Topics of the Times (5 february 1907)
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
Topics of the Times is an article published in The New-York Times on 5 february 1907.
Topics of the Times
Weak Points in a Strong Case.
Nobody who read Sir ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE'S story of the strange adventure of GEORGE EDALJI, printed in THE TIMES on Saturday and Sunday, could have had any doubt that the man was convicted on inadequate evidence, or that prejudice and obstinacy, with a possible police plot in the background, had much to do with the verdict reached.
It is one thing, however, to demonstrate that justice demands the reopening of a case, and quite another to prove an accused man's innocence of the crime charged against him. Of course the creator of Sherlock Holmes has the best of rights to his own opinion on the latter point, but perhaps he would gain the former more promptly if he had not tried to do too much. He may have been misled by the literary artist's natural desire to round out his story perfectly. Truth may be stranger than fiction, but it usually lacks what is known in literature as "construction," and just that, apparently, is what Sir CONAN DOYLE unconsciously tried to put into this story as he has into so many others where he had a freer hand.
Be that as it may, we think that some, perhaps many, who read those deeply interesting columns, failed to, reach their author's certainty that young EDALJI, not only didn't, but couldn't, kill the pony. Again and again, one noticed that the possibility of a monomania, an isolated perversion, was ignored in this elaborate investigation. EDALJI could have been all and done all that Sir CONAN DOYLE says he was and did, and yet he might have had, and occasionally yielded to, a horrible impulse. The probability of this is of course extremely minute; indeed, the chances are all against it, but the possibility remains, and monomaniacs have often shown an amazing in-genuity in concealing a weakness of the horror of which they were perfectly well aware.
Keeping this fact in mind, the fact that ,many of the anonymous letters contained accusations against EDALJI is seen, not to be necessarily incompatible with the theory that he wrote them himself, but his de-fender is evidently much impressed by that circumstance. And the impairment of vision upon which such great stress was placed might have had another suggestion to oculists more advanced than any in England — to those few American oculists, that is, who long since learned that the reflexes of eye-strain are as frequently moral as physical, and that rarely, indeed, are they recognized for what they are.
So it seems to us that Sir CONAN DOYLE made an effective plea for revision, but attained something less than complete success in his attempt to prove the impossibility of EDALJI's guilt. He did establish presumptive innocence — there is no doubt about that — and, if he had quite all the evidence in his possession, he left the Wyrley police in a most embarrassing position. There's no doubt about that either.