EGYPT AND THE SUDAN
Sir Arthur CONAN DOYLE. Journal of a voyage up the Nile and typescript despatches filed as special correspondent of the Westminster Gazette attached to the Dongola Expedition, and other papers, comprising:
Autograph manuscript journal of his excursion up the Nile, 31 December 1895 - 19 January 1896, 32 pages plus blanks, one diagram in text, 4to, original cloth;
Typed letter signed by [Sir] F.R[eginald]. Wingate, as Director of Military Intelligence, on behalf of the Sirdar [Kitchener], certifying that Conan Doyle had been registered as a correspondent, Wady Halfa, 12 April 1896, 1 page, quarto, mounted on album leaf;
Original typescript of Conan Doyle's despatches from Cairo, Korosko and elsewhere during the early stages of the Dongola Expedition, 1896, 25 pages, 4to.
Conan Doyle and Touie spent the winter of 1895-96 at the Mena Hotel, near the Pyramids, taking a cruise up the Nile 'the broad Café au lait coloured river' and immersing themselves in the art, architecture and history of Egypt, visiting ruins, pyramids and the excavations near Beni-Hassan and Luxor ('I must now read it up and try to learn the true inwardness of it all. Remember that the Course of Egyptian Civilization was always from north to South').
But writing on 13 January he notes, 'We are now within the area of the Mahdi forces and when we saw the Southern sky all slashed with the red streaks ... it seemed symbolical of that smouldering barbaric force which lies there'. At Korosko he inspects the beginnings of a railway and meets two 'regular Kipling subalterns' taking the levels; on 17 January at Wady Halfa he finds English officers guarding the frontier ('They compair [sic] their own position to dogs upon a chain').
The imminent departure of the Dongola Expeditionary Force against the Mahdi electrified Conan Doyle who saw an opportunity for a journalistic scoop. As he wrote in one of his despatches, it was 'an epic, this whole history of the ri[s]e of a fanatical Mahommedan state upon the upper waters of the Nile'. He therefore accredited himself as a special correspondent to the Westminster Gazette. He describes his meeting with Wingate ('the man who knows more about the true inwardness of the Soudan and its movements than anyone alive') and Slatin Pasha, enjoying the company of his fellow correspondents in Assouan which was full of 'the stir and bustle of warlike preparation' and marching from there to Korosko from whence he dates his despatch of 10 April. But the advance stalled and, advised by Kitchener, Conan Doyle returned to the Mena Hotel to collect Touie and return to England.
An extract from Conan Doyle's diary entry for 16 January is published in Nordon, pp. 41-42, where, it is pointed out, the quotation 'If I were a Dervish general, I would undertake to carry off a Cook's excursion party with the greatest ease' is a theme developed later by Conan Doyle in The Tragedy of the Korosko, 1898.