| 5/5 |
vi, 424 pp
The Mystery of Cloomber
| Arthur Conan Doyle books, Historical novel books|
Micah Clarke is an historical adventure novel by British author Arthur Conan Doyle, published in 1889 and set during the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685 in England. The book is a bildungsroman whose protagonist, Micah Clarke, begins as a boy seeking adventure in a rather romantic and naive way, falls under the influence of an older and vastly experienced, world-weary soldier of fortune, and becomes a grown up after numerous experiences, some of them very harrowing. In the process the book also records much of the history of the Monmouth Rebellion, from the point of view of someone living in 17th century England.
Much of the focus is upon the religious dimension of the conflict. The Rebellion was prompted by the desire of many to replace the Catholic King James with a Protestant rival. Micah is the son of a committed Protestant father who sends Micah to fight in the same cause which he himself had fought in during the English Civil War. Micah fights at the Battle of Sedgemoor, which in a narrative aside Doyle obliquely acknowledges to be the last clear-cut pitched battle on open ground between two military forces fought on English soil; Micah also witnesses the execution of James Scott on Tower Hill.
Much is made of the role of Protestant ministers in recruiting the rebel army and in motivating its soldiers. Micah Clarke himself becomes increasingly disillusioned with religious extremism and ultimately expresses the view that toleration is a great good. Conan Doyle had himself been brought up as a Catholic and it is likely that Micah expresses Doyle's own thoughts on the subject.
Sir Gervas Jerome
Lord Grey of Warke
Micah Clarke Wikipedia
In 1889, shortly after the publication of Micah Clarke, Conan Doyle and Oscar Wilde were both invited for a dinner party in London with John Marshall Stoddard of Lippincott's Monthly Magazine in the United States. As a result of the dinner, both authors agreed to write novels to be published by Lippincott's. Conan Doyle's novel was his second Sherlock Holmes novel, The Sign of the Four (1890). Wilde's was The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891). During the dinner party the two authors chatted, and Wilde disclosed that he had read Micah Clarke and liked it.
Conan Doyle mentioned the incident in his 1924 autobiography, Memories and Adventures. He explained that he and Wilde became friendly, but that the friendship remained a distant one at best, and that it grew more distant as Wilde's reputation became questionable. The actual friendly relationship appears to be true, but that Wilde liked Micah Clarke remains at issue. In the recent biography of Conan Doyle, Teller of Tales, author Daniel Stashower suspects Wilde would never have liked such a novel. But Conan Doyle pointed out in his autobiography that what Wilde liked was the characterization of Judge George Jeffreys in the novel. Jeffreys, the notorious bully of the law courts of his day, was shown as a handsome, brilliant man with a flaw in his character - a fallen angel type. That would have been of interest to Wilde.