The Boycott of Esther Waters

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The Boycott of Esther Waters is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Daily Chronicle on 3 may 1894.

The Boycott of Esther Waters

Sir, — The defence of the firm in the matter oldie non-circulation of Esther Waters is founded upon an obvious fallacy. It proceeds throughout upon the assumption that the firm chooses the reading of the public instead of their choosing their own. If the firm was requested to push a book of which it disapproved, then at once every word which Mr. Faux has said would become perfectly logical. But nothing of the kind is asked. It is only claimed that the book should have the same fair play as other books. If Mr. Smith's subscribers don't want it, then, of course, they will not ask for it. If they do, they have a right, and the author has a right, that it should be supplied.

Mr. Faux must not think that silence means approval on the part of his subscribers. To take the readiest example, I have myself been a subscriber to his library for years, and yet I have never lodged a complaint against his "Index Expurgatorius." If this is to be the test, I would beg any subscriber who may chance to read this letter to take the trouble to register his protest. The question is not one of this novel or that. It is whether our literature is to conform to the standard of the Glasgow Baillie, or whether it is to claim the same privileges as every great literature of which we have any record. If a book errs in morality let the law of England be called in. But we object to an unauthorised judge, who condemns without trial, and punishes the author more heavily than any court could do.

Mr. Faux wonders that I do not see the fatal blemishes in Esther Waters. I would remind him that all the critics whose verdicts I have seen have been equally blind. It is not frankness of expression, but the palliation of vice which makes a dangerous book. If Mr. Faux has read this book carefully, he cannot but acknowledge that the principal impressions which it leaves are a horror of gambling and a deep sympathy with and pity for the humble sorrows of the poor. These are not the fruits of an immoral book.

Yours faithfully,

12, Tennison-road, South Norwood, May 2