The Value of Criticism

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Value of Criticism is an article compiling various authors opinion about critics: John Galsworthy, Arthur Rackham, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, E. Phillips Oppenheim, Stacy Aumonier, W. W. Jacobs, Hugh Walpole and Mrs. Belloc Lowndes, published for the first time in The Bookman (vol. 71 No. 421 p. 12) in october 1926. Illustrated with a photo of Conan Doyle.

Below is the Conan Doyle contribution.

The Value of Criticism

The Bookman (vol. 71 No. 421 p. 12, october 1926)

In dealing with fiction I have always found the critics fair and reasonable, but I cannot say that I have ever had anything of value from their criticism. That may have been my own fault, but the fact remains.

In dealing with psychic subjects, upon which I have now written seven books, I am amazed at the absolute want of conscience which permits men so often to jeer at matters which they have never studied and of which they have no personal experience. They seem to be entirely unaware that they are incurring responsibilities for which they will have to answer. With the exception of the Morning Post and to a less extent the Daily News, I cannot recall any London daily which has ever show n any knowledge of this, the greatest of all subjects.

I am offended by the way in which editors choose their critics for particular books, picking out in many cases those men who are least likely to give an unbiased opinion. Thus when I brought out the six successive volumes of my "History of the British Campaigns in France" a leading literary organ had bitter reviews upon each, in which no notice was taken of the fact that I was giving for the first time such all-important facts as the exact composition of the British battle line in each successive engagement, but dwelling entirely upon petty little details, doubtful in themselves and of no consequence if true. The thing seemed so absurd that I inquired into the matter, and found that the volumes had been sent for review to a rival historian of the war, who with all the will in the world could hardly be expected to take a detached view. These depreciatory articles undoubtedly, and most unjustly, shook the authority of my volumes and marred my work. Again I recently published a "History of Spiritualism," a book which represented years of labour and many years of experience. The leading paper in this country sent it for review to a Jesuit priest. Another leading literary organ had it reviewed by Sir Ray Lankester, a lifelong opponent of the subject in question. I think an author has a fair grievance in such cases.

On the whole, however, as I look back upon my long literary life I do not feel that I have much to complain of, and I have a recollection of much that is kind.