As a child
Arthur Conan Doyle's mother told him stories of
chivalrous knights and glorious deeds. These tales helped
the Doyle family to survive hard times, fueled young Conan Doyle's
imagination and helped him to become a writer. They may have also been part of the
inspiration for The White Company.
Today Conan Doyle is known for his
Sherlock Holmes stories and to a
lesser degree The Lost World.
However during his lifetime he was also known as an author of
historical fiction. In 1889 his novel Micah Clark was
published. The book, set in the late seventeenth century,
focused on political and religious turmoil. It
was very popular, requiring three reprintings in ten months to keep
up with the public's demand.
In 1889 Conan Doyle attended a lecture on
medieval times. He soon found his thoughts turning to the
fourteenth century. It wasn't long before another historical novel was in the
works. After extensive research, The White Company was
written. Its initial publication was in serialized form
throughout 1891 in Cornhill Magazine.
While the work is virtually unknown
by the public today, it was very popular in its time. Its
popularity continued throughout the Second World War. The
British government made sure that despite paper shortages The
White Company was kept in print. The book
was considered a national morale booster.
The novel is about the adventures
of a group of "manly and true" bowmen called the White Company.
Sir Nigel Loring is their leader and Alleyne Edricson is his
squire. The novel is filled with battles, knights, and
"Now order the ranks, and fling
wide the banners, for our souls are God's and our bodies the
king's, and our swords for Saint George and for England!" -
The White Company
Years later Conan Doyle wrote a
prequel to The White Company. That book, titled
Sir Nigel, was printed in 1905. Conan Doyle said that
the two books, "made an accurate picture of that great age, and
that as a single piece of work they form the most complete,
satisfying and ambitious thing I have ever done."
In 1921 Conan Doyle was asked which
novel had been the most fun to write. The answer was The
White Company. Conan Doyle said, "I was young and full
of the first joy of life and action and I think I got some of it
into my pages."
So they lived, these men, in
their own lusty, cheery fashion--rude and rough, but honest,
kindly and true. Let us thank God if we have outgrown their vices.
Let us pray to God that we may ever hold their virtues. -
The White Company
come!" he cried. The game is afoot." - Sherlock Holmes in
The Adventure of Abbey Grange
"You see, dear heart," said he,
"that they will not leave the old dog in his kennel when the
game is afoot." - Sir Nigel in The White Company