A. J. Raffles

stories and adaptations of the fictional character

A. J. Raffles is a British fictional character – a cricketer and gentleman thief – created by E. W. Hornung. Between 1898 and 1909, Hornung wrote a series of 26 short stories, two plays, and a novel about Raffles and his fictional chronicler, Harry "Bunny" Manders. The first story, "The Ides of March", appeared in the June 1898 edition of Cassell's Magazine. The early adventures were collected in The Amateur Cracksman and continued with The Black Mask (1901). The last collection, A Thief in the Night (1904) and the novel Mr. Justice Raffles (1909) tell of adventures previously withheld. The novel was poorly received, and no further stories were published.Hornung dedicated the first collection of stories, The Amateur Cracksman, to his brother-in-law, Arthur Conan Doyle, intending Raffles as a "form of flattery." In contrast to Conan Doyle's Holmes and Watson, Raffles and Bunny are "something dark, morally uncertain, yet convincingly, reassuringly English." I think I may claim that his famous character Raffles was a kind of inversion of Sherlock Holmes, Bunny playing Watson. He admits as much in his kindly dedication. I think there are few finer examples of short-story writing in our language than these, though I confess I think they are rather dangerous in their suggestion. I told him so before he put pen to paper, and the result has, I fear, borne me out. You must not make the criminal a hero. Raffles is an antihero. Although a thief, he "never steals from his hosts, he helps old friends in trouble, and in a subsequent volume he may or may not die on the veldt during the Boer War." Additionally, the "recognition of the problems of the distribution of wealth is [a] recurrent subtext" throughout the stories.According to the Strand Magazine, these stories made Raffles "the second most popular fictional character of the time," behind Sherlock Holmes. They have been adapted to film, television, stage, and radio, with the first appearing in 1903.
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