Popular literature

Posted by Tory Historian Friday, July 11, 2008 ,

Tory Historian has something of an interest in popular and children's literature of the past and never ceases to marvel at the high quality of writing. Take Sexton Blake, the Sherlock Holmes for the masses (though, let's face it, Holmes was very popular, as well). As this website rightly says, Blake was a publishing phenomenon for most of the twentieth century.

He was quite clearly a more exciting imitation of Sherlock Holmes, what with living in Baker Street and having a housekeeper called Mrs Bardell (a touch of Dickens there) and that assistant, Tinker, who starts off as a young lad but grows up and drives cars and flies aeroplanes. The adventures are truly bad - Blake is always described as being incredibly brilliant, much ahead of anyone in the world in his ability to think and understand but invariably finds themselves in messy situations almost anyone could have foreseen. But the escapes are always exciting. One can quite see why the short stories and books are so popular.

Tory Historian has just acquired a 1960 edition of a 1920 story, complete with typical 1960s cover of a really bad and irrelevant photograph. What was it about paperback publishers of those years that made them go for that rubbish by way of cover illustration?

The novel was called "The Mystery Box" in the first place and "The Case of the Bismarck Memoirs" in the reprint. What struck Tory Historian is the language of this book that was aimed at the popular market. Would any really popular writer (and I don't mean Booker Prize winners) nowadays get away with writing like this:

Blake nodded and continued his examination. The discovery of the ecutcheon and the coat of arms had stimulated his interest:ut rather suggested that the unknown person who had once owned this flask was connected with some honoured and titled family. The flask itself was too exquisitely designed and the engraving too costly for it to have been bought at an ordinary shop; it had no doubt been specially designed bor the person whose initials it bore: or he may have received it as a present.
Let us not forget that very many, if not the majority of the readers of Sexton Blake's adventures were children and teenagers or as they were referred to disdainfully by the snobbier literary elements, office boys.


Powered by Blogger.




Blog Archive