"My flabber was completely gasted." - Rating Pending
Question #26296 posted on 07/15/2006 3:01 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

Have any of you ever read the Arthur Conan Doyle novella "A Study in Scarlet"? If so, could somebody please tell me what Arty was smoking when he wrote this? Did he do any research at all, or did he just make stuff up on a whim? If he did do research, what source did he use? Because from what I read, it appears that less than 10% of what he says about Mormons is factual. (Although I was kind of entertained by his notion that if you disobey Brigham Young's orders, the Mormons will break into your house in the middle of the night and write a number on your chest to tell you how many days you have left to live.) It really puts his skills as an author into question for me. (I've had similar feelings about "The Five Orange Pips," wherein he claims that the KKK will mail you orange seeds before they bump you off.) Penny for your thoughts? Thanks!

- Green Bean

A: Dear Green Bean,

Ahem. Your questions, in order:

1. Have any of you ever read the Arthur Conan Doyle novella "A Study in Scarlet"?. No.

2. If so, could somebody please tell me what Arty was smoking when he wrote this?. False premise, therefore false result. I don't have to bother. (For real fun with false premises, try starting with this one: "If history were different...")

3. Did he do any research at all, or did he just make stuff up on a whim?

Basically, no. At least, not real, fair-and-balanced, President-and-the-Vice President sort of research. He got suckered into believing anti-Mormon sources. About these sources, one scholarly article says,
Jack Tracy wrote a little book on its accuracy, Conan Doyle and Latter-day Saints (Gaslight Publications, 1979). Tracy looks at the sources Conan Doyle must have used in writing his dreadful portrayal of the Mormons, and identifies
a number of books, known in England in the 1880s, that described Mormon life, usually with more enthusiasm than accuracy, and with special emphasis on the horrors of polygamy. There was a sort of low-grade pornography of Mormon-
ism, and whether or not Conan Doyle bought into it, he certainly took advantage of it. After all, he could have written pretty much the same book making Drebber and Stangerson members of any other group-the Taliban or the Southern Baptists-and still given Hope a motive for revenge against them.

He later developed a rather good relationship with the Mormons, and issued something vaguely approximating a public apology: "all I said about the Danite Band and the murders is historical so I cannot withdraw that tho it is likely that in a work of fiction it is stated more luridly than in a work of history. It's best to let the matter rest."

Not quite what we were looking for, but hey, I guess it's better than nothing.

In any case, you can read more sources on the subject here or here.

-Petra