The Edalji Case. Sir A. Conan Doyle at the Home Office

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

The Edalji Case. Sir A. Conan Doyle at The Home Office is a collection of 15 letters published in The Daily Telegraph on 16 january 1907, including one written by Arthur Conan Doyle and one written by George Edalji.

Below is reproduced the Conan Doyle's letter only. The George Edalji's letter is here.

The Edalji Case. Sir A. Conan Doyle at The Home Office

The Daily Telegraph (16 january 1907, p. 9)

Sir A. Conan Doyle at The Home Office

Sympathetic Reception

Life in Prison

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was yesterday received at the Home Office by Mr. Gladstone, Sir Mackenzie Chalmers, and Mr. Blackwell. It was agreed that the proceedings should be considered private.

A conversation of an hour followed, during which all aspects of the Edalji case were discussed.

Sir A. Conan Doyle met with a courteous and sympathetic reception, and was well pleased by the general result of the meeting.

He is confident that the Home Office will do all they can to clear the matter up.


To the Editor of "The Daily Telegraph."

Sir — With your permission, I will deal with points as they are presented. Let me, therefore, say a few words as to Mr. Henderson Livesey's letter.

1. The astigmatic myopia depends upon a congenital shape of the eye, and could not have been brought on by prison life. Mr. Edalji's sight is no worse now than it has ever been. This is, as Mr. Livesey says, a point of over-whelming importance, and there can be no doubt about it at all. I quite agree that its exclusion at the trial is a very serious reflection upon the way in which the case seems to have been presented.

2. The second of Mr. Livesey's objections, as to the continuance of the outrages after Edalji's conviction, will need a complete knowledge of the case before we can explain it. I have by no means committed myself unreservedly to the theory that the letters and the outrages are by the same hand. It is quite possible that the writer of the letters took advantage of the existence of the outrages in order to vent his spite. That would explain the continuance of the outrages after the object of the letters had been attained. It is of interest to know that when the outrages continued after young Edalji's confinement the police were bombarded with anonymous letters suggesting that his father had done them. It was all part of the conspiracy against the family.

As to the hair on the coat, Mr. Livesey seems to miss my point, which is that when the police found that three witnesses then and there denied the existence of hair — an unthinkable thing if the hairs were actually staring them in the face — they should have brought in a doctor or other reputable witness to sustain their contention. With some moderation, I do not place the testimony of the vicar, his wife, and his highly-educated daughter above that of two village constables, but I do claim that in such a conflict of opinions there should have been a referee.

I did not ask why the police cut off a piece of the animal's hide. It is obvious that they did so in order to give the doctor the means of comparison. They could not carry the pony down to the surgery. As to my argument about the type of hair, Mr. Livesey seems to have quite missed the point. I said nothing of "brittly" hairs, whatever that may mean. My contention was that a man coming in contact with a pony would carry away with him an assorted lot of hairs (if any), and not a lot which corresponded with one small piece of skin.

I should be glad for one instant before closing to ask your readers to raise their thoughts from small details for a moment, and to realise the general hypothesis upon which the police case rests. Merely to state it is to make it grotesquely impossible. It is that a purblind young lawyer, a total abstainer, and earnest student, devoted his days to professional work in Birmingham and his nights to crawling about the fields ripping animal open with no receivable object in view, and being in all other respects a perfectly sane man. You have further to believe that after these exploits he sat down and wrote anonymous letters to the police, accusing himself at having done the deed. That is the charge on which Edalji has been convicted. — Yours faithfully.

Jan. 15.