The Narrative of John Smith

The Narrative of John Smith

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by Arthur Conan Doyle
     
 

Before there was the astute detective Sherlock Holmes and his capable compatriot Watson, there was the opinionated Everyman John Smith. In 1883, when he was just twenty-three, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Narrative of John Smith while he was living in Portsmouth and struggling to establish himself as both a doctor and a writer. He had already succeeded

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Overview

Before there was the astute detective Sherlock Holmes and his capable compatriot Watson, there was the opinionated Everyman John Smith. In 1883, when he was just twenty-three, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Narrative of John Smith while he was living in Portsmouth and struggling to establish himself as both a doctor and a writer. He had already succeeded in having a number of short stories published in leading magazines of the day, such as Blackwood’s, All the Year Round, London Society, and the Boy’s Own Paper—but as was the accepted practice of literary journals of the time, his stories had been published anonymously. Thus, Conan Doyle knew that in order to truly establish his name as a writer, he would have to write a novel. That novel—the first he ever wrote and only now published for the first time—is The Narrative of John Smith.
 
Many of the themes and stylistic tropes of his later writing, including his first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet—published in 1887—can be clearly seen. More a series of ruminations than a traditional novel, The Narrative of John Smith is of considerable biographical importance and provides an exceptional window into the mind of the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Through John Smith, a fifty-year-old man confined to his room by an attack of gout, Conan Doyle sets down his thoughts and opinions on a range of subjects—including literature, science, religion, war, and education—with no detectable insecurity or diffidence. His writing is full of bravado.
 
Though unfinished, The Narrative of John Smith stands as a fascinating record of the early work of a man on his way to being one of the best-known authors in the world. This book will be welcomed with enthusiasm by the numerous Conan Doyle devotees.
 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Doyle's first novel, written when he was 23 years old, was lost in the mail, but the author later recreated most of it. The unfinished second version has never been published before, and while it won't be confused with any of Doyle's acclaimed Holmes or Professor Challenger stories,it's still an interesting read that offers insights into the author's worldview. Narrator Smith is incapacitated and confined to his room on doctor's orders, which gives him plenty of time to ruminate on religion, race relations, biology, and literature. The invalid approves of the enlightened attitude toward others shown by a fellow lodger, an unnamed army major, who anticipates the Doyle who was later to champion George Edalji and campaign against the Belgian slave trade. The major calls for "ore black faces in the streets of London, and more white ones in the country parts of India. We should find billets in England for a thousand bright Hindoo youths every year, and send out as many of our own young fellows to work at the tea and indigo." Casual readers will view this more as a curiosity than a must-read, but Sherlockians will enjoy noting phrases and sentiments that recur in Dr. Watson's tales. (Oct. 2011)
Stephen Fry
“Someone, I think it was the noted Janeite Lord David Cecil, once said that Jane Austen was the kind of writer on whose laundry lists and notes to the milkman any keen reader would pounce. While Conan Doyle may not be considered to be in quite that category there can be no doubt that the heart of every lover of British writing will rejoice at this discovery of an early and as yet unpublished work by the creator of Holmes, Watson, Moriarty and Professor Challenger. The breadth, depth and scope of Conan Doyle’s knowledge and curiosity is often overlooked. He was the first popular writer to tell the wider reading public about narcotics, the Ku Klux Klan, the mafia, the Mormons, American crime gangs, corrupt union bosses and much else besides. His boundless energy, enthusiasm and wide-ranging mind, not to mention the pitch-perfect, muscular and memorable prose is all on display here in a work whose publication is very very welcome indeed.”
New York Review of Books - Michael Dirda
“One couldn’t ask for better scholarship. Lellenberg is the learned and extremely dedicated representative of the Conan Doyle estate in North America (as well as the author of an archival history of the Baker Street Irregulars) and Stashower is a noted biographer whose books include an Edgar Award-winning life of Conan Doyle, Teller of Tales.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780712351157
Publisher:
British Library, The
Publication date:
10/15/2011
Edition description:
Abridged
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 5.20(h) x 1.10(d)

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