Men and Women

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

This article was published in The Sphere on 19 january 1901.


The Sphere (19 january 1901, p. 88)

Dr. Conan Doyle addressed the members of the Whitefriars Club the other evening on "The Art of Fiction." Meanwhile he himself may be congratulated on his marvellous success in fiction and in fact, for he has followed the colossal successes of Sherlock Holmes, The White Company and similar books with the most successful achievement of the many miscellaneous war books that have come to hand during the last year. Forty thousand copies of his Great Boer War have been sold, and this of a bock published at 7s. 6d. net must be a record, far out-doing anything that can be boasted for other war-books.

Dr. Doyle told a good story in his address on "The Art of Fiction." He was, it seems, crossing the Gemmi Pass in Switzerland. On the top of the pass he came to the regular tourist hotel, which all of us who have crossed that precipitous mountain know full well. Them he was told that numbers of travellers are snowed up in the winter, and sometimes have to be content with a month's sojourn in the company of all kinds of accidental acquaintances. Mr. Doyle thought them was a good tale in this, and he had framed a scheme of a story which he anticipated sending at an early date to the Strand Magazine. He had no sooner got down to the bottom of the pass, however, than by a most extraordinary coincidence a little volume of Maupassant's stories came into his hands, upon opening which he discovered that the first story bore the title L'Auberge. His eye caught the words "Gemmi Pass" almost at the opening; in fact, the story was an absolute replica of the one he had contemplated writing, being exact in almost every detail. Dr. Doyle made an amusing speculation as to what might have happened had he published his own story in the Strand and been accosted a few weeks later in parallel columns in one of the literary organs by a charge of plagiarism difficult of disproof.