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Rodney Stone: A Tale of the 18th Century Prize Ring

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1 review about Rodney Stone: A Tale of the 18th Century...

Bare knuckles prize-fighting in Regency England

  • Jan 26, 2010
  • by
Rating:
+4
If you read very, very carefully and remain absolutely attentive to every passing paragraph, you'll realize that "Rodney Stone" is a historical mystery.

But, truth be told, the mystery is so subtle as to be almost non-existent and doesn't really form the majority of the story. More than anything else, "Rodney Stone" is a convincing and extremely entertaining historical fiction set early in England's Regency period. The topic is the brutal world of bare knuckles prize fighting and it's easy to see that Conan Doyle himself was a very enthusiastic fan with all of the detailed knowledge that an avid follower of the sport would have.

Rodney Stone, the son of a British naval man who, truth be told, spent most of his married years in Nelson's navy fighting off the continental menace of Napoleon Bonaparte, was to all intents and purposes raised by his mother. His uncle, Sir Charles Tregellis, is a wealthy London swell - a sophisticated gentleman, to be sure, but also a high-rolling gambler and a dandy with a full set of outrageously pretentious affectations who regularly vies with socialite Beau Brummel for the attentions of the fashion-oriented set with whom he associates. Tregellis "adopts" young Rodney taking him under his tutelage and attempts to turn him into a well-dress, well-mannered proper London gentleman. But Rodney is made of more earnest steadfast stuff and is much more interested in retaining his lifelong friendship with Boy Jim, the son of John Harrison, a former bare knuckles champion of England now working as a lowly blacksmith. Tregellis does his best to convince Rodney that Boy Jim is beneath his station and is not the sort of person that a young chap like Stone should associate with.

Using convincing story-telling, wonderful historical background about the Bonaparte wars, clear class distinctions, entertaining cameo appearances by dignitaries such as Horatio Nelson, Lady Emma Hamilton, Sheridan Fox, Beau Brummell and even the shallow Prince Regent (George IV), Conan Doyle has created a very solid period piece that describes Regency England and, in particular, the shadowy and, even then, illegal world of prize fighting with bare knuckles.

Oh yeah ... the mystery! Well, it's there and it gets solved and makes for a great way to close out the book but the history is the thing. As a long-time fan of Conan Doyle's Victorian style of writing as it was used in his Sherlock Holmes and Professor Challenger stories, I was especially pleased to have found and enjoyed this rather lesser known work.

Highly recommended.

Paul Weiss

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