September 2011 | Nate Pedersen

Lost Arthur Conan Doyle Novel Hits Shelves

Conan Doyle portrait via Wikipedia.
Something's in the air lately. Lost manuscripts are turning up all over the place. Last week, we profiled a soon-to-be-published James M. Cain manuscript that was missing for many years. And the literary finds continue this week with the publication of Arthur Conan Doyle's long lost first novel, The Narrative of John Smith.

Conan Doyle wrote the novel when he was 23 years old, working as a doctor in Portsmouth. Doctor salaries in 1883 being slightly lower than doctor salaries in 2011, Conan Doyle looked for a way to supplement his income to support his ailing father and fund his younger brother's education. His short stories met with early success, however Conan Doyle grew frustrated with the Victorian practice of omitting the author's name in magazines. (A practice of equal frustration to collectors today). So Conan Doyle wrote a manuscript, The Narrative of John Smith, about a man stricken with gout and confined to his room for a week. He promptly sent the manuscript off by post and the postal service promptly lost it.

It never turned up again.
Conan Doyle rewrote the manuscript from memory, however he did not again attempt to publish it. This second manuscript went missing for many years after his death, turning up again in a collection of Conan Doyle's private papers which were sold at auction at Sotheby's in 2004. The British Library purchased the collection for almost £1m. 

The British Library published the novel this week, with the consent of the Conan Doyle literary estate, and it is available to purchase in the UK. An American edition will follow next month.

Now, what long lost manuscript will surface next week?