Although trained as a physician, Doyle’s fame rests on the shoulders of his greatest creation, Sherlock Holmes, through which Doyle changed the world of literature in general and detective fiction in particular. He also wrote on many other subjects, including the Boer War, of which he was a veteran, and spiritualism. After falling away from Roman Catholicism, Doyle’s belief in the mystical grew into full-fledged spiritualism, particularly after he claimed to have contacted his dead son during a séance. Defending spiritualism against its critics (though not denying that hoaxes and frauds existed) he lectured and wrote many books on the topic including his authoritative 1926 History of Spiritualism. Doyle is said by some to be the greatest spokesman the movement ever had. However, the bulk of his popularity and fame must be attributed to his detective stories which still inspire the devotion of millions of readers from around the world.
In 1892, George Montagu Bennet, heir to the Earldom of Tankerville, traveled to the United States where he befriended famed revivalists Dwight L. Moody and Ira D. Sankey, with whom he traveled throughout the U.S. and Britain. Bennet, who became known as the “singing earl” for singing hymns at the revivals, also, unusually, worked as a circus clown and cowboy while living in the U.S. It was there, while doing a somersault in a New York home that Bennet nearly landed in the lap of Leonora Sophia van Marter. He married Marter, a music teacher, in 1895. Upon the death of his father in December 1899, Bennet became the 6th Earl of Tankerville and resided at the 12th-century Chillingham Castle in Northumberland. Lady Tankerville was an avid believer in the paranormal and, in 1925, published a pamphlet about the many ghosts purported to haunt the aptly named Chillingham Castle, the subject of our letter and advertised by its current owners as Britain’s most haunted historic castle. In it she recounts her own paranormal experiences including the premonition that she would one day become the Countess of Tankerville.
Prolific Scottish author Violet Tweedale (1862-1936) was an active spiritualist, associate of Russian occultist Helena Blavatsky and a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn, an occult organization begun by Irish poet W.B. Yeats in 1890. Our letter refers to her 1919 work Ghosts I Have Seen and Phantoms of the Dawn, published in 1924, for which Doyle wrote the preface.
Doyle started the Psychic Bookshop in January 1925, a few blocks from where our letter was written nine months later. It ran only for a few years with the assistance of Doyle’s daughter and partially supported with Doyle’s own money.
Neatly written on one page. In very fine condition and framed with a black-and-white image of Doyle. Not examined out of the frame.