DOYLE, Sir Arthur Conan, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts

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DOYLE, Sir Arthur Conan (1859-1930). Creator of Sherlock Holmes.
Series of Three Autograph Letters Signed to Lilian Walbrook, 3 pages small 4to, January and February [1923], with a further secretarial letter, 2 December 1922. To the author of 'The Case of Lester Coltman', 1924, for which Conan Doyle supplied a lengthy introduction.

Lilian Walbrook, the aunt of Lester Coltman, had evidently offered to send Doyle the script of her book. In December he replied, rather curtly via a secretary, that he would read it if typed 'but not otherwise'. The 'Case' is a series of letters and communications received by Lilian through 'automatic writing'.

Lester Coltman, evidently an accomplished and scholarly young man, educated in South Africa and with a leaning towards a career in scientific work, had joined up as an officer in the Guards and had been killed at Cambrai in December 1917. His subsequent correspondence with his aunt Lilian, her sister Norah and his grandmother, form the bulk of her book. In his first letter to Lilian (signed 'ACD' - the others 'A Conan Doyle') he asks for further details, if possible, about Coltman's death.

'... I am very busy. Is there any way that you can suggest of verifying the details of Lieut C's death? How much did you normally know [i.e. not by spirit communication]of the names of his comrades etc. If you have the number of his battalion I could try & inquire. It is of great importance.'

It is evident from his introduction to the book that Doyle took this research seriously and was anxious to be sure that there was no trickery or prior knowledge involved in the spirit communications. This is also clear from the second and third letters (both written on 3 February):

'Could we say that the S African Clairvoyants [sic] message was independent of yours, or did yours come after reading hers. It is rather an important point.'

'I have got as far as identifying Peel
[one of Coltman's fellow officers] (who met you with him in London). Birk may well be Park "without the E" [when Lilian puts this to Coltman during a seance he is adamant, however, that the name is "Burke", with the E].

He adds also, presumably a propos of the mysterious Burke, that 'in sleep there is Communication so the fact that a man is not dead does not bar him', and concludes that 'It might become a classic case'.

In his introduction Doyle says that after reading the script he 'begged Miss Walbrook to get some lighter material by asking her nephew questions upon all those points of actual experience in the other world which interest us all so deeply ... his very full and fresh replies to the queries form the first part of this volume', and he concludes by saying that 'I should regard the objective evidence as good, but not absolutely convincing.'

Also included is Lilian Walbrook's copy of The Case of Lester Coltman, 1924, with her own and other family signatures, several crossed through, rather worn and foxed throughout, covers loose; and two photographs of Lester, one from 1909 signed by him on the mount (a little worn at the edges) and another as a young army officer, with two further photographs.
[No: 25704]


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