DOYLE (ARTHUR CONAN) Series of thirty autograph letters relating to the Edalji Case, signed ("Arthur Conan Doyle"),the majority to Captain The Hon G. A. Anson, Chief Constable of Staffordshire; with a large quantity of material relating to the case
Lot 134
DOYLE (ARTHUR CONAN)
Series of thirty autograph letters relating to the Edalji Case, signed ("Arthur Conan Doyle"),the majority to Captain The Hon G. A. Anson, Chief Constable of Staffordshire; with a large quantity of material relating to the case
Sold for £13,750 (US$ 18,393) inc. premium

Lot Details
DOYLE (ARTHUR CONAN)
Series of thirty autograph letters relating to the Edalji Case, signed ("Arthur Conan Doyle"), twenty-four to Captain The Hon. G.A. Anson, Chief Constable of Staffordshire ("Sir"), four to W.H. Peach, and two to Forsyth (veterinary surgeon, identified in pencil by Anson), five being in the hand of his secretary Arthur Wood; the extensive, hitherto unpublished, correspondence presenting his evidence as to the innocence of George Edalji and encouraging Anson to investigate Royden Sharp as the perpetrator of the 'Wyrley Outrages', 60 pages, 24 envelopes, some dust staining where folded, 8vo, Undershaw, Grand Hotel Trafalgar Square, Windlesham, Hotel Bellevue, Dresden, Hôtel Royal Danieli, Venice, Rome Grand-Hotel, Grand Hôtel du Vésuve, Naples, 29 May 1907 to 16 January 1911; with a large quantity of material retained by Captain Anson in the course of both investigations and his own detailed handwritten notes on the case, including typed copies of the present Conan Doyle letters and of Anson's replies, police reports and material from the original 1903 investigation (including a police photograph of George Edalji), witness statements, a bundle of papers relating to Green (whose horse was mutilated in 1903), letters from Hollis and James Morgan, with examples of the suspects' handwriting, many with notes and annotations by Anson; a quantity of papers from the 1907 investigation instigated by Conan Doyle, including autograph letters from George Edalji and his father, correspondence from R. D. Yelverton (former Chief Justice of the Bahamas who raised a petition for Edalji and played a large part in helping Doyle petition the Home Office ) and Wilfred Greatorex (Royden Sharp's guardian), twenty-five letters from R. Beaumont to Anson, a quantity of letters from F. Arrowsmith of the Star Tea Company giving evidence against Royden Sharp, with other documents concerning Sharp, several letters from Stanley Blackwell at the Home Office, a group of correspondence regarding the search for Sharp in California, with other documents relating to further letters received by the Edalji in 1913, press cuttings and printed copies of Anson's comprehensive report on the matter, dated 1920

Footnotes

  • CONAN DOYLE AS A REAL LIFE SHERLOCK HOLMES INVESTIGATES THE CELEBRATED EDALJI CASE AND CROSSES SWORDS WITH THE LOCAL CONSTABULARY. In 1903, George Edalji, a Birmingham solicitor and son of the Parsee Vicar of Great Wyrley in Staffordshire, was sentenced to seven years' hard labour for animal mutilation and anonymous letter-writing. In 1906 he was unexpectedly released from prison after having served three years of his conviction and asked Conan Doyle to take up his case, intending to secure a full pardon. Conan Doyle was convinced of his innocence ("...he was as guilty of the offence with which he was charged as was Cain of the murder of his brother..."), and writes of taking a "deep interest" in the case. Much of the blame for the conviction, he felt, lay at the door of the Staffordshire Police, and this correspondence powerfully demonstrates his obsession with the case and his determination to undermine the authority of Captain Anson and his force.

    Writing almost daily, sometimes twice a day, from 30 August to 21 October 1907 (with a noticeable break of 10 days for his honeymoon after his marriage to Jean Leckie on 18 September) Conan Doyle bombards Anson with evidence gathered from experts in forensics and graphology, and offers a list of possible suspects. In one letter of 29 August to Forsyth, the veterinary surgeon who examined the mutilated animals, he suggests that he "examine the wounds upon the horses from the point of view that they are caused by a very large horse-lancet... The invariable long wound suggests an instrument which cannot stab, having a blount [sic] end", and another of 2 September, discusses how "the weight of the bowels helped to break an opening". Conan Doyle identifies one Royden Sharp (..."I am convinced he was concerned in some of the earlier outrages... [he is] fiendishly cunning (with foolish intervals)...") and much of the correspondence concentrates on outlining the case against him, including examining his handwriting which was "the writing of a low class man...with a peculiar r". Conan Doyle points to evidence putting Sharp in the area at the time of the outrages, thereby giving him the means and the motive ("Colour prejudice may have been enough to prompt them [the Sharp brothers] to bait the Edalji family in the cruel way they did") and offers a list of witnesses who should be interviewed ("...The man's own relatives admit that he has times of dangerous mania"). The final letters of the correspondence show his growing frustration with Anson; "I never thought my Case...was good enough for a prosecution... [but]...to say that there is 'absolutely nothing' against a man who exhibited a weapon and said it was the sort of one which did the outrages is a statement which makes me feel rather hopeless about the use of getting evidence. I wonder what would be something if that is nothing". "The Champion of Justice" was not to achieve complete satisfaction in the case: in the penultimate letter of the series, written in 1911, he regrets that "to the deep disgrace of British Administration" he was unable to procure financial compensation for Edalji.

    The correspondence brings into sharp relief the deteriorating relationship between the two men. Conan Doyle becomes increasingly angry at what he sees as Anson's intransigence, whereas Anson thought Conan Doyle blinkered, foolish, easily led and obstinate, influenced too much by his own literary creation – in one note dated 25.1.07, Anson poses the question "Is C.D. mad?" and in another writes "this matter is a personal one between Sir A. Doyle and myself". In his printed memo on the case Anson concludes, "It was on "evidence" and "proof" such as he obtained in the above instance that the great Sherlock Holmes based his accusations...". By January 1911, in the last two letters to Anson, Conan Doyle's frustration boils over; "your letter is a series of inaccuracies mixed up with a good deal of rudeness" he writes. By 9 March, Doyle's solicitors had demanded that Anson should not make contact again unless through legal channels. Our archive also includes copies of Anson's replies to Conan Doyle throughout this exchange.

    In a curious appendix to his printed report published in 1920, headed Confidental, Anson admits to fabricating evidence for Conan Doyle to chase, designed to discredit him and his methods. He created an elaborate ruse involving Royden Sharp appearing to travel to London to deliver a poison-pen letter to Conan Doyle. This would explain the presence of a train ticket in the collection with the cryptic note by Anson, "Doyle 'knew R.S. had been in London this time!'".

    Anson remained convinced that George Edalji was the writer of the anonymous letters. They continued intermittently for twenty-five years, as did further outbreaks of animal mutilation. In 1934 Enoch Knowles, a labourer, was arrested, confessed to the letter writing and was imprisoned, but the perpetrator of the atrocities remained unknown and unpunished. This archive adds more detail to what has hitherto been known about the case, which forms the basis of Julian Barnes' acclaimed 2005 novel, Arthur & George.
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