Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Impressions at His Lecture

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Impressions at His Lecture is an article written by a journalist of The Argus (Melbourne, Australia) on 6 october 1920.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Impressions at His Lecture

The Argus (6 october 1920)

Impressions at His lecture.

Before a conventional "garden scene" of gay colours, with "cut borders" of stage green foliage above them, sat several rows of men and women - middle-aged, old, in youthful - forming a long semi-circle on the singe of Hie Playhouse. A little uneasy some of them seemed at being placed so prominently before the other auditors, who filled most of the floor seats, and occupied a large part of the balcony space. But there were expressions also of curiosity, anxiety, and hope.

Quietly a big man came on to the stage; a dark lady dressed in soft greys beside him. She sat by the high desk, which was draped and fringed in dim crimson. Against it the black and white of the man's attire was clear-cut. With a smile in acknowledgment of the applause. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle began his lecture, going directly into what he had to say. Such is his manner - as a plain man to plain folk, and as one who has earned the gift of plainness by long practice in writing and speech. He does not waste words, but uses exactly those which will say what he wishes to say. Sometimes there is a humorous illustration to lighten the speech, or a jest which is not at all jest at views and sayings attributed to opponents.

As he begins, all lights but those on the stage are turned down - apparently by a mistake, as they soon go up again. He seems happier when he sees the faces of those he addresses, and perhaps finds encouragement in their eyes. In the voice - light originally, but deepened by platform speaking - one finds a trace of the speech of the Irish - at any rate, of tho Celt. The face, too, round beneath the close-cropped grey hair, is of an Irish typo. One recalls tho old Celtic associations of the name Conan, It goes back to an early, day of mysticism.

Most men look older on a platform or a stage than in ordinary surroundings, and without footlights the stage is even more merciless than with them. The force necessary to drive home an argument also tends to change the appearance. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle lecturing does not always look like the Sir Arthur of daily life. He returns to that other self when his face relaxes as he is making a humorous point, or when, after the lecture, he is expressing thanks for his reception and speaking informally. His facial expressions vary a good deal, but always, except when opponents are mentioned rather bitterly, there is a certain winning kindliness in both face and voice. It is evident at times that a shrewd and widely experienced man is speaking,, but even then the dominant impression is one of sincerity. As he becomes engrossed in his lecture, he is easier in pose and gesture. Frequently he uses his tortoise shell-rimmed spectacles to occupy his hands, and sometimes he whips them on and off again for a rapid glance at notes, or to read an extract; but for the most part he relies on memory in a way that makes his speech seem spontaneous.

There was a good deal of applause, but quiet applause, as if in a church hall, and the ejaculations of assent made by a number of those present were not unlike those of certain religious believers.

Quietly and informally tho lecture ended, the floor seats and balcony began lo empty, and the stage auditors wandered from the stage garden into the night, where lights shone on the real gardens beside the river.