DOYLE, SIR ARTHUR CONAN. 1859-1930.
Autograph Manuscript Signed ("A Conan Doyle"), entitled "Rodney Stone: A Reminiscence of the Ring," 531 pp, various sizes 12mo to 8vo, Pall Mall, London, c.1896, with an unpublished two-page preface laid into volume I, some pages trimmed, minor tears and soiling. Bound in contemporary green-gray cloth, gilt-lettered spines, slipcase. A few leaves repaired, cloth of volume 2 splitting.
Provenance: Marjorie Wiggin Prescott (1895-1980) (her sale, Christie's New York, February 6, 1981, Lot 98); Marcus collection (Christie's New York, November 22, 1985, Lot 40).
One of Conan Doyle's early historical novels, this set in 1851, combining a coming-of-age story with a murder mystery while drawing freely on the then flourishing fad of Fistiana (pugilism) for atmosphere and background. In the unpublished preface Doyle writes, "An attempt is here made to draw the London of the beginning of the century with many of the typical figures of the day, the seamen who under Nelson's command swept Napoleon's fleets from the seas, Lord Nelson himself, Prince George, the dissolute and yet good-natured Prince of Wales, the bucks & bloods who formed so large a portion of Society and finally the prizefighters, who belonged to an institution which is so entirely Anglo Saxon and has arisen so spontaneously from the people that it deserves more serious attention than it has ever received. The ring may be received now with the tolerance and charity which may be extended to a thing which, whether evil or good, is absolutely and irretrievably dead." The preface that Conan Doyle did use in the book was much shorter than this one and dealt exclusively with acknowledging his sources. Once Doyle killed off Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls in 1893, he resumed his career as the author of popular historical romances. Rodney Stone is the story of a young man who leaves his home in Brighton for London, to be instructed in the ways of the world by his dandyish uncle, while at the same time by his childhood friend, Boy Jim, and pursues a career as a bare-knuckle prizefighter. They eventually help solve an old murder case. The Prince Regent, Lord Nelson and Beau Brummell all show up in the story. Many of the prominent pugilists of the period, including Jem Belcher, Daniel Mendoza and "Gentleman" John Jackson (who taught Lord Byron how to box), also appear in the novel. Like Jack London in America, Conan Doyle saw the rising popularity of prizefighting in England as fertile ground for fiction. Rodney Stone was the Scotsman's most ambitious boxing yarn, but he returned to the prize ring in the short stories "The Croxley Master" (1899), "The Lord of Falconbridge" (1909) and "The Bully of Brocas Court" (1921). He, like London, was an avid amateur boxer; and he passed his affection for the sport on to his sons. Sherlock Holmes, like his creator, was skilled in "the manly art." Conan Doyle adapted this story as a play called "The House of Temperley" in 1909, which in turn was the basis for the 1913 silent film of the same name.
- A clarification on provenance: the manuscript only was sold in the Prescott sale, and the 2 page preface only was sold in the Marcus sale. The first page of volume 1 has a small section at right margin excised with the loss of a few letters. The final leaf in volume 2 has a 5 inch clean tear repaired with a paper strip on verso. Chapters 3-8, 12-17, have publisher's page count numbers in blue crayon or pencil.