In Pursuit of Lost Worlds: Arthur Conan Doyle, Amos Tutuola and Wilson Harris

  • Alan Riach


Scottish by birth, Irish by descent, British by self-determination, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one of the grand old men of Empire. His dates, 1859–1930, when we put them alongside Stevenson’s, 1850–1894, may remind us how young Stevenson was when he died, how prophetic Stevenson’s writing was of modernity, and how easy it is to see Doyle firmly rooted in the imperial world from which he came. However, the magic of his writing will not be confined to history. The Sherlock Holmes stories are legitimately works of Scottish literature not only because they were written by a Scots-man, not only because their hero was based on a Scottish doctor Doyle knew, but also because the London they depict is in many respects modelled on Edinburgh, a much more walkable city. And they are perennially popular. Stevenson himself enjoyed them keenly, writing to Doyle from Samoa on 5 April 1893:

I hope you will allow me to offer you my compliments on your very ingenious and very interesting adventures of Sherlock Holmes. That is a class of literature that I like when I have the toothache. As a matter of fact, it was a pleurisy I was enjoying when I took the volume up; and it will interest you as a medical man to know that the cure was for the moment effectual. Only the one thing troubles me: can this be my old friend Joe Bell?1


Imperial World Cairn Gorm Holmes Story Romance Fiction Lost World 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘To A. Conan Doyle’ from Vailima, Apia, Samoa, 5 April 1893, in The Letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, Vol. 5 (London: Tusitala Edition, William Heinemann, 1924), p. 22.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Hugh MacDiarmid, ‘Sea-Serpent’, in Michael Grieve and W.R. Aitken, eds, The Complete Poems of Hugh MacDiarmid, Vol. 1 (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1993), pp. 48–51 (p. 50).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Arthur Conan Doyle, The Lost World (1912; Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1998). Page references are to this Oxford World’s Classics edition.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Michael Swan, The Marches of El Dorado (1958; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961), p. 205.Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    Hesketh Pearson, Conan Doyle (1943; London: Guild Books, 1946), p. 176.Google Scholar
  6. 13.
    Adam Phillips, The Beast in the Nursery (London: Faber & Faber, 1998), p. 6.Google Scholar
  7. 15.
    Paul Edwards, ‘The Farm and the Wilderness in Tutuola’s The Palm-Wine Drinkard’, in Bernth Lindfors, ed., Critical Perspectives on Amos Tutuola (Washington, DC: Three Continents Press, 1975), pp. 255–263.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    Dylan Thomas, ‘From The Observer, July 6, 1952: “Blithe Spirits”’, in Bemth Lindfors, ed., Critical Perspectives on Amos Tutuola (Washington, DC: Three Continents Press, 1975), pp. 7–8.Google Scholar
  9. 17.
    Hugh MacDiarmid, in Michael Grieve and W.R. Aitken, eds, The Complete Poems of Hugh MacDiarmid, Vol. 2 (Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1994), p. 793.Google Scholar
  10. 18.
    Arthur Hugh Clough, ‘Blank Misgivings of a Creature moving about in Worlds not realised’, in Collected Poems (London: Oxford University Press, 1974), pp. 28–34 (p. 30).Google Scholar
  11. 19.
    Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped (1886).Google Scholar
  12. 20.
    Wilson Harris, Black Marsden (London: Faber & Faber, 1972), p. 11.Google Scholar
  13. 22.
    ‘Wilson Harris Interviewed by Alan Riach’, in Alan Riach and Mark Williams, eds, The Radical Imagination: Lectures and Talks (Liège: L3 — Liège, Literature, Language, 1992), pp. 33–65 (p. 64).Google Scholar
  14. 26.
    Frantz Fanon, Black Skin White Masks, trans. Charles Lam Markmann (London: MacGibbon & Kee, 1968).Google Scholar
  15. The implications of Fanon’s work have been applied to Scotland by Craig Beveridge and Ronald Turnbull in The Eclipse of Scottish Culture: Inferiorism and the Intellectuals (Edinburgh: Polygon, 1989).Google Scholar
  16. 27.
    Michael Gilkes, Creative Schizophrenia: The Caribbean Cultural Challenge (Coventry: Centre for Caribbean Studies, University of Warwick, 1986).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Alan Riach 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan Riach

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations