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22 May 1859, Edinburgh M.D., Kt, D.L., LL.D., Sportsman, Writer, Poet, Politician, Justicer, Spiritualist Crowborough, 7 July 1930

Lecturing in America

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Lecturing in America is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Author in july 1895.


Lecturing in America

Sir, — I observed a passage in last month's Author which speaks of the gains to be made by lecturing in America. It is a subject upon Which there has been a great deal of exaggeration, and I think that a few words upon it may not be amiss — the more so as my name was coupled with the remarks.

Anyone who goes to America with the intention of seeing the place and the people, and counts on no more from his lectures than the payment of his expenses, will have a most enjoyable experience. He will come back with enlarged ideas, with a pleasant remembrance of hospitality received and with new friendships, which he will hope to retain until they are old ones.

But if he goes with the primary idea of making money he will be disappointed. Thackeray and Dickens made money, and when we have another Thackeray and Dickens they may do the same; but the British lecturer whose credentials are more modest will find that the margin left over, after his expenses are paid, is probably a less sum than he could have easily earned in his own study.

In the extract to which I refer from your American correspondence, the sum of 500 dollars a lecture is mentioned. This is nonsense. Taking an average a fifth part of it would be nearer the mark, which is no more than could be obtained from the better class provincial societies in Great Britain. For argument's sake, however, let us put the American average at 125 dollars. When the agent's commission of 15 per cent. and the high travelling and hotel expenses have been paid, the lecturer will probably have from 80 to 85 dollars clear. Allow him four lectures a week, and we have from 320 to 350 dollars as his gain. Two months of this will leave him something under 3000 dollars. From this he has to subtract his double passage-money, and about a month extra spent in the journey and preparations. If the balance will exceed what he would earn in the same period by his pen, it is then worth his while to go to America for money.

If any brother author should go, however, I strongly recommend him to put his affairs in the hands of my friend, Major J. B. Pond, in whom they will find a very sympathetic comrade as well as a keen business manager. My own trip to America was one of the most pleasant experiences of my life, but if it had been the wish to earn more than I could have done at home which had attracted me thither, I should certainly have been disappointed. This would be a merely personal and unimportant matter, were it not that the mention of exaggerated sums in your pages might mislead and cause disappointment to some of your readers.

A. CONAN DOYLE

Grand Hotel Belvedere, Davos-Platz, Switzerland



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