Monday, March 24, 2014

Doyle and Oppenheim React to Critics

Back in the mid-'20s, The Bookman [U.K.] asked different authors what value, if any, professional criticism might have for them, among whom were Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) and E. Phillips Oppenheim (1866-1946).

Neither author mentions mystery fiction per se, and ACD seems more annoyed by what critics had to say about his interest in spiritualism ("the greatest of all subjects," in his words), which he regarded as scientifically confirmed, than anything else. Because his reputation as a fictioneer was clearly secured for all time thanks to his wildly successful Holmes stories, Doyle could afford to write:
In dealing with fiction I have always found the critics fair and reasonable, but I cannot say that I have ever had anything of value from their criticism. That may have been my own fault, but the fact remains. . . . I am offended by the way in which editors choose their critics for particular books, picking out in many cases those men who are least likely to give an unbiased opinion. . . . On the whole, however, as I look back upon my long literary life I do not feel that I have much to complain of, and I have a recollection of much that is kind. — "The Value of Criticism," THE BOOKMAN [U.K.] (October 1926)
As successful as he was, Oppenheim could also sympathize with Doyle and his fellow fiction authors:
. . . I should say that the practical value of criticism to an author is scarcely so great to-day as some fifteen or twenty years ago. The reading public nowadays have formed their own ideas as to what they like and what they don't like, and in these times of universal novel-reading are not so easily influenced.
. . . A favourable and appreciative notice of his work is often an inspiration to the writer, whereas those few sarcastic lines, which a short time ago were rather the fashion amongst a certain type of reviewer, although they may do him little harm with the public, are often unduly depressing to their sensitive victim. — "The Value of Criticism," op cit.
- The GAD Wiki offers gateways to the works of Conan Doyle HERE and of Oppenheim HERE.

Category: Detective fiction

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