The Character of D. D. Home

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Character of D. D. Home is a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle first published in The Daily Telegraph on 16 november 1920.

The Character of D.D. Home

Sir, — My attention has only just been called to an anonymous attack (for I presume that "John Doe" is a nom-de-plume) upon the character of Mr. D.D. Home. As Home is not in this world to answer posthumous slanders, and as I happen to know something of the facts, perhaps you will allow me the right of reply. The reason that I know something about it is that I have recently edited a new edition of Home's life, and while doing so perused all the papers I could get connected with the Lyons case. An account of it, with all the prosecutor's statement of claim and the letters of Mrs. Lyon, were published by Home himself in the second volume of his experiences, which would be a remarkable thing for a guilty man to do.

One single test will show how completely his character survived this attack upon it. Home was a man of much charm of manner. The result was that he had many friends among men of unquestionable honour and probity. Among these were Bulwer Lytton, Lord Dunraven, his son, Lord Adair, Lord Lindsay, Robert Chambers, (the publisher), Samuel Carter Bull (editor of the Art Journal) , and so many others that I could fill a column with them. I defy your correspondent to show that one of these friends, who knew the whole facts, deserted Mr. Home after this trial. On the contrary, their intimacy seems to have grown, and in 1868, two years later, Home was on Christian name terms with the noblemen I have named. How could this be, if he had, as Mrs. Lyon contended and Judge Gifford alleged, done a dishonourable fraud? This particular judge was a materialistic philosopher of pronounced views, and his opinion upon mediumship, of which he knew nothing, is no more unfavourable than his opinion upon orthodox divinity would have been. To quote him against Home is like quoting a Roman tribune's opinion of an early Christian. In each case the defendant was likely to get little sympathy.

Your correspondent weights the scale against Home by simply taking as true all that Mrs. Lyon said, and ignoring all that Home said in refutation. He has omitted the fact that the judge decreed that Mrs. Lyon was guilty of gross perjury. This declaration he made when Mrs. Lyon attempted to drag Mr. Wilkinson, Home's lawyer, into the case. As a matter of fact, it was shown perfectly clearly that both Carter Hall, representing Home, as a friend, and Wilkinson, representing him as a solicitor, had implored Mrs. Lyon not to make such provisions, and to bear in mind the claims of her own family. To this she had answered that she had no near relatives, and that her mind was made up. She was a half-mad woman, who had a craze for making wills and then revoking them. In this case she had tied herself up so in the original deed that she could not revoke it, and the only possible way in which she could get out of it was by pretending that it was caused by undue influence. There was not a tittle of evidence for this beyond her own word, and as £35,000 was at stake, and she was pronounced to be a perjurer by the judge, it is not a very solid thing upon which to defame the character of a man who had never in his life taken money from anyone for spiritual services. Why should he begin to do so with this woman? Is it not evident that she was lying. That was certainly the view taken by Home's friends, and I cordially endorse it. I think that he acted with propriety and delicacy in very difficult circumstances, and if Mr. Doe, in attacking spiritualism, has to go back to the year 1868 for so weak a case as this, then his supply of situations is not a very formidable one.

Apart from the case of Mr. Home, your anonymous correspondent begins his letter by the statement that "most of the mediums upon whom my belief and proofs depend have either done time or admittedly should have been convicted of fraud quite frequently." It would take Mr. Hughes to furnish an adequate denial of so false a statement as that. The mediums upon whom I have most depended have been amateurs, who have never taken a shilling in their lives, men like Evan Powell, Sloane, Phoenix, and others. It is an example of the reckless slanders and falsehoods with which our cause is assailed.