"I really mean what I say. A Dickens character to me is a theatrical projection of a character. Not that it isn't real. It's real, but in that removed sense. But Sherlock Holmes is simply there. I would be astonished if I went to 221½ B Baker Street and didn't find him."
Scott, an aficionado of both Doyle and Dickens, had this to say:
Starting last year when I read The Man Who Invented Christmas (about how Dickens came to write A Christmas Carol), I've been in a Dickens mood all year. I read Dan Simmons' Drood and, recently, Matthew Pearl's The Last Dickens, both dealing with Boz's last, unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. I'm going to read the actual Drood in January. Anyway, most books written more than a century ago about a foreign land is, by my mind, removed. What matters is how well the author can speak to a reader a century or more removed.Who is more real to you: Dickens or Doyle? Or neither? I'm a fan of Doyle but initially disagreed with the Rex Stout quote because Sherlock Holmes, for me, exists in the same removed sense that Stout attributes to Dickens. But after considering Mr. Parker's astute reasoning, I can clearly understand that point of view. How about you? And is there another character in fiction that you enjoy but is not fully believable?
Dickens, to me, speaks both to his contemporary readership (with his social concerns) but also to us 21st-Century readers (with his timeless tales). His characters are vivid, to be sure, but there is an obvious over-the-topness to many of them. That's why they are so memorable and why words like "Fagin" have become shorthand. Moreover, Dickens' writing style is purposefully fancy in many places. You know you are reading a great writer and he shows off a lot.
Doyle and Holmes, on the other hand, seem to be somewhat more real. True, they both write in the same era but the characters in the Holmes stories are largely nameless. Other than the big names (Holmes, Watson, Mrs. Hudson, Lestrade, Irene Adler, Prof. Moriarty, Mycroft, Sir Henry Baskerville), how many other Holmes characters can you name? Quick: name the guy who steals the carbuncle? Who owns Silver Blaze? Because Doyle's characters are "regular" joes, there's not a lot to help us readers remember them. They are normal and, by extension, more real, to me, than Scrooge, Copperfield, or Little Dorrit. Doyle's writing style, aside from a few Victorianisms and speaking patterns, is pretty modern. You pluck a Doyle story aside a Block story and modern audiences would enjoy and be familiar with both.
Long story short, and, upon further thought, I, too, might change my mind, but I'm going to agree with Stout's comment. Ironically, I've read only one Stout book--Nero Wolf's first adventure--and didn't like it. I may have to give him another try.