Sherlock Holmes and H. Rider Haggard’s Dead Dog Bob (223B Casebook)

Sherlock Holmes pastiches and parodies come in all forms. I published last week a 2005 pastiche consisting of telegrams between Holmes and Mycroft during the Great Hiatus. For Monday’s fanfiction, it’s a parody involving Holmes and Conan Doyle that pokes fun at H. Rider Haggard.

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In 1904, the popular author of “King Solomon’s Mines” and “She” reported in a letter to the Times of London that he dreamt that the family’s dog, Bob, had been struck by a train. Not only that, the animal had communicated to him by means of telepathy what had happened. The next day, the family discovered that Bob did perish within a few hours of Haggard’s dream.

In his letter to the Times, Haggard offered several affidavits supporting his story, from the veterinarian who found and examined Bob’s mangled body, and family members who had heard Haggard discuss his dream before Bob had been found. (A pdf version of The New York Times’ version of the story can be read for free).

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What Conan Doyle thought of Haggard’s tale is not recorded, but Punch magazine thought it was a shaggy-dog story worthy of parody. “Telepathy Day by Day” in its Aug. 3, 1904, issue published similar stories from Hall Crane and Henry James, omitted here, but devoted most of its space to the testimony of a certain consulting detective.

Telepathy Day by Day

This is an imitative age, and Mr. Rider Haggard’s success as a dreamer has naturally produced a crop of similar experiences among his fellow-novelists. A selection is printed below:

SIR A. CONAN DOYLE.

Perhaps you will think with me that the following circumstances are worthy of record, if only for their scientific interest. It is principally because of this interest that, as such stories should not he told anonymously, after some hesitation I have made up my mind to publish this one over my own name, although I am well aware that by so doing I may expose myself to a certain amount of ridicule and disbelief.

On the night of Saturday, July 23, I went to bed at 12.19 and immediately fell asleep. At 3.14 I awoke with the feeling that my favourite terrier Joe was trying to communicate with me. Having read Mr. Rider Haggard’s recent letter in the Times, long though it was, I knew what to do, and, summoning my household, we at once set out for the nearest point on the South Western Railway where the line crosses water. We searched there and in other places, even as far afield as the Frensharn Ponds, all day, but without success. At nightfall we returned home crestfallen and heart-heavy, only to find that Joe had been in his kennel all the time. Naturally we had not thought to look there before. This shows how unwise it would be to elevate Mr. Rider Haggard’s fantastic, and, if I may express the opinion, somewhat tedious, experience to the dignity of a precedent.

I will only add that I ask you to publish the annexed documents with this letter, as they constitute the written I testimony at present available to the accuracy of what I state.

Undershaw, Hind Head, July 26.

No. I.

Haslemere, July 25.

Dear Sir, — In pursuance of your instructions I have inspected the dog found in his kennel at Undershaw.

He is in good health and has had distemper.

I believe that the cause of his presence in the kennel is that he was affixed to a strong chain.

(Signed) HENRY DE WET, M.R.C.V.S.

No. II.

I spent the whole of Sunday, July 24, in tramping over Surrey with Sir Conan Doyle looking for a dead dog. I did not find one.

(Signed) WILLIAM POTTS (Gardener).

No. III.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has told me his dream several times with the utmost particularity and has never altered a syllable. Upon it I constructed several theories, none of which, however, could be thoroughly tested owing to the presence of the dog alive in his kennel.

(Signed) SHERLOCK HOLMES