origins of the mystery genre in my new book Victoriana.

Agatha Christie and the Pre-Raphaelites

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Kirsty Stonell Walker connects two of my favorite subjects: Agatha Christie and the Pre-Raphaelite artists:

At first glance, you wouldn’t think Agatha Christie had any relevance in a conversation about Victorian art. A Golden Age queen, her novels are decidedly modern, reflecting a world after first one then another world war, and filled with skittish women, world-weary men, and murders galore. However, the more you read her novels, the more her Victorian roots show. Take for example, the short story ‘Miss Marple tells a Story’, where Miss Jane Marple tells her nephew Raymond (a novelist) and his girlfriend Joan (a modern artist) all about how she solved a murder that was brought to her by her solicitor and the accused man (husband of the deceased). I won’t spoil the plot for you, but when Miss Marple wants to explain how she isn’t as ‘up-to-date’ as her companions she says ‘I am hopelessly Victorian. I admire Mr Alma Tadema and Mr Frederick Leighton and I suppose to you they are hopelessly vieux jeu.’ Miss Marple is the archetypal maiden aunt, born around the 1870s (as she appears to be a woman of 50-60 in her first appearance in 1927, and grows older up to the 1950s). Jane Marple expresses many examples of what it meant to be a Victorian, for example in ‘Greenshaw’s Folly’, Miss Marple says ‘When I was a girl Inspector, nobody ever mentioned the word stomach’, together with admonishments that a lady would never be over-emotional in public. I especially love her inability to talk frankly about what litmus paper is used for, in ‘The Blue Geranium’, even though she knows from experience of being a nurse. She is shrewd but always finds a way of being delicate about matters of bodily fluids.

The entire post is wonderful with lots of references picked out of various novels and a gallery of Christie paperback covers with Pre-Raphaelite influences.

The Orient Express

In 1950 LIFE magazine published a photo-essay by Jack Birns on the Orient Express railway line—then past its prime but still wonderfully romantic. Birns traveled the classic route from London to Istanbul, detailing the entire journey. The vintage travel blog Retours has a multipart retrospective on Birns’s article including previously unpublished photographs.

The Orient Express was a favorite of royalty, diplomats, and spies—Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, King Leopold II of Belgium, T.E. Lawrence, Tolstoy, and Mata Hari were among the noted passengers at the turn of the twentieth century. The train entered popular culture through novels like Graham Greene’s Stamboul Train and of course Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.

The first leg of the journey was the shortest—from Victoria Station in London to Folkestone in Kent, and from there by ferry across the English Channel to Calais.

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Victoria Station London

At Calais passengers boarded a train with the distinctive blue livery of the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. Arjan den Boer writes at Retours:

Wagons-Lits sleeping cars had a daytime and a nighttime setup. During the day passengers were seated on a comfortable couch, which was converted by the conductor into a regular-sized bed at night.

First-class travellers had their own sink cabinet with hot and cold running water. There were no showers and toilets had to be shared…

In addition to its sleeping cars, Wagons-Lits was renowned for its dining cars which were every bit as good as fine restaurants. Although the luxury of the interwar period had faded, in 1950 full meals with good wines were still served at fully-set tables. This was accom­plished by a seven man brigade, with three of them working in the kitchen.

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Albert Brenet, Le Train Bleu leaving Gare de Lyon in Paris, 1976

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Wagon-Lits sleeping compartment

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Wagon-Lits dining car

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Wagon-Lit dining car

Naturally, the journey through France, Switzerland, Italy, and the Balkans afforded views of beautiful scenery. And also a way of life that had survived both World Wars but was now disappearing. Arjan den Boer writes:

Until 1951, a stagecoach or sleigh ran over the Simplon Pass from November to June to transport passengers, mail and supplies to the villages on the pass. The difference with the train in the Simplon tunnel was huge: a journey of 20 minutes versus 10 hours over the snow-filled pass.

Jack Birns was intrigued by the coach and the coachman he photographed in the border village of Gondo. Six months later he returned to make a separate photo report on the Simplon coach, which shortly afterwards was replaced by a mail bus.

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The Orient Express passing Chillon Castle in Switzerland

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The Orient Express crossing the Simplon Tunnel

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Stage coach service over the Simplon Pass

Penzler’s Collection

Otto Penzler, publisher and proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York, is selling his personal collection of rare books at auction.

Penzler has been collecting first edition detective fiction for more than fifty years. In the early days, he says, “It was easy to find a half dozen first editions in collectable condition within my five-dollar-a-week budget. My primary drive was buying a book in the mystery world that I could afford. It was the pure joy of collecting.” In 1979 he opened The Mysterious Bookshop.

Fine Books magazine visited Penzler’s home library last year. Nicholas A. Basbanes writes:

One of the very first things bibliophile-for-all-seasons Otto Penzler wants you to know about the 58,000 books he keeps in a Tudor-style chateau in the Connecticut countryside is that it was not something put together willy-nilly by someone with a fortune to throw around on first editions.

“I am not a rich guy,” he insisted, even though the trappings of this graceful manor eighty miles north of Manhattan in bucolic Litchfield County—especially the triple-level library that at times suggests the soaring interior of a ducal chapel—would suggest otherwise. “This took an entire railroad car of mahogany wood to make,” he said of the exquisite shelves, fittings, and hand-hewn storage areas he was about to show me, all built to his design and specifications over a two-and-a-half-year period more than a decade ago.

I am sorry to see a collection like this broken up, but many collectors will undoubtedly walk away happy.

The sale is being conducted by Heritage Galleries. Part One will be held at their Rare Books Auction on March 6 in New York. This lot emphasizes American authors and hardboiled literature. Online bidding has already begun. Part Two will be held on September 5 in New York, with an emphasis on British authors.

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Photo: Nicholas A. Basbanes/Fine Books

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Photo: The Mysterious Bookshop/Twitter

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Photo: The Mysterious Bookshop/Twitter

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Photo: Heritage Auctions

A De Quincey on the Bookshelf in ‘The House of Fear’

Last year I wrote a long post about the influence of Thomas De Quincey on the mystery genre, broadly, and Sherlock Holmes, specifically. Thus I was pleased to catch a reference to De Quincey in the 1945 film The House of Fear starring Basil Rathbone. This was the tenth film in the long-running series with Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson.

The screenplay is an original story very loosely based on Conan Doyle’s “The Adventure of the Five Orange Pips.” In the film, Holmes and Watson are summoned to a remote castle in Scotland where seven men live together under a strange agreement by which they benefit from each other’s life insurance policies. Someone is murdering them one by one.

While searching for clues Holmes inspects the volumes on a bookshelf, selecting one titled Murder As a Fine Art. This is obviously De Quincey’s 1827 classic, “On Murder Considered as one of the Fine Arts.”

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A New Essay in ‘The Baker Street Journal’

I had the opportunity to write about two of my favorite literary subjects—Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Machen—for The Baker Street Journal. Founded in 1946 by Edgar W. Smith, the BSJ is the preeminent journal of Sherlockian scholarship.

My essay, “A Crime Scene in ‘The Resident Patient’ and The Three Imposters” looks at the influence of Conan Doyle on Machen. It appears in the Autumn 2018 issue on newsstands now.

Subscribe to The Baker Street Journal here.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Interviewed by Bram Stoker

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The author of Sherlock Holmes and the author of Dracula knew each other very well. Bram Stoker was the business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London and assistant to the great actor-manager Sir Henry Irving. It was in this capacity that Stoker made the acquaintance of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Stoker was involved in the 1894 production of Conan Doyle’s play Waterloo, based on the short story, “A Straggler of ’15,” which starred Irving in the lead. They corresponded on theatrical business throughout the 1890s and became friends.

Upon the publication of Dracula in 1897, Conan Doyle wrote to Stoker: “I am sure that you will not think it an impertinence if I write to tell you how very much I have enjoyed reading Dracula. I think it is the very best story of diablerie which I have read for many years. It is really wonderful how with so much exciting interest over so long a book there is never an anticlimax. It holds you from the very start and grows more and more engrossing until it is quite painfully vivid. The old Professor is most excellent and so are the two girls. I congratulate you with all my heart for having written so fine a book.”

In 1907 Stoker interviewed Conan Doyle as part of a series of profiles that he wrote for syndication that year. The conversion, which took place at Conan Doyle’s home in Surrey, contains many interesting details. Not least of which is the revelation that Sherlock Holmes was almost named “Sherringford Holmes” or “Sherrington Hope.”

The interview was first published in the United States as “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Tells of His Career and Work, His Sentiments Towards America, and His Approaching Marriage” in the July 28, 1907 issue of The New York World. A longer version was published in London as “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Tells of His Work & Career” in the February 14, 1908 issue of The Daily Chronicle. I offer the entire article below.

“My first book! That was written when I was six years of age! But if I am to tell you about myself, I suppose I had better begin at the beginning.”

The speaker was lying on a chintz covered sofa in the pretty drawing-room of his house at Hindhead, down in Surrey. The forenoon sun was streaming in through one of the mullioned windows, of which the bars were softened by the delicate fringe of green of the creepers which spread all along them. The whole room was full of soft light, which showed the fine old furniture and the multitude of dainty knick-knacks to perfection. Even the many quaint and pretty pictures seemed to stand out from the walls.

From where I sat the whole of the lovely valley, at the very head of which the house stands, lay before me. Due south it falls away, spreading wider as it goes, till its lines are lost in distance, an endless sea of greenery. Far away there are ranges of hills piling up, one behind the other, in undulations of varying blue. Even the whole sweep of the horizon visible from our altitude is like a wavy sea. Nearer at hand the wonderful green of the valley is articulated by the minor curves and slopes, the trend of surrounding hills. The mighty carpet of green is of the fresh young bracken, whose shoots seem close and are like little croziers wrought in emerald. Against this the rising pine trees seem like dark masses. Close to us, beyond the vivid patch of tennis lawn, are some masses of color which are simply gorgeous amid the expanse of green. Great shrubs of yellow bloom, clumps of purple rhododendron, luxuriant alder, with masses of snowy flowers starred in their own peculiar green. An expanse which, whether seen from near or far, in unity or detail, simply ravishes the eye with its myriad beauties.

We had motored up the previous afternoon from Guildford, some twelve miles distant. The last seven miles of the journey up the steep, winding road shows one of the loveliest scenes in England—a scene that brings at every new phase fresh memories of Turner. Indeed, Turner himself loved this piece of the old Portsmouth road. Is not one of the weirdest pictures of the Liber Studiorum, “Gallows Hill,” taken from it? But here was the crown of it all—that wide expanse seen beyond this foreground of idyllic beauty.

UNDERSHAW HOME AT HINDHEAD.

Conan Doyle built his home Undershaw in the western angle at the joining of the road from Haslemere with the Portsmouth road, just below the very top of the hill. It stands on a little platform lying below the road. As north and east of it is a thick grove of trees and shrubs, it is completely sheltered from stranger eyes except from down the valley. It is so sheltered from cold winds that the architect felt justified in having lots of windows, so that the whole place is full of light. Nevertheless, it is cozy and snug to a remarkable degree, and has everywhere that sense of “home” which is so delightful to occupant and stranger alike. Throughout it is full of interesting things got together for their interesting association with the author’s life and adventures, for their prettiness, or as curios, or works of art.

The owner of this almost fairy pleasure house is a big man, massive and burly, and of great strength. His head and face are broad and strong. His eyes are blue with a peculiar effect in light, for they seem to have two shades of blue in the iris. His voice is strong and resonant—a very masculine voice.

The “interview” which followed was the result of many questions. The subject of it was most kind and amenable, thoroughly understanding everything and willing to enlighten me as I required. But he is not naturally a pushing man or an egotist, and it was necessary to keep him resolutely to the point of his own identity. I say this as his various statements were so lucid and illuminative that I think it better to give them in his own words in the sequence of a direct narrative. After all, there is nothing like a man’s ipsissima verba to show the reality of the individual through the mistiness of words. I omit questions except where necessary, and only venture to add comment or description where such may add to the reader’s enlightenment.

DOYLE’S IMAGINATIVE FORBEARS.

“My people on the father’s side,” said the creator of Sherlock Holmes, “we all artists of a peculiarly imaginative type. My father, Charles Doyle, was in truth a great unrecognised genius. He drifted to Edinburgh from London in his early youth, and so he lost the chance of living before the public eye. His wild and strange fancies alarmed, I think, rather than pleased the stolid Scotchmen of the 50’s and 60’s. His mind ran on strange moonlight effects, done with extraordinary skill in water colors; dancing witches, drowning seamen, death coaches on lonely moors at night and goblins chasing children across churchyards.”

All these pictures were in the room, or in some of those adjacent. With them were a host of others, delicate fancies and weird flights of imagination. There was one tiny picture of a little fairy carrying a branch and leading a beetle by a string, which was daintily sweet.

“I have myself no turn for this form of art at all beyond a very keen color sense which makes a discord of shades perfectly painful to my eye. I suppose, however, that there is a metabolism in these things, and that any sense I have for dramatic effect corresponds, or is an equivalent, in some degree, to the artistic nature of my father, whom, by the way, I in no degree resemble physically. But my real love for letters, my instinct for story-telling, springs, I believe, from my mother, who is on Anglo-Celtic stock, with the glamour and romance of the Celt very strongly marked. Her I do resemble physically, and also in character, so that I take my leanings towards romance rather from her side than my father’s. In my early childhood, as far back as I can remember anything at all, the vivid stories which she would tell me stand out so clearly that they obscure the real facts of my life. It is not only that she was—is still—a wonderful story-teller, but she had, I remember, an art of sinking her voice to a horror-stricken whisper when she came to a crisis in her narrative, which makes me goose-fleshy now when I think of it. I am sure, looking back, that it was in attempting to emulate these stories of my childhood that I first began weaving dreams myself.

A SIX-YEAR-OLD AUTHOR.

“When I was six I wrote a book of adventure—doubtless my mother has it still. I illustrated it myself. It must be an absurd production, but still it showed the set of my mind. When I went to school I carried the characteristic with me. There I was in some demand as a story-teller. I could start a hero off from home and carry him through an interminable succession of wayside happenings which would, if necessary, last through the spare hours of a whole term. This faculty remained with me all my school days, and the only scholastic success I can ever remember lay in the direction of English essays and poetry. I was no good at either classics or mathematics; even my English I wrote as pleasure, not as work.

AT SCHOOL IN GERMANY.

“After leaving Stonyhurst I was sent to a ‘finishing’ school in Germany, the Tyrol. There again my tendency to letters asserted itself. I started and edited a school magazine. Although the German acquired was indifferent, I think I had great benefit from the small but select English library. Macaulay and Scott, I remember, were my favourite authors. But I was and am still an omnivorous reader, with very catholic sympathies. There is hardly anything which does not interest me. I have sometimes tested myself by going into a large library and noting which of the books I am tempted to take down. I think that if let loose in such a place on a wet day my first choice would be military memoirs; but I am deeply interested also in criminology, in all sides of history, in science—so far as I can follow it—in comparative theology—if it is not ruined by the heavy touch of the writer—in travel—if the author has the skill to keep a glamour over his picture—in any form of fiction. Indeed, it would be difficult to name any form of true literature which does not give me intense pleasure.

STUDYING MEDICINE IN AULD EDINBORO.

“In 1876 I drifted into the study of medicine. The reason largely was that my people lived in Edinburgh”—he pronounces the word in Scotch fashion, “Edinboro”—”and there is a famous medical school there. For four years I went through the curriculum. My people were not at that time wealthy, and it was a struggle to keep me at college. So I compressed my classes into the winter, and devoted each summer to serving as a medical assistant, and so earning a little money to help to pay the fees. I served in this way in Sheffield, in the country districts in Shropshire, and finally in Birmingham —a billet to which I returned three times. The practice lay mostly in the slums of that great city, and I certainly saw a large variety of character and of life, such as I could hardly have known so intimately in any other way.

“The one trouble to me in this arrangement of my life was that I had no means of gratifying the love of athletics which was very strong within me. I used to box a good deal, for that consumed little time; but my cricket and football were neglected. I can say, however, that I have played for my university in both cricket and Rugby football. I had then no time or chance of being a constant player; I feel justified, therefore, in taking it out at the other end. I played a heavy match at football when I was forty-two years of age, and I still, at the age of forty-eight, play cricket twice a week. So I claim now the debts which were not paid me in my youth.

SURGEON TO AN ARCTIC WHALER.

“When I was nearly twenty-one a friend of mine who had been surgeon to a whaler in the Arctic seas told me that he was unable to return that summer, and offered me the billet. I was away for seven months in the Greenland ocean. I came of age in 80 degrees north latitude.

“This was a delightful period of my life. There are eight boats to a whaler, and the eighth, which is kept as a sort of emergency boat, is manned by the so-called ‘idlers’ of the ship. These consisted, in this case, of myself, the steward, the second engineer and an old seaman. But it happened that, with the exception of the veteran, we were all young and keen; and I think our boat was as good as any.”

As he spoke he could not fail to remember the harpoons hanging on the staircase wall. They seemed to account for this enthusiasm. He went on:

“One of the truest compliments I ever had paid me in my life was when the captain offered to make me the harpooner as well as surgeon if I would come for another year. When you think that a whale was then worth some £2,000 and that hit or miss depends on the nerve of the harpooner, I am proud to think that the skipper, old John Grey, should have offered me such a post.

“On returning home from the Arctic I took my degree, having been thrown back one year by the fact of going North. I was twenty-two when I qualified, and, thanks to my numerous assistantships, had a very varied experience behind me.

DOWN THE WEST AFRICAN COAST.

“Almost immediately afterward I was offered the post of surgeon to a steamer going down the west coast of Africa. I was again most fortunate in my captain, and the voyage was a delightful one. We were away four months and the pleasure of my experience was only marred by my getting the rather virulent fever which prevails on that coast. Two of us got it, and the other man died, so that I suppose I may call myself lucky.

“On my return to England I settled in practice, first in Plymouth and then, after a few months, at Southsea, the fashionable suburb of Portsmouth. My adventures in that rather romantic period, and all my mental and spiritual aspirations, are written down in ‘The Stark Munro Letters’, a book which, with the exception of one chapter, is a very close autobiography.

“In this period my literary tendencies had slowly developed. During the years of my studentship my life was so full of work that, though I read a great deal, I had little time to cultivate writing. After starting in practice, however, I had much—too much—time on my hands; and then I began to write voluminously.

“Most of it was, I think, pretty poor stuff; but it was apprentice work, and I always hoped that with practice I might learn to use my tools.

“FINDING HIMSELF” IN LITERATURE.

“Every writer is imitative at first. I think that is an absolute rule; though sometimes he throws back on some model which is not easily traced. My early work, as I look back on it, was a sort of debased composite photograph in which five or six different styles were contending for the mastery. Stevenson was a strong influence; so was Bret Harte; so was Dickens; so were several others.

“Eventually, however, a man ‘finds himself,’ or rather perhaps it is that he grows more deft in concealing the influences which blend with one another until they form what means a new and constant style.

“I suppose that during those early years I wrote not less than fifty short stories. The first appeared in 1878 while I was still a student. It was in Chambers’s Journal and was called ‘The Mystery of the Sassassa Valley’. I had three guineas for it. After receiving that little check I was like a beast that has once tasted blood, for I knew that whatever rebuffs I might receive—and God knows I had plenty—I had once proved I could earn gold, and the spirit was in me to do it again. It was a delightful opportunity for carrying into actuality the dreams of my youth. I had to earn money by some form of work, and that was the sort of work I longed to do.

TEN YEARS OF ANONYMITY

“For ten years I wrote short stories; roughly, from 1877 to 1887. During that time I do not think I ever earned £50 in any year by my pen, though I worked incessantly. Nearly all the magazines published the stories anonymously—a most iniquitous fashion by which all chance of promotion is barred to young writers. The best of these stories have since been published in the volume called The Captain of the Pole Star! Sometimes I saw my stories praised by critics, but the criticism never came to my address. The Cornhill Magazine, Temple Bar and London Society were the chief magazines in which my stories appeared.

“Finally in 1887 I wrote ‘A Study in Scarlet,’ the first book which introduced Sherlock Holmes. I don’t know how I got that name. I was looking the other day at a bit of paper on which I had scribbled ‘Sherringford Holmes’ and ‘Sherrington Hope’ and all sorts of other combinations. Finally at the bottom of the paper I had written ‘Sherlock Holmes’. ‘A Study in Scarlet’ appeared in a Christmas number of Beeton’s Annual. The book had no particular success at the time, though many people have been good enough to read it since.

“MICAH CLARKE” AND “THE WHITE COMPANY”.

“My next book was ‘Micah Clarke,’ a historical novel. This met with a good reception from the critics and the public; and from that time onward I had no further difficulty in disposing of my manuscripts. When two years later I wrote ‘The White Company’ I felt that my position was strong enough to enable me to give up practice. I still clung to my profession, for I came to London and started as an oculist. After six months, however, this also seemed unnecessary, and I finally retired. I have not indulged in my profession since, except when I went campaigning.”

That he did good service in that noble profession in the South African war is attested not only by his book on the record of the Langman Hospital, but by a noble silver bowl which stands at a corner of his house in Hind-head, on which is inscribed:

“To Arthur Conan Doyle, who at a great crisis—in word and deed— served his country.”

When he had come to the part in his history where he had started his bark on the sea of literature, I think he considered that his duty with regard to the interview. In obedience to my request, however, he went on. I wished that the American people might hear some special comment on their own affairs:

DOYLE’S AMERICAN TOUR

“In 1894 I went on a lecturing tour to America. I had no hopes of any success in the matter; my idea was simply to see a country in which I took a deep interest, and to pay my expenses while I was so doing. Major Pond, however, in his enthusiastic way fixed up a considerable programme for me, so that I was forced to do rather more than to pay my expenses and rather less in the way of seeing the country. I was there, all told, between four and five months, and the fact that I was lecturing had the one advantage that it took me into some of the byways and smaller towns that I should not have otherwise visited.

“I came away from America with a deep admiration for both the country and the people; and much touched by all the kindness and even affection which I had encountered. It has left a lasting impression on my mind which the lapse of thirteen years has in no way effaced. I want to go again without having any work to do, and I want to go out West and Southwest. One feels that society with its highly organised life is to some degree the same everywhere throughout the world, but that the real distinctive America is that portion which is still finding itself, as it were, and has not yet set into its final form.

“I read Wells’s book on the subject the other day; it seemed to me to be very deep and very suggestive. I should think that Americans need not mind frank criticism from such a man as he, for his own mind is essentially democratic and American.

“But the fact is that these various dangers and drawbacks which one sees—the dangers of the great trusts—the dangers of violent labor unions— the dangers of the multi-millionaire—the dangers of individual character and violence becoming too strong for the organised legal machinery of the community—all these things are probably prominent problems to be solved by the human race, and only showing up in America because things move faster there and are on a large scale. But always behind the turmoil are ranked the millions of steady, solid, law-supporting citizens; and one knows that in the end all will be well.

“As I am speaking of America I remember one incident that comes back vividly to my mind. When I was there a strong wave of anti-British feeling was passing over the country. It was not shown offensively to the stranger within their gates, but one could hardly pick up any sort of newspaper without reading what was painful and usually untrue about one’s country. On one occasion at Detroit this feeling showed on the surface. A small supper was given to me by some kind and hospitable friends at a club there. We looked upon the wine when it was red, and at a late stage of the evening, politics having come up, one of the company made a speech in which he made a severe attack upon Great Britain. I asked my friend Robert Barr, who was in the chair, to allow me to answer the attack. This I did, speaking my mind out of the fulness of my heart. I think no one who was present could fail to have been surprised at the way in which after events bore out my remarks. What I said practically was:

“‘You Americans have lived, up to now, within a ring fence of your own. Your country has become so vast, and you have so much to do in peopling it and opening it out, that you have never had to think seriously of outside international politics, and you have lived to some extent in a world of prejudice and of dreams. This period is now drawing swiftly to an end. Your country is filling up, and soon you will have surplus energies which will lead you on into world politics and bring you into closer actual relationships with the other powers. Then your friendships and your enmities will be guided, not by prejudice nor by hereditary dislikes, but by actual practical issues. When that days comes—and it is coming soon—you will find that the only people who will understand you—who will see what your aims are and who will heartily sympathise with you in them, are your own people, the men from whom you are sprung. In a great world-crisis you will find that you have no natural friend among the nations save your own kin; and to the last they will always be at your side!’

“Well, within three years came the Spanish war—the suggested European coalition against America—the strong attitude of Great Britain upon the subject. It was as good an illustration as one could desire of the prediction which I had made in my speech.

“We know very well on this side that if the case were reversed and we ourselves had to look for sympathy and understanding, all minor contentions would vanish in an instant and we should find a strong and true friend by our side.”

A HAPPY ANNOUNCEMENT

One little personal piece of information was given by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which may make a fitting conclusion to this interview. It was the news of his approaching marriage. Sir Arthur is engaged to a young lady, Miss Jean Leckie of Crowborough, to whom he is to be married in September. His face lit up as he finished: “I am the most lucky of men. May I be worthy of my good fortune!”