Sir A. Conan Doyle's New Drama

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Sir A. Conan Doyle's New Drama is an article published in the Daily Mail on 1st june 1909, including a part of an interview with Arthur Conan Doyle about his play The Fires of Fate.

Sir A. Conan Doyle's New Drama

Daily Mail (1 june 1909, p. 3)

Modern Morality Play.

Interview with the Author.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has written a new play, which Mr. Lewis Waller will produce at the Lyric, Theatre on or about June 15. Interviewed by a representative of The Daily Mail, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle explained the views of which his play will treat, and why he describes "The Fires of Fate" as a "morality play."

"Yes," he said, "I have called my new play 'a modern morality play' — at least that is the sub-title. 'The Fires of Fates' is the name.

"Well, the reason is that the whole action of the play is to illustrate a philosophic theory of life as laid down in the first act. I suppose many plays are morality plays. In a sense the old British melodrama was one, for its essential point was that virtue should triumph and vice be defeated. But it seemed to me that there was room for something which dealt with modern problems and applied more to life as we know it.

"It was after I saw 'Everyman,' a long time ago, that I thought I would like to attempt something of the sort, but it is only within the last three years that my scenario has been written. But the sub-title was always there. I mention the matter because my friend Jerome's excellent 'Passing of the Third Floor Back' has been called, as it is, a modern morality play. I should not like him to think that I had taken his idea. The actual plot and form are as different as possible.


"What is the philosophy? Well, it is as old as the hills, and yet needs to be restated and revindicated with every generation. It upholds that optimism which I believe to be the supreme human wisdom, and that faith which will enable a man to be optimistic upon general principles, however much the particular instance may seem to be an exception to his scheme of philosophy. If he works on, true to those general principles, he will always find his faith justified in some fashion — often an unexpected one.

"No, I don't use faith in any restricted or theological sense. I mean that idea which underlies every religion, and which, as it seems to me, no scepticism can really shake — the faith in a primal cause, in something beyond chance in the universe, in a definite design which controls everything, both material and spiritual.

"Yes, I have been educated as a scientific man. I am familiar with the facts of evolution and the laws of nature. But talk of that sort explains nothing. It only puts us back one stage to the question of who made the laws. By showing the laws by which an architect works you don't disprove the existence of an architect.

"The point is that if there is design in the universe, and all works at last to a good end, then such common and powerful factors as pain and grief are not chance phenomena, mere by-products of life, but are vital and necessary things, serving a useful and, as I think, a demonstrable end. In this play a man is tempted to take his own life. He does not take it, and the course of events shows how mistaken and foolish as well as wicked he would have been had he done so.

Good Out of Evil

"Again, there is a group of characters who all start with the common weaknesses of our modern civilisation. Each has his spiritual fault. They have led happy and comfortable lives in which evil habits have developed. They are plunged together into a terrible experience. You see how each takes it, and you see how far those who survive are the better for it, and how far in this instance pain and sorrow have shown themselves to be the great chastening and renovating force in life, just as the storm which seems so sinister a thing is really the greatest agent for clearing and purifying the atmosphere.

"Dramatic difficulties? Yes, indeed. The greatest is that where you have a play which discusses philosophy and illustrates it in somewhat violent action you necessarily have it set in two keys. Your more thoughtful scenes may offend those who love action, your active scenes may offend the thoughtful. However, you can only bell by trying."