The Narrative of John Smith: Conan Doyle’s Shock And Horror

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Narrative of John Smith
Unlike doctors of today, Conan Doyle’s handwriting left no mystery as to what he meant.
Back in June, we discussed the auction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous lost and rewritten manuscript of The Narrative of John Smith and the fact that the British Library planned to publish the novel—for the first time—this month. Yesterday, the library’s plan came to fruition and the manuscript became a published book.

The Narrative of John Smith represents Conan Doyle’s first attempt at a novel, and is . . . hmm . . . less tightly plotted than his later work. Written from the point of view of a man confined to his rooms due to an attack of gout, it is less a story and more an extended rumination on the kinds of things that intrigued the young Conan Doyle.

It is clear that Conan Doyle himself did not consider The Narrative his best work, for although he did recreate the story once it was clear the post had lost it, he never resubmitted it for publication. Indeed, he later remarked: “My shock at its disappearance would be as nothing to my horror if it were suddenly to appear again—in print.”

Apologies, Doc—such is the price of fame.

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