EDITORIAL & NEWS

Connecting Arthur Conan Doyle & Dartmouth College & Viljhalmur Stefansson

by Margie Deck & Nancy Holder

We hear of Doyle everywhere! As many of us agree, Doyle lived a large life brimming with excitement, industry, and many friends and acquaintances of note. Dartmouth College boasts of such a connection to Doyle in addition to possession of the autograph manuscript of “The Terror of Blue John Gap” and many rare editions of his writings.

This connection was highlighted during a November through December 2010 Rauner Special Collections exhibit titled “Adventure of the Archives: Detecting Sherlock Holmes in Rauner.” The material for this commentary is mostly taken from an article on that exhibit on the Dartmouth website.

Three of the four cases that comprised the exhibit were devoted to Sherlockian holdings at Dartmouth; the fourth case was labeled “A Dartmouth Connection: Arthur Conan Doyle, Viljhalmur Stefansson, and Spiritualism.”

Stefansson, a Canadian of Icelandic descent, was born in Manitoba in 1879. His family moved to the Dakota Territory the following year and he was educated in the United States. He was an Arctic explorer who taught at Dartmouth from 1947 to 1962. He also taught at Harvard for two years, presumably sometime around the early 1900’s. Of the challenges his Arctic expeditions faced, he once said, “An adventure is a sign of incompetence.” Perhaps Doyle, whose memoir is titled Memories and Adventures, and contains a stirring chapter about his life as the surgeon aboard the Arctic whaler Hope, might have disagreed.

Stefansson became world-famous for numerous discoveries, published books and articles, and gave lecture tours. He met Doyle in London in 1913, and they stayed in touch during his Arctic explorations and throughout the Great War. When Stefansson visited Doyle in 1920, he was surprised by what he termed as Doyle’s naivete when it came to Doyle’s embrace of spiritualism, adding, “Confronted with the spirit world, Doyle was more like Dr. Watson than Sherlock Holmes.” Be that as it may, the two men teamed up to expose a fraudulent medium on Doyle’s 1922 American lecture tour.

Though Doyle suggested that while he worked “on disembodied spirits,” Stefansson worked “on reindeer,” the Rauner’s extensive collection of materials related to Stefansson reveal an equally large life, filled with many discoveries about Eskimo life and the Arctic. He outlived Doyle by more than thirty years, dying in 1962.

A download of the poster for the exhibit is available, as well as a handlist of the materials of the exhibit.

Copyright 2022 Margie Deck & Nancy Holder


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The autograph manuscript of “The Terror of Blue John Gap” reproduced above is courtesy of Dartmouth College Library, Rauner Special Collections, MS-93: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.


Transcription

Dartmouth College
Library

Presented by

PERC S. BROWN

in memory of his Wife

MARIE BEACH BROWN

mother of

Bruce L. Brown ’41

and

Gordon S. Brown ’42

Through the Friends of the
Dartmouth Library


The full story as it was printed in The Strand is available at
The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia.