|a pretentious upper class doofus?|
Nevertheless, lots of people couldn't and can't stand Vance, as the Ogden Nash couplet suggests. One of Dashiell Hammett's most famous book reviews is devoted to ridiculing the original Philo Vance outing, The Benson Murder Case (1926).
Over at the Thrilling Detective website, Vance is rather bluntly referred to as a pretentious upper class doofus and a pompous blowhard.
Granted, Thrilling Detective is partial to hard-boiled private eyes, pretty much the antithesis of Vance, but even Golden Age true crime writer Edmund Pearson, a great admirer of "classic crime," couldn't take Philo.
This is a pretty amusingly-written take-down by Pearson, I think:
The author [of The Canary Murder Case] seems to be enormously pleased with the mannerisms and peculiarities of his amateur detective, Philo Vance. As Vance is represented as a Harvard man (who has later studied at Oxford and lived in England) I can only understand his creator's animus on the ground that Mr. "Van Dine" is a graduate of Princeton, seeking revenge. Vance is very nearly the most insufferable ass whom I have ever met in the pages of a novel. Any man who met him in a club would instantly get up and seek refuge in another room. He is a dilettante, a flaneur, a poseur, a viveur, and if you can think of any other foreign terms, he is all of them to boot. He talks like a high school girl during her first year in studying French [Hammett made this charge too]....Surely the author could have suggested this type of man without overloading his conversation with foreign phrases and perpetual airy references to various learned matters.
On the plus side for Van Dine, however, Pearson declares that the "irritating personality of Vance is almost the only weak point in the book." And judging by the sales of The Canary Murder Case in 1927, plenty of people agreed with him about the quality of the novel!