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30:4, Reviews Though the passion has gone out of discussions of the new biography, every critical age has its passions and ours is no exception. Although Modernizing Lives is neatly organized by its introduction and conclusion, its historical and its three theoretical-analytic chapters, it seems that no book would be complete without providing for the felt needs of the moment; hence a chapter on "Feminism and Biography." Largely a study of Orlando and Flush, Woolfs serious biographical "jokes," the chapter is not without charms of its own to match its subject. Whether these are sufficient to justify its inclusion must remain a matter of taste—if not of structural logic. Avrom Fleishman The Johns Hopkins University CONAN DOYLE'S LETTERS John Michael Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green, eds. The Unknown Conan Doyle: Letters to the Press. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1986. $19.95 AU the letters in Gibson and Green's The Unknown Conan Doyle first appeared in pubUc print, most in smaU local or large national newspapers, some in popular magazines, and a few in medical journals. The letters range in length from short paragraphs to several pages. And almost aU are concerned with public matters. Any reader interested in Doyle primarily as the creator of Sherlock Holmes will be disappointed by this volume. Of approximately 350 letters, only two mention the detective. One reference is in passing and not clearly explained . The second, and more important, occurs in 1925 late in Doyle's life. Commenting on an article on spiritualism, by an unnamed author, Doyle writes: "In it he couples my name with Sherlock Holmes, and I presume that since I am the only begetter of that over-rated character I must have some strand of my nature which corresponds with him. Let me assume this. In that case I would say . . . that of aU the feats of clear thinking which Holmes ever performed by far the greatest was when he saw that a despised and ridiculed subject was in very truth a great new revelation and an epoch-making event in the world's history." Of interest here to the Holmesian are Doyle's modest deprecation of Holmes, the admission that Holmes might, at least in part, be modeled on his creator, and the linking of Holmes with spiritualism. In the stories Doyle was very careful to keep his interest in this subject separate from Sherlock Holmes. Doyle was reluctant to talk about his own writing in letters meant for public consumption. He felt strongly that no author should parade his own problems and accomplishments in the process of Uterary creation. Such selfadvertisement , Doyle felt, was bad Uterary etiquette: "... I do think it unworthy of the dignity of our common profession that one should pick up paper after paper and read Mr. Caine's own comments on the gigantic task and the colossal work which he has just brought to a conclusion, with minute descriptions of its various phases and of the different difficulties which have been overcome. . . . Each successive book of Mr. Hall Caine's has been selfheralded in the same fashion." When Doyle does occasionally comment on his 502 30:4, Reviews writing, it is usually to protest misrepresentation or piracy, especially piracy by American pubUshers. He also defends his description of the Boer War in The War in South Africa—Its Cause and Conduct; he suggests that a critic had misread, or even worse not read, his novel Sir Nigel; he states that he had written his story The Poison Belt many months before a French author used a sintilar idea. Doyle, however, felt free to comment in the press on Uterary figures other than himself. Scattered throughout these letters are Doyle's opinions of other authors. For example, he defends Carlyle's ideas; praises Hardy, in an obituary tribute, as "a combination of Richard Jefferies and a great novelist"; emphatically describes Winston Churchill (the politician, not the novelist) more than once as the greatest living writer with a superb prose style. Angry at any form of uterary censorship, Doyle approves the controversial Esther Waters and condemns the rejection by the Lord Chamberlain of a play by Laurence Housman. He...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 502-504
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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