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28 October 2022

‘The Darker Side’ – Unpublished Arthur Conan Doyle Chapter Acquired by the British Library

By Zoe Louca-Richards, Curator Modern Archives and Manuscripts, and Dr Christine Ferguson, Chair in English Studies at the University of Stirling.

In 2019, the British Library acquired a rather remarkable piece of Arthur Conan Doyle history – an unpublished chapter from his final Professor Challenger novel The Land of Mist. The ‘lost’ chapter, as it was dubbed, comprises nine pages in Conan Doyle’s hand and is titled ‘Chapter XIII/ The Darker Side’ (Add MS 89427).

Previously, the chapter is believed to have remained in the possession of Doyle’s family until the death of his eldest son Denis Conan Doyle in 1955, whereupon the manuscript was auctioned in New York on November 22, 1955 and then again in March, 1966. The manuscript was sent to auction in 2019 by Meisei Iwaki University, Japan, where it was purchased by the British Library and is now available to be consulted by researchers.  

The first page of the handwritten draft of Arthur Conan Doyle’s lost chapter, ‘XIII/The Darker Side’ from the story The Land of Mist
The first page of the handwritten draft of Arthur Conan Doyle’s lost chapter, ‘XIII/The Darker Side’ from the story The Land of Mist (Add MS 89427 f.1r)

The Land of Mist deals heavily with both spiritualism, a movement and belief in which Conan Doyle had become active following the death of his son and brother in WW1, and Christianity, the faith in which he had been raised. It follows several of the characters from Conan Doyle’s earlier Professor Challenger novels as they investigate the spirit world. At first largely sceptical, approaching with purely professional interest, they soon become enthralled by the individuals they encounter and their other worldly experiences.

Conan Doyle drafted the narrative over a few months between late 1924 and early 1925. It appeared in The Strand Magazine from July 1925 to March 1926 before publication by Hutchinson and Co in 1926.

This draft chapter, Chapter XIII, which contains numerous corrections and additions throughout, is believed to have been written whilst Conan Doyle was travelling in Switzerland. Conan Doyle’s close connection with the country is well documented, and it is believed several other chapters from Land of Mist were also drafted there.

Professor Christine Ferguson, Chair in English Studies at the University of Stirling, is currently working on a new scholarly edition of The Land of Mist, due for publication in 2024. Ferguson’s research focuses on nineteenth and twentieth-century British literature, and in particular on the impact of occult beliefs and new religious movements on the popular fiction of these periods. During the course of her research into the Land of Mist, she has looked closely at the ‘Lost’ chapter and its significance to the rest of the novel, as well as its broader significance to Arthur Conan Doyle’s work and personal beliefs. She notes of the chapter: 

Folio 7 of the handwritten draft of Arthur Conan Doyle’s lost chapter, ‘XIII/The Darker Side’ from the story The Land of Mist. On this page a young French man named La Paix describes his seduction and financial entrapment by a beautiful spirit named Sylvia
Folio 7 of the handwritten draft of Arthur Conan Doyle’s lost chapter, ‘XIII/The Darker Side’ from the story The Land of Mist. (Add MS 89427 f.7r)

“‘The Darker Side’ arguably represents the most sensational and prurient episode within The Land of Mist, detailing the seduction and financial entrapment of a young French man named La Paix by a beautiful spirit named Sylvia who demands that he pay increasingly large sums of money to advertise her name in the French press. If he does not, she threatens, he will soon die.

Alongside the chapter it was originally intended to precede (‘There are Heights and Depths’), it seems to have been designed to dramatize the distinctions between the pious British spiritualists for whom Doyle had in the 1920s become a figurehead, and the more scientifically aligned psychical researchers at work in Europe. While the former, represented by the high-minded Christian spiritualist Algernon Mailey, are given purely religious motivations for exploring the other world, the latter are presented as agnostic materialists, disinterested in the moral aspects of the question. Ever the patriot, Doyle presents only pure-hearted British spiritualism as proof and protection against the type of metaphysical threat posed by Sylvia and her ilk: ‘unless you get the religious bearing of this thing’, Mailey insists, ‘it is always a danger’”.

Detail from the first page of the handwritten draft of Arthur Conan Doyle’s lost chapter, ‘XIII/The Darker Side’ from the story The Land of Mist. Shown is a small note believed to be in Conan Doyle’s hand at the top of folio 1 states that ‘this Chapter was lost in some strange way & never appeared in the book’ (Add MS 89427 f.1 detail)
Detail from the first page of the handwritten draft of Arthur Conan Doyle’s lost chapter, ‘XIII/The Darker Side’ from the story The Land of Mist. Shown is a small note believed to be in Conan Doyle’s hand at the top of folio 1 states that ‘this Chapter was lost in some strange way & never appeared in the book’ (Add MS 89427 f.1 detail)

A small note believed to be in Conan Doyle’s hand at the top of folio 1 states that ‘this Chapter was lost in some strange way & never appeared in the book.’ It seems that Doyle had intended for the chapter to be included. Although the Chapter is labelled chapter XIII, Professor Ferguson believes the chapter should in fact be situated narratively between what were published as chapter XI ‘Where Silas Linden Comes Into His Own’ and Chapter XII ‘There are Heights and there are Depths.’

Like Doyle, we cannot be certain as to why the chapter was omitted. However, the subject matter that the chapter deals with is somewhat challenging in its nature touching on issues of nationalism and gender politics. Christine notes:

“British nationalism is not the only ideological position or indeed, form of bias, on display in “The Darker Side.” This chapter also compounds the deep sexism embedded within The Land of Mist, most evident hitherto in the novel’s side lining of Enid Challenger, daughter of The Lost World’s Professor George Edward Challenger, within its male conversion quest.  While Professor Challenger, Edward Malone, and Lord John Roxton test, explore, and ultimately push to achieve a fully rationalist form of spiritualist belief, Enid remains largely silent, seeming to automatically assent to the truth of spiritualism with no great struggle and proving most—perhaps only ever— instrumental to the plot when channelling the words of dead men.

Folio 8 of the handwritten draft of Arthur Conan Doyle’s lost chapter, ‘XIII/The Darker Side’ from the story The Land of Mist. This page reveals Conan Doyle’s sexism with the character Mailey’s comments about the spirit Sylvia. (Add MS 89427 f.8r)
Folio 8 of the handwritten draft of Arthur Conan Doyle’s lost chapter, ‘XIII/The Darker Side’ from the story The Land of Mist. This page reveals Conan Doyle’s sexism with the character Mailey’s comments about the spirit Sylvia. (Add MS 89427 f.8r)

This chapter implies that there may be good reasons for limiting women’s power both in and beyond the séance room. When La Paix asks Mailey if Sylvia is a demon, the older man gestures to the Paris streets outside and says, ‘You’ll find dozens of Sylvias there. . . You do not call them demons. . .  No. I do not call her a demon, but the unchanged spirit of woman. Living or dead, he suggests, women are always already demonic, a threat to the men from whom they seek power’. These powerfully misogynistic sentiments will render ‘The Darker Side’ a key document for scholars of Doyle’s gender politics in years to come.

In light of such controversial content, it might be tempting to view the omission of ‘The Darker Side’ from the published version of The Land of Mist as deliberate, perhaps a last-minute retraction by a jittery publisher. But there is no evidence for doing so. On the contrary, it seems clear that both Doyle and Hutchinson & Co. fully intended it to appear in the first edition, which includes an appendix item about the chapter (‘Note on Chapter XII’), but not the actual chapter itself. More likely, the chapter simply fell victim to a slip in the proof and production process.”  

The acquisition of the chapter by the British Library will open its contents up to broader research and offers both enthusiasts and scholars alike further material documenting Conan Doyle’s own spiritual beliefs.

Further reading:

The Arthur Conan Doyle Papers (Add MS 88924), include extensive correspondence to and from Conan Doyle and his family, literary manuscripts, lectures and essays, diaries, papers relating to Arthur Conan Doyle's education, and a significant cache of papers related to his involvement with spiritualism.

Arthur Conan Doyle: Brigadier Gerard stories (Add MS 89337)

Several of Conan Doyle’s plays can also be found in the Lord Chamberlains Plays collection.

21 October 2022

In Memory of Carmen Callil

Carmen Callil, publisher, author and founder of Virago Press died on Monday.

Callil founded the publishing house Virago Press, in 1972, and was also Managing Director of Chatto and Windus and the Hogarth Press between 1982-1994. Callil remained Chairman of Virago Press until 1995 and was also a member of the Board of Channel 4 Television, between 1985 and 1991, and a member of the committee for The Booker Prize between 1979-1984.

Callil wrote and published in her own right, including Bad Faith: A Forgotten History of Family and Fatherland, a biography of Louis Darquier de Pellepoix and Vichy France, published in 2006.

The British Library Contemporary Archives and Manuscripts Department holds the archive of Virago Press, as well as the recently acquired personal papers of Callil herself. A truly contemporary collection, with material spanning into the 2010s, the Carmen Callil archive is still being catalogued and is expected to be available to researchers in 2023.  

As the cataloguer of this material, it was an honour to be able to work alongside Callil while processing it. She was always supportive and interested in the work we were doing, as well as enthusiastic about participating in events and research, and with helping our team to navigate the collections.

‘Keep whatever you think a student of women’s literature in 2000 would like to know about us’ [1] Callil wrote on an internal memo to the staff of the Virago Press in the early 1980s.

The message appears to have been taken on board. Both the Virago Press Papers and the Carmen Callil Archive come together to create a wonderful resource for researchers in a wide range of areas, as well as being a fitting part of remembering Carmen herself.

Image shows a promotional pin badge for Virago Press which has a white background and an image of an apple with a bite taken out of it below the Virago Press fontThe Virago Press Archive, Add MS 88904, is accessible in the Manuscripts Reading room.

The Carmen Callil Archive, Add MS 89178, is currently being catalogued and will be released to researchers in 2023. Please contact eleanor.dickens@bl.uk for any enquiries.



[1] The Carmen Callil Archive, Add MS 89178/1/71 

30 September 2022

The Beatles and Hunter Davies

By Greg Buzwell, Curator, Contemporary Literary Archives.

‘Does anyone seriously believe that Beatles music will be an unthinkingly accepted part of daily life all over the world in the 2000s?’ wrote the philosopher and politician Bryan Magee in the February 1967 issue of The Listener. The passage of time has subsequently given a resounding answer to Magee’s question, and it turned out not to be the one he was obviously expecting. His comment highlights the now almost eye-wateringly unbelievable notion that, even after Beatlemania, several albums including A Hard Day’s Night, Rubber Soul and Revolver - and on the verge of the Summer of Love and the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band - the Beatles’ lasting contribution to popular culture was still being questioned in certain quarters.

Image shows a selection of Hunter Davie's notebook, arranged in a fan shape, showing the different covers which are red and blue covered and annotated with the subject
A small selection of the notebooks kept by Hunter Davies in 1967 as he carried out interviews and research for his book The Beatles: The Authorised Biography’. © Hunter Davies

Someone else also pondering the Beatles and their legacy in 1967 was the journalist Hunter Davies. The British Library has recently acquired Davies’s archive of Beatles-related material consisting of photographs, press cuttings, concert programmes and ephemera together with the notebooks he kept when carrying out his research for his 1968 biography of the band – The Beatles: The Authorised Biography. Hunter interviewed dozens of people prior to writing his book, including of course John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, but also wives and girlfriends including Cynthia Lennon and Jane Asher, along with other key contributors to the band’s success such as their manager Brian Epstein; their producer George Martin; Astrid Kirchherr whose early photographs of the group were instrumental in defining their look, and their road manager Mal Evans along with many, many others. Among the collection there is also a draft of Hunter’s original letter to Brian Epstein suggesting the idea that he write an authorised biography of the Beatles and asking for Brian’s approval.

Image shows Hunter's letter to Brian Epstein, black typed ink on white paper
A draft of Hunter’s letter to Brian Epstein outlining his proposal to write an authorised biography of the Beatles. 31st December 1966. © Hunter Davies

One of the points Hunter makes in the letter is that the book would provide a record of the Beatles phenomenon and allow everyone involved with the band to have their say while events were still relatively fresh in their memories. In essence the book would be, in Hunter’s words, ‘not a fan book, but a full study of what happened and why during the last five years’. Perhaps, even in 1967, this was ambitious. In particular the band’s recollection of their early days in Hamburg was already a little hazy. Unsurprising given the relentless nature of the gigs they had to play and the outrageous nightlife offered to those on Hamburg’s Reeperbahn where the clubs the Beatles played were situated. When talking to the Beatles about their Hamburg days Hunter’s notebooks contain details of John Lennon sleeping behind the stage and of Pete Best, the band’s drummer before Ringo Starr joined in 1962, being so exhausted he once collapsed over his drum kit mid-performance. Then again, all the more reason to have those recollections and thoughts put down on paper before they became even more lost in the haze between actuality and memory.

The highlight of the collection is undoubtedly to be found in one of the notebooks in which Hunter recorded his interviews with Paul McCartney. At one point Hunter asked Paul to describe how John Lennon and George Harrison looked back in their late-1950s pre-Beatles days with the band The Quarrymen. Paul duly obliged, but he also borrowed Hunter’s notebook and quickly sketched George and John: the former all boyishly innocent with upswept hair and bushy eyebrows and the latter with sideburns, glasses and a stare firmly focused on the future. There’s something touching about the sketches – an authenticity and affection that comes from Paul reflecting on two friends and the impression they made on him in the very first days of their friendship.

Image shows Paul McCartney's sketches of John Lennon and George Harrison, the sketches are on the left page of an open notebook, in blue pen on white paper, with notes on the right hand page. The sketches are caricature style showing head and shoulders
Paul McCartney’s sketches of George Harrison and John Lennon back in their Quarrymen days. © MPL Communications Inc

Also among the archive is the transcript of a television interview, the recording of which is now thought to be lost, between Hunter Davies and Ringo Starr dated December 15th 1970. A date by which point the band had effectively split. In the interview Ringo talks about how one of his childhood ambitions, at least according to his mother, was to be a tramp and to wander the world. There’s also a list of the questions Hunter is hoping to have answered in the interview, such as whether Ringo worries that film companies only want him in their movies so they can put his name on the poster; whether he still goes back to Liverpool to revisit his roots and whether his fame prevents him from ordinary pleasures such as evenings out in a pub with friends. Much of the interview comes across as a touching attempt to discover Ringo the private individual, husband and father beneath the surface glamour of Ringo the rock-star drummer.

Image shows Hunter's notes for his interview with Ringo, written on paper with the BBC letterhead
Hunter’s outline for the questions he’d like to ask Ringo Starr prior to a television interview. December 1970. © Hunter Davies

At its heart though the archive is really about Hunter’s authorised biography of the Beatles. First published in 1968 and the only book about the group ever written with the backing of the whole band and those within their inner circle. As such it offers an invaluable insight into what made the Beatles tick, and how they managed to achieve so much in such a relatively short space of time. There have been, quite literally, thousands of books written about the Beatles and while they all offer something perhaps only a dozen or so are absolutely essential to anyone who loves the music and wishes to know more about how it all came about. Hunter’s book is definitely towards the top of that select list and his archive reveals a great deal about how he put it together.

To learn more about The Beatles: The Authorised Biography, along with the archive behind its creation and Hunter Davies’s long association with the Beatles, please follow the link below for details of an event on November 11th 2022 featuring Hunter in conversation: Hunter Davies: Writing The Beatles.