It is said to be a regret of the gifted author that the success of his ingenious Sherlock Holmes stories has obscured his more thoughtful work. This regret must be shared by the reader. Pleasing though Doyle's detective stories are, they do not compare in sustained interest and dramatic power with these two splendid novels of English History. In them are heroic characters, stirring incidents, and the expression of high ideals.
he time, my brothers Hosea and Ephraim were respectively nine and seven, while little Ruth could scarce have been more than four. It chanced that a few days before a wandering preacher of the Independents had put up at our house, and his religious ministrations had left my father moody and excitable. One night I had gone to bed as usual, and was sound asleep with my two brothers beside me, when we were roused and ordered to come downstairs. Huddling on our clothes we followed him into the kitchen, where my mother was sitting pale and scared with Ruth upon her knee.
'Gather round me, my children,' he said, in a deep reverent voice, 'that we may all appear before the throne together. The kingdom of the Lord is at hand-oh, be ye ready to receive Him! This very night, my loved ones, ye shall see Him in His splendour, with the angels and the archangels in their might and their glory. At the third hour shall He come-that very third hour which is now drawing upon us.'
'Dear Joe,' said my mother, in soot
After reading this novel, I can better understand Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's love/hate relationship with his Sherlock Holmes character. If you're only familiar with those stories -- great fun that they are -- you have a real treat in store for you with Micah Clarke. Set during the ill-fated Monmouth Rebellion, Doyle's novel is full of color and splendid detail, with superb characters like the mercenary Decimus Saxon and the down-at-his-heels dandy, Sir Gervais. Although it starts off a bit slowly, the reader who sticks with it will find that Sir Arthur could write with great power and subtlety, showing a real flair for description of places and people, and incidents both moving and terrible.
Rafael Sabatini's Captain Blood -- which is set in the aftermath of the rebellion -- would make an interesting companion piece to this book. Highly recommended.