United by the Ocean? The Romantic Conan Doyle and the Transatlantic Sherlock Holmes
Department of Literary and Cultural Theory, Institute of English Cultures and Literatures, University of Silesia
Biographers describe Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as a ‘Briton enchanted by America’. His letter ‘England and America’ has been called a ‘plea for Britons to understand the American point of view’. ACD entertained utopian (which is not to say, silly) ideas about the English-speaking part of the world, which made him make efforts to overcome mutual prejudices and to bring the English and the American nations together in terms of friendship. This despite the fact that he had reasons to feel sore due to literary piracies committed against him by American publishers. ACD’s fascination with merica—which was for him, in his own words, a land ‘full of romance’ shows in his greatest and enduring literary achievement: the Sherlock Holmes stories. Already the first of them, ‘A Study in Scarlet’, which in 1887 gave literary life to the now world-famous consulting detective, is set for a significant part of the plot in the U.S. But ‘transatlantic’ motifs occur also in other stories, most famously in ‘The Five Orange Pips’ (1891), ‘The Yellow Face’ (1893), and ‘The Dancing Men’ (1903). Besides this, a number of other stories contain the motifs and tropes of sea/ocean/voyaging as leading ones, e.g. The story with a ‘whaling’ motif: ‘The Black Peter’.For ACD America was a land on which he projected, as the ‘American’ and ‘voyaging’ stories make evident, his major political and ideological concerns, such as those with justice and equality. In the paper, special attention is paid to the way in which in some of the stories the ocean (also: a sea and a river) features as something like a protagonist, even as one who administers justice and settles other types of account.
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