[FOUR signatures of A. Conan Doyl] Illustrated. New York: George H. Doran Company, n.d. . Original green cloth.
First American Edition, issued in the same month as the English edition, and consisting of only 1500 copies. This is Doyle's account of his 1920-1921 missionary tour of Australia and New Zealand, spreading his belief in spiritualism. Though a travel account, there is much spiritualistic content; for example, it includes a photograph of the "God-speed luncheon" given in London to wish the travelers well on their voyage -- at which "250 out of 290 guests rose as testimony that they were in personal touch with their dead." The following year (see below), Doyle and his family traveled to America for a similar "missionary trip" (9 April - 22 June), giving speeches for the cause of spiritualism -- which trip would result in his book OUR AMERICAN ADVENTURE (1923). This is a good-to-very good copy, with some wear along some edges and with minor speckling of the cloth. Green & Gibson B28b.
This copy is inscribed by Doyle, "Yours in the great cause of Spirit | Arthur Conan Doyle | May 31 /22". As of this date Doyle and his family were back in New York City, staying at the Ambassador Hotel -- after a loop that included Toronto, Toledo and Chicago.
Tipped onto the front endpaper is an Ambassador Hotel note-card written and signed by Doyle, to "My dear Stilwell," dated May 30" and reading "We are clear tomorrow (Wednesday). I could imagine nothing more pleasant than to start about 3:30 or later and drive with you, if we could get back about 6 or later. Perhaps you would let us know. Hurriedly, A. Conan Doyle". Clearly, Doyle did meet up with "Stilwell" the next day, at which time he gave him this book.
Arthur Edward Stilwell (1859-1928) had been the developer and (in 1897-1900) the president of the KCP&G Railroad -- the Kansas City, Pittsburg & Gulf, later the Kansas City Southern. He claimed that he made many of his decisions by consulting his "brownies" -- nocturnal spiritual fairies providing guidance. For example he claimed that his brownies had advised him not to make Galveston the Gulf terminus of his line, because that city was destined to be destroyed by a tidal wave -- which it would be in 1900; he placed the terminus at a different location, which he founded and named for himself -- Port Arthur. (Stilwell Oklahoma is also on the line.) According to a 2009 article about "Stilwell's gift," "Arthur Conan Doyle and other authorities on the supernatural considered Stilwell to have the greatest psychic experiences known to man" [Red Dirt]. Six years after these letters, Stilwell died of apoplexy in New York City; thirteen days later, his wife took her life by jumping out of their window. It was learned that they were virtually penniless.
Loosely inserted is another autograph note to "My dear Stilwell" and signed "A. Conan Doyle," dated "June 29" on a note-card bearing the banner of the White Star Line (the Doyles sailed home on the RMS Adriatic). The note's text reads:
I wrote before I left but I fear I misaddressed. I wish I could have seen you but I had a fearsome pressure at the end. | I have read your book "The Light". It is a very level & workmanlike production, with no highlights, but never sinking below a good quality. I agree with your Publishers that it would be better not to allude to the Brownies. It is difficult not to think that it is some literary secondary personality of your own. | I hope some path may open up for your Spiritual labours. I have written about you in my little book which MAY run almost at once in the N.Y. American. I have left nothing undone to smooth your way, but when it comes to a business proposition it becomes outside my powers. | Our joint remembrance to your wife...
Lastly, there is another autograph letter signed, again to "My dear Stilwell" but dated "Sept 24" and on Doyle's Crowborough stationery, in which Doyle wrote:
I am full of sympathy but it is simply impossible for me to fall into your Brownie scheme. I have a full winter here before me. Then, if I get to America in April I should start off from Chicago and carry on to the West, as I have not touched that ground. [Doyle would indeed do this in 1923.] You and Randall would make a strong combination. Rev Vale Owen comes out in January. I wonder if you could supplement him. There is expense & responsibility involved -- and that's the crux. | I told Lloyd George about you & he was interested in the Plan. | All remembrance to Mrs Stilwell...
The "White Star" note is creased where once folded, but otherwise the two autograph notes and the autograph letter are all fine. In all, four signatures of Arthur Conan Doyle. Item #13970