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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

The Narrative of John Smith

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The re-written manuscript (between 1884-1893)

The Narrative of John Smith is a novel written by Arthur Conan Doyle. Conan Doyle reported that the manuscript of his original novel was lost in the mail, and the story was never published. However, he appears to have re-written the story (between 1884 and 1893). The British Library purchased that manuscript at the auction of the Conan Doyle archives in 2004. The British Library published the story on 11 october 2011 (buy the book).

Arthur Conan Doyle lost the manuscript of his first novel, and later professed horror at the thought that it should be found and published. As we now know, he rewrote much of it from memory, and "The Narrative of John Smith" has indeed been published. As it stands, it's not a long book, and next to nothing happens. I doubt it would have seen print in the 1880s, but now we're familiar with the author's life and work, and we're interested to follow his development as a writer, a thinker and a person. John Smith, perhaps Conan Doyle's vision of himself as an older man, is confined to his room by gout; the narrative consists of his reflections on life and his conversations with his doctor, his neighbours, his landlady, and the local curate - characters who are depicted with a lively authenticity. Nowhere else in his fiction does Conan Doyle discourse on such a range of topics - politics, religion, philosophy and much more - with the boldness of youth and often with the wisdom of maturity. Perhaps it's not a novel so much as a series of sketches: I was reminded of the "Sketches by Boz", which is no bad thing. The Narrative is a precursor of The Stark Munro Letters and A Duet, rather than The Hound of the Baskervilles, The White Company or The Lost World, but there are details here that would become important elements in the chronicles of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Nigel and Professor Challenger. - Roger Johnson, SHSL


Video

Robert Lindsay read the first chapter of the novel (6'30)





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