JAMES PAYN (1830-1898)
Sir Arthur CONAN DOYLE. A series of 14 autograph letters signed (one with signature excised) to Payn, South Norwood, Davos, Charmouth, Egypt, and elsewhere, 17 November 1891 - 8 August 1897, together 40 pages, 8vo;
James PAYN. A series of 7 autograph letters signed to Conan Doyle, n.p., incompletely dated, together 9 pages, 8vo; with a photograph, annotated on verso by Conan Doyle 'James Payn at the last'.
Conan Doyle and the father of his literary career. Conan Doyle writes above all about his literary work, thanking Payn for a friendly review -- 'I had a very nice letter from George Meredith about the little book' -- asking him to put a word in for a German translation of A Study in Scarlet -- 'You read the little book in MS and were kind enough to say that it pleased you'. From Davos he writes that it is 'a rare place for work or sport. I have done 100,000 words & had many tumbles so I can answer for both -- snow-shoeing is particularly good fun', adding in consideration of one project, 'You may, as it seems to me, write what you will as long as you don't write with flippancy. That is just the dividing line between a Tolstoi and a Maupassant'. The Stark Munro Letters is 'far my best book -- my most vital and original'. In 1895 he writes of the Brigadier Gerard tales that 'No attempt has ever been made to idealise & turn into fiction, Napoleon, Ney, Murat and all those wonderful fellows'. In April 1896 he goes into great detail of the action of his projected play Halves (adapted from Payn's novel of the same name). Also on literary matters is an expression of his outrage at the promotional tactics of Hall Caine [see lot 95]: 'It has become a perfect scandal. The papers team with letters, interviews, corrections, statements, all with the same Hall-mark -- Hall Caine-mark -- upon them. He has suborned many of the small fry of Journalism by having them over -- twenty at a time to Greeba Castle'. There are also letters on Conan Doyle's travels and other projects: two interesting letters in 1894 describe a ghost-hunt in Charmouth, an incident the writer describes with strong scepticism. There are interesting letters from the Egyptian expedition, too, of 1895-96: he is full of admiration for the effects of British administration in Egypt, but 'the wicked old Paschas look upon [Britain] as the eighth and worst of the plagues of Egypt'; in April 1896 he is writing 'at the present moment with a long flowing veil, as if I were a bride. I have been trying to get to the front in the hope of seeing a battle ... I begin to long for a good old slimy London pavement once more'. Apart from anything else, Egypt is giving him writer's block: 'I understand that some of the old papyri contain romances but I don't believe they could possibly be good ones'. Payn's letters to Conan Doyle are elegantly literary, and frequently barely legible: 'How can you, dare you, go spending your time & wits upon an historical novel'; 'I am delighted with your detective stories'.
Conan Doyle wrote in The Idler, January 1893, of his earliest literary efforts: 'Mr James Payn wasted hours of his valuable time in encouraging me to persevere [in my early writing]. Knowing as I did that he was one of the busiest men in London, I never received one of his shrewd and kindly and most illegible letters without a feeling of gratitude and wonder'. (23)