The tide of contradiction swirls and foams
Unceasingly, lest mortal thought should harden;
What demons drove the don of Sherlock Holmes
To fairies at the bottom of the garden?
The simplistic answer to that question is the death of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s son from wounds incurred in the First World War. Doyle’s interest in spiritualism blossomed into an obsession which led him to support several charlatans, despite a public pose of scrupulous ‘authentication’ towards spiritualist claims. The ‘fairies at the bottom of the garden’ was one such case. Pictures of ‘the little people’ were cut out and photographed in a garden setting by mischievous children. For years their authenticity was a subject of serious debate. What the abrupt, analytical Holmes would have made of such nonsense is best left to the imagination. For me, however, Doyle is still the greatest writer of detective fiction who ever lived — and be damned to the fairies!