Previous reviews are at Mack Pitches Up

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Ballade of Detection by Carolyn Wells

I'm working on a nerdy librarian project -- yes it is Holmsian and I'll post the results later -- and ran into this poem by Carolyn Wells in the May 1902 issue of The Bookman: a Magazine of Literature and Life. She touches upon the Literature vs genre fiction argument and I rather like the way she writes about detective fiction - and the nod to Holmes in the last stanza.

A Ballade of Detection

Savants there be who joy to read
Of lofty themes in words that glow;
Others prefer the poet's screed
Where liquid numbers softly flow.
Others in Balzac interest show,
Or by Dumas are much impressed;
Some seek grim novels full of woe--
I like Detective Stories best.

To my mind nothing can exceed
The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe;
Of Anna Katherine Green I've need,
Du Boisgobey, Gaboriau;
I've Conan Doyle's work all a-row,
And Ottolengui and the rest;
How other books seem tame and slow!
I like detective Stories best.

The dim, elusive clues mislead,
Hiding the mystery below;
To fearful pitch my mind is keyed,
Opinion shuttles to and fro!
Successive shocks I undergo
Ere the solution may be guessed;
Arguments and discussions grow--
I like Detective Stories best.

Sherlock, thy subtle powers I know,
Spirit of search, incarnate guest,
To thee the laurel wreath I throw--
I like Detective Stories best.

--Carolyn Wells.

Authors referenced:

Anna Katherine Green, 1846-1935. One of the first writers of detective fiction.

Fortune du Boisgobey, 1821-1891. French writer of police stories.

Emile Gaboriau, 1832-1873.His police stories of Monsieur Lecoq were very popular before being eclipsed by Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes.

Rodrigues Ottolengui, 1861-1937 and here at the Golden Age Detection web site. A dentist from Charleston South Carolina who also wrote crime stories. The Saturday Review of Literature called Ottolengui "the dental counterpart... of England's physician crime solver, Dr Conan Doyle." Ellery Queen described him as "one of the most neglected authors in the entire history of the detective story."


Margot Kinberg said...

This is a wonderful poem, Mack! Thanks! I'm Tweeting it around... Nerd Power ; )!

Mack said...

I forgot to mention that Carolyn Wells was a librarian.

Margot Kinberg said...

Well, there you go!

Uriah Robinson said...

The name Ottolengui is so familiar but I can't remeebr if it was because of the dentistry, or some research I did years ago into the Sepahardi of Charleston, SC.
Thanks for this.

Uriah Robinson said...

I have just come in from the dark and my eyes are going funny, spelling!

George said...

I love Ottolengui. I read his works in Clemson. Dentist with integrity and a writer of passion, that's the word that describes him in some of his reviews. I was so surprise when I read it. It's a rare thing in this genre that the writer is also a dentist. Easley Reference books told that he first dreamed of becoming a writer than a dentist.
Clemson Sc
library is my favorite now. Keep reading!