Sometimes the truth is so strange and mad that you wish yourself dreaming when you awake. That is what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle must have realized when he got a letter from one George Edalgi. The story read springing from Doyle’s Holmesian stories. Britain’s beloved author, partly curious and mostly indignant at the case’s stupendousness, felt responsible for searching the truth as the creator of his alter ego, Sherlock Holmes. So Doyle met the client Edalgi face to face in a hotel in January 1907.
George Edalgi, the eldest son of Parsi-English vicar in the small mining village called Great Wyrley in England and former solicitor, served seven years of penitentiary servitude for the Great Wyrley killings of 1903 he claimed innocent. Edalgi’s case was an ipso facto example of miscarriage of justice on indubitably evident grounds of racially imbued personal vendettas against him and his family for who they were. The Edalgi family, despite Charlotte, the mother, and wife, being white, were regarded as heathen Indians encroaching upon the comfortable life of the English, or more precisely, the white privileges, which was the bastion of the eyes of the most villagers. Since the beginning of Reverend Edalgi’s vicarage, the family had been constant targets for racial slurs and hostility that perpetuated the peaceful family life. Even after George became a lawyer, the villagers continued to disrespect his presence, culminating in the notorious Great Wyrley killings of 1903 in which livestock, including horses and cows, were atrociously mutilated and left dead in horrible agony. As Wyrley was a closely-knit village of miners, the easy target for the blame goes for the Edalgis, especially for their eldest child George. He was a loner with distinctively ethnic physical features roving around alone in rumination on evenings. Any white person doing the same ritual would seem philosophical, sentimental, or poetic even, but it did not apply to George’s leisurely ceremony.
Upon consulting George, who must have thought Doyle as the only person on the British Isles to listen to his truth, Sherlock Holmes’s writer has the hunch that the client could not possibly have committed such an abdominal crime for the following reasons. The trappings are so fitting to a conspiracy that they stink:
- George is noticeably near-sighted when reading. The animals’ mutilations indicate only good eyesight can perform such surgically precise cuts.
- The ethnic backgrounds of George and the cultural environment of the village are circumstantial evidence that the case is racially motivated from the beginning. If not, then the real culprit used George’s vulnerability to camouflage his crime.
- The police framed George for the killings, knowing the real culprit because of racialism led by the local aristocratic police chief GA Anson.
Doyle’s real motivation for campaigning for George’s amnesty is curious speculation. Yet, it was the darkest night of the soul when Doyle answered the call for justice. He lost his wife Louise to tuberculosis while he was in love with Jean Leckie. Doyle took Louise’s death as a pang of his consciousness for seeing another woman at the time of her illness and regarded the letter from George as redemption of his soul to redirect the ship adrift after maelstrom. Whatever it might have been, Doyle was one of the most ardent campaigners for George’s pardoning to reinstate his legal career and restore his tainted honor. The fruition bears two tastes of the victory: the case led to the establishment of the Court of Criminal Appeal in 1907, and George was allowed to practice law again, which he did in London. However, the official government’s compensation for George’s time from the malice of injustice yielded nothing. Soon the case and the name George Edalgi became a thing of the past unless Arthur Conan Doyle chimes the bell with the forgotten.
This story I read from a British history magazine makes me think of what an author should be. An author sees the corrupt humanity and ills that cause it, stands furious with the honest minds, and speaks to the corrupt minds amid the chaotic order of nature that goes against truths. Charlotte Bronte posited that an Author has a faithful allegiance to truth and nature. Bestselling or obscure, an Author represents humanity who can see what others oversee or trivialize in preference to magnitude in power and splendor in fame. In that light, Conan Doyle deserves special homage for his search for truth. That is why he is still a great author in posterity.
2 thoughts on “Arthur Conan Doyle’s Search for Truth”
Thanks for sharing, I didn’t know about this. It seems this was a habit of Doyle’s. To reinforce what you’ve said, you might also be interested in — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Slater#The_Case_of_Oscar_Slater — this is one of Scotland’s most (in)famous miscarriages of justice.
Doyle’s book, setting out the facts of the case and illustrating Slater’s innocence, can be read for free on the internet: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks12/1202651h.html .
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Thanks, Mark! I checked the Slater story, and it seems that Doyle was also a proponent of slater’s innocence. I conjecture that contain Doyle regarded it as his vocation as an author to tell truths. No wonder he created Holmes, the searcher of facts. As I mentioned in my post, Doyle must have felt guilty about his wife’s death, and so by involving in exonerating an innocent man from the crime, he felt wrongfully charged, as his way of penance, so to speak. By the way, Doyle was a catholic and Scottish, so it must have been factors that drove him to such similar causes. Many thanks for your insights and for following my whimsical blog!
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