Letter to Ma'am about volunteering for War (1899)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

This letter was written by Arthur Conan Doyle to his mother Mary Doyle ca. december 1899.

He told his mother that his candidature to participate to the war in South Africa was refused by the War Office.


My Dearest Mam

That was a sweet letter of yours, dearie. I was afraid that you would be angry with me for volunteering. But I rather felt it was a duty. I wrote a letter to the Times advising the Government to call upon the riding shooting men — They did so — and of course I was honour-bound as I had suggested it, to be the first to volunteer. I learned patriotism from my mother — so you must not blame me.

What I feel is that I have perhaps the strongest influence over young men, especially young athletic sporting men, of anyone in England (bar Kipling). That being so it is really important that I should give them a lead. It is not merely my 40-year-old self — though I am as fit as ever I was, but it is the influence I have over these youngsters.

As to the merits of the quarrel from the day they invaded Natal that becomes merely academic. But surely it is obvious that they have prepared for years and that we have not, which does not look as if we had any deep & sinister designs. I had grave doubts before war broke out, but ever since I have been sure that it was a righteous war & worth sacrifices.

I have applied at the War Office, Lord Chisham, the Middlesex Yeomanry &c but had no luck. I want a commission and they wont give a civilian one — which is rot. My plan now is to let Undershaw, send the family to South of France, go out 'on my own' to Africa and see how things are. If all is well I shall see a bit of history in the making, if men are wanted I shall help to make it. It would bore me to remain in England and have folk stop me & say 'Hullo, Doyle, I thought you were at the front.' That becomes annoying. Unless something unexpected occurs that seems my best plan. Mackie, who is going, comes down today to spend Xmas — a fine fellow — and he may throw a fresh light.

Another plan — Mr Langman is sending out an ambulance under Archie. Why should I not attach myself to it, and then see what turns up there.

Dearest I have gone carefully into my money affairs and there is ample to keep you all going if I were not here. I shall draw a careful will. If it were not so I should not feel justified. All our Xmases are dark this year, nut they will be lighter in the future if we all do our duty to the highest.

Goodbye, dearest Mam

Your own loving son