Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Sherlock Holmes's origins revealed
AP - Benedict Cumberbatch (above) portrays Sherlock Holmes in the most recent adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's books
A "lost" first novel by Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, is to be published tomorrow for the first time, 128 years after it was written. The Narrative of John Smith has been seen exclusively by The Independent on Sunday and provides a fascinating glimpse into the young writer's mind. However, it also reveals that, as a young man, he found the creation of first-rate fiction far from elementary.
The book's manuscript formed part of a collection of private papers that emerged at auction in 2004 and was bought by the British Library for nearly £1m. Written in four black notebooks, the 130-page work has now been transcribed and typeset for worldwide release to accompany an exhibition of Conan Doyle-abilia at the British Library.
Many years after writing The Narrative, Conan Doyle said that he would be horrified if the book ever appeared in print. But academics have defended the publication because of its contribution to understanding his later work. "This book gives us a unique insight into the developing creative mind of the writer," says Rachel Foss, one of the book's editors. "This is his first attempt to make the transition from a short-story writer to a novel writer."
The book is about a 50-year-old man who is stricken with gout and confined to his couch for a week. He then attempts to write a book, and expounds his views on topics such as medicine, religion, literature and interior design. Many of the opinions clearly chime with the author's, such as his belief in the importance of science and medicine, and his scepticism about religious dogma.