Very Good. Item #7259
Antibes, France & Sussex, England: 1980-1986. Folio (14” x 9.5”); 24 clear, bound-in sleeves with blank endleaves. Includes seven typed letters from Greene (six signed, one dictated and signed in absence), seven letters from Gibson (four photocopied, three original with two signed), and two letters from Greene’s sister and amanuensis Elisabeth Dennys to Gibson (signed), as well as the typed manuscript of Greene’s preface and the prepublication galley proofs with Greene’s handwritten corrections, all pertaining to Greene’s Preface to John M. Gibson’s and Richard Lancelyn Green’s A Bibliography of A. Conan Doyle. Stamped envelopes for most of the letters and a few related postal forms have also been preserved. Portfolio itself and all letters and materials are clean and sharp. Some offsetting from Greene’s return address onto sleeves containing his letters, but to no detriment to the ink of the letters themselves.
Correspondence is organized chronologically, beginning with Greene’s 1980 letter to Gibson thanking him for the invitation to write the preface and following the process to 1986, with a thank you from Greene for sending along a copy of Gibson’s and Green’s Letters to the Press. While much of the content is oriented around the usual business of exchanging manuscripts, page proofs, publication timelines, etc., there are also some nice exchanges and anecdotes about Doyle’s personality and literary weight, general Sherlockiana, and a few windows to Greene’s own interest in Doyle and Victorian detective fiction, of which he was a major collector. Some highlights include:
Greene warning that his would be a more “unscholarly” preface while praising Doyle’s accessibility, saying “I can reread him as I find myself unable to reread Virginia Woolf and Forster, but I am not a literary man.”
An awkward exchange wherein Gibson remarks of Doyle’s staying power “are there any completist Wells collectors today?” This earns a brief reply from Greene saying he holds Wells among the century’s greats and adds that he was lucky to have known him personally, which prompts Gibson to clarify his thoughts on Wells and expand on the author’s relationship with Doyle.
Greene and Dennys each mention a delay as Gibson’s manuscript was held up in Customs in Nice for lack of a declaration form. Gibson apologizes in his next letter, and spins this to a mention of how the manuscript for Doyle’s first novel, The Narrative of John Smith, was lost by the Post Office, a detail Greene ended up working into his Preface.
The two also discuss the origin of Holmes’s deerstalker hat as predating the Sydney Paget illustrations, with Greene mentioning having come across a copycat bedeerstalkered detective in an 1891 anthology from his own collection.
Greene’s manuscript Preface appears nearly unchanged in the published volume, with Gibson suggesting only a few minor edits and Greene hand-correcting fewer than a dozen on the galleys.