Letter to Mr Stoddart (21 september 1891)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

This letter was written by Arthur Conan Doyle on 21 september 1891 to Joseph M. Stoddart, the editor of the Lippincott's Magazine.


Sept 21 /91

Dear Stoddart,

So delighted to have a line from you, and to learn that all is well with you. Since I last wrote I have taken the extreme step of giving up medicine altogether and I have settled down here, some 8 miles from London, so when you come over next you will not have to come very far to visit me.

I am very pleased that you liked "The White Company." It cost me an infinitude of trouble, as I was working in unbroken ground. "Ivanhoe" is a hundred and fifty years before and "Quentin Durward" a hundred years after. I had no guides at all save Chaucer and Froissart, and I read over 115 books before I began to have a clear idea of the middle ages. It seems to me that they have never yet been correctly drawn. These knights were not manslaying machines but were human beings, with all human feebles and weaknesses. I should like to have laid more stress upon the human side of chivalry, but I found that I was drifting perilously near to caricature. As it is my knight errant, peaky, bald, half blind and five feet high may seem a rather funny figure when compared to the six foot Hercules which usually rides through the pages of the historical Romance.

Harper some nine months ago ordered a novel of me for his magazine (with the right of publishing afterwards). I determined to make this an American historical novel, but I find that the task is a huge one. There is, I find, more colour in the early Canadian Annals than in those of the Sates, where the difficulties were rather with soil and climate, and such small fry as Pequods [1] and Narragansetts rather than with such scourges as nearly swept the French settlements out of existence. Still I want to bring in the Puritans too, but I have not got the thread to connect the two together yet. Historically they seem to have kept themselves severely apart, save when they dropped in with a tomahawk instead of a visiting card. I sit with banks of books about America all round me, but I confess that I make little progress. It may end in a trip up the St. Laurence, down the Richelieu River, and so to New York and New England. If so I shall be much tempted to run on to Philadelphia and have a little peep at you, but the whole plan is still quite up in the air.

Kindest remembrances to Mr. Lippincott and the friend Kimball, with the same very cordially to yourself.

Yours very truly

A. Conan Doyle

  1. Pequots