Matthew Bowman of Christendom College posted a very interesting comment on my article on Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy tales, which I think adds some value to the discussion. Matthew’s comment indicates some reasons why the stories are so interesting, and suggests that a renaissance of interest in them is possible. Here is Matthew’s comment:
Well, I have to say you’ve got good taste in fiction.
I only read Lord Darcy for the first time at the tail end of last summer, as I was getting ready for the new semester at college. I’d first heard about it from my father, thouh only iin very vague terms — basically just "alternate universe where magic is used to solve crimes." Years later, following some "you’d probably like this links" on Amazon, I came across a book that sounded good. Noticing it was a Baen book, I immediately switched over to Baen.com to read the sample chapters.
The first story blew me away. It not only sounded like the story my father had alluded to years before but couldn’t remember the title of, it was also a fantasy story with a strong base in Roman Catholicsm. (I later found out that Randall Garrett was actually a member of the Old Catholic Church, but it doesn’t change the way the world he created is structured.) I was surprised that my father, being a diehard and vocal atheist, liked it so much. As a strong Roman Catholic myself, I’d like the Lord Darcy stories just for that.
But, of course, that isn’t the only reason I like the story. Going into the story "cold" (with no knowledge of the story except what was on the pages, both expressly stated and what I could figure out myself), I came up with almost exactly what you described in your NRO article. That is, I saw a well-organized world without the modern mess, with paralells to our world but still obviously unique. It was like Garrett had discovered, not created — the same feel from all great stories. True "sub-creation," as Tolkein called it.
There is something objective about it that speaks to us. It is a world where life can still be seen in white and black without losing sight of humanity. It is a country where one can excell at one’s task, and find happiness as a person among people, rather than a simple individual in society. It is a world that almost audibly says "this is how it should have been."
Currently, I’m writing a term paper on the Lord Darcy stories — for a history credit, no less; and whle the class is cross-listed with English Lit, Lord Darcy is not directly connected with anything we are studying. However, my professor (Dr. Schwartz) was so intrigued by my description of the series that he suggested it as my topic on the very fi[r]st day of class, even though I pointed out to him that it didn’t fit the criteria that he’d just listed for the students. (Arm-twisting? Heck no. There wasn’t even finger-twisting.)
Actually, I’ve been talking it up so much at the college that both of my dead-tree-and-pigment copies (yes, I got two) are being lent out, while I use my ebook copy from Baen to do research. Another professor was so taken by the idea of the story that he express-ordered it from Amazon for himself — I walked into his office and found him reading it. The library even got in its own copy last week.
Lord Darcy’s taking off. I love it.
Front Royal, V
Thanks for the comment, Matthew.