To An Undiscerning Critic
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
This poem was written as a reply after critic Arthur Guiterman wrote a poem entitled: "To Sir Arthur Conan Doyle" complaining that Sherlock Holmes shouldn't say negative things about other fictional detectives when Conan Doyle owed a lot to other authors' detective stories.
- in London Opinion (28 december 1912 [UK])
- in Some Piquant People, by Lincoln Springfield (october 1924, T. Fisher Unwin [UK])
- To An Undiscerning Critic (1924, Edwin B. Hill [US])
- To An Undiscerning Critic (4 october 1937, Edwin B. Hill [US])
- in Profile by Gaslight (1944, Simon and Schuster [US])
- in The Baker Street Journal Vol. 10 No. 4 (october 1960 [US])
- in An 'Undiscerning Critic' Discerned (december 1968, The Beaune Press [US])
To An Undiscerning Critic
by Arthur Conan Doyle, in London Opinion (28 december 1912)
Sure there are times when one cries with acidity,
'Where are the limits of human stupidity?'
Here is a critic who says as a platitude
That I am guilty because 'in gratitude
Sherlock, the sleuth-hound, with motives ulterior,
Sneers at Poe's Dupin as "very inferior".'
Have you not learned, my esteemed communicator,
That the created is not the creator?
As the creator I've praised to satiety
Poe's Monsieur Dupin, his skill and variety,
And have admitted that in my detective work
I owe to my model a deal of selective work.
But is it not on the verge of inanity
To put down to me my creation's crude vanity?
He, the created, would scoff and would sneer,
Where I, the creator, would bow and revere.
So please grip this fact with your cerebral tentacle:
The doll and its maker are never identical.
To Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
by Arthur Guiterman, in London Opinion (14 december 1912)
Gentle Sir Conan, I'll venture that few have been
Half as prodigiously lucky as you have been.
Fortune, the flirt! has been wondrously kind to you.
Ever beneficent, sweet and refined to you.
Doomed to the practise of physic and surgery,
Yet, growing weary of pills and physicianing,
Off to the Arctic you packed, expeditioning.
Roving and dreaming, Ambition, that heady sin,
Gave you a spirit too restless for medicine:
That, I presume, as Romance is the quest of us,
Made you an Author-the same as the rest of us.
Ah, but the rest of us clamor distressfully,
"How do you manage the game so successfully?
Tell us, disclose to us how under Heaven you
Squeeze from the inkpot so splendid a revenue!"
Then, when you'd published your volume that vindicates
England's South African raid (or the Syndicate's),
Pleading that Britain's extreme bellicosity
Wasn't (as most of us think) an atrocity
Straightaway they gave you a cross with a chain to it
(Oh, what an honor! I could not attain to it,
Not if I lived to the age of Methusalem!)
Made you a knight of St. John of Jerusalem!
Faith! as a teller of tales you've the trick with you!
Still there's a bone I've been wanting to pick with you:
Holmes is your hero of drama and serial:
All of us know where you dug the material!
Whence he was moulded-'tis almost a platitude;
Yet your detective, in shameless ingratitude
Sherlock your sleuthhound with motives ulterior
Sneers at Poe's "Dupin" as "very inferior!"
Labels Gaboriau's clever "Lecoq," indeed,
Merely "a bungler," a creature to mock, indeed!
This, when your plots and your methods in story owe
More than a trifle to Poe and Gaboriau,
Sets all the Muses of Helicon sorrowing.
Borrow, Sir Knight, but in decent borrowing!
Still let us own that your bent is a cheery one,
Little you've written to bore or to weary one,
Plenty that's slovenly, nothing with harm in it,
Give me detective with brains analytical
Rather than weaklings with morals mephitical
Stories of battles and man's intrepidity
Rather than wails of neurotic morbidity!
Give me adventures and fierce dinotheriums
Rather than Hewlett's ecstatic deliriums!
Frankly, Sir Conan, some hours I've eased with you
And, on the whole, I am pretty well pleased with you.