Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Noble Poetry

Besides Sherlock Holmes, and his devotion to spiritualism, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was also the author of Micah Clarke, His Statement as made to his three grandchildren, Joseph, Gervas and Rueben, During the Hard Winter of 1734.

Published in 1888, this copy discovered today (and not offered for sale by this bookseller, she preferring instead to retain it for her personal collection) is a 1899 edition, with a previous owners name and acquistion date).

Micah Clarke is an example of a type of novel from the German Enlightment period, a bildungsroman, or a novel that tells the lifestory of a central character while enumerating the psychological and moral forces that shape that character. The entire life span of the character is presented, with a major loss or tragedy at the beginning of the book, inspiring a long, treacherous journey, with many opportunities for growth along the way. At the conclusion of the book, the character has been successfully accepted into society, and is a shining example of moral perfection that can be achieved.

In this case, we are introduced to Micah Clarke, a young boy, who falls under the mentorship of a mercenary soldier, and manages to survive a variety of adventures. Along the way, the author presents a complete history of the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685, told from a 17th century viewpoint. (The Duke of Monmouth was the illegimate son of Charles the II who made an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow James II. Monmouth's main attraction was that he was Protestant, versus the Catholic persuasion of James II.)

From Micah Clarke:

"From the day that I first learned my letters from the hornbook at my mother's knee I was always hungry to increase my knowledge, and never a piece of print came in my way that I did not eagerly master. My father pushed the sectarian hatred of learning to such a length that he was averse to having any worldy books within his doors. I was dependent therefore for my supply upon one or two of my friends in the village, who lent me a volume at a time from their small libraries, theseI would carry inside my shirt, and would only dare to produce when I could slip away into the fields, and lie hiden among the long grass, or at night when the rushlight was still burning, and my father's snoring assured me there was no chance of his detecting me....

"There were times as I rose up with my mind full of the noble poetry and glanced over the fair slope of the countryside, with the gleaming sea beyond it...when it would be borne in upon me that the Being who created all of this and who gave man the power of pouring out these beautiful thought, was not the possession of one sect or another, or of this nation or that, but was the kindly Father of every one...

"If you, my dears, have more enlightened views, take heed that they bring you to lead a more enlightened life."

The Author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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