Dr. Conan Doyle on his Defence

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Dr. Conan Doyle on his Defence is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Daily News on 31 january 1902.

Dr. Conan Doyle on his Defence

The Daily News (31 january 1902, p. 6)

Sir, — My attention has been called to a letter by Mr. Marks, in which he traverses some statements of mine as expressed in my pamphlet on the South African war. After reading some severe remarks upon my own inaccuracy, I was prepared to learn something important from Mr. Marks, but in this I have been disappointed, as most of what he says is entirely irrelevant, and in no way affects my conclusions. I can assure him that if he can ever convict me of error I shall be happy to receive his correction and to alter my text.

On the point of the suzerainty I can only quote my own words: "The discussion is a barren one, since both parties agree that Great Britain retained certain rights over the. making of treaties by the Republics, which rights place her in a different position to an independent sovereign State. Whether this difference amounts to a suzerainty or not is a subject for the academic discussion of international jurists. What is of importance is the fact, not the word." Holding these views, it is immaterial to me or to my argument whether the Crown lawyers or Sir Edward Clarke were right in their contention.

Mr. Marks, the stickler for accuracy, then begins his second indictment by the sentence: "Dr. Conan Doyle has a chapter, consisting of little more than two pages, on 'Expansive and Explosive Bullets." As a matter of fact I have nothing of the kind, for it is only a small subsection of Chapter IX. Mr. Marks is, of course, correct in saying that in warfare there is practically no such thing as an explosive bullet. Heavy game ammunition of an explosive type used to be manufactured, and it is possible that some of this is still in the hands of old Boer hunters, but the word "explosive" may convey a wrong impression, and had better be eliminated. There remain, however, expansive bullets of many varying degrees of deadliness, slit bullets, hollow bullets, and soft-nosed bullets. It is notorious, as Mr. Marks states, that the British, whose wars are usually against savages, had prepared large quantities of soft-nosed bullets. If Mr. Marks has, indeed, read all my pamphlet he will know that I am no apologist for the Government, and that I express my dissent from the view taken by the British and American representatives at The Hague Conferences upon the subject of expansive bullets. It is only just to say, however, that they were never intended to be used against white races, and that a War Office order forbade their use in the South African war. How some of them did get into circulation there, and how they were withdrawn eventually, is explained in my pamphlet, and is not contradicted by Mr. Marks. What he means by his statistics about their manufacture, etc., I cannot imagine. It has nothing to do with the question, and does not conflict with anything which I have stated. I will willingly accept Mr. Marks's text— "From the manner in which Dr. Conan Doyle had dealt with these things your readers may estimate the value of his testimony on other matters." I ask no more.

Yours faithfully,

Athenaeum Club, S.W., Jan. 30, 1902