The Cause and Conduct of the War (4 february 1902)

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Cause and Conduct of the War is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Times on 4 february 1902.

It concerns The War in South Africa: Its Cause and Conduct published on 16 january 1902.

The Cause and Conduct of the War

The Times (4 february 1902)


Sir, — So many of the public have taken an active interest in the project of spreading my booklet upon the war in those countries which have never heard the British side of the question that I should like to tell them through your columns how our common cause progresses. When the work is done, I will, with your permission, give a final account of my venture in the same fashion.

A large amount of money was needed to carry my plan into execution. The public, however, has responded — and I hope will respond — in a very generous manner. The unexpectedly large demand for the book in Great Britain, (250,000 copies were called for in a week) has simplified the financial question. While wishing to make no profit upon it, we had retained a small rebate upon each copy, to cover expenses of postage and of free distribution. This trifle has mounted up to such an extent that we shall have some hundreds of pounds to add to the translation fund. The public have also subscribed several hundreds of pounds, particulars of which will in due course be published. We are certain, therefore, of being able to carry out our plans (I speak for Mr. Reginald Smith, my publisher, as well as for myself), but how thoroughly we can carry them out will depend upon the public continuing to support us.

The sums which I have received range from the fifty pounds of Lord Rosebery to the sixpence of a schoolboy. The letters which enclose these hundreds of donations are eloquent of the depths of feeling aroused by the attacks upon the conduct and honour of the soldiers. Many sums — sums which could, I fear, in many cases be ill spared — have come from the wives and mothers of those who have lost their lives in their country's quarrel. A very remarkable proportion of the subscriptions have come from the clergy. The reason which some of them have given for this is that ever since the tour began they have been pestered by anti-national literature, which has been sent them free, and that they send their cheques now as a protest against it.

It is a significant fact that, in spite of the protects of many Germans residing in England against the outrageous attacks upon us which have disgraced the German Press, there has — with one or two honourable exceptions — been no help on the part of these gentlemen towards a practical attempt to undo some of the mischief which has been done. "Money talks," as the Americans say, and a few guineas would have been more eloquent than many letters of regret, and proposals for meetings which do not come off. However, it is better so, no doubt.

So rancorous is the feeling in Germany against us that we have been unable, so far, to find a publisher who dare publish a moderate account of the British case, although all expenses were guaranteed by us. Could anything be more suggestive of the complete absence of elementary fair play which has marked all this monstrous agitation ? The one fair-minded German whom was have net is Baron Tauchnitz, who has included the book in his English library. Meanwhile, the German translation is nearly ready, and, if we are unable to find a publisher in Germany, we shall print 5,000 copies in London and send them ourselves to those whom we desire to influence.

The French translation is also nearly ready. It was most patriotically undertaken by Professor Sumichrast, and it will be published by Galignani. We propose to order 10,000 copies for distribution in Belgium, Switzerland, and France.

The Scandinavian translation is ready, and the book is on the point of appearing. We have found a friend in Mr. Thomassen, of the paper Verdensgang, the chief Norwegian journal, who has interested himself most kindly in the matter. His own political views were against us, and I should be indeed proud if I could think that some relaxation in his attitude, which has been apparent lately, was due to my exposition of British views. Some thousands of copies will be distributed in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden.

In Holland we find the same difficulty as in Germany, but the translation will be printed in London, if we can find no publisher there. This translation is delayed — through circumstances which are beyond my control.

The Italian translation has also been delayed, but will soon be ready now. We propose to strike 6,000 of this. The Spanish and the Russian are also in hand. The Hungarian and the Portuguese are delayed, but they will both eventually be done. The book is also being translated into Welsh, where we hope to distribute 5,000 copies.

In America and Canada efficient steps have been taken to send free copies to all leaders of public opinion. A large correspondence with foreigners from all over the world shows me that a change of opinion is going on, and that their common sense at last revolts at the idea that the main body of a nation will go on uncomplainingly making such sacrifice of blood and money for so long a time over any cause which is not really a vital one.

I have enough, I hope, to convince those who have entrusted us with their money that we are endeavouring to use it to some purpose. At a later date I hope to give them a more detailed amount of my stewardship.

Yours faithfully,

Undershaw, Hindhead, Haslemere.

See also