Sir Arthur CONAN DOYLE. A series of 7 autograph letters signed and one typed letter signed to Charles Ashton-Jonson, most in the course of his lecture tour in Southern Africa, Mzama (Tanganyika), Bulawayo and Salisbury (Rhodesia), and Windlesham, 14 January - 19 November 1929, together 10 pages, 4to, in autograph, and 2 pages, 4to, typescript; with an autograph 'Skit by A.C.D., when he proposed to join his sons on a crocodile shoot', showing a group of crocodiles in a river observing the approach of the aged hunter, 'Here's another old crock coming along!', on paper with heading of Norfolk Hotel, Nairobi, n.d.; and an autograph manuscript and corrected typescript, a statement refuting an attempt in Nairobi to discredit a psychic photograph used by Conan Doyle in a lecture, 2 pages, 4to;
[and] 13 autograph letters signed by Charles Ashton-Jonson to Conan Doyle, London and n.p., 2 January 1929 - 6 January 1930; and three related documents.
Charles Ashton-Jonson was a music critic and fellow Spiritualist who acted as Conan Doyle's secretary on his Spritualist lecture tour of Southern Africa in 1928-29. The first letter in the present group is written just after the Conan Doyles have parted company with Ashton-Jonson and his wife, and complains of an instant series of mishaps, including the loss of tickets and money, and a swindle by a station porter -- 'I suppose they thought when my watchdog was gone they could do what they like. But the worm will turn ...'; still, Bulawayo is 'heaven compared to Jo'burg'. On their shared Spiritualist mission, he comments, 'either we are all on a fool's errand, or you have helped greatly in God's work. I know that it is the latter ...'. Conan Doyle greatly appreciates Rhodesia: 'The country is new & fresh & full of green & flowers & strange sights'; while sight-seeing at Rhodes's grave, a seance is attempted and Conan Doyle reports 'I got a long & very moving message from Rhodes. It was beautiful in parts, but too kindly to my own work to bear much publicity'. The lectures are alway well received, and leave 'a ferment behind us', but Conan Doyle's own ill health is a constant refrain -- 'I have not my full strength -- no golf yet'; 'nearly well but not yet fit to smoke ... -- the supreme test'. In general, the writer enjoys his surroundings, but with reservations -- 'it is very nice here, but I want to get on. That, I think, will be my last mortal utterance'. There are some intimations of mortality: 'I don't see my future one bit but I suppose it will open up as I get nearer. I think my psychic task is nearly done'.
Ashton-Jonson's letters are almost purely concerned with Spiritualism, including his vain attempts to persuade the London Library to subscribe to Spiritualist works, and detailed descriptions of a number of seances, including in particular 'Phineas messages'. Towards the end of 1929 Conan Doyle's health is causing a degree of worry: on 24 December 1929 'we are so concerned to hear of your fainting and consequent fall and strained leg ... it is very good news to hear of Phineas's certainty of recovery by the Spring'; in another letter of the same day he suggests 'a prescription of water boiled from soil under one of your Sussex Oaks'. (27)