Wednesday, 12 October 2011

The British Library Publishes the Narrative of John Smith

It was quite an honour to be invited to the British Library at the end of September in celebration of the publication of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's new book: 'The Narrative of John Smith. There were several highlights to the evening, one being meeting the charming actor Robert Lindsay, and the other to view for the first time the original manuscript of the said book that Doyle wrote when he was in his early twenties.

It was a 'lost' first novel by Arthur Conan Doyle which the British Library published on 26th September 128 years after it was written.

The book's manuscript written in 4 black notebooks along with other documents was bought by the British Library for £1M. The 130 page work as now be 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 he would be horrified if the book ever appeared in print.

Conan Doyle was living and working as a doctor in Portsmouth when he embarked on the novel in 1883. His father had been ill due to alcholism, and the 23 year old had to fund his mother and fund eduction for his 10 year old brother.

Doyle was frustrated by the Victorian practice of omitting the author's name especially when one of his works 'The Cornhill' was hailed as being by Robert Louis Stevenson's. For this reason, he attempted a novel, which would have his name on the front cover. Then came a major blow when the Narrative was lost in the post, never to be found again. Doyle then wrote the entire story again from memory the results being with the British Library today.

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