No lust, sadism, treachery, starvation, dysentry, evisceration or castration please, we’re British

Anthony Burgess writes in his introduction to the 1975 John Murray/Jonathan Cape edition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The White Company: ‘…is Conan Doyle a good writer in the sense that Henry James or Joseph Conrad is?….he substitutes the complexity of things for the complexity of human relations; he has fancy but no imagination; his prose…is sometimes inept; he opts out of the writer’s main responsibility, which is to deal with basic human situations, and deals instead with the special or marginal….he is a genre writer….there is that deliberate limitation on the presentation of the past which denies the existence of sex and the ramifications of sex. Courtly love, yes, but not lust; cruelty, but not sadism. There are also outworn properties like honour and patriotism….we hear nothing of the rights and wrongs and doubts and treachery, nor are the…details of starvation and dysentry…touched upon. There is blood…but no evisceration or castration. It is the sort of campaign…a decent young man…could fight…without conceiving a philosophical trauma at the fundamental nastiness of man. The ethos is appropriate to a good school in the British 1890s….”We live, thank God, boys, in a far better time, with a great Queen on our throne and our Protestant flag flying everywhere, and, God be praised, no Popery.”‘

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