The Genius of George Meredith

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
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First page of Conan Doyle's manuascript of this lecture

On tuesday 20 november 1888, Arthur Conan Doyle attended and was the lecturer of "The Genius of George Meredith" at the Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society (PLSS) meeting held at the Portsmouth Guildhall.


  • President/Chairman
    • A. W. Jerrard (in the absence of Dr. Axford)
  • Speakers :
  • Attendees
    • Rev. and Mrs. H. Maxwell Egan Desmond
    • Rev. S. Kennah
    • Colonel C. Hunter
    • Col. J. E. Taylor
    • Captain R. Jackson, R.N.
    • Dr. J. Ward Cousins
    • Miss Cousins
    • Dr. and Mrs. J. Watson
    • Dr. and Mrs. C. C. Claremont
    • Dr. and Mrs. Conan Doyle
    • Miss Doyle
    • Miss Harward
    • Mr. A.
    • Mrs. and Miss Addison
    • Mr. W.G.P. Gilbert
    • Mr. Hugh S. Maclauchlan
    • Mr. and Mrs. J. Hay
    • Mr. W. Weston
    • Mr. and Mrs. C. Foran
    • Mr. J. M. Ollis, R.N.
    • Mr. George Fremantle-Ollis
    • Mr. A. E. Cogswell
    • Mr. T. A. Andrews
    • Mr. R. East
    • Mr. and Mrs. W. Inglis
    • Mr. and Mrs. G. A. Cook and party
    • Mr. J. W.F. Allnutt
    • Mr. W. E. Welch
    • Mr. A. Howell
    • Mr. E. J. Lindsey
    • Mr. F. T. Durell
    • Mr. W. T. Pover, R.N.
    • Mrs. J. Roberton
    • Mr. Gruexier and friends
    • Mr. and Mrs. Charpentier and friends
    • Mr. and Miss Wolseley
    • Mr. and Mrs. D. M. Ford
    • Mrs. Aldwell and friends
    • Mr. F. Aylen, Mrs. Maybury
    • Mrs. A. E. Petrie
    • Mr. J. W. Boughton
    • Mrs. and Miss Tomlinson
    • Miss Childs
    • Mr. and Mrs. G. F. Bell
    • Miss Wilcock
    • Mr. T. L. Reynolds
    • Misses Reynolds
    • Mr. and Mrs. Darley and friends
    • Mr. C. G.
    • Mrs. and the Misses Nicholson
    • Mrs. Blake
    • Mr. and Mrs. J. Watkins
    • Mr. S. Pittis
    • Mrs. Kennedy
  • Elected members
    • Commmodore Albert H. Markham, C.B.
    • Colonel C. Hunter
    • Colonel F. Trevor
    • Dr. Lysander Maybury
    • J. W. F. Allnutt
    • F. Aylen
    • G. Farney Brown
    • F. W. Byers, M. A.
    • F. T. Durell
    • E. J. Lindsey
    • E. Walker
    • A. W. White
  • Nominated for membership
    • Mrs. Capel
    • Captain W. Vine, R.N.
    • Captain Needham, R.N.
    • Rev. S. Kennah, M.A.
    • Rev. W. G. Burroughs
    • A. Hellard
    • A. W. Darley

Conan Doyle quotes

Report from the Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle

Conan Doyle regarded Meredith as a sort of Carlyle of fiction.

Conan Doyle, who illustrated his remarks by the frequent reading of selections from Meredith's works, commenced by pointing out that the greater the originality of a writer the more difficult did it become to measure his genius and assign to him his true place in the world of letters. The reading public was conservative, and looked askance at sweeping innovations in matter and style, and when both were decidedly original an author must be content to bide his time. In England we had had during the present century three men of this class in various ranks of literature. Two had risen to the front rank, and he thought the third would take his true position as one of the greatest writers of English fiction. He referred to Carlyle and Browning, and to George Meredith. The latter had been writing since 1853, but yet his name was less familiar to the public than that of the author of the latest "shilling shocker." In a great town like Portsmouth there was not a single private library which contained more than two of his works. The writers of this class had some consolation in the great enthusiasm they had raised in a few, which might be taken as a protest against the luke-warmness of the general reading public; and the essayist cited the Browning Societies in evidence. Having quoted favourable opinions of Meredith's writing to which Walter Besant, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Carlyle had given expression, Dr. Doyle said there were now signs that his reward was at hand.

Conan Doyle said that as a piece of character drawing he new nothing in the whole range of English fiction to which it could be compared. "Harry Richmond" resembled "Richard Feverel" in its subject, and thought inferior in sustained interest it abounded in passages and incidents equal to any which Meredith ever wrote; and there was hardly a character in the book which did not deserve to live. Dealing with Meredith's faults the essayist said he compelled people to read his works for the mere intellectual pleasure of his brilliant thoughts, while his characters had an artificial air about them. As a rule the construction of the stories was faulty. Meredith was a phrase-maker, and was so determined not to be commonplace, and never to say anything, as any other man had said it, that the result was now and then so out of place as to be grotesque. Some of his aphorisms should be retained in the English language, but others were ridiculous. Still Meredith's counterbalancing virtues were to the essayist's mind sufficient to place him head and shoulders above my other living writer of fiction.

Full Report