Letter to James Payn about Rodney Stone (1 august 1895)

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This letter was written by Arthur Conan Doyle on 1st august 1895 from Maloja Hotel, Maloja, Switzerland, addressed to editor James Payn, about his new book about prize fighting (i.e. Rodney Stone).


Maloja Hotel,
Aug 1st 1895

My dear Payn

How I wish I could waft you up here, for it is a very charming place, but decidedly inaccessible to any man who is not very robust. I do hope that the warm summer has done you good. I see from the Illustrated that your wit and cheeriness never fail you, but I know that in your case that is no proof of health or strength.

I have been very busy on the buck and prize fighter book of which, I think, I said something to you. I think it will work out fairly well, but I dare not be too sanguine. I remember that you were disposed to think that I was dealing with an unsavoury subject in the prize ring — and Robinson took the same view very strongly, But I hope that it may justify itself. I think I have done it in such a way that it is picturesque and not offensive, though I have two big fights in the book. It has never yet been done, as far as I know, and yet the Ring is the one typical Anglo Saxon sport which has never existed outside English speaking countries, and which has now, I believe, a very deep hold of the people — in spite of the unspeakable state to which it has been reduced. In the old days it stood for chivalry, gallantry & fair play, and I am sure I would rather fight in the lists with lance and sword than stand up to a good man for a hundred rounds, as far as the bravery & endurance which is needed goes. I hope when it comes your way that you may think I have made it interesting.

Our chief amusement here is to play golf, but as the grass is very thick and long the game gives you a lot of fresh air with very little exertion, for at your first drive you lose your ball, and then you spend your day, with intervals for meals, in walking round in circles and looking for it. Hare is here and I believe Bancroft [1] & Pinero [2] are expected, so we feel that we are quite a dramatic centre'

Of course you have read Morrison's "Mean Streets". It seemed to me to be very good indeed. I have just finished "The Honour of Savelli" but did not care for that so much. Weyman and water. Books are the great difficulty out here, for the hotel library has only got as far as Bulwer Lytton.

My wife feels very well and bright. We hope to have our house built by the end of next summer and to settle once more. I bought the land, but the Tyndalls now claim that there is a right of way through it. I recall a painful story I read somewhere of a man who had actually finished his house when such a claim was made & proved. As a result he had the whole parish continually passing in at his back door and out at the front one. Warned by it I shall settle this matter before I build — and I have no doubt.

My kindest regards to Mrs Payn, and my wife sends her love. I hope to be in town with an M.S in my pocket, somewhere about October.

With all that is cordial to you

Yours always

A. Conan Doyle.

  1. Sir Squire Bancroft (1841-1926), English actor-manager.
  2. Sir Arthur Wing Pinero (1855-1934), English playwright and actor.