Arthur Morrison Essay - Critical Essays


As might be expected of a writer from a working-class background, Arthur Morrison made extensive use of characters from the laboring class and lower middle class; he extended this fascination with the underdog to anguished members of the professional and aristocratic classes. He frequently subordinated the subject of murder to the subject of theft, which is uppermost in the minds of those who have had relatively little at one time. “The Case of the Dixon Torpedo,” an early story, concerns the trials of an engineer, F. Graham Dixon, whose career may go under because of the theft of his plans for a torpedo in which the government has great interest. Claridge and Woollett, jewelers in “The Stanway Cameo Mystery,” fall prey to guilt arising from the foisting on Claridge of a fake cameo by a confidence man. In “The Holford Will Case,” an elderly lawyer, assigned as an estate executor, is befuddled by the theft of his friend Holford’s will and the resulting threat to the main legatee’s financial security. It is Morrison’s working-class tales, however, that seem to have originated in the author’s strongest feelings and evoke his reader’s strongest sympathy for Morrison’s hapless victims.

“The Case of Mr. Foggatt”

In “The Case of Mr. Foggatt,” Sidney Mason, the murderer of his father’s enemy, Foggatt, is a rising young barrister whose athletic injuries give him away to Hewitt, who is seeking a culprit with a tall, athletic build. Hewitt has seen Mason before around the premises of the crime, since Foggatt, Hewitt, and the narrator, Mr. Brett, occupy chambers in the same building. The sleuth also has found marks of jagged teeth in an apple in Foggatt’s apartment. In a restaurant, Hewitt, with Brett, engages Mason in a conversation about cycling. Cycling is the sport into which Mason had been led by the conditions of poverty in which he and his mother lived after the tragic death of his father. Hewitt has spotted Mason in the restaurant by the stooping posture characteristic of a cyclist. In a discussion about cycling champions of old, Mason then begins to detail his racing injuries. He exhibitsa neat gold medal that hung at his watch-guard. That was won, he explained, in the old tall bicycle days, the days of bad tracks, when every racing cyclist carried cinder scars on his face from numerous accidents. He pointed to a blue mark on his forehead, which, he told us, was a track scar, and described a bad fall that had cost him two teeth and broken others. The gaps among his teeth were plain to see as he smiled.

While the young man is addressing the waiter, Hewitt steals Mason’s apple after he has bitten into it. The indentations in the fresh apple prove to match perfectly the indentations in the plaster cast Hewitt had taken from the first apple. When Mason turns back and discovers that his apple is missing, his suspicions are aroused. He already knows of Hewitt as a successful, relentless, and resourceful detective, but he has believed until now that Hewitt had no interest in the Foggatt case because of the detective’s silence at the inquest.

The more important question is, however, what does Hewitt know of Mason? The latter is described as “a rather fine-looking fellow, with a dark though very clear skin, [who] had a hard, angry look of eye, a...

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